So what causes someone to cheat?

what causes someone to cheat

By Sarah P.

The eternal question that many betrayed spouses ask is: Why did my spouse cheat on me?

Here at EAJ, our mantra is that each individual chooses to cheat based on their own internal issues. 

Take that phrase in carefully: a person chooses to cheat due to THEIR ISSUES, not your issues. A betrayed spouse cannot cause their spouse to cheat.

The Rabbi and psychologist, M. Gary Neuman did a large survey involving his own male clientele who had cheated on their wives. He had interesting findings.

“In a new study conducted by marriage counselor M. Gary Neuman, it is estimated that one in 2.7 men will cheat – and most of their wives will never know about it.  (Read:  The signs you may be missing)

What’s the number one reason men cheat? Ninety-two percent of men said it wasn’t primarily about the sex.

“The majority said it was an emotional disconnection, specifically a sense of feeling underappreciated. A lack of thoughtful gestures,” Gary says. “Men are very emotional beings. They just don’t look like that. Or they don’t seem like that. Or they don’t tell you that.”

Josh says he cheated on his wife, Jennifer, because he felt underappreciated at home and started feeling insecure. “That insecurity was really the catalyst,” he says. “I didn’t feel comfortable going to the one person in the world I should be going to, which is my wife.” 

With daily worries like bills, children and chores, Gary says it’s easy for couples to drift away from appreciating one another like they should. Gary says the other woman often makes the man feel better about himself.

Why Do Women Cheat? It Is Not For the Reasons You Might Think

“[She] makes them feel different. Makes them feel appreciated, admired,” he says. “Men look strong, look powerful and capable. But on the inside, they’re insecure like everybody else. They’re searching and looking for somebody to build them up to make them feel valued.”

See also  47 Lessons Learned From an Emotional Affair

How often does a man cheat on his wife with a woman who’s more attractive? Not as often as you may think. Gary found that 88 percent of the men surveyed said the other women were no better looking or in no better shape than their own wives. 

For the first five years of his marriage, AJ says things were rocky with his wife, Janet. “We got to the point where we were really living in separate parts of the house. I went downstairs every time I came home from work,” he says. “So when somebody else took an interest in me and was interested in what I did, interested in my job, interested in what I wear – you name it – before I had the self-awareness to understand my vulnerabilities and take responsibility, I liked it – even though it was the worst decision of my life.  (1)

More of what causes someone to cheat…

I still find the one in 2.7 figure shocking, but it goes along with the research that nearly 50% of men and 48% of women will cheat on their spouse given time and opportunity.

Sex therapist, Vanessa Marin, has identified the core reasons that people cheat and like me, she believes cheating has to do with the person who is cheating. In an article she said:

“We tend to think that people cheat because they’re unhappy in their relationships, and that certainly can be true, but the reality is more complicated,” she explains. “It’s important we recognize there are plenty of people in perfectly happy relationships who also cheat.”

Featured Download: “The Top 10 Reasons to Leave Your Affair Partner Now”

If you’re the unfaithful, get it, read it and carefully consider the advice. If you’re the betrayed, give it to your unfaithful spouse.

Many people who cheat, Marin says, aren’t looking for something they’re missing in their relationship. Instead, the person cheating is dealing with issues in their relationship with themselves.

See also  After the Affair: The No Contact Rule

“They’re feeling lost in some way,” Marin continues. “Or they’re feeling disconnected with some part of themselves. And so they look for an affair to fill some missing gap, fill some hole, help them figure out something going on within themselves. There may not be an issue in their relationship with their partner at all.”

Some people, Marin says, aren’t actively looking to have an affair. Or they may not have ever considered they’d be open to the possibility. But then an opportunity presents itself—an out-of-town trip; someone new is attracted to them—and things happen without any pre-planning or malice aforethought.

If you’ve been cheated on, Marin says, it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you. Though cheating often involves sex, it’s rarely about the sex itself. It’s more about having someone new providing attention. If the cheating partner has been in a relationship for a long period of time, it’s about the excitement of an unexpected attraction.

