7 Reasons Why People Cheat, According to Psychology

Cheating, in general, is the act of gaining a certain desire through unjust ways. One of the most common forms of cheating nowadays is infidelity or adultery. Infidelity is the breaking of a promise to remain faithful to your partner. The promise may be a part of your marriage, committed relationship or an unsaid assumption.

Do you know anyone who is a victim of infidelity? Or has cheated on someone else? It is difficult to empathize with cheaters, especially if you were the one who was cheated on. Victims of adultery spiral into an endless cycle of blaming themselves.

“What did I do wrong?”

“Do you still love me?”

Questions which point out to the feeling of betrayal, confusion, anger, doubt, pain, and heartbreak. These thoughts may lead to depression, anxiety, and even domestic violence. Hence, when cheating occurs it raises doubts about the relationship and their partner.

“Should you stay?”

“Can I still trust you?”

“There is no one reason for cheating [on a partner].”

Dr. Josh Klapow, Ph.D.

In this article, here are 7 reasons why people cheat categorized into three sections, according to Psychology.

Problems with Self

People with problems with where they acquire their esteem may face conflict with relationships. It may have a direct effect on the dynamics of the relationship itself. 

1.       Self-identity crisis

According to Esther Perel, when one seeks the gaze of another, it is not an act of gazing away from the partner, but from who they have become. Whether a couple is from an unhealthy or good relationship, some may find themselves desiring an alternative life. A different identity. Those who are not content with who they are may face this kind of crisis. 

2.       Proving their self-worth

People nowadays satisfy their need for self-worth through the use of social media. For some, especially those with low self-esteem and narcissistic characteristics, having more partners to confide in satisfies their self-worth. In 2005, a study showed a significant difference between cheaters and non-cheaters when it comes to the Big Five model of personality traits: Openness to experience, Conscientiousness (awareness of your actions and the consequences of behavior), Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (worrying behaviors). Results showed that partners with high or low levels of neuroticism and extraversion rates were more likely to be unfaithful. These are people who tend to constantly find reassurance from other people.

3.       Lack of self-control

Going against the rules is a central aspect of human nature. Perel points out that transgression is an assertion of freedom over convention, of possibility over constraints, and of self over society. Adults can find this idea erotic and exciting. Weighing the consequences of the situation and the satisfaction cheating can bring can entice anyone to continue cheating. The activity of cheating can start with one small simple act and can have a snowball effect. Without enough control during the beginning of the simple act or micro-cheating, it could lead to bigger mistakes such as infidelity. Hence, people with less self-control have a higher chance of cheating.

Problems with the Dynamics of the Relationship

1.        Emotional disconnection

Partners who tend to have an emotional disconnection may particularly feel they are not committed to the primary partner. 41 percent of people who cheated admit to this. This may be caused by the person’s low emotional intelligence. This factor in a relationship may turn the relationship to the worse and may end up in resentment.  

2.       Miscommunication

In a relationship, communication is important. It promotes healthy trust and honesty between the two. However, relationships with poor dynamics in handling certain situations, particularly conflict, it may lead to fear and anger. These emotions can drive the person to vent to another person and end up having an amorous affair.

Problems with the person’s perception of cheating in a relationship 

1.      Minimization and Normalization 

Cheaters are also humans. Humans tend to rationalize and justify every action they have made to consider it as wrong or right. By minimizing and normalizing the action of “a quick hook-up” or “just sex”, it delivers a message that they have done nothing wrong. So as when the issue is brought up, the cheater may have convinced themselves they were in the right.

2.       Punishing their partner

Some partners may believe their partner has done them wrong. People who are passive-aggressive may see cheating as a form of revenge to their partners. Lauren Dummit the co-founder and clinical director of Triune Therapy Group states that if a person may be unhappy in their marriage [or committed relationship], they may cheat in hopes [conscious or subconscious] of getting caught. Although getting even is an unhealthy form of settling conflict, some still justifies it as acceptable.

Relationships may be difficult at times. You shouldn’t put it against yourself if it doesn’t work out the way you intended it to be. Like all relationships, it can be discussed maturely to resolve conflict and it takes the time, patience, and effort. A professional can also be involved if ever. 

Cheating has always been treated as taboo in society. It divided families and dear relationships. Understanding them may be difficult. Know that it is okay to not feel okay with it. Everyone’s feelings are valid. 

These reasons are not symptoms of a cheater but are reasons to improve a relationship. It helps you to be more aware of other people and of yourself as well. 

Here’s to challenging more stigmas! 


Orzeck, T., & Lung, E. (2005). Big-Five Personality Differences of Cheaters and Non-Cheaters. Current Psychology: A Journal for Diverse Perspectives on Diverse Psychological Issues, 24(4), 274–286. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-005-1028-3

 Esther Perel | The State of Affairs [Video file]. (2017, October 11). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBZ_iJ-FMvI

Selterman D, Garcia JR, Tsapelas I. Motivations for Extradyadic Infidelity Revisited. J Sex Res. 2019 Mar-Apr;56(3):273-286. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2017.1393494. Epub 2017 Dec 15. PMID: 29244527.

Grant, E. (2018, September 06). 10 Things No One Tells You About The Way Cheaters Think, According To Psychologists. Retrieved January 15, 2021, from https://www.bustle.com/p/10-things-no-one-tells-you-about-the-way-cheaters-think-according-to-psychologists-11765892

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