Men and women cheat for all kinds of reasons, ranging from the understandable to the absurd. Here are 10 of the most popular reasons men and women give for going astray:
1. Sex is my most important need.
In other words, “I can’t help it. I’m biologically programmed to sow my wild oats.” When someone (typically a man) can’t figure out what it is that drives them to cheat, the “primitive instinct to sleep with as many women as possible” argument often surfaces. But this excuse flies out the window in the face of research that shows more men are monogamous than not, and that men in particular are happier and healthier when married.
The reality is that, like all decisions, choosing to be in a relationship involves trade-offs. When you choose a committed relationship, you’ve decided that love and companionship are more important than having sex with a cadre of different people. It can be difficult to accept, but in this area, you can’t “have it all.”
2. My partner let himself/herself go.
When we first start dating someone, we fall in love with certain characteristics. For some, it’s looks; for others, it’s their beloved’s sharp wit or the way the other person makes them feel. But everyone is on their best behavior during the courtship phase, investing time into looking good and ever-so-politely hiding their flaws.
Over time, the things that originally attracted us to the other person may begin to fade. She may gain weight or stop dressing up. He may skimp on the romance or stop helping out at home. Rather than looking for positives, we begin focusing on negatives. And in some cases, the other person has in fact changed, or they never really knew their partner or perhaps believed they would change.
In many relationships, the early attractors are replaced with deeper connections and discoveries of even more desirable characteristics that went unnoticed in the courtship phase. In others, the original attractors remain extremely important and the couple may agree that effort needs to be made to maintain those areas.
3. My emotional needs aren’t being met.
Some men and women become unfaithful because they don’t feel that their partner is meeting their emotional needs. Men may complain about their nagging “ball and chain” while women may feel unheard and uncared for.
Some of the most commonly expressed needs of men include sexual fulfillment, recreational companionship, physical attraction, domestic support and admiration or appreciation. Women’s needs differ in many ways and commonly include affection, conversation, honesty, financial support and family commitment.
While it is important for each partner to work on meeting the other’s needs, this lack of understanding and connection often stems from a lack of effort, unwillingness to work on the relationship, fear of intimacy or another problem that could be remedied with couples counseling.
4. The “other man” or “other woman” makes me feel good.
An extension of the “not getting my needs met” excuse, some people find that a new love interest has the time, energy and motivation to make them feel good again. The new beau listens while the husband watches TV. The new mistress dresses sexy and makes him feel desired while the wife is disgusted by his advances.
Low self-esteem may drive some people to derive their self-worth from the attention of others. After years of marriage, men and women may seek affirmation that they’re still attractive and worthy of love. Rather than addressing the real issues, some find it easier and more immediately rewarding to look outside the relationship.
5. I married the wrong person.
Over time, people may begin to feel that the person they’ve vowed to love, honor and cherish was the wrong choice. They may feel they married too young or didn’t get to experiment with enough relationships to make an educated choice of life partner.
6. I’m not in love with my partner anymore.
The demands of raising a family, owning a home and working demanding jobs can take the romance out of a relationship. As a result, each spouse may feel under-appreciated and neglected and complain that the relationship “isn’t like it used to be.” A failure to communicate and connect often leads to problems in the bedroom and even greater emotional distance.
These couples may have gone their separate ways but still live together like brother and sister rather than husband and wife. Over time, they find that they have more in common with others than they do with their significant other. When these couples end up in therapy, the cheater often claims the relationship was over long before they strayed.
Making an effort to reignite the romance is essential for some couples. Being unhappy in the relationship makes both partners vulnerable to infidelity. For others, particularly those who are addicted to the “in love” feeling of courtship, marital bliss requires establishing realistic expectations and exploring deep emotional issues such as romance addiction.
7. I’m bored.
While some people take comfort in feeling “settled down,” seeing the same person day after day can get boring for others, particularly those who are “programmed” for impulsive, thrill-seeking behavior. These individuals believe an affair will make their lives more exciting, and may even think that an affair will help the marriage.
For some, the answer to boredom is keeping their sex life steamy or reconnecting in other ways. For others, it may mean finding hobbies, activities or friends that breathe an air of excitement into life. Still others may find that underneath the boredom is loneliness, anger or fear that must be addressed to keep them from straying.
8. It’s not love; it’s just sex.
Some people believe that cheating is acceptable if it’s purely about the sex. They want the doting spouse at home and the naughty sex toy on the side. But “I don’t love her” doesn’t excuse betraying someone you love. Whether it’s sex, love or something else, it hurts the person who matters most and can result in consequences that neither partner wants.
9. I have a stronger sex drive than my partner.
This is an obstacle in many relationships, given that men frequently have a stronger sex drive than women. When a partner doesn’t have the same interest in sex, or isn’t interested in the same types of sexual activities as the other, one partner may feel entitled to indulge their fantasies elsewhere. As with other problems, there are healthier ways to resolve this issue than cheating, such as identifying the reasons a partner is uninterested (e.g., underlying emotional issues or something as simple as needing a babysitter) and exploring new ways to get a partner interested in sex.
10. Technology makes it so easy.
In the old days, cheating required late-night phone calls and creative excuses to be away from home. The Internet, smart phone apps, cell phones and adultery websites like Ashley Madison make flirting and cybersex as easy as the click of a mouse. Most people engage in these behaviors with the expectation of ultimately meeting in person, but even those who keep their sexcapades online have breached their relationship contract and committed an act of infidelity.
The list of excuses goes on and on. Whatever the explanation, it is clear that something is driving a partner to cheat. And while it’s never the non-cheater’s fault that a partner selfishly chooses to stray, understanding the reasons may help mend the relationship or allow both parties to move on. In some cases, the cause may be an intimacy problem or underlying relationship, love or sex addiction that can addressed in couples therapy, if both parties are willing and able.