“Infidelity is not a judgment or an indictment of the person who’s being cheated on,” Marin says. “It’s not because they’re a bad person or not attractive or sexy. It’s much more about what’s going on with the person that cheated.” (2)

What to Say When a Wayward Spouse Blames You for the Affair

I cannot reiterate it enough that infidelity has to do solely with the wayward spouse, their internal issues, and their choices. Still, as a betrayed spouse when considering what causes someone to cheat, it’s impossible not to take a partner’s infidelity personally.

Even though we know on an intellectual level that infidelity is not personal, humans are emotionally driven. The oldest part of our brain still reacts to cheating as a threat to our own personal survival.

When someone cheats on us, the oldest part of our brain senses danger.

The oldest part of our brain is right to sense danger. If we were to be left for another person, we may not be able to meet the financial needs of our children and ourselves. This could lead to devastating and sometimes deadly consequences.

See also  How to Survive an Affair: Review

The oldest part of our brain knows this and it is why we take infidelity personally. It triggers our instincts for survival and our primal brain sees our unfaithful spouse and their affair as a potential threat to our own survival.

Our prefrontal cortex is the newest part of the brain and it is where reason resides. We can logically understand that our partner cheated because of a deficit inside himself or herself.

Still, we will be subject to an internal battle due to the primal brain. All day, it will be sending us signals that infidelity threatens our existence. We will then have to use reason to over-ride these primal instincts. But, reason often fails. Soon, due to our partner’s affair, we find ourselves stuck in a daily loop, swinging back and fourth, between fight or flight mode. The tragedy is this process can lead to complex PTSD if we do not seek help.

Why It’s Important to Know if Your Spouse is Cheating

In Summary

What causes someone to cheat? People have affairs because they make the choice to have affairs. People have affairs due to their inability to say “no” when temptation comes along. People have affairs to boost their egos.

Infidelity is not about the betrayed spouse. Infidelity is not about what the betrayed spouse did or did not do.

For the betrayed spouses out there, I will leave you with an excellent video on positive affirmations that you can put into practice.




Featured Download: “The Top 10 Reasons to Leave Your Affair Partner Now”

If you’re the unfaithful, get it, read it and carefully consider the advice. If you’re the betrayed, give it to your unfaithful spouse.


    23 replies to "What Causes Someone to Cheat?"

    • Exercisegrace

      Like most, I nearly drove myself crazy after d-day trying to answer the unanswerable question of why he cheated. What finally helped me was flipping the script. I wrote him a letter explaining that if I had been the one to cheat, I could have come up with excuses too. Then I explained how I actually chose to view things instead.
      How I could have viewed our life if I had cheated: “You chose to start your own business and you work seven days a week. It’s been years since I’ve gotten to sleep through the night or even sleep in. I’m solely responsible for the cooking, cleaning, laundry etc. I feel like a single parent to four active kiddos. I go everywhere alone. I get no help with anything.”
      How I actually viewed our life at the time: my husband works very hard to provide for our family. This allows me to be the stay at home wife and mother I’ve always wanted to be, and he’s chasing his dream of running his own business. I don’t have to miss a minute of the kids’ lives and they have opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have. Because he works so hard I will let him sleep in on Saturday. I’ll catch a nap here and there.
      I could write much, much more but I think you guys get the picture. I’m not saying I was perfect or never had my moments of frustration. I just had an overall outlook of our life.

      Before his affair, we had been married over 20 years. We were raising four bright, healthy happy kiddos. My husband referred to me as his best friend, and told everyone we knew that he was lucky to have me as his teammate. Then life threw some curves. My mom died, then his dad. We moved. The economy tanked and his business nearly went under. The insecurities planted long ago in an alcoholic, emotionally bankrupt family of origin reared their ugly heads in his mind, and he began to battle depression. Then the AP entered his work world. Together the two of them began to rewrite our story. I went from teammate to freeloader over night. The joy we shared in our kids was gone. They were painted as spoiled and ungrateful.

