Causes and Risks of Why Married People Cheat

14 Most Common Causes of Infidelity in a Marriage

Causes and Risks of Why Married People Cheat

I have been practicing family law for over 45 years, and I have seen and heard almost everything, all the causes of infidelity in a marriage and all the reasons for divorce. More and more, I am seeing situations where people meet online but never truly and authentically get to know each other.

Good or bad, we live in an age where people want instant gratification and where they are not willing to really communicate and work on their problems without turning for answers in the arms of another man or woman.

Is infidelity the chicken or the egg? Is it caused by a loveless marriage or rather by a marriage partner who is unwilling to commit and work through problems? The following are some of my thoughts on the causes of infidelity in a marriage.

1. The Internet

The Internet is a major facilitator of infidelity. It is much easier to find forbidden fruit online than it is in person.  There are so many websites where people can meet with no questions asked. Think of Ashley Madison’s tagline – “Life is Short. Have an Affair®.”

2. Running Away from Problems

Running away from problems is a major contributor to infidelity. Making excuses rather than facing the music with your spouse opens the door to infidelity, especially emotional affairs.

I have heard many examples where a spouse would tell me that he or she has found a coworker with a shoulder to lean on.

It should be no surprise that sympathetic coworkers regularly become participants in illicit affairs.

3. Pornography

Pornography is rampant on the Internet – but does this lead to affairs? Does it lead to emotional affairs and the death of love and trust? Absolutely! Internet and “porn addiction” are significant factors causing the breakdown of marriages today. And you might be surprised to know that this problem is not discriminatory toward men: today, there are more and more women suffering from Internet and porn addiction.

4. Escort Services

Escort services and the , including “online massages,” etc., are much more attainable in our age of social media than it ever was before. Scrutinizing credit card charges is but one of the contributing factors as to why divorces are expensive.


is now a contributing factor to about a third of all divorces. A couple of years ago, that number was 25%. You can meet anyone online.

I have had cases where someone reconnected with a high school sweetheart and ran off during the divorce even though the sweetheart lived over 3,000 miles away.

The online fantasy that the “grass is greener on the other side” is a significant cause in the breakdown of marriages today.

6. Boredom

Boredom can lead to an affair. Many people fall into routines, including tired routines in the bedroom. What do you do to keep your marriage fresh? Many divorces could be possibly avoided if people took the time and commitment to communicate verbally and physically and keep things exciting.

Some people look for excitement to escape boredom. It can be by experimenting with other relationships, trying drugs, fast cars, or hanging out with different people. I once had a case where a husband wanted a ménage à trois for his milestone birthday. His wife agreed to the gift.

  Overtime, the couple experimented with wife-swapping and ultimately his wife ran off with someone else.

7. Growing Apart from Your Partner

People grow apart. Do you and your spouse have the same goals anymore? Do you want to ride off into the sunset together after the children are grown? Is your spouse your best friend?

8. Addiction

Alcohol and drugs often go hand in hand with affairs. I have seen many cases where a spouse will trade one addiction for another. A person’s addiction to drugs or alcohol is chemically no different than an addiction to the Internet, porn, food, or any other unhealthy excess.

9. Not Married for the Right Reasons

Did you marry for the right reason? Or better yet, did you become the “right” person for your spouse? Do you both have enough in common? If not, you will often look for that commonality in the arms of someone else.

10. Lack of Respect at Home

Does your spouse treat you well? Do you treat your spouse well in return? Over the years I have seen many doctors, for example, run off with their nurse or other medical support staff.

It’s really not surprising that doctors, in general, are often worshipped by their staff at work, but in contrast at home, they are treated with a lack of respect. Does ego-stroking lead to affairs? Absolutely.

Everyone enjoys a compliment; it would go a long way if spouses found ways to compliment each other regularly.

11. Feeling Unappreciated

Some people fall into having an affair simply because they feel that they are not appreciated at home or that they are “doing all of the work” in keeping a marriage and home together.

