The reason someone cheats isn’t usually as straightforward as not being able to control your hormones. It’s messy, convoluted, confusing, and so much deeper than an immature, spur of the moment decision.
According to psychotherapy counselor the reasons someone cheats can be incredibly complex. “When we hear about people cheating we often look at the external factors of their life and question, `why`or `how could they`,” McRitchie told INSIDER. “The uncomfortable truth is, the answer lies behind the carefully manufactured exterior – in fact the exterior can often be the clue as to why.”
The root cause of infidelity might not always be apparent, but McRitchie said cheaters often have a common link to one and other: Cheating acts as a temporary cure to “alleviate a symptom.”
It is for this reason the McRitchie suggests the “symptom” is what causes someone to cheat and figuring out the “root cause” of this symptom can help better understand someone’s choice to be unfaithful to their partner. While there are many reasons why people choose to be faithless, McRitchie reiterates that infidelity acts as a mask for pre-existing problems in a relationship. And, one of the biggest problems in a relationship is a lack of communication.
Communication can be a trigger.
Perhaps one of the most common reasons someone is faithless in a relationship can be traced back to a lack of open communication between partners. Being open about both the good and the bad things in a relationship means both partners feel safe expressing their emotions and sexual desires. This, in turn, can help foster a strong connection, which can help you through any unforeseen rough patches, and let’s be honest, every couple has them. And, don’t forget, communication takes two people.
“Communication is often the common and surprising theme behind infidelity; the person cheating is, in a very unconscious way, letting the world know about their unhappiness or dissatisfaction,” McRitchie said. “It is a way to express themselves in a way that feels perversely safer than using words.”
McRitchie continued, saying “communication is not just the art of speaking – it is also the art of listening without prejudice or defense” and not knowing how to communicate within a relationship can lead to dissatisfaction.
She compared this to how a “misunderstood toddler or teen will act out” and said cheating is a person’s way of expressing discontent due to a lack of communication. “Some people will turn to drugs or alcohol, some work, some will stay out late, others will cheat – and the effect can be devastating.”
People can cheat out of malice.
Anger is another common reason people often choose to be disloyal in a relationship. While they might be getting off sexually, McRitchie said infidelity can be used out of vengeance, not passion.
“In this case … anger is being suppressed and then released in the act of cheating – offering a feeling of satisfaction beyond the sexual; the feeling of power and control – and the knowledge that the other person is being punished without realizing is for some people a cruel and unusual way of punishing them – sometimes for perceived slights rather than real ones.”
Loneliness can be destructive.
Feeling lonely, especially as a part of a couple, can feel isolating — and that isolation can make people do some out-of-character things like, you know, cheat on their partners, no matter how loving. Cheaters who do so out of loneliness often feel “revitalized.”
“Communication between couples is often only at surface level…that do not delve too deep into a person’s real psyche,” McRitchie said. “Add a third person to this mix and suddenly the ìnvisible`person feel wanted, important. The person cheating is often trying to jolt themselves alive again in the form of cheating. Once again — at the heart of this is often a need to express unhappiness or dissatisfaction but instead of speaking to their partner they communicate their loneliness through infidelity and will believe that a connection with another person is what will ‘cure’ them – when in fact it can often lead to them feeling more confused and lonely.”
Some people have a low EI.
There are several different types of intelligence in the world, including emotional intelligence, which is vital for sustaining a happy, healthy relationship with another person. According to McRitchie, people with low emotional intelligence might be more inclined to cheating.
“Emotional intimacy or intelligence is essential for a healthy relationship – and whilst it cannot always guarantee fidelity – it does stand a relationship in good stead. How often have we heard [someone] say ‘[they] just don’t understand me’? It sounds like a cliché – but often it has its base in the truth; the person doing the cheating feels unheard, or unseen – but they are perhaps not communicating in the way they should and so of course are not understood.”
They’ve lost the passion.
Passion is a major motivator when it comes to making long term relationships last, and couples that lose the heat can feel the burn. Of course, there’s never a good excuse for cheating, but some people might consider the lack of sparks a major cheating motivator.
“Sometimes love is simply not enough,” McRitchie told INSIDER. “It is possible to love and respect your partner but still not feel connected to them in a way you once were. This can happen to any relationship regardless of how long the people have been together. We can still love our partner and want only the best for them – and therefore in many cases stay with them – but we are not in-love, we are house sharing with a friend. Sexual desire for the other dwindles and when the opportunity arises to have a sexual connection with another person it can feel like a ‘fix’. Of course this is not reality, but if love remains but passion is absent – there is a genuine reluctance to leave.”
Sometimes it can just be boredom.
Ah, boredom in the 21st Century, something that doesn’t seem possible, and yet here we are: Boredom is also common reason people cheat in a relationship, according to McRitchie. Chalk it up to genuine bad manners and utter disregard for another person’s feelings (someone like this would have a low EI), cheating on someone out of boredom is a sad reality for many people.
“Most relationships suffer from periods of boredom, one partner will at some time feel unappreciated and not cheat,” McRitchie said. “In these cases, the lines of communication are often open and despite the difficulty in such conversations, both people feel heard. There are also those who crave the high of getting caught – the illicit act of cheating is like a drug – and can sometimes be used as a way of coping much in the way drugs are used. In times of stress, this person might reach for the next available sexual partner rather than turn to his or her partner for support. Again displaying a lack of intimate emotional communication.”
They don’t feel important.
While you’re 100% not to blame for your partner’s infidelity, one reason they might have cheated is because they didn’t feel important or appreciated. Of course, this goes back to requiring an open line of communication between partners to express dissatisfaction.
“It is easy to feel overlooked and unimportant especially in a long-term relationship, but with communication, planning and compromise (non of which sound passionate or romantic) this is a problem that can be easily solved,” McRitchie said. “In cases where a person feels unimportant or taken for granted, they are often craving validation. They need to know that are still exciting, desirable, alive. The act of infidelity can be what re-connects them to the person they used to be before they became invisible. Nothing says ‘I see you’ more than sex.”
Your partner wants to leave, but doesn’t know how to tell you.
This probably isn’t the reason you want to hear, but some people cheat on their partners because they want to escape the relationship and don’t know how to tell the other person. If they could use their words instead of their genitalia, everyone would walk away from the relationship a little less hurt.
“Sometimes the truth is that a person is just looking for a way out and rather than have an honest albeit painful conversation – they resort to cheating – sloppy cheating. Rather than admit that they are no longer in love with their partner they turn to another and they don’t cover their tracks very well, they want to be caught – they want out but lack the bravery and emotional intelligence to put this into words. In this instance – almost anyone will suffice in the role of `other`they too are surplus to needs.”
A personal lack of self confidence.
Sometimes it’s a person’s own lack of self confidence and self worth that can lead them down a path of infidelity. Despite attempts to remain faithful, people who cheat due to a lack of confidence often do it again and again.
“There are many people who cheat as a way of validating their self-worth. In many cases, this person is often labelled a serial cheater – someone who can’t commit – but who might do a very good job of convincing people that they can be trusted and they do want the commitment they seek. This person is usually want love…however after time this belief dwindles and as a relationship progresses, old insecurities will surface and for some people, the cure for these oppressive and unwanted beliefs is cheating. Cheating for this person helps them cope with insecurities that can be crippling.”