      Bottom line? Life is about how we choose to see and respond to our circumstances. I believe that cheaters have something broken inside that tips them in the direction of selfish entitlement. When push comes to shove? They choose themselves and everyone else is left in the burning building to find their own way out. So when you wonder why? When that questions weighs on your mind? Just know that their character is flawed. Their moral compass is broken. You can’t put yourself into those shoes. They simply will never fit.

      • Another One

        So true!
        For many years we’ve had some very testing times, mainly involving our children’s health. This was compounded by my sister’s death and my husband being away a lot due to his work. I felt like a single mother: overworked, lonely, always tired, unappreciated. He also said he felt unappreciated but, according to all the books we’ve read, i should have been the one most likely to cheat. The thought never even crossed my mind and I would have never allowed myself in a situation where boundaries were crossed. He, on the other hand, willingly entered conversations and situations he knew were wrong. It’s taken me a long time to understand that the fault and brokenness is all his. We were both in the same disconnected relationship but I chose to pour all of my energy into my family while he chose to be selfish and think only of himself.

    • Shifting Impressions

      We hear it so often….the betrayal isn’t about you. Perhaps that thought should make one feel better but somehow it never does. Somehow, I simply became IRRELEVANT!! I became irrelevant to the one person I loved more than anyone else on this earth. My best friend simply stopped seeing me.

    • MovingOn

      Hi! I understand this blog is more geared towards couples trying to save their marriage after infidelity, but what about when your husband actually leaves and moves in with the other woman? He left when I was pregnant and now has no involvement with me or our baby. The whole story is very long and complicated so I don’t want to bore anyone with it, but what resources would members recommend to help with that recovery? I’m seeing a wonderful therapist , but I’m trying to utilize every resource possible! Thanks in advance!

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Movingon,

        EVERYONE is welcome here. Tell us your story. Don’t worry, you won’t bore us. We have a group of “wise women” here like ShiftingImpressions and ExerciseGrace that are always happy to chime in. And of course I am happy to chime in too. All betrayeds are welcome, whether or not there is reconciliation in the picture. It’s about helping all betrayed spouses heal regardless of their relationship status. You are welcome here. How can we help?

    • MovingOn

      Hi Sarah!
      Thanks for responding. I wrote about my story a little bit on a different post, but here goes…it’s super long so grab a snack, lol! I’m sorry…

      As a backstory, my H and I moved out of state for his job about 4 yrs ago & things were great! About 1.5 yrs later he loses his job of 20+ yrs, had trouble finding a sustainable career in the area we had moved to, but decided to stick with a half-ass “fun” job coaching at a gym where he was able to work until early afternoon and then was able to go sit at the beach-his favorite place. Around this time is when he quit communicating w/ me, was lying to me, keeping things from me, taking me for granted, being lazy, not prioritizing our marriage, drinking a lot more, and of course we found ourselves almost in financial ruin. I’m working my tail off while he’s putting his wants first. I tried to be supportive and encouraging at first to no avail, then tried to be a little more assertive to try to make him see the seriousness of our situation-still nothing. Things spiraled so far out of control that we had to move into my mother’s house because we couldn’t pay bills-here I am thinking that will finally light a fire under his ass, but nope. He’s still drinking more and more, says he’s embarrassed about the situation he put us in, that he feels like a failure, etc but still is not doing his part to fix anything. Here’s where I’m so heartbroken and angry that almost every encounter we had was an argument. I lost myself and was very quick to anger. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t motivation enough for him to want to do better.

