• “Why do people cheat?” is a timeless question.
  • Many have cheated, or been cheated on—and there’s no definite answer as to why, as each individual has their own reasons.
  • The reasons a partner may choose to cheat includes feeling sexually unsatisfied, suffering from mental illness, sex addiction, substance use, and more.
  • If you’re worried that you’re being cheated on, don’t make assumptions, but know the signs: Dishonest behavior, unknown whereabouts, lack of sexual interest, and a general lack of concern for the relationship and home are clues.
  • If your partner confesses to cheating, or you have caught them, it’s important to carefully consider your next move. You aren’t required to stay in the relationship, but it’s possible for someone to love you and still cheat.

Few things betray someone’s trust more than infidelity. It’s ruined many marriages, committed relationships, and families—but still, people continue to cheat on their partners. 

Whether you’ve been cheated on or have been unfaithful in past relationships, you’re probably curious—why do people cheat? And how can you recognize the signs? 

We explain all that, plus how to deal with the consequences if you’ve cheated or have discovered your partner has been unfaithful to you.

Why Do People Cheat?

There may be several potential reasons why people cheat, including: 

  1. Lack of fulfillment: Sometimes one partner may not feel completely satisfied in the relationship, whether emotionally, physically, or sexually. This can lead to seeking fulfillment outside the relationship. 
  2. Emotional disconnect and/or emotional distance: If there is a breakdown in communication or emotional connection between partners, one may seek emotional support or intimacy elsewhere, even if they still love their partner.
  3. Personal issues and insecurities: Personal issues, such as low self-esteem, fear of commitment, or unresolved trauma can lead individuals to seek out validation or excitement outside the relationship. 
  4. Lack of commitment: Despite feeling love for their partner, some individuals may struggle with commitment or emotional vulnerability. 
  5. Impulsivity, poor impulse control and mental health challenges which create struggles with impulse/decision making: Some individuals may struggle with making impulsive decisions, like controlling sexual desire, even if they genuinely love their partner.

It is important to note that these reasons do not justify or excuse cheating, as it causes significant harm and betrayal to the partner. Open and honest communication, along with addressing any underlying issues, is crucial in maintaining a healthy and faithful relationship.

What Are the Signs of Cheating?

Some of the most common signs of cheating can include patterns of dishonest or suspicious behavior (i.e. coming home late), lying, and a general lack of transparency. 

Emotional detachment is another huge sign of cheating within the relationship. If there is a noticeable decrease in emotional connection with your partner, less empathy or a lack of interest in your partner’s life or feelings, talk to them. 

Bulleted list detailing signs that your partner is cheating

If you’re asking yourself, “Why do people cheat?” then it’s possible that you’re suspicious of your own partner. However, it is important to not jump to conclusions, and instead, truly hear from your partner what has been happening. It is also vital to address underlying behaviors of dishonesty or withholding information, as this tends to break down trust and communication in the relationship and can lead to a breakup or divorce. 

It is important to also note that these signs do not guarantee infidelity, and other factors or issues in the relationship could be responsible for these behaviors. If you suspect your partner to be cheating, have an open and honest communication with them to address the situation. 

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What Does Cheating Say About a Person?

Cheating doesn’t say anything about the person who’s been unfaithful—but it might indicate they are prone to making impulsive or irresponsible, thoughtless decisions. People will often judge immediately when they hear that infidelity has occurred, deciding that the unfaithful person is a horrible individual. 

It’s the mind’s logical way of answering the question, “Why do people cheat?” The saying that comes to mind is a phrase many have heard repeated, “Once a cheater, always a cheater.” 

But mental health professionals do not truly believe this to be the truth for every individual. There’s always a chance for redemption and deeper understanding, which means the cheater will have to get to the root cause of the infidelity (as stated above) in order to understand why it happened in the first place. 

Why Do People Cheat When They’re in Love?

It is possible for a partner to cheat when in love. Relationships are complex and complicated. 

It is possible to even fall in love with two different people at the same time and feel it is challenging to know what to do or how to address being pulled emotionally in two different directions. 

Therefore, cheating does not necessarily reflect a lack of love for the current partner, but rather a breach of trust and a decision to seek intimacy or satisfaction outside the relationship. 

Why Do People Cheat: What Is the Psychology Behind Infidelity? 

There is no exact science or psychology behind why people cheat, but instead, there may be certain motivations for people such as a partner’s perceived lack of love, low self-esteem, perceived neglect in the relationship, and so on. 

As expressed above, your partner will benefit from talking with you (perhaps in couples therapy) about the underlying factors that led to them cheating—and if you decide that you can’t stay in the relationship, it’s not your obligation to do so. Whether with you, or alone, your partner could benefit from mental health services, which can reveal deeper underlying issues at play.

Are Cheaters Mentally Ill?

No, cheaters are not necessarily mentally ill. However, if an individual is compulsively cheating in a pattern or series, or is entirely without remorse, then it is important to look at signs of past trauma, possible mental illness, such as narcissistic personality disorder, sex addiction, or perhaps issues of substance use where a person may be impulsively engaging in sexual behaviors or affairs due to the damage of substance use or addiction. 

Cheating is typically considered to be a behavior rather than a symptom of mental illness. While some individuals who engage in cheating may have underlying psychological issues, it is not accurate to classify all “cheaters” as mentally ill. 

Whatever our personal thoughts and experiences with cheating might be, there’s no set, one-size-fits-all answer to the question, “Why do people cheat?” Instead, it’s better to ask ourselves how to avoid hurting ourselves and others by cheating in the first place.