Infidelity statistics showed us that we’re not quite settling well for monogamy, they show we’re trying, but not doing our best at it.
According to studies and statistics, a large number of relationships get hit by the destructive effects of infidelity.
Considering that you can love someone and cheat on them, which is proven by the studies, it can be a challenging topic to cover and conclude on.
Though, is there a main reason for infidelity to occur?
It happens to be a very common phenomenon in the contemporary world of dating, relationships, and marriages; there must be an underlying reason behind it… or multiple of them.
There must be a – at the very least – psychological explanation behind cheating and lying, right?
We – humans – are essentially consciously giving a promise of exclusivity but on the other hand, we (mostly) consciously break that promise, in a lot of cases, numerous times.
The main cause of cheating is tied to a lack of love, connection, effort, and desire within a romantic relationship. Though, those can be more specified and categorized for a better understanding.
The psychological facts about cheating show how devastating such actions can be for a relationship be it monogamous or non-monogamous.
Despite knowing its destructive nature and its destructive effects, we still engage in it – infidelity; But why? What is it exactly that drives people into infidelity?
11 of the main reasons behind and for infidelity explaining why people cheat on their partners were reported to be:
1. Low self-esteem (significant in younger ages)
According to the studies, infidelity seemed to be a source of self-esteem exaltation for quite a lot of people, specifically, 57 percent of them.
A partnership involving an imbalance of the partners’ self-esteem is predicted to be a higher risk of getting exposed to infidelity.
Researchers have found that a large number of people who engage in infidelity have used it as a tool to boost their self-esteem.
- As a large number of respondents have reported feeling ecstatic and having their self-esteem boosted for a relatively long period.
It is quite logical, especially if the low self-esteem is aroused by the relationship or the partner.
In such cases, low self-esteem can be projected and reflected among other aspects of the relationship such as the communication, the quality of the relationship, and the sense of partnership.
If not managed or communicated about, the issue of low self-esteem can become a highly negative factor affecting some of the fundamental aspects of the relationship leading to miscommunication and infidelity.
2. Anger, neglect, and resentment
Anger or resentment is reported to be one of the main motives behind infidelity. It’s often a common cause of lack of love or at least the fade of affection and feelings of attraction between partners.
- If the anger slowly builds up, it causes the emotional connection to eventually be negatively affected, leading to infidelity as an easy thing to do due to the lack of connection with the partner.
Momentary anger and neglect are also reported to be a cause or even a motive of infidelity.
According to studies, 70 percent of individuals to involve in extradyadic behavior reported that neglect was partially behind the motives of their behavior.
And 43 percent got involved in infidelity due to anger.
Anger, resentment, and neglect are known for their destructive effects within romantic relationships, they represent a source of toxicity and unhealthy behavior within relationships.
It is found to be a common and very distinct trait and factor that leads to infidelity, especially among people who have anger management issues.
In a way, anger blurs the sense of rationality, leading the partner(s) to get involved in something they might regret later such as infidelity.
In the situation where a moment of anger led to an act of infidelity while the rest of the relationship is stable and loving, it is found that the rate of confession is higher.
Leading to the elastic conclusion that in a romantic relationship in which the connection is strong – and the infidelity happens due to momentary anger – the chances are higher for the infidelity to be confessed and not happen again.
3. Dissatisfaction within the relationship
Dissatisfaction within the relationship is one of the leading factors that cause the emotional disconnection and emotional bond of a couple.
Those involved in a relationship with which they’re not satisfied turn out to be more likely and predicted to be involved in infidelity acts. 41 percent of individuals report to involve in infidelity acts due to poor commitment from their partner, studies render.
Marital or relationship dissatisfaction is yet another main cause and a consequence of infidelity.
It has been known as a factor contributing to weakening the connection between the couple, thus making them have a lighter sense of responsibility and accountability.
- The lighter the sense of responsibility and accountability towards one’s partner and their feelings, the higher the chance of infidelity occurring within that relationship.
Being dissatisfied with the relationship and the partner is also what often induces thoughts of ending the relationship.
When faced with the process of decision-making, one can choose the easy way out according to their perception: passively ending the relationship.
Infidelity is known to be highly destructive to a relationship – in the case of dissatisfaction with the relationship and partnership – it is known to often be a conscious and intentional choice to end the relationship.
Generally, dissatisfaction within the relationship is known to be one of the root causes of infidelity.
4. Low relationship quality
A lot of studies suggest that involvement in infidelity for an individual is seen as an easy act due to the low quality of the relationship being a motive.
One of those studies found that 77 percent of the individuals who participated in infidelity, did so due to a lack of love for their primary partner.