      We also struggled with infertility for over 5 yrs. I got pregnant June 2019. When I was 8 wks I found out he was cheating with a woman he allegedly met 8 months prior at the beach-in the middle of a weekday when he should have been…you guessed it…WORKING! Not sitting at a beach drinking all afternoon. The story with her was that she was going through a divorce due to her physically abusive husband. She has kids-total damsel in distress and my H could be her hero. Barf. I kicked him out but he said he wanted to save our marriage-told me the affair ended 2 months prior, that he cared for her but “wasn’t even thinking about love,” that he only loved me, he was “so sorry,” Blah Blah Blah. Of course I wanted to reconcile but this turned out to be a false reconciliation on his part. I knew he was still cheating-I could feel it and I of course confirmed it a couple months later. He’s still adamant that he didn’t love this tramp and he loved me, but felt I could never forgive him. On NYE 2019 another tramp contacted me saying she had been “dating” my H for 6 months until he ended things with her and moved in with whore # 1. He now said he was “in love” with whore # 1. Maybe just the affair fog? Maybe not, but he basically through his family away for a stranger. This chick knew I was his pregnant wife too-just total trash.

      I didn’t hear from my H for the last 3 months of my pregnancy. He came around for the birth, but he has since had no involvement with me or our 12 week old daughter in probably 7 weeks now-hasn’t so much as checked on her. He hasn’t been able to keep a job, is in such bad debt, has lawsuits out against him, obvious alcohol abuse, has lied to me, his parents, friends, everyone. Anybody that was part of his “past life” he has cut out and has a new group of friends that he has of course lied to and is putting on a total show for. It’s like he’s trying to push it all away and start over. He’s running. He’s always been very non-confrontational and isn’t so great at communicating about “serious” things-he always wants to deflect with his humor. He is a very weak man as I’ve learned. He is a completely lost soul and a complete stranger. This man is not the wonderful man I married. That person is gone. It’s like when hardships hit, he’s so weak and couldn’t handle it, has no coping skills, and just swept his problems under the rug, and pretended like if he doesn’t face them, they will go away.

      Like I said, I have a wonderful therapist, I have a great support system with my family and friends, and pouring myself into taking care of my baby. Of course she’s my main priority. We will be divorcing which breaks my heart. I still love him and miss him all the time but I know he’s “moved on” with his life and even if he wanted to come back at this point, the damage is irreparable. I wish things were different. I was so hoping for a redemption story. It’s sad he’s so far off the deep end. We wanted a family for so long and he was so good to me for a long time and then just totally changed and ripped the rug out from under me. He is a very broken individual. I know substance abuse issues make situations like this worse, so it all just sux! By the way, I know all of these things were HIS choices. I’m not telling the backstory to let him off the hook-I just wanted to show the whole picture. I feel like with everything going on, I would have been the one to cheat, but I never would have even thought Of it! There’s no way I could have. Maybe this all will turn out to be a blessing in disguise one day!

      Anyway, that’s my LONG sob story. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

      • Exercisegrace

        MovingOn, first let me say how very sorry I am that you have to be here. Second I will say that you are a rockstar! Infidelity is brutal enough without having to navigate it pregnant and learning to be a mom for the first time. What a crappy time for him to discover he’s an idiot. I have not had to navigate this particular road, but I’ll give you my two cents!

        First, if you haven’t already, find a pitbull of an attorney. Document EVERYTHING. Keep a meticulous time line of his words and actions. Hold on to any proof of his reckless lifestyle. Protect your daughter. Your ex is making some horrible life choices, and has essentially abandoned his child. I would go for full physical and legal custody, perhaps even (if I could afford it) dangling the carrot of reduced child support if he signs away his rights. Besides that option I would ask for supervised visits only. If he changes, you can always allow visits later on, but for right now you don’t want him taking a child into his world.

        Second, protect yourself financially and make sure you are not tied in way to his debts just because you’re still married. I don’t know how this works exactly but maybe a legal separation until the divorce is final? You don’t want HIS debts tallied into the marital assets when things are finalized. Again, an aggressive lawyer will go a long way.
        The decisions you make now, will reach far into the future. If I could afford it, I’d personally rather forgo any financially support if he would sign over his parental rights. This gives you all the control. It doesn’t mean he can’t ever be part of her life, it just means he can’t put her in bad situations that are out of your control.

