There are probably a hundred and one reasons why people cheat on their on their significant others, and you still wouldn’t cover the half of it. Everyone’s got their own screwy circumstances, accompanied by the lengthy story they tell themselves to make sense of it, and the extreme moralizing to cut down on their guilt. But most often than not, infidelity occurs when the cheating party had the following reasons:
“I had ‘fallen out of love with’ my primary partner.”
“I was not very committed to my primary partner.”
“I wanted to enhance my popularity.”
“I wanted a greater variety of sexual partners.”
“I was drunk and not thinking clearly.”
Falling out of love makes people cheat. But more than that there are other issues involved such as addressing the issues of esteem, sexual restlessness, and poor control in certain situations—i.e. problems that exist outside the relationship itself. Someone is more likely to cheat if they have personal problems like feeling insecure in the relationship or not committed. Same goes for those who are less conscientious humans or generally avoid closeness with partners. There’s even another case called micro cheating.
Men more often cheat to satisfy sexual desire, while women do it because they don’t think their needs (usually it’s emotional needs) have been satisfied by their significant other.
Everything ultimately boils down to all the complexities of unhappy, non-monogamous relationships. Adultery has existed since marriage was invented, yet this extremely common act remains poorly understood. Generally, there is much concern for the agony suffered by the betrayed. And agony it is—infidelity today isn’t just a violation of trust; it’s a shattering of the grand ambition of romantic love. It is a shock that makes us question our past, our future, and even our very identity. Indeed, the maelstrom of emotions unleashed in the wake of an affair can be so overwhelming that many psychologists turn to the field of trauma to explain the symptoms: obsessive rumination, hypervigilance, numbness and dissociation, inexplicable rages, uncontrollable panic.
“Intimate betrayal hurts. It hurts badly.”
The damage that infidelity causes the aggrieved partner is one side of the story. For centuries, when affairs were tacitly condoned for men, this pain was overlooked, since it was mostly experienced by women. Contemporary culture, to its credit, is more compassionate toward the jilted. But if we are to shed new light on one of our oldest behaviors, we need to examine it from all sides.
In the focus on trauma and recovery, too little attention is given to the meanings and motives of affairs, to what we can learn from them. Strange as it may seem, affairs have a lot to teach us about marriage—what we expect, what we think we want, and what we feel entitled to. They reveal our personal and cultural attitudes about love, lust, and commitment—attitudes that have changed dramatically over the past century.
Affairs are not what they used to be because marriage is not what it used to be. For much of history, and in many parts of the world today, marriage was a pragmatic alliance that ensured economic stability and social cohesion.
Contained within the small circle of the wedding rings are vastly contradictory ideals. We want our chosen one to offer stability, safety, predictability, and dependability. And we want that very same person to supply awe, mystery, adventure, and risk. We expect comfort and edge, familiarity and novelty, continuity and surprise. We have conjured up a new Olympus, where love will remain unconditional, intimacy enthralling, and sex oh so exciting, with one person, for the long haul. And the long haul keeps getting longer.
We also live in an age of entitlement; personal fulfillment, we believe, is our due. In the West, sex is a right linked to our individuality, our self-actualization, and our freedom. Thus, most of us now arrive at the altar after years of sexual nomadism. By the time we tie the knot, we’ve hooked up, dated, cohabited, and broken up.
Infidelity does not always correlate neatly with marital dysfunction. Yes, in plenty of cases an affair compensates for a lack or sets up an exit. Insecure attachment, conflict avoidance, prolonged lack of sex, loneliness, or just years of rehashing the same old arguments—many adulterers are motivated by domestic discord. And then there are the repeat offenders, the narcissists who cheat with impunity simply because they can.
Many of these individuals were faithful for years, sometimes decades. They seem to be well balanced, mature, caring, and deeply invested in their relationship. Yet one day, they crossed a line they never imagined they would face. All for what? To be able to lose more than gain for a few moments of ‘enjoyment’?
Extramarital adventures are painful and destabilizing, but they can also be liberating and empowering. Understanding both sides is crucial, whether a couple chooses to end the relationship or intends to stay together, to rebuild and revitalize.
So the question is, would you really be happy if you cheat on your partner? If yes, how long will that happiness be? Is it worth losing everything you’ve got in life? Your family, your career, your peace of mind?