Again, questions to ask are these: Am I appreciative of my spouse? Am I being the “right person” for my spouse? If more people harbored a “servant’s” mindset for their spouse, more and more affairs and divorces could be avoided.

12. Issues Involving Body Image and Aging

Issues involving body image and weight gain as well as aging can, unfortunately, lead to an affair and or divorce. Some people will “trade in” an aging spouse for a “younger” model. Of course, the point of this paragraph has nothing to do with unavoidable medical issues. But let’s face it. Many spouses tend to “let themselves go” over time.

During the “romance” period, both spouses typically try to present themselves in the best possible light to “win” the affections and marriage commitment of the other. Once the prize (marriage) is won, many people think that “the chase is over.” Not so. Marriage is only the beginning.

If people continued to consciously keep “chasing” their spouse, affairs and divorces could be avoided.

13. Insecurity

At the same time, too much insecurity can be one of the causes of infidelity in a marriage. The need for constant reaffirmation can lead to an affair, especially if one spouse becomes “too needy” or “too clingy.” It’s a delicate balance to find, but marriage requires nothing less than true and dedicated commitment.

14. Living Apart for Extended Periods of Time

Travel for work and living apart for extended periods of time invariably lead to affairs. Think of the movie Up in the Air with George Clooney. There, the female character carried on an affair with George Clooney’s character. George fell in love with her only to discover later that she was married and cheating on her husband with him.

Excitement, forbidden fruit, boredom, opportunity, enticement, retaliation – as you can see, the reasons why people have affairs are endless.

I have shared a list of reasons or causes of infidelity in a marriage with you in this blog. I am sure that there are many more reasons that you can think of. Please share them with us.


Why Women Cheat — Understanding Why Women Have Affairs

Causes and Risks of Why Married People Cheat

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  • Un previous generations, currently women and men cheat at approximately the same rates, though the reasons why women cheat may be different from men.
  • The three main reasons for cheating in women are: lack of love for primary partner, desire for sexual variety, and situational factors ( being drunk or on vacation).

The beginning of the year is a rough time for the institution of marriage. Ashley Madison, a dating site for people looking to start extramarital affairs, reports in a press release that January and February are the site's biggest months for new signups.

And in news that may or may not be related, divorce lawyers add that they see a surge in divorce filings after the holidays (web searches for divorce peak mid-January, according to USA Today).

Before it gets to that point, it's worth taking a step back and looking at why people are unfaithful to begin with — especially women, whose affairs are often misreported or misunderstood.

The differences in the reasons why men and women cheat are narrowing

It's easy to fall back on old assumptions that men are more ly to cheat, with the usually list of justifications ( how they can't «keep it in their pants»). That's becoming more and more untrue as time goes on.

«Traditionally, it's been argued that women are more ly than men to cheat because they're unhappy with the existing relationships, while men are more ly than women to cheat because they're looking for sexual variety or an opportunity presented itself,» says, Zhana Vrangalova, Ph.D.

, a «sexpert» at LELO and a professor of human sexuality at NYU. «That's still true to some extent today, but the gender gap in infidelity is closing among the newer generations.»

«In older generations, men were much more ly to cheat than women, whereas in the current generation women and men are cheating at similar rates,» she adds. «And the current generation of men and women are more similar in their reasons for cheating than older generations.»

Of course, there are some variations between men and women.

«A recent study showed men were more ly than women to cheat for reasons related to sexual desire and variety, and due to situational factors being drunk,» Vrangalova says.

«However, the top three reasons for cheating endorsed by both women and men were exactly the same: lack of love for primary partner, desire for sexual variety, and situational factors.»

Sometimes, the reasons women cheat are sexually motivated

If you want to dig a little deeper into why women cheat, Alicia Walker, Ph.D., an assistant professor of sociology at Missouri State University, is a good person to ask — she spent a year interviewing women who've had extramarital affairs for her book, The Secret Life of the Cheating Wife. She found more nuance to the idea that women cheat for sexual variety.

«In my studies on women's infidelity, I found women were outsourcing the sexual pleasure in their relationships in an effort to remain in their primary partnerships,» she says.

