The Science Behind Why Cheaters Cheat And What Causes Infidelity

People who have been cheated on know that it’s one of the worst kinds of betrayal. It feels like being punched in the gut over and over while the person you love screams at you that you’re not good enough. Being cheated on can leave you with trust issues, a seriously bruised ego, and damaged self-esteem. It doesn’t have to, though. As it turns out, there is a science behind why cheaters cheat, and more often than not, it has nothing to do with the person they’re cheating on.

  1. How many people really cheat? To figure out why people cheat, it’s best to start off with the numbers. According to a survey done in 2017, 20% of all married men and 13% of all married women had cheated on their spouses. That’s a lot of cheaters walking around. The survey also showed that as men aged, they were more likely to cheat while the opposite was true for women.
  2. When it’s not you, it’s them. There are many reasons for people to cheat. These reasons are better-called excuses they use to justify stepping out on their partner, but a lot of times people cheat because they have problems with themselves. People who are more insecure are more likely to step out of their relationship, especially if they feel like they need sexual validation from many people as opposed to just one.
  3. They lie to themselves. People also try to fix relationship problems by stepping out without acknowledging that’s what they’re doing. If a person feels lonely or unsatisfied with their current relationship, they assume it’s their partners fault and that somehow justifies cheating. They search for someone new to fill the void instead of looking within themselves to figure out what the real issue is.
  4. Personality plays a huge role. There are certain personality traits that are associated with cheaters. For example, people who were less conscientious may lack self-control, nature to be responsible, and their own personal reliability—and these personality traits or lack thereof are strongly associated with the likelihood of someone cheating while in a long-term relationship.
  5. There are other traits to look out for. Psychiatrist and author of the book Infidelity: Why Men and Women Cheat found that there are specific traits that can cause a person to cheat. Traits such as narcissism, grandiosity, a thrill-seeking nature, and tendencies for self-destruction, their likelihood of cheating goes way up.
  6. Finances matter. A study published in the American Sociological Review found that the amount of money you make could have a direct impact on whether or not your partner would cheat or not. For the partner that made less, or found themselves financially dependent on their partner, cheating appeared to be a more appealing act than for those who were secure in their own finances.
  7. Temptation can be a real driver. Technology has thrown temptation into everyone’s faces. Between Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, and all the other social media sites available, it’s never been easier to find an easy thing. It seems that the more temptation people are faced with and the easier it becomes to have an affair, the harder it is to say no.
  8. The type of affair matters. There are two different types of cheating—emotional and physical. A paper published in 2013 found that women were more likely to be upset about an emotional affair whereas men would get up in arms over a physical one.
  9. If a milestone birthday is around the corner, it could spell trouble. When the Ashley Madison site was hacked, some information was released to the public, and details about when people were signing up for the cheater’s playground exposed something interesting. It turns out, the end of a decade sent a lot of people running for the arms of someone other than their spouse. This was more often found in men who’s age ended in 9, but a small number of women were guilty of the milestone extracurriculars as well.
  10. It’s can be biological. Another reason why many people cheat is that human beings can be in a constant battle against themselves. Basically, we’re hard-wired to want to connect with people on a deep and emotional level, like in a serious relationship. But, we’re also hard-wired to want to explore new things and new people. It’s a struggle that some people can’t win out over.
Angelica Bottaro is a freelance writer and aspiring novelist based out of Toronto. She is an avid reader and music lover and enjoys getting lost in the written word and meaningful melodies.