The quality of a relationship is essentially determined by factors such as:
- The emotional intelligence of the individuals involved in the relationship;
- The basis of interaction between the couple;
- The compatibility of the partners regarding their personalities, characters, and emotional development in general;
- Support (emotional, financial, etc);
- The overall satisfaction of the partners involved;
Generally, the quality of a relationship is the representation of the perception of the relationship by the individuals involved in it.
This means the quality of the relationship is low if one or both of the partners is unhappy, are negatively affected by the relationship, and are feeling mal in terms of their well-being because of the relationship.
The low quality of a relationship is suggested to be one of the main and most common factors that rely on the reasoning for infidelity.
Combined with high sexual desire, the low quality of the relationship is highly reported by the majority of men who engage in infidelity.
This, however, doesn’t mean that the low quality of the relationship isn’t a factor behind women’s reasons for their engagement in infidelity as well.
This difference between genders and the correlation to infidelity has been reported to be the case in this particular factor.
Although it stands as a strong reason behind infidelity for both men and women.
5. Pregnancy of a partner
This phenomenon has been spotted in heterosexual relationships. According to the studies, a wife’s pregnancy increases the risk of the marriage being exposed to infidelity (committed by the husband).
As shocking as it sounds, this has been valued as one of the factors that influence the probability of the occurrence of infidelity in marriages or romantic relationships.
The study involved over 2,200 people and this was one of the significant motives behind infidelity in marriages to be mentioned.
- Combined with other factors such as anger, dissatisfaction within the relationship, and a relationship of low quality, it appears that the pregnancy of a partner can be a predictor of infidelity.
6. Physical appearance of a partner
Physical appearance is one of the factors affecting the risk of the relationship being exposed to infidelity by one or both of the partners.
It is found that if one partner is perceived as more attractive than the other it can increase the chances of the relationship being exposed to infidelity. That is due to self-esteem-related issues.
Part of some studies has concluded that women who are perceived as more physically attractive than their partner are more likely to cheat or have more sexual partners.
- Studies found that more physically attractive women tend to have infidelity tendencies due to high self-esteem and a high perception of self-image.
On the other hand, healthy levels of self-esteem in partners turn out to be a positive factor within the relationship regarding the infidelity matter.
A relationship – involving a very good-looking woman to the point that she’s perceived as more attractive than her partner – has a possibility of being exposed to external factors that can affect the romantic relationship.
That means a perception of the opinions that can occur within the social environment surrounding the couple (including friends, family, coworkers, etc) giving them a more attractive partner and a sense of entitlement.
7. Lack of connection within the relationship
Connection within the relationship is highly correlated to the quality of the relationship.
A connection can be in various forms such as emotional, sexual, physical, and communication-wise. One of its forms also includes chemistry.
Lack of connection within the relationship has been reported to be one of the many drives behind infidelity.
73 percent of women and 43 percent of men report having committed adultery due to a ‘troublesome’ relationship with their primary partner.
In a way, partners are easily charmed by another person if there’s a lack of connection with the primary partner.
- A strong emotional connection (followed by sexual chemistry and connection) can lead to the couple having a sense of bonding, partnership, and oneness.
If the bond and connection are strong so will the weight and sense of responsibility within the relationship.
In this case, lack of connection – be it emotional or sexual – can be a cause of/a drive to infidelity in a relationship.
That has been proved to be due to the lightness of responsibility and accountability that one might feel in a relationship lacking emotional and sexual connection.
Making such a relationship prone and being exposed to a high risk of infidelity.
8. High sexual drive
The high sexual drive has been reported to be a ubiquitous trait in people who engage in infidelity throughout their romantic relationships.
Studies have reported that a high sexual drive in particular conditions and factors within a romantic relationship can lead to involvement in infidelity. 32 percent have reported engaging in infidelity due to strong sexual desire.
- Some studies argue that men have a higher sexual drive compared to women, presumably, making them also more prone to sexual infidelity compared to women.
That, however, is questionable if viewed from a biological and evolutionary perspective.
Both men and women evolved to have high sexual drive, which is significantly high when compared to other species. It is thought that humans are one of the most sexually active species out there.
The biased argument that men have a higher sexual drive when compared to women holds that men have a higher libido and women go softer when it comes to sexual desire and thoughts – it doesn’t click that well if viewed biologically or evolutionary-wise.
The studies claim that results as a conclusion are flawed due to the conditions and cultural aspects of the environment where the studies were conducted.