«They believed that if they continued to go without their sexual needs being met, they would have to break up their families and break their partner's heart. None of the women made the decision to cheat lightly.

After years and sometimes decades of trying to improve things in their marriages, they decided to look elsewhere.»

Other times, women are unsatisfied in their relationships

That doesn't mean that women who cheat are always looking to save their primary partnership. Sometimes, it's the opposite: «One of the main reasons women cheat is to blow up a relationship that makes them feel trapped in some way,» says Charlynn Ruan, Ph.D.

, a clinical psychologist and founder of Thrive Psychology Group, a group practice in California that specializes in women. «Often they're with a partner who seems a nice person, but is controlling, stifling, or emotionally unavailable.

The woman tries to make changes, to get their partner to do couples therapy, or push their partner to grow or meet them more emotionally, but when the woman doesn't succeed in these attempts, cheating gives a reason for their partner to leave them.»

This often comes with a lot of guilt, Dr. Ruan adds. «I think the unconscious narrative is often, 'He's a nice guy, but I'm miserable. There is something wrong with me,'» she says. «So, they act out to end the relationship.

In heterosexual couples, research shows that women are much more ly than men to initiate divorce, and are happier after divorce than men.

But, for women who struggle with guilt over leaving a partner, feel he needs her, and don't feel their own happiness is enough justification to reach escape velocity in their relationship, cheating gives them a way out.»

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Or, even if she's not ready to leave, she might act out because she has what psychologists call an «insecure attachment» style. «For these people, cheating can feel a way to ‘keep their options open’ and ensure that they're not hurt or abandoned,» says Mark Williams, LMHC, a relationship coach at Relish.

«These people need to feel safe and secure, and if this is threatened — if they fight with partner, for example — they can sometimes overcompensate and seek validation and attention elsewhere. The good news is these issues are fix-able.

We work really hard with people who have an insecure attachment style to find other ways of responding and ways of regulating strong emotions.»

Watch out for the warning signs of cheating

If you feel your relationship is off track and your partner may be contemplating (or starting) an affair, there are certain clues you can keep an eye out for.

«There are three big red flags to look for: being very protective or secretive with her phone, missing money or taking regular large cash withdrawals from the ATM, and missing chunks of time,» says Kathy Nickerson, Ph.D., a board-certified clinical psychologist.

«If your partner can't tell you where she was for a part of the day, or seems evasive about it, it's a clue that something interesting is happening. Having lots of random coffee dates or meetings with people you've never heard of or never met is also a clue.

The biggest red flag is being wacky with the phone — if the phone is always locked and never leaves her sight, even when she's in the shower, I'd worry.»

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8 Reasons Why Partners Cheat

Causes and Risks of Why Married People Cheat
Source: nd3000/Shutterstock

When does extramarital friendship cross the line over to infidelity? According to a recent column, «You May Call it Cheating, but We Don't,» it's fine to veer once in a while from the relationship straight-and-narrow.

This first-person true story raises a whole set of related questions: Is kissing enough to change a friendship into an affair? Should the partner be told about this? If the kissing progresses further, at what point is the affair ly to threaten each person’s marriage or primary relationship? According to author Amy Calhoun, it’s fine to kiss a friend without putting the marriage in jeopardy. It's fine to kiss a few people. In fact, attraction to other people seemed to her to be a normal aspect of marriage, even happy marriages.

The questions raised by this story led me to wonder just how frequent it is that happily married spouses either fantasize about or actually follow up on the impulse to express their attraction to someone outside the marriage.

Researchers on marriage and the family don’t have one definition of infidelity, nor do the people they study. According to a review by Utah State University researcher Sarah Tulane and her associates, infidelity is associated with higher rates of divorce.

However, Calhoun, many happily married couples admit to infidelity and never get divorced.

Rates of reported infidelity hover around 10 to 13% across adulthood, with a peak of 20% occurring for couples in their 40s (far lower than the 40-76% cited by Calhoun).