        Third, resist any attempt to pick yourself apart or your marriage apart. You are human. We all are. There is no such thing as perfect, there is no perfect marriage. Cheating is always wrong. It is never excusable. If your waitress gets your order wrong, do you break her kneecaps, and then expect her to limp back to the kitchen and reflect on how she could have served you better? Of course not. We don’t do the emotional equivalent of that in a marriage either. Cheating is always about the cheater. Period. Marital issues is the shade they throw to deflect attention from their own character flaws and bad choices.

        Have you heard of Chump Lady? Her blog tag line is “leave a cheater, gain a life”. She isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and her stance is hardcore. However, the women there have walked the road you are on and you can read some great advice from their hard earned lessons. Some of these men can stoop incredibly low. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

        Lastly, enjoy your precious child. She is your greatest gift and blessing!

    • Josette

      Dear MovingOn –

      I am a betrayed spouse too. It was a 20 plus year marriage and we had two kids and a history. I trusted him implicitly and was blindsided. My DDay was summer 2014. We tried to reconcile and it didn’t work. I know I did everything I could to save my marriage and our family. We are now divorced and I am a divorce attorney. So I know what it’s like personally and professionally. Despite what I do for a living, nothing prepared me for the pain and changes. I felt like my heart physically broke and my life was spiraling out of control. It felt like I was drowning in a dark ocean and I could see the ship to save me and my family was on it but I was being pulled under water. When I went to therapy all I could do was cry and I cried for a very long time.

      Here are my tips for how I got through the pain and to my new life: I recognized that I contributed to a bad marriage and reflected inward. I was not responsible for his infidelity and other poor choices but I did have to deal with the changes that were coming my way. I felt unprepared and went into survival mode. I started boxing and self defense to gain situational awareness because I could not believe what happened in my home went unnoticed for so long. I did yoga to heal and exercised so my body could get strong. I read continually and educated myself in areas where I was weak or lacked knowledge. I took action on what I learned and when I made mistakes I tried not to beat myself up about it or let them hold me back. I failed forward. I listened to podcasts and followed I spent a lot of time with my loving family and connected even further with my parents who I know love me and my kids. I asked them their advise and listened to them. I kept the drinking to a minimum. I had a zero tolerance on driving after having consumed alcohol because the last thing I wanted was to make a bad situation worse. laughed with friends. I dated and learned that its a whole new world out there and that men are overrated 🙂 I worked hard and was open to employment changes. I tried to keep a positive spirit and a flexible mindset. Mostly, I prayed. Eventually, the tremendous pain went away and there is light and happiness which came slowly and got brighter. And so did a strong resolve and strength in myself that was not able to exist or flourish until the death of my marriage opened the door to a much better life for me and my kids. It has taken time but it happens. Just keep your focus. You will get there too.

      I want to say how sorry I am that you had to go through what you are going through and that you will get through it. You sound very strong and brave and kind. Remember that and give yourself credit for being strong, brave and kind. Most important is to take care of yourself so you can take care of your baby. Here are my tips:

      Use your resources wisely. Work towards financial independence so that you can meet your child’s basic needs and create a good life for the both of you as your ex may not be able to financially contribute.

      Maintain your family support and listen to them objectively because they will see things that you may not. Be thankful for those people and do not take them for granted. They love you and remember to show love back. Sometimes when you are in survival mode, it’s hard to remember that there is more to life than your basic needs.

      Do whatever it takes to get healthy in all aspects – physically strong, mentally strong, emotionally calm, and financially secure. You will get there but you need to take it in baby steps and go slow. Success will not happen overnight so be patient. It’s a journey and a marathon not a sprint. It is your race to run and nobody else. Be pleasing but not a people pleaser.

