Why Do Cheaters Cheat?

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Don Draper: World’s Greatest Cheater

Cheating has put an end to many otherwise stable relationships. Most people understand and agree that cheating is wrong. “Just get out of the relationship if you’re unhappy,” some say, and it seems like a simple solution, yet one informal Washington Post study revealed a staggering 78 percent of men and 68 percent of women have cheated on their current partners. So why do cheaters cheat?

Getting sex from someone outside of the relationship isn’t always about sex. Many people feel unaccepted or undesired by their partner, and they seek to fill that void—consciously or subconsciously—with outside sources. In The Truth About Cheating, author and marriage counselor M. Gary Neuman said 48 percent of the 200 men he surveyed were emotionally dissatisfied. Sometimes, this can be attributed to an unbalanced emotional match in the relationship, while sometimes the cheater is simply not emotionally prepared to deal with more difficult moments in a relationship during which those negative feelings arise.

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One unsettling study at Rutgers University found that 34 percent of married women who cheat and 56 percent of men who cheat were happy in their marriage. Another related statistic has disturbing implications for the reasoning behind wandering eyes. Only 12 percent of men who cheated said they found their mistress more attractive than their wife. Couple that with knowing that 66 percent of men who cheated said they felt guilty, and it seems like maybe cheaters don’t actually want to cheat after all.

A surprisingly low portion–only 8 percent–of cheaters in Neuman’s abovementioned study cited sexual dissatisfaction as the reason they cheated on their partner. Some said they no longer found their partner attractive, and others wanted more sexual variety. Some found their partner was not approachable anymore, so they found someone else with whom sex was readily available. However, the Washington Post study found that “almost all” of the 150 subjects had cheated by the time they were two years into their relationships, and “most” of those people cited a need for sexual variety as the cause.

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When a person gives in to the temptation of another, they may lose sight of what attracted them to their partner when they first started dating. They may mistake settling into a comfortable and loving relationship for boredom or monotony, or they may be right: their relationship might actually be boring and monotonous. On the flipside, their partner may not be showing them enough love, driving them to seek a quick fix elsewhere. Whatever the cause, communication is a huge part of overcoming challenges that arise.

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