Infidelity: Why Do We Cheat?

Infidelity: Why Do We Cheat?

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Whether they are high and mighty or ordinary folk, humans can find it hard to be faithful to one partner for a lifetime. Studies show that many reasons may contribute to why people cheat, including education level, income and religious background. While certain patterns exist, the fact may be that the reasons for infidelity are as varied as relationships themselves.


Animal Instinct

Researchers sometimes say that being with a single partner for life may not be a natural condition for humans. Many mammals, after all, have multiple partners throughout life as a way to spread their DNA and strengthen the gene pool. In “The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People,” authors David Barash, PhD, and Judith Lipton, PhD, say that very, very few creatures are completely monogamous.


Mental Health

Human behavior is complex and unpredictable. While infidelity is by no means a sign of illness, cheating can be a sign of unhappiness or insecurity and is more like to occur when individuals have been drinking or taking drugs. Some unfaithful spouses may be unable to stop themselves from pursuing “conquests” which is in fact a form of a narcissistic disorder, says Don-David Lusterman, PhD, and author of “Infidelity: A Survival Guide.” Infidelity among men can be a sign of depression, according to the Mayo Clinic.


Sending a Message

Cheating can be seen as a way to get a partner’s attention. If a couple spends too little time together or their sex life wanes, they can grow apart. If communication is poor, one partner may try to replace what’s lacking in the relationship by seeking the attention of someone new. In some cases, all that what is needed is someone to listen or a shoulder to cry on. Letting a spouse know that someone else finds you interesting or attractive can be a strong message. Unfortunately, an innocent flirtation can become full-blown infidelity without anyone intending it.


Exit Strategy

Some people cheat because they want to leave their primary relationship and don’t even know it. People may be unhappy with a partner and not even realize it. They may not be able to explain their feelings or may not have the courage to talk to their partner. Cheating may provide a dramatic way to express dissatisfaction and consciously or subconsciously end the relationship. In the Western world, infidelity is cited as the cause in up to 50% of divorces, according to a 2011 Centers for Disease Control report on sexual health.


Age, Education, Religion

Statistics for cheating vary but according to the National Science Foundation, about 13% of all married men and women have been unfaithful within the last year. The NSF also found that those in higher income brackets and those with higher levels of education were more likely to engage in extramarital affairs. Those who attended weekly religious services are 2 ½ times less likely to be unfaithful. Teenagers who married under age 17 were four times as likely to cheat as married people 23 years or older.

Editor, 02/15/2012