Why Do People Cheat, According to Psychology

what to do if love fades

With infidelity admonished greatly in society, you may naturally think that there aren’t many people who choose to be unfaithful.

But almost up to 40% of married couples have experienced infidelity. Have you heard it happening in your personal life or have experienced it yourself?

The affected person passes through stages of hurt, grief, and agony — all leading to the same, simple question: Why?

Here are six reasons why people cheat in relationships.

1) They want to enact revenge

People cheat as a form of revenge on a partner who has hurt them greatly. Maybe they caught their partner cheating on them and wanted to give them a taste of their own medicine. Maybe they had a major irreconcilable argument and the person who strayed needed an “outlet” to become unfaithful to the relationship.

There could also be a hint of frustration when a partner isn’t physically or emotionally present in the relationship — causing the cheater to retaliate in anger.

2) They have commitment issues

Does your partner want to hide your relationship status for no clear reason?

Couples can have different meanings of commitment — and it’s important to lay out the relationship status whether it’s casual, exclusive, or so on early. If there’s a lack of commitment in a relationship, however, there’s also a higher likelihood for one of the parties to cheat. (Park, Y. & Park, S.W. 2021)

These people with commitment issues sabotage their relationships, intentionally or unintentionally, to avoid feelings of responsibility. Even if they still wanted to stay in the relationship, a part of themselves feared the commitment that would entail — causing them to go out of their way and have another affair.

3) They have unmet needs

Relationships can take a downturn and become unfulfilling, either through differences in sex drive or a lack of time together, yet both parties still try to stick it out in hopes it’ll improve. 

If the couple doesn’t see eye to eye even after a long period, this can cause a great deal of internalized frustration in the long run. This frustration can spiral into a desire to meet their needs through other ways… or through other people.

4) There was an opportunity

Whether your partner is out of town for a weekend or you’ve agreed upon a long-term relationship — as long as the opportunity is there, a person who’s on the brink of committing an affair can do it. 

But if the long-term relationship is strong and trusting, then no distance can disrupt the bonds of the couple. Strong long-term relationships involve frequent communication and trust to build a future together — so as long as those are strengthened, chances for cheating are low.

5) They have very poor boundaries

Do you find it hard to say ‘no’?

Many people who end up cheating don’t always have an underlying reason behind it. Oftentimes, these people just have a poor sense of boundaries and can be overly compliant to a fault. This can lead them to engage in an affair with a third party, even if it was never their intention to do so.

6) They fell out of love

Have you ever been in a relationship that lost its spark?

Even a couple with very strong ties initially can fall out of love. That’s normal, as scientists say infatuation love fades over time. It’s during those intense moments of love where the people choose whether they’ll stick to it in the long haul or not. But sometimes, a cheater may not let go of love so easily… 

As the relationship loses its spark, people dispositioned to cheat can find it tempting to look for the next catch — breaking the heart of their partner and, perhaps, children too.

Closing Thoughts

No matter whether you’ve been cheated on or cheated in the relationship, know that having an honest conversation with your partner is important as the following steps. Evaluate your motives and future steps — and if trust can be rebuilt. You may not see eye-to-eye again and you need to respect that decision.

That’s all for now, Psych2Goers.


Park, Y., Park, S.W. Partner commitment moderates the association between commitment and interest in romantic alternatives. Curr Psychol 40, 1439–1447 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-018-0079-1

Stritof, S. (Aug 22, 2020). Keeping a Long-Distance Marriage Healthy. Retrieved at https://www.verywellmind.com/keep-long-distance-marriage-healthy-2300821

Malveaux, C.(Jan 2015) Here’s Why Love Seems To Fade Over Time. Business Insider. Retrieved at https://www.businessinsider.com/heres-why-love-seems-to-fade-over-time-2015-1

Raypole, C. (Oct 2019) Why Do People Cheat in Relationships? Healthline. Retrieved at https://www.healthline.com/health/why-people-cheat

Lewandowski, R. (Mar 22, 2021) The 8 Reasons Why People Cheat.  Retrieved at https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-psychology-relationships/202103/the-8-reasons-why-people-cheat

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