The root cause of cheating in a relationship might not be as facile as we think. There can be several reasons behind a person cheating in their relationship. There could be some really surprising reasons that drive someone to break the trust of the person whom he/she once loved deeply.
Although perspectives around cheating seem to be very black and white, the reasons why people cheat are really not so clear.
Many cheaters are seen as horrible people, people who are willing to destroy their relationship so that they can have sex with someone else. They are commonly seen as degenerates, lacking morals and ethics.
While straying from a relationship is often a mistake, people who cheat aren’t always people of low moral character. They are people whose life experience has set them up for straying.
Understanding the 5 surprising reasons why people cheat might help you understand why your partner might have cheated and why cheating is so prevalent in our culture.
1. Their parents did it.
One of my clients went into her marriage with her eyes wide open. Both of her parents cheated and it had destroyed their family. She remembers vividly the yelling and the screaming, the sneaking around, the knowing glances at family parties, the general feeling of anger and distress that existed in their household.
She was determined to not have that happen in her marriage. 10 years into her marriage, she found herself miserable. She was trying to accept that her love and sex life was over and she was really struggling with it. And then, one day, she met a man at the bulk-food section in the local natural food store and everything changed.
Within months, my client was having an affair with her bulk food guy. They were spending as much time together as they could, talking about things that they cared about and having the most amazing sex they had ever had.
One day, my client paused and realized that she was doing exactly what her parents had done. And she was mortified. History had repeated itself without her even noticing.
2. They are trying to sabotage their relationship.
Many people are stuck in relationships that they hate, relationships that started out so well and devolved into chaos.
Perhaps the relationship lacks respect and is full of contempt. Perhaps the sex has dried up. Perhaps there is nothing but fighting. Perhaps they hate each other to the extent they can’t even spend a moment with each other.
For many people, these kinds of toxic relationships are untenable but they are also relationships that they just can’t get out of. Whether it’s because they are scared to leave or because they are being controlled by the other person, escaping from this relationship seems impossible.
As a result, they see having an affair as an excellent way to sabotage their relationship. They know that, when their person discovers their cheating, they will either kick them out or leave. They know that their person will no longer want to look at them, knowing they have had sex with someone else. They know that there is no way their relationship will ever survive infidelity.
So, instead of facing the issues in their relationship and trying to get out of it in a healthy way, one of the reasons why people cheat is because they think it will help them get out of the toxicity that they are forced to live with every day.
Read: 8 Ways We Sabotage Love
3. They are trying to save their relationship.
I had a client once whose therapist told her that her affair had actually saved her marriage. For years, my client did not get the emotional support that she needed from her husband. They were excellent managers of their household, very good parents, their finances were strong, and, generally, they were happy.
But my client was dissatisfied. She knew that something was missing in her marriage, something that her husband just wasn’t able to provide.
When she started having an affair, those emotional needs started to be satisfied. While she thought she would never be able to love or have sex again, suddenly she was having tremendous amounts of both, and while this did fill her with guilt, it also allowed her to get what she needed in her life without leaving her marriage and destroying her family.
Another way that people see cheating as a way to save a relationship is because they see it as a wake-up call, that if their partner knows that they cheated they will see all they have to lose and step up to improve the relationship. I know it seems counter-intuitive but I have sometimes seen just that happen.
So, instead of directly addressing the issues in their relationship, people sometimes cheat hoping it will fix things!