5 common reasons people cheat (that aren't sex-related)
Why do people cheat? — it’s a more complicated question than it might seem at first glance. A lot of people assume that people cheat because they want to have sex with someone who isn’t their partner... so they go and have sex with someone who isn't their partner. It's just about finding someone to do it with.
And yes, sometimes cheating is as simple as somebody wanting to get laid — but more often than not, the need speaks to something that’s gone wrong, either in the cheater, the relationship, or both. Now, that’s not to excuse the behavior — we all control how we respond to difficulties in our lives and relationships and not everybody cheats when times get hard — but it can be useful to know.
In fact, Ashley Madison, the extramarital affairs site, has found that sex often isn’t at the heart of cheating.
“As the data has shown, our users come to Ashley Madison seeking an element of intimacy they aren’t finding with their spouses or in their daily lives," Isabella Mise, Director of Communications at Ashley Madison told Bustle. "Being appreciated and noticed by one’s significant other is a key to maintaining emotional satisfaction and closeness — and while those components are almost certainly present at the start of many relationships, it isn’t abnormal for that spark to eventually fade.”
So what’s driving people to stray? Here are the reasons that have nothing to do with sex.
1. Emotional reassurance
One survey found that 44 percent of cheaters sought emotional reassurance outside of relationships. People often say there’s nowhere more lonely than in a loveless relationship — when you’re that close and yet so far from someone, it’s easy to feel isolated and vulnerable. If you've ever laid in a bed with your partner trying to fall asleep when you aren't speaking to each other, you'll be familiar with it. That horrible, gnawing feeling of a relationship that isn’t working can be difficult to cope with. Going outside of your relationship for some reassurance that you can have that bond with someone else is an all-too-common phenomenon. It's about having that connection and remembering what it feels like.
For 42 percent of people, it’s as simple as affection. Whether it’s emotional or physical, that feeling of closeness is something that people crave — and if you’re not getting it from your partner, you can start to feel estranged really quickly. It’s a good reminder that it’s important to know and understand how people feel valued — or even learn what each other's love languages are. For some, affection might come in the form of a hug, for others, it might be a cup of coffee in bed, or a deep conversation. It can come in different forms, but it's always important.
One survey found that around 30 percent of people like the confidence that an affair gave them — which both makes sense and is a little gross. We all like feeling desired (in fact, in the same survey 48 percent of people said feeling desired was a benefit of cheating), but there are other ways to feel confident. It's true that your partner should always make you feel confident and desired — and if you’re not feeling that way, you should definitely bring it up to them — but it feels like there are easier ways to get that feeling back than having an affair. Join an improv class or something.
4. Feeling alive
This is a slightly grim outlook on the state of modern living, but apparently over half of cheaters just love that feeling of being alive. Whether that’s a feeling that comes from the lust or sexuality of cheating or just the thrill of doing something illicit, there’s something about the forbidden that really drives people wild. And yes — it does sound a little bit like a stereotype from the 1950s, with one person breaking out of the relationship just to feel something, anything — but it turns out that that is a very real thing. Some people just need a break from the every day so they can feel the rush of being alive all over again.
5. A lack of trust
One reason people cheat has to do with a more general outlook on relationships. Some people don’t have a lot of faith or trust in people, in relationships, in monogamy, in... any part of being in a partnership with someone. It's easy to see how they could end up cheating. They assume that all relationships are bound to end badly and have a sense of fatality about the whole thing — or they’ve had their trust broken before and want to cheat before it happens to them again. This is often a more complex issue than cheating just for a thrill — and may require a much bigger exploration of how you feel about people and trust more generally.
Cheating is, of course, often driven by sex — at least in part. The light has gone out in your relationship or you just have an itch to scratch. But usually it’s more complicated — issues of intimacy, isolation, even power can all come into play. That’s why it’s so important that you pay attention to all parts of a relationship — not just how your sex life is doing. Emotional intimacy, affection, even just making your partner feel confident and desired — these are the things that keep a relationship happy and healthy. And a good sex life certainly doesn’t hurt.