Clearly, due to evolutionary and biological relying explanations, women need more emotional reassurance before committing to a sexual act – it doesn’t prove a high or low libido – and that’s what a lot of studies, in this case, are missing out on.
9. No particular reason – seek ‘something new’
A quite big number of people who reported engaging in infidelity reported having done it without any particular motive or reason.
A study indicated that 74 percent of individuals committing infidelity did so because of the drive for excitement, for the sake of assortment, and diversity of partners in their lives.
They didn’t put any thought into why they were doing what they were doing. They also didn’t put any thought into the rightness or wrongness of their actions.
That can be related to various factors, including lack of emotional intelligence, immaturity, or even lack of respect towards the relationship and partnership.
Emotional intelligence and maturity weigh a lot on the perception of responsibility and accountability.
- Continuous stress is known to be a contributing factor to negatively affecting a romantic relationship.
That is often unexplainable in regards to the reasoning behind an act of infidelity by the individuals committing to it.
However, it is quite noticeable if those individuals are studied in different emotional, psychological, and physical states.
- On the other hand, this “no particular reason or motive” response as to why engaging in infidelity can be due to another factor…
A biological drive that has been argued differently by scientists and studies made regarding this issue… sexuality.
There are different arguments relating to human nature and its sexuality, are we biologically wired and did we evolve to be monogamous or non-monogamous?
From a point of perspective, if one makes up their mind to stay loyal and take the relationship seriously, they can ‘resist’ the urge to involve sexually or emotionally in infidelity.
Despite the ability to overcome it, the urge is still present. And that tells us something: we might not be as monogamous as we thought ourselves to be.
- That “No particular reason” can be the surrender to the natural urge to get involved with multiple people to – biologically speaking – increase the chances of having offspring that’ll successfully pass their genes into further generations.
10. Immaturity & lack of emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence plays a fundamental role when it comes to perceiving and sensing responsibility and accountability.
This applies more to the individuals having (or missing) those traits and involved in infidelity.
As monogamy or emotional and sexual exclusivity is promised, it takes maturity and emotional intelligence to feel the responsibility and accountability of the promise itself.
- Although some scientists argue that the biological urges are nearly inescapable, a mature and emotionally intelligent individual is fairly capable of sensing whether they’re competent or giving a promise of exclusivity.
- Immaturity and lack of emotional intelligence are reported to be common traits of individuals who involve in infidelity acts during an exclusively monogamous relationship they consciously chose to be in.
Affecting the sense of responsibility, the quality of the relationship, and the flow of the relationship immaturity and the lack of emotional intelligence are part of what drives people into infidelity.
The sense of judgment of the wrongness of such actions in an exclusive monogamous relationship can easily drive an individual into participating in them, which is exactly the case with immaturity and low levels of emotional intelligence.
11. Situational motivations such as intoxication
Part of what drives people into infidelity is also situational motivations such as intoxication, sudden anger due to conflict with the partner, or even stress.
70 percent of people report that situational motivations have conditioned them into committing infidelity, studies show.
These, however, are reported to be drives to short-term affairs or even once-and-never-again acts of infidelity.
- Situational motivations are observed to be conditioning the environment for infidelity to occur in those moments.
For example, intoxication can make an individual have lower levels of control and rationality in their thinking, which can make the thought of infidelity light-weight and insignificant.
The exposure to stress or anger due to a particular conflict between the couple can make the individuals feel overwhelmed emotionally and mentally to the point where the quality of the thought process is low.
In those cases, the intensity of emotions can blur the sense of judgment and make it easier for an individual to participate in an act that’s not quite reasonable.
However, those result in rapid regret of the actions thus leading to the infidelity/affair being short-term or even never happening again; And in some cases, even confessed.
Infidelity’s correlation to human nature: a biological and evolutionary perspective
*The issue is argued by taking into consideration (but not limited to) heterosexual relationships.
Why do people cheat? Even more, taunting, why do people cheat on people they love? Could an evolutionary and biological perspective answer this question, or would it forever remain a mystery?
Such perspectives could answer this question, though the answers can be controversial thus the doubts, denial, and confusion remaining.
Put simply, you might not like the answer that much.
- Based on studies on our primates and closest relatives – Chimpanzees, Bonobos, and Orangutans – also based on studies on evolution and biological development, a lot of clues point towards a direction: we’re not monogamous by nature.
Our ability to adapt is undeniable, we adapted to living in cities and sitting on a chair for hours, to drive cars, to the use of technology and its effects on us.
Our adaptation to monogamy is an argument opposed to another argument that holds that we’re monogamous by nature and that we don’t need to adapt to it.