Those who discover their partner’s unfaithfulness regard the experience as “shattering” and believe that it signals the end of the marriage.

If the relationship is going to recover, the cheating partner must admit to feeling guilty and remorseful.

People who have affairs but don’t get divorced are happier in their marriage if they remain together because they love each other, not because there are barriers to the divorce (such as children or finances).

Strongly held religious beliefs might prevent partners from seeking a divorce and may therefore be a barrier. However, couples may also use their religion to help them get through the difficulties of dealing with the infidelity.

Recognizing that infidelity is a symptom of an unhappy marriage can lead a couple to patch things up and grow closer.

Why risk infidelity?

We know that some people cheat on their spouses, but the question is, why do they take such emotional and practical risks?

In a survey conducted by Loras College psychologist Julia Omarzu and colleagues, people currently or recently engaged in an extramarital affair were asked to report on their emotional experiences during the affair. The participants were obtained from a non-random source, namely a website directed toward adults who engage in marital infidelity. Thus, the results don’t generalize to the cheating world in general.

However, the findings were nevertheless informative. Of the 77 participants who responded (22 men and 55 women, ages 23-63), 73% were currently married.

The number of extramarital affairs they reported ranged from 1 to 22, with an average of about 4, and most of these were ongoing relationships rather than one-night stands, lasting more than 1 year and, in some cases, as long as 5.

They were most ly to contact each other by cellphone, meeting mainly at hotels, one partner’s home, work, or in cars. Nearly two-thirds of all affairs had ended on friendly terms, with as many as one-half of them staying in touch on friendly terms.

With these basic facts in mind, let’s see why participants said they engaged in these relationships (I’ll summarize them more specifically later). The most frequent two reasons had to do with—you guessed it—sex. They either felt their marriage wasn't sexually satisfying or they wished to have more sex than they were having.

The next two reasons reflect emotional needs. Participants reported that they weren’t emotionally satisfied in their current relationship or wished to gain additional emotional connection or validation. The least frequent reasons for engaging in affairs had to do with love—either falling love with their partner or falling in love with the new partner.

For the most part, these findings corresponded to previous work on motivation for extramarital affairs—namely, that partners cheat on their spouses primarily for sex, emotional sustenance, or love. Two additional categories not seen in previous research appeared in this online study, though, perhaps reflecting the nature of the sample. One was “revenge sex.

” People seeking an affair for this reason were trying to get back at partners who had already cheated on them. Again, this seems understandable, particularly given the nature of the website, on which people deliberately seek out an extramarital partner.

The researchers were surprised to find that nearly 20% of the married people in the sample were into «sensation seeking,» meaning they were curious or just bored.

Feelings after infidelity

Now we know why people say they engaged in extramarital affairs, but the question is—how did they feel once they were in them? Were they as placid and unperturbed as the protagonist in the column?

As it turns out, the participants felt the full gamut of positive and negative emotions. On the positive side, people who cheated for sexual reasons tended to be emotionally satisfied with the outcome.

They also felt more energetic about life in general and felt that they were becoming emotionally more open. The price they paid for feeling more alive and open was guilt, shame, and disappointment.

The unfaithful weren’t disappointed with themselves, but with the partners (for not making them more satisfied) and with the fact that the affair didn’t bring them as much satisfaction as they thought it would.

Anxiety over being caught, fear of abandonment by the extramarital partner, jealousy, and depression were other undesirable emotions. However, a surprising number of participants said they felt no negative emotions at all.

You’re probably wondering whether men and women differed in their reasons for and reactions to extramarital affairs. Because the gender distribution was so unbalanced, conclusions about sex differences are very hard to draw.

Although Omarzu and her fellow researchers reported a fair number of statistically significant differences, they concluded that the women they recruited “in many respects responded similarly to men” (p. 161).

In fact, they believe that “assumptions gender may not always hold true” (p. 161). Anyone, male or female, can feel that sex or emotional intimacy is missing from their relationship and therefore seek either or both in an affair.

These findings confirm what we already know about the differences, or lack thereof, between men and women in their sexual desires.

