When someone’s cheated on by their partner, they’re often left asking: why?
How could someone they trusted and loved – and who they thought loved them back – betray them in such a shocking and hurtful way? There’s usually not only a sense of anger and upset, but also total disbelief.
The reasons people cheat are varied, but there are a number that crop up time and again in the counselling room. If you’re currently struggling to understand why this has happened to you, you may find it useful to think about some of the following.
1. Lack of emotional connection
The number one reason why people cheat is a lack of connection in the relationship. Most people do not realize how important creating, maintaining, and nurturing a connection in a relationship is. There will always be temptations, but when a couple is feeling connected, the odds of acting on those temptations go down significantly. Studies show that only 7% of cheating women and 8% of cheating men cheated due to sexual dissatisfaction alone. The vast majority cheated either because of a lack of emotional connection in the relationship or a combination of a lack of emotional and sexual connection in the relationship.
2. Lack of sexual connection.
Most couples get lazy about sex. Once they figure out how to get each other off and the initial sexual excitement of a new partner passes, most couples get complacent about their intimate life. For sex to be great over time, it takes a willingness to continue to grow and learn. We need to bring new techniques, fantasies, toys, and experiences to the table to keep it fresh. In addition, our needs, fantasies, and the things that turn us on change over time, which is why it’s so important for couples to communicate about sex on a regular basis. Without ongoing communication, small sexual desires may slip through the cracks or you may be too nervous to express something big that you want to try. This can leave one member of a couple more likely to look elsewhere to get their sexual needs met. Sometimes, it is easier to ask a stranger to do something kinky or even just to direct them more explicitly about how and where you’d like to be touched.
3. Fighting unfairly.
Conflict in a relationship is inevitable. How this conflict is handled, however, often determines how much damage is done and ultimately how long the relationship lasts. People do not want to stick around in a relationship where their partner hits below the belt when conflict arises. Being disrespected, hurt, or verbally abused leaves people vulnerable to acting out with others.
When we get hurt, angered, triggered, or scared, we are most likely to lash out. The goal is to learn to recognize those moments and to have the impulse control to stop yourself so you can turn a difficult moment into a productive discussion, instead of escalating it.
4. Making assumptions about your relationship status.
Too often, we make assumptions about the status of our relationship. We think because we slept with someone that automatically means it’s committed. Or that once an “I love you” has been uttered that means we are monogamous. Do not make any assumptions about the status of your relationship without having a clear conversation with the other party. Also, if you are in an open relationship, make sure that you define cheating very clearly. In order to have a successful polyamorous, open, or non-monogamous relationship, the rules must be very clearly defined. Without those clear conversations and specific rules, you are setting yourself up for hurt and disappointment.
5. Sex addiction.
People who struggle with sex addiction, or sexually compulsive behavior, violate their own morals, go against their values, and risk the people and things that are important to them in order to get their sexual fix. Like an addict, they have a pathological relationship to their drug of choice, which in this case is sex. Sex is a mood altering experience and those who are compulsive, whether with a substance or a behavior, tend to not be very good at tolerating feelings or regulating emotions. Their ability to tolerate emotional closeness, the ups and downs of a relationship, or emotional intimacy are challenged. Being with someone who struggles with sex addiction, and is not in recovery or in serious therapy, is signing on to be cheated on.
6. Feeling unappreciated
If one person feels that they aren’t receiving enough love, respect, and attention from their partner, this can cause them to look for those things elsewhere.
Sometimes, even if a partner hasn’t actually neglected the other, they can still feel neglected, especially if there are unrealistic expectations. Or it could just be that one person has emotional or sexual needs that they feel are just not being met.