It could make sense, however, if we’d look at the data, the studies, and the cues we get from how our ancestors lived back then, we’d get a clearer idea of this topic.
We had roles back in our hunter-gatherer days. In a primitive way of living women were the children carriers, and the men were the providers.
It is thought that passing your genes to generations is one of the main drives in nature. If we go by that narrative, monogamy wouldn’t make much sense.
Back in those primitive ways and conditions of living, men and women chose partners who would make good caretakers.
Having offspring means spreading the genes to generations. The more offspring the better. The more partners the more possibilities for the genes to continue passing on.
It’s argued that having multiple partners is an organic biological drive in humans. Monogamy goes in this theory’s opposite direction. They contradict one another.
- Humans adapting to monogamy is a possibility. Yet the temptation and desire for ‘someone new’ or ‘something new’ is vastly present.
The existence of temptation and the urge to involve sexually or emotionally with multiple partners makes this theory seem more logical and self-explanatory.
Back in the hunter-gatherer days, a man engaging emotionally or sexually with a woman could put his children’s mother at risk of losing the food and security provider.
On the other hand, a woman engaging emotionally or sexually with a man could put her children’s father at risk of raising and putting effort into children that might not be his own.
This could be a fair explanation as to why the rate of men cheating sexually is higher than women’s; but also the rate of women cheating emotionally is reported to be higher than men’s.
Forcing ourselves into something that’s not part of our nature can lead us to break the standards we created on our own as a society.
Our primal instincts and biological programming as a product of thousands of years of evolution still dictate our contemporary lives.
We can control our urges, however, we cannot deny their presence. We might just be promiscuous species by nature.
Why do cheaters cheat? Studies, sources, and references
Susan H. Eaves, Misty Robertson-Smith, The Relationship Between Self-Worth and Marital Infidelity: A Pilot Study https://doi.org/10.1177/1066480707305468
Alessandra D. Fisher, MD Giovanni Corona, MD Elisa Bandini, MD Edoardo Mannucci, MD Francesco Lotti, MD Valentina Boddi, MD Gianni Forti, MD Mario Maggi, MD Psychobiological Correlates of Extramarital Affairs and Differences between Stable and Occasional Infidelity among Men with Sexual Dysfunctions https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2008.01140.x
Dylan Selterman, Justin R Garcia, Irene Tsapelas Motivations for Extradyadic Infidelity Revisited DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2017.1393494
April 2014; Cambridge University Press, Saif R. Farooqi The Construct of Relationship Quality DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/jrr.2014.2
Jana Hackathorn & Brien K. Ashdown The Webs We Weave: Predicting Infidelity Motivations and Extradyadic Relationship Satisfaction https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2020.1746954
Ana M. Beltrán-Morillas, María Alonso-Ferres, Marta Garrido-Macías, Laura Villanueva-Moya, M. Dolores Sánchez-Hernández, Francisca Expósito The Relationship Between the Motivation to Commit Infidelity and Negative Affect and Self-Esteem: How Cheating in Romance Might Signal Positive Well-Being in Adolescents https://doi.org/10.1177/0033294120973947
Dylan Selterman, Justin R. Garcia & Irene Tsapelas What Do People Do, Say, and Feel When They Have Affairs? Associations between Extradyadic Infidelity Motives with Behavioral, Emotional, and Sexual Outcomes https://doi.org/10.1080/0092623X.2020.1856987
Whisman, M. A., Gordon, K. C., & Chatav, Y. (2007). Predicting sexual infidelity in a population-based sample of married individuals. Journal of Family Psychology, 21(2), 320–324. https://doi.org/10.1037/0893-318.104.22.1680
William Barta, Susan M Kiene, June 2005; Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 22(3):339-360 DOI:10.1177/0265407505052440
Denise Previti, Paul R. Amato, Is Infidelity a Cause or a Consequence of Poor Marital Quality? https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407504041384
Ruth Yasemin Erol and Ulrich Orth, Self-Esteem and the Quality of Romantic Relationships https://doi.org/10.1027/1016-9040/a000259
Frederick, D.A., Fales, M.R. Upset Over Sexual versus Emotional Infidelity Among Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Heterosexual Adults. Arch Sex Behav 45, 175–191 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-014-0409-9
M. RosieShrout Daniel J.Weigel Coping with infidelity: The moderating role of self-esteem
Francisco Javier Fernández-Carrasco, Luciano Rodríguez-Díaz, Urbano González-Mey, Juana María Vázquez-Lara, Juan Gómez-Salgado, Tesifón Parrón-Carreño Changes in Sexual Desire in Women and Their Partners during Pregnancy doi: 10.3390/jcm9020526