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Tuesday, 11 May 2021

What Causes People to Cheat in Relationships?

By Dr Becky Spelman
What Causes People to Cheat in Relationships? | Private Therapy Clinic

Discovering you’ve been cheated on is never pleasant. It can be emotionally fraught and leave you wondering, ‘Why? What have I done?’ When you experience this sense of rejection, it causes soul-searching and questioning. What is it about me that has caused my partner to disrespect our relationship? The truth is it can often be down to a variety of factors. The most common route in diagnosing an affair is to try and discern what’s missing from a relationship. But it’s not always that straight forward. It’s an oversimplification of what is a much more nuanced issue. It’s not always about the sex. Infidelity can be motivated by a surprising number of things. The following framework is by no means exhaustive but does offer some insight into the why of an affair.

Anger or Revenge

When emotionally grounded people find out they’ve been cheated on, the first course of action is often to seek revenge – to level the score. They feel so much hurt they want their partner to experience the same emotional distress they’ve made been made to suffer. Revenge affairs may or may not be overtly intentional, though. They can sometimes happen quite subconsciously or by ‘accident’ as a response-reaction designed to bring closure to a situation. Although in many cases, these sorts of affairs can be malicious with the intent of the other partner discovering the infidelity for it to have its maximum effect. Anger, on the other hand, is different. They’re often born out of frustration either through a partner being absent, not understanding your needs, being emotionally distant or after an argument has taken place.

Falling Out of Love

Sometimes though, affairs can be far less dramatic and simply a case of there not being ‘anything left.’ Many relationships are often formed off the back of affairs, with transitionary-infidelity, which while, not being the best way to handle the breaking up of a relationship, is an inescapable reality that some people find themselves in. Some relationships aren’t meant to be for forever and are simply the coming together of two people in the right place at the right time who have something to offer one another. When that inevitably runs its course, and the excitement wears off, it can – but not always – lead to sideways glances at other people and reciprocating advances that might otherwise have been rebuked at the outset of the relationship.

Temptation and the Allure of Something New

It’s an undeniable fact that some people are better at connecting sexually with others, whether it be through natural good looks, charisma, charm or all of the above. And those who’re in possession of those qualities quite often aware of them and find it all too easy to get what they want. So when an opportunity to connect with someone presents itself, it can be extremely hard to turn down knowing that they’re more than capable of making it work. Because these people have often been able to have their pick of partners, they get very used to this and as such, can experience boredom within long-term relationships.

Relationship Turbulence and Commitment Issues

Commitment can be a hard issue to reconcile, which is often the result of miscommunicating where each partner is in their definition of commitment. As far as affairs are concerned, it can be that committal-based infidelity is simply a case of indecision, not being sure about someone or even about the actual status of a relationship – especially at the outset if things haven’t been made official. Exclusivity is something that is often expected through subtext and general interactions, which can be hard for some people to read and hence lead them to believe they’re in a more casual relationship. However, some people can also use affairs as a way of purposefully ‘getting out of a relationship. If they’re fearing that it’s moving too fast or they don’t like the direction, their cheating is a way of making that relationship untenable – null and void.

Unmet Needs (Sexually, Mentally, or Emotionally)

It’s often assumed that all unmet needs are rooted in intimacy. But they don’t always have to be sexual. There is also such a thing as mental and emotional intimacy. Although much of the time, it does come down to a question of sex – and there usually not being enough of it. People who enter into a relationship might be drawn together by shared interests and not be sexually compatible. They might have different sex drives and specific needs that their partner either can’t or won’t fulfil for them. Regarding the other side of intimacy, emotional infidelity, while difficult to give an absolute definition, could be considered to have taken place when one partner invests an excessive amount of emotional energy into connecting with another person.

Sexual Desire

The most basic of all motivations on this list is, of course, there being an insatiable appetite for sexual contact. To provide some context, this would apply mainly to those people who are highly sexed in general. And will invariably mean they’ve cheated in most if not all of their relationships. They’re serial cheaters. It’s what they do. It could be related to them having loose boundaries, ideas of what constitutes cheating, low morals, or even that they may be a sex addict. However, in some cases, it could also be a case of there being a healthy desire for sex that isn’t being met by a partner. And so eventually, that need being unmet for so long leads that person to give in to their desires and seek out what they aren’t receiving in another.

About the author:

Dr Becky Spelman is a leading UK Psychologist who’s had great success helping her clients manage and overcome a multitude of mental illnesses.

***If you’re struggling with relationships issues and think you might benefit from speaking to someone, we offer a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with one of our specialists to help you find the best way to move forward. You can book yours here.


Health (5th Mar 2020) Why Do People Cheat? A Sex Therapist Has Some Fascinating Insight. Retrieved on 25th March 2021 from,

Psychology Today (22nd Mar 2021) Why Do People Cheat in Relationships? Eight Key Motivations. Retrieved on 25th March 2021 from,

Heathline (11th Oct 2019) Why Do People Cheat in Relationships?. Retrieved on 25th March 2021 from,

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