Why Do People Cheat On People They Love


Most people can immediately relate to the meaning of any of those terms. Essentially they mean that a partner or spouse has had (or is having) an affair.

An affair can be sexual or emotional.

It is a breach of trust by a partner who goes outside of the primary relationship for sex or an intimate emotional connection with someone else.

People may have differing opinions on what type of an affair is worse, physical, emotional or both.

In fact most people seem to agree that having an affair that includes an emotional connection with someone may have more of an impact on the hurt partner than simply having sex with another person.

If the unfaithful partner becomes emotionally attached to the third party creating a stronger bond, even falling in love, his spouse may feel that trying to reestablishing a loving relationship will just be too difficult.

Why A Person Cheats

Most people have a hard time reconciling the idea that despite having a committed relationship with a long-term partner, often with apparently satisfying ongoing sexual activity, that their spouse would cheat on them.

They may not have seen “red flag” behaviors or had an honest conversation that might otherwise have alerted them to unmet sexual desire,  such as discussions of open relationships, emotional affairs or lack of love in the current relationship.

People in a long-term romantic relationship or monogamous relationship, even supposedly happy relationships, where the sexual needs of the spouses are apparently being met, are often astounded when they discover an affair.

Affairs can happen even in healthy relationships or between best friends.

There can be many reasons for human beings to have affairs or cheat on their significant others.

There is not necessarily a common thread or single reason for all affairs, like lack of love, commitment issues or unmet needs, but more like a multitude of reasons or various reasons why people cheat.

Affairs or infidelities can fall into many categories as there are many types. What follows is an outline of what might be considered to be some of the most common types affairs.

Unintended Affair

This type of encounter can happen when opportunity and poor judgment are working together.

It can be the result of being in an environment where drinking, drugging and partying too much encourages risky behavior. Meeting a new person for the first time who might also be interested in that behavior can trigger the affair.

Poor judgment can lead the curious partner to stray and enter the realm of the one night stand.

Long Term Affair

This type of affair can be ongoing for many years. It may in fact coexist with the life of the marriage itself. A partner may even have offspring from such an affair.

For example, a former well loved television journalist, Charles Kuralt, was discovered to have had a 29 year relationship with his affair partner. He led this parallel life for all those years and the only reason he was discovered after his death was because his lover made a claim for part of his estate.

Hostile Affair

In this type of affair the primary reason for cheating is anger and revenge.

The cheating partner who steps out of the relationship wants to get back at their current partner for some perceived wrongdoing. They may be holding a grudge about something that happened a long time ago but was never resolved. They may have been feeling unappreciated, unloved or even humiliated by their spouse.

Instead of seeking resolution by going through individual therapy or seeing a marriage therapist together, the cheating partner uses their hostile, negative feelings as a way of rationalizing having an affair.

A Happy Marriage

This is often the most difficult type of affair for a spouse to understand. Here the marriage and the relationship appears to be fine.

The couple gets along well, may consider themselves to be close friends, have a sexual attraction with a good sex life and resolve their differences without the need for professional help.

However, in this scenario there is sometimes the privately held desire for something new in the way of  having an experience with a new partner without wanting an open marriage. That feeling, existing below the surface in a spouse, can give rise to taking advantage of an opportunity to step outside of the marriage.

An Unhappy Relationship 

An affair that emerges from an unhappy or unsatisfying relationship is often one where the complaint(s) may be: poor communication, unsatisfying physical connection, not getting one’s emotional needs met or lack of intimacy, bad or no sex life or even separate lives.

Couples frequently dismiss their dissatisfaction as a part of life, argue unproductively over it or just simply learn to live with it. Those strategies can ultimately lead to a cheating spouse seeking solace with someone else.

Poor Or Boring Sex

After being together for several years most couples struggle with keeping their sexual relationship interesting. Sometimes both partners express interest in keeping this important part of their lives fresh and the couple continues to thrive sexually. They learn how to keep the desire for each other alive and well.

When one of the spouses becomes more dissatisfied than the other and feels that there is little interest in spicing things up, they may begin looking elsewhere for a more exciting sexual experience.

Self-Esteem Issue

In this case the unfaithful partner is struggling with a confused sense of their own self esteem. Feeling poorly about himself and needing more praise or adulation from his current partner, he may find someone who appears to desire him, thereby helping him to feel better about himself.

The initial thrill of an affair can have the temporary effect of raising one’s feelings of low self esteem.

Already Decided Affair

Here the unfaithful partner has already made up their mind to leave the marriage and uses the affair to make their escape. The thinking is that the marriage could not work so why not use the affair as a transition to divorce.

Internet Affairs

With the advancement of technology the Internet has been the go to place for almost all things. It is easy to use, can be anonymous and has a seductive quality that can become addictive.

Partners engaging in Internet Affairs can find themselves caught up with the reintroduction of a former friend or lover through Facebook or other platforms. Often an emotional infidelity develops first as a result of continued contact causing the rekindling of old feelings.

Spouses can also become distracted with meeting a complete stranger online with whom they may share their feelings. This could lead to meeting in person for sex or a continued secret emotional infidelity.

Compulsive Sexual Behavior

Compulsive sexual behavior is often described as sex addiction.

In this type of affair sex is used to cope with feelings of extreme anxiety, emptiness or even a deep emotional wound.

Sexually compulsive individuals have very poor impulse control and are at high risk for having affairs. This person may be very insecure or even narcissistic and can crave adoration which they try to get through frequent sexual encounters.

Fear of Conflict

Some partners are so fearful of causing conflict by either questioning their spouse or requesting better treatment, that they seek someone outside the relationship for relief.

This type of person may have been brought up to avoid conflict at all costs and has developed a hyper sensitivity to it. In fact they may perceive almost any assertive conversation with their spouse as causing high conflict and potentially explosive.

Even though the idea of this person actually cheating or having an affair may seem counter intuitive, it can be experienced by them as a relief from the stress of fearing confrontation.

Fear Of Intimacy

A partner who has never been able to truly connect with their spouse in a deeper and meaningful way might enter into an affair to maintain that distance. They may be unaware of the real issue and feel a profound sense of discomfort if the spouse wants to be closer emotionally.

Affair Recovery

Affairs often develop out of complicated sets of circumstances. Of course there are some personalities that are at higher risk for having an affair but some of the time it is a person who may never have cheated before that ends up being unfaithful.

How spouses or partners decide to deal with each other once an affair has been revealed is a highly personal matter. It can have the effect of literally blowing up the marriage or the opposite effect of, with the right guidance, creating an even stronger relationship than before.

An Affair does not have to end the marriage or mean divorce!

Partners can recover if they work at understanding the reasons for the affair in the first place, make the changes necessary for a better path forward and begin to reconcile their differences.

Seeking the right kind of help when an Affair is discovered can make the difference between catastrophe and reconciliation.

Other articles you might find interesting:

Affairs, Myths and Infidelity: Truth and Myths

How to Rebuild Trust After an Affair

Click here to learn more about building trust after an affair and download my FREE report: 7 Steps to Coping After an Affair.

About the Author

Dr. Stan Hyman is a licensed psychotherapist and life coach in private practice in Miami, Florida. He works with couples struggling with powerful issues such as infidelity and intimacy.