The findings also show that a substantial group of people who engage in extramarital affairs are pretty good at shifting the responsibility away from themselves. Many claimed that the decision to enter into the affair was a mutual one, that their affairs were justified, and that they felt no guilt.

However, the extramarital relationships tended to be relatively long-term, and the participants treated them as important. Though a substantial number felt no guilt at all, the majority did experience guilt and anxiety, even those who engaged in multiple affairs.

Which reasons are highest on your list?

If you are or have considered entering into an extramarital affair, see which of these reasons are highest on your list and why. For each reason, I’ve gone into more detail on what participants in the Omarzu et al study actually said (obviously all identifying information had been deleted).

1. Lack of sexual satisfaction in your primary relationship. This was the most common reason cited by individuals in the Omarzu study.

Recall that the large majority of the sample were women. Both women and men who enter into affairs are hoping to improve their sex lives.

They may enjoy many other mutual activities but, for whatever reason, the sex is not working out for them.

2. Desire for additional sexual encounters. This was a relatively infrequent reason cited by the individuals in this study.

It’s possible that more people had this as a reason but didn’t want to admit to it as it is not a very socially desirable wish to articulate.

For example, one man in the study stated that he felt he needed more sex in his life to reward him for performing well at his job.

3. Lack of emotional satisfaction in your primary relationship. Seeking emotional intimacy can be nearly as compelling a reason to have an affair as can seeking physical intimacy. Participants who stated the need for emotional closeness in an affair felt they were lacking a connection to their primary partners.

4. Wanting emotional validation from someone else. Being appreciated is a key factor in the emotional connection that partners feel toward each other. Partners may grow apart and, as they do, fail to acknowledge the needs that both have in their relationship.

5. Falling love with your partner. This was a relatively insignificant reason in the Omarzu study, perhaps because “love” is so difficult to define. In the grand scheme of things, having sexual and emotional intimacy seems to trump love.

6. Falling in love with someone new. Very few people indicated that they had fallen head over heels for the person with whom they had the affair. Again, emotional intimacy plus sexual closeness seems to be a more important factor that leads partners to stray.

7. You seek revenge. In a relationship that is already suffering, the desire to hurt a partner who is (or is perceived as) cheating seems to raise the stakes significantly from mere lack of intimacy. Hollywood enjoys exploiting this category (think American Beauty), but in reality very few participants cited this as the main cause of their affairs.

8. You’re curious and want new experiences.

People who cited this reason felt that they wanted something new, and this motivation went beyond curiosity and into some type of contest to measure their sexual prowess.

It might have been less complicated for them to compete on the tennis court or golf course, but the allure of someone and something new led them to choose this particular form of challenge.

Extramarital affairs clearly represent a complex mix of desire, anguish, and need for connection. Rarely, it appears, are they entered into without conflict or even distress.

They may be the product of, or the cause of, the ending of a marital relationship. Happy couples may decide to experiment and, as Calhoun observed, find that their marriages survive intact if not improved.

However, as shown in these studies, it’s a risky venture, not one for the faint of heart.

Copyright Susan Krauss Whitbourne 2012.

image: Diego Cervo/Shutterstock


Why Do People Cheat? 8 Reasons for Infidelity, Explained by Experts

Causes and Risks of Why Married People Cheat

When my former boyfriend discovered that I had cheated on him, I felt physically sick with guilt, despair, and grief. But I also had plenty of excuses as to why I did it.

After I moved thousands of miles away for a job, we struggled to adjust to a long-distance relationship. I felt neglected, lonely, and unable to communicate what I needed via Skype. When I met someone new and exciting, I told myself we were just friends. And then we weren’t.

During our first visit in nearly a year, I forgot to log my on my partner’s laptop. He read my messages, and the life we’d built together exploded. Of course, it was all my fault—I’d planted the bomb and somehow hoped he’d never find it. Many painful, hours-long conversations followed, as did an attempt at an open relationship. But we couldn’t recover.

