Whether you’ve cheated on your partner or have been cheated on, you know it can be devastating.
Unfortunately, cheating within a relationship is not uncommon, with a 2015 survey conducted by YouGov revealing that 1 in 5 British adults have admitted to having an affair.
- Why do people cheat?
- Types of cheating
- Signs of cheating
- What does cheating say about a person?
- What to do if you suspect your partner is cheating
So what exactly constitutes cheating and why do people do it?
Cheating tends to involve one partner in a monogamous relationship engaging in sexual or emotional intimacy with someone outside the relationship.
However, there are various forms of cheating (see below), and it’s important to note that people think differently about what accounts for infidelity.
For example, one person may consider their partner hanging out with someone they find attractive cheating, whereas others may not.
The bottom line is that cheating boils down to you and your partner’s expectations of fidelity being violated based on the agreements you have made.
Why do people cheat?
There is no simple answer to this question.
Many assume that people cheat because they are unhappy with their partner or relationship, but in fact, there are various reasons why people in relationships are unfaithful.
Below are some common reasons why people cheat:
- Anger or revenge – Some people decide to cheat if they discover their partner cheated on them. Other reasons could be feeling angry after an argument, resentful about a partner who is physically and emotionally detached, or frustrated because they feel misunderstood by their partner
- Sexual desire – This is probably the most obvious reason for cheating. Just because you’re in a relationship, that doesn’t mean you won’t find other people sexually attractive. Some people in relationships act on this desire
- Falling out of love – Sometimes, people in relationships grow apart and the feeling of love and passion can subside. There are situations where some partners can even fall in love with someone else
- Situational factors and opportunity – This could include any scenario from excessive drinking and sleeping with someone after a night out, wanting physical comfort after a distressing situation, or being in a long-distance relationship, and wanting excitement
- Commitment issues – There are some people that are afraid of commitment, but some people just want a casual relationship or an easy way out for when they decide they want to leave
- Unmet needs – Now, this can lead to frustration in a relationship. Some people cheat if they have different sex drives to their partner, if their partner is not interested in sex or particular fetishes they enjoy, or if their partner is always away from home
- Wanting variety – This doesn’t just relate to sex, but a desire for different connections, conversations, non-sexual activities, and other things they feel they don’t or can’t receive from their partner
- Low self-esteem – This can be another motivation for infidelity. Some people feel that cheating can make them feel empowered, attractive and confident – all feelings that help boost self-esteem
Believe it or not, people also cheat in happy relationships too.
Some reasons could be not having enough willpower to resist an opportunity, believing it’s a normal part of relationships from learned behaviours, or that love and sex are two different things.
Why do men and women cheat?
Traditionally, cheating has always been associated with men.
But in reality, both men and women are equally capable of cheating on their partners.
As a matter of fact, research has shown that men and women are engaging in infidelity at similar rates.
A 2017 study discovered that 57% of men and 54% of women admitted to cheating in one or more of their relationships.
So why do men or women cheat?
Based on various research on relationships, there are some reasons that have been said to be more prevalent in men cheating in comparison to women.
- Desire for sex
- Looking to set up another relationship before leaving their partner
- Dealing with insecurity issues
- Unrealistic expectations of their partner
- Searching for emotional intimacy or connection
- Feeling underappreciated, neglected, or ignored
- Overwhelmed by the needs of others
- Unsatisfying sex life
In reality, cheating purposes do not really vary by gender.
Every affair is different and every person has their own reasons for cheating, meaning the difference between why women and men cheat are more similar than not.
The thing is, people do not always resort to cheating in a relationship. If you are someone with sex addiction, for example, there are some partners who find ways to deal with this, such as agreeing to an open relationship.
Types of cheating
So what counts as cheating? Believe it or not, there’s much more to cheating than the obvious offences, like sleeping with someone else.
Below are the most common forms of cheating:
- Physical cheating – Such as kissing or oral sex, this involves any sexual activity with another person outside of your relationship
- Emotional cheating – In a nutshell, this is non-physical intimacy with someone else other than your partner. While there’s nothing wrong with getting emotional support from others, if you feel you can’t be transparent to your partner about this other relationships, being secretive, or think there could be an attraction between the pair of you, then it’s likely to be emotional infidelity
- Cyber cheating – This is having an affair or cheating with someone online, whether it be via online chats, email, social media, or text. This can involve having secret video calls, hiring an escort online, performing sex acts online, or sexting, such as sending dirty messages or nudes, without your partner knowing. While some people may not consider sexting as cheating, this is something that can amount to physical infidelity or create issues in a relationship
- Micro-cheating – This essentially means inappropriate flirting or emotionally or physically paying attention to someone that is not your partner. Examples include hiding a friendship, finding reasons to spend time with your crush, lying about your relationships status (in person or online), and even telling someone you would date them if you weren’t in a relationship
Signs of cheating
If your partner is cheating, unless you catch them out, you’ll never know for sure. However, there are some signs of cheating you should be aware of.
Below are some common signs of cheating:
- Suddenly paying attention or making improvements to their appearance
- Having a secret phone or electronic device
- A change in phone habits, such as not leaving their phone unattended by them
- Having secret social media accounts
- Experiencing periods where your partner is unreachable, especially with no justifiable reason
- Your partner is not being available or around as much as they used to be
- Your partner’s words and actions are not adding up – in other words, caught lying
- Significant changes in your sex life, such as a decrease or increase in libido
- Your partner turns hostile towards you or your relationship
- Changes in your other half’s daily routine or schedule without a good explanation
- Extra expenses that cannot be explained
- Their friends are not as friendly or seem uncomfortable around you
- Emotional and physical intimacy has reduced in your relationship
- A change in behaviour towards you, such as showering you with more gifts, becoming critical of you or distant
- Your partner becomes increasingly interested in your schedule, such as what you’re doing, where you will be and what time
- Your partner starts to randomly accuse you of cheating
- Your partner deflects or acts avoidant when you mention cheating or make it known that you suspect they are
It’s important to understand that even if your partner displays all the above behaviours, it does not mean that they are definitely cheating.
However, these are known to be strong indications that something is unstable in their personal life or relationship.
What does cheating say about a person?
Due to the negative emotional effects often caused by cheating, it’s normal to think that cheaters are horrible people who intend to hurt others.
But that is not necessarily the case. Cheating generally stems from deep-rooted personal issues a person is experiencing, which unfortunately results in a response that can negatively impact others.
Some of these personal issues can relate to the reasons why people cheat (mentioned above), such as unhappiness, insecurity issues, and low self-esteem.
While it can seem that cheaters are inconsiderate, impulsive, and lack self-respect (the list can go on), cheating should not define somebody’s character.
If someone cheats, it doesn’t always mean that they are a serial cheat or would consider doing it again.
What to do if you suspect your partner is cheating
Although your first reaction is to angrily confront your other half, you need to remember that suspecting your partner isn’t proof that they are cheating.
You might want to consider handling the situation more appropriately, such as keeping and analysing a list of red flags, seeking support from others you confide in, and talking to your partner about how you feel in a safe environment.
If your partner admits to cheating or you have witnessed it yourself, then it’s up to you if you want to work things out, such as going to relationship counselling or separating from your partner.
Whatever the scenario, be sure that you have facts before jumping to conclusions, and make the right and appropriate decisions in order to protect your mental and emotional wellbeing.