The most enduring and painful question that someone often has after learning a partner has cheated is: why? Ultimately, there’s typically no satisfying answer that explains infidelity. I wanted to better understand people’s motivations for cheating, and so I talked to nine people who discussed what was going through their head when they did it and why.
I knew I wouldn’t get caught and I liked the thrill.
“I’d never had a LTR before and I found it very confining. My girlfriend was very trusting, and I knew she would never connect the dots. I guess I was a thrill addict? I got off on knowing that what I was doing was wrong, but doing it anyway. My LTR ended later for unrelated reasons, and I haven’t gotten into another one because I wouldn’t want to hurt someone if they found out about my…extracurriculars.” — Keegan, 24
I don’t know what was going through my head at all.
“It was so stupid. I ran into an ex-girlfriend at a bar, we started talking and one thing just led to another. I was really drunk, but it isn’t really an excuse. I think I liked the attention she gave me? I just know I woke up the next day feeling so disgusting and ashamed of myself. I broke up with my girlfriend less than a month later partially over my guilt, but I never had the stones to actually tell her what happened.” — Raul, 25
My girlfriend was emotionally abusive to me.
“Like, intentionally not texting back right away to bother me and always minimizing me and my accomplishments. I ran into an old friend from high school and we clicked as if it were yesterday. She asked me to go back to her apartment, and I figured, why the heck not? As it turns out, my girlfriend was cheating on me too anyway, go figure.” — James, 27
I was visiting an old city where an ex lived and we decided to just casually grab drinks.
“I immediately realized that there was still chemistry between us and eventually went back to his apartment with him. In terms of what was going through my head, I just missed sleeping with him. I figured this could be the last chance we could ever be together so I took my shot. It was amazing sex, and my current boyfriend (who I adore) will never know.” — Sarah, 29
There wasn’t a whole lot of thinking behind it, as my brain was pretty sloshed with alcohol.
“I remember thinking that I ‘deserved’ a thrilling experience and that nobody would ever have to know. That second thought was really stupid considering how many pictures were taken at the club I ran into the other guy with. My boyfriend confronted me the next day, and I confessed everything. That was the end of our year-long relationship.” — Ben, 25
I already knew I wanted to break up with her, I just hadn’t pulled the plug yet.
“Our relationship wasn’t going well, and we basically never talked unless we were fighting. I was visiting my hometown and ran into an old crush at a popular bar. We flirted a bit, then went back to her place. I broke up with my girlfriend a few weeks later.” — Doug, 20
I was thinking about how unhappy I was, and how unfairly he was always treating me.
“He always wanted more and more control over my life. He always asked where I was, wanted to see Snaps of me with my friends, and if there were any guys in the photos, there would be hell to pay. I was living with him at the time and couldn’t break up right away, so I decided to sleep with a mutual friend who I knew had the hots for me. It was my tiny way of getting back I guess.” — Nichole, 31
My boyfriend (now husband) is a really sweet, kind guy, but I really missed having someone assertive and dominant.
“I was on vacation with some of my girlfriends and ran into this burly, big guy who was flirting with me and decided that this was my chance. I flirted with him back and went home with him. I never told my boyfriend and we got married a few years later—really glad I got that out of my system.” — Anonymous, 28
I was thinking selfishly, basically.
“I just gave into my lowest, most baseline temptations without any thought as to what it would do to anyone else. I guess I thought nobody would find out and I could just tuck the incident back into my mind to forget forever. It didn’t work out that way, and I really regret it.” — Jerome, 23
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