A few years later, I got a taste of my own medicine when a new partner cheated on me. I completely lost it, and despite my need to ask how he could hurt me that over and over again, none of his explanations mattered. In my mind, he was bad, cheating was bad, and it was that simple. Pretty hypocritical, right? Unfortunately, I’m not alone.

Cheating can destroy a marriage, shatter your ability to trust future partners, hurt your kids, and even lead to depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The vast majority of adults agree that it’s wrong, but anywhere from 39 to 52% of us may experience infidelity at some point in our lives.

Why do people cheat?

“There’s a multitude of reasons why people cheat,” says Kenneth Paul Rosenberg, M.D., a psychiatrist and author of Infidelity: Why Men and Women Cheat.

According to a 2017 article published in the Journal of Sex Research, explanations for infidelity often dip into three main categories: personal problems, beliefs, or characteristics; issues with your partner or the relationship as a whole; and situational factors easy access to dating websites, long business trips, or liquid courage.

To further complicate things, sometimes what “counts” as cheating to you may be radically different from what your partner sees as okay versus definitely not okay. Research shows our definitions of infidelity can range vastly from having a celebrity crush or watching porn on the conservative side to only in-person sex acts on the more liberal side.

Although sexual relationships are often considered the worst of betrayals, Dr. Rosenberg says it’s important not to underrate emotional affairs, which can be just as devastating.

If you’re here, you’re probably trying to understand why you, your partner, or someone you care about cheated. There may be no single reason why, and it’s often difficult to get a satisfying answer someone who has mastered the habit of lying to you or feels deeply ashamed and confused.

But to give you some insight, we asked real people to explain why they cheated—and asked relationship experts to weigh in on the reasoning, plus how you can begin to sort out what comes next after infidelity.

1. The relationship wasn’t fulfilling anymore.

I cheated because I was really dissatisfied with our relationship and didn’t feel seen or understood by my partner. I confessed immediately afterwards, and today, my ex remains one of my oldest friends. Looking back, I wish I’d had the emotional intelligence at the time to tell him how I felt or break up with him. —Taylor C.

, 23*

One common reason for cheating is that the partnership isn’t satisfying, says Ashley E. Thompson, Ph.D., an associate psychology professor who researches infidelity at the University of Minnesota in Duluth.

If you’ve grown distant, don’t have anything to talk about, or can’t remember the last time you had sex, you or your partner may end up looking for connections outside of the relationship rather than trying to fix problems at home.

2. They didn’t think through the consequences.

I cheated stupidity. I was just on autopilot. I was hanging out with someone, they seemed receptive, and I went for it. I wasn’t really letting the potential consequences of my actions rise to consciousness. I was simply doing what felt good in the moment. Many years later, I feel I’ve grown it.

Falling in love with the right person certainly helped. —Jackson P., 45*

The saying, “Once a cheater, always a cheater,” by no means applies to infidels across the board, but it might have a grain of truth, says Thompson.

“There are certain personality characteristics that are indicative of folks who commit infidelity,” she says.

In particular, people who are not so self-disciplined may be more apt to say they were “swept away by the moment” due to factors mood lighting at the bar or too much to drink when, in fact, their own impulsiveness and penchant for risk-taking could be to blame.

3. They got a rush it

I cheated on my first wife because I got off on the intrigue—the planning, excitement, my so-called brilliance at not getting caught. My second wife is a real partner in every sense of the word, and I haven’t thought about straying in 15 years.

When you cheat on someone, whether you get away with it or not, you create a wound in your partnership that doesn’t entirely heal. Enough of those wounds or a big enough one, and you kill your relationship. That’s what keeps me honest today—the sense that you can “win” and still wind up the loser. —Ian G.

, 45

“A fair number of people cheat just because they can,” says Dr. Rosenberg.

Contrary to the stories you often hear about discontent spouses, a partner who cheats might be relatively happy with their primary relationship but their partner isn’t open to a non-monogamous arrangement, they want the best of both worlds, or they get a thrill from secretly pursuing new hookups.

On a biological level, people who are more prone to infidelity may be driven by an upsurge in pleasure chemicals dopamine, vasopressin, and oxytocin. Those who are more extroverted may be more ly to cheat because they thrive on new social connections.

4. They suffered from low self-esteem.

I cheated because I wanted validation. I was very insecure and had to be the center of my partner’s attention all the time. I didn’t feel happy or worthy if I wasn’t constantly being fawned over by him. The night it happened, I was at a party, someone else started flirting with me, and it went downhill from there.

Since then, I’ve vowed to never hurt someone that again and I’ve learned not to look for an external source to solve an internal problem. I still struggle with low self-esteem, but that’s my problem, not my partner’s, and I know that cheating won’t “fix” it in any way. —Alyssa G.

, 29

Often, there are conscious reasons for cheating (: “You don’t give me enough attention!”) as well as more unconscious reasons (such as problems dealing with difficult emotions or trauma), says Gilza Fort Martínez, a Miami-based licensed family and marriage therapist specializing in life transitions and conflict resolution.

Over half of people who cheat say self-esteem has something to do with it.

If a partner isn’t feeling good about themselves and isn’t addressing that in a healthy, productive way, such as therapy, they’re more ly to end up in a relationship wracked with negativity and fighting. As a result, they might seek out someone else to boost their shaky ego or establish a sense of control over their lives—even if it’s ultimately self-destructive.

5. They craved sexual variety.

I knew cheating wasn’t right, but I couldn’t find the willpower to stop myself. While I think I’d be capable of monogamy now, I choose to be polyamorous because it allows for more boundary-setting, communication, and the ability to talk about desires and sex without worrying about jealousy.

This way, I can keep myself relatively independent while still enjoying people’s company. —Ami M., 23

It’s normal to find other people attractive, have sexual fantasies, or want multiple sexual and/or romantic partners in your life.

But when you act on those desires without your partner’s knowledge and enthusiastic consent, you get into tricky territory.

Some people tend to be more open to sex outside of their primary relationship and could end up cheating if they don’t communicate their needs to their partner. A better alternative? Just be honest with yourself and your partner about what you want, says Dr. Rosenberg. These days, you do have options ethical non-monogamy, polyamory, or an open relationship.

6. They wanted revenge.

In college, I was dating this terrible guy and planned to break up with him. However, I decided to be spiteful and ended up sleeping with a friend of mine who I ran into randomly while running errands. When we reconnected, I began to think about all the horrible things my boyfriend had said to me, the put-downs, lack of appreciation, drama.

I just didn’t care anymore. I know it was immature, wanting revenge that. I’m not proud of it. But I also don’t feel it was that big of a deal compared to what he put me through. —Vanessa R., 38

If you’ve ever been betrayed by a partner, you know that fury often comes along with anguish and confusion.

The desire for revenge is another common motive for infidelity, says Thompson. While many cheaters will do everything they can to avoid getting caught, others might want their partner to find out in order to “get back at them” for having an affair or treating them poorly.

Case in point: Nearly half of people who cheat say anger factored into their reasoning, according to one study.

7. The relationship wasn’t healthy.

I was in a bad marriage with an abusive man, and one of the few things he allowed me to do was go to karaoke with friends. One night, I met a guy who was funny and so un my husband. Hanging out with him—and eventually cheating with him—gave me confidence and made me realize how I actually deserved to be treated.

I know there’s no excuse for infidelity, but to me, the real story is I found someone who really cares about me and gave me the guts to get a divorce. Over four years later, we’re still together. —Liz K.

, 29

While there’s little research on this, some study participants’ stories suggest infidelity could actually serve as “an adaptive mechanism by which to escape” for someone in a toxic or abusive relationship, says Thompson.

If you’re unable to end a bad relationship or want to but can’t quite take that step yet, having an affair with someone else who treats you well could serve as a reminder that you’re entitled to a healthy, happy, and fulfilling relationship—and give you the courage to get out, confirms Tammy Nelson, Ph.D., a sexologist, licensed relationship therapist, and author of When You’re the One Who Cheats.


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