      Forgive. There was a time when I couldn’t see a way out or through it. It has not been easy but now my sons and I have a peace that didn’t exist when trying to share your life with someone whose choices harm you and where priorities are skewed. It sounds like your ex is very broke and needs help. Hopefully, he can pull through. Have compassion for him. I learned that by having faith in God because there was nothing that could have prepared me for how to be kind to someone who had no respect for me or conscious.. Infidelity brings out a lot of hate, anger, bitterness, and resentment. You have a choice to forgive and when you do that is when the “moving on” really begins. There is no sweeter revenge than a happy life. He knows he messed up. You don’t need to rub it in his face. Just smile.

      Take space to breathe when you need it. If you don’t know how to breathe and take space, learn and do it.

      Remember that your mind controls your heart. You think you let your ex go, but you will know it when you know it in your heart and your mind. He is dead weight and now that the baby is here, you cannot carry him and your child. You have a long road ahead of you. Now is the time to take action and really focus which is what will help serve your child best for the short term and long term. She needs you and you have everything you need inside of you to make it a wonderful life for her. When you feel like it’s overwhelming, remember that you are capable and that your child is the purpose of what you are doing and why you are doing it.

      Sleep and keep a schedule. Be organized.

      Say no and if you don’t know how to say no to someone/something, learn how to say no or life will teach you how to say no. People who cannot respect your no, are not worth your time.

      Say yes to new experiences and what serves you. Be open minded to new experiences.

      Have values and keep your word.

      Going forward, you have a baby with this man that is broken and somehow you will need to learn how to deal with him and his poor choices that have had and will continue to have far reaching consequences. He may not have hit bottom yet and who knows what more damage he can cause in the future. So brace yourself and pace yourself. For example, his disinterest in the child may change into interest and because of what he did during your marriage, you may understandably have difficulty trusting him. Place your child first, always. Keep a calm head so you can get through this, make smart choices, and mitigate the damage. Just because you are out of the marriage with him doesn’t mean that you are out of dealing with him. Even if he never pulls his shit together you are going to have to find a way to coparent with him.

      Get a great divorce lawyer who you can trust, because you may be it in the long haul with the ex even if you can handle the financial aspect of raising a kid. As you get stronger, your ex may become more angry and spiteful. Hopefully he will not use your child as a weapon against you or as a tool to reduce his financial obligation. If he does try to weaponize the child, remember to act with dignity and even if you don’t have to fight him in court, be prepared for that fight. Learn the laws in your state and understand the court system. Have resources saved in case you need to fund litigation. Understand your parenting agreement and what you are signing. As you move forward, do not get complacent. Never let your guard down with him. Ever.

      Be book smart and street smart. Be reasonable in your decisions. Keep documentation. Be cautious with your social media and don’t be stupid about what you post. Don’t put anything on paper or text etc. that you would not want read by a judge or guardian ad litem for the child. Make sure your actions in your life do not compromise your character or call into question your capabilities as a great mom. Always place your child’s safety and overall wellbeing as the number one priority. Be careful with you who date and don’t let another guy get so far into your head that you displace your priorities.

      Do not bad mouth your spouse because children of divorce feel very torn between their parents and just want to see them both people happy (even a shithead parent.) You cannot control what he does/does not do. Only focus on what you can and can’t do. Use your strength and courage to continually move forward in all areas of life. So when you are angry, look to your beautiful child as the blessing from the ashes of your marriage and when you are sad think of something positive about your child that has occurred by being given the opportunity to raise that child.

      Your ex is an adult and he needs to be responsible for himself. He may never live up to being a great father and hopefully he can turn it around. If he doesn’t, it is not anything that you could ever have created or controlled. It took me a long time to understand that the father to my children had different priorities. It made me very sad because we were together for so very long. Eventually, the sadness subsides. The life you create with your child will be beautiful. Don’t have pity for the “what was” or “what could have been.” Live life now.

      Get comfortable with the uncomfortable and unexpected aspects of life. Infidelity by a spouse creates an experience (much like covid) where the routine/normal changes in a split second. It’s important to be able to handle change so you don’t get stuck and can navigate life.

      Take the time to educate your self on what you don’t know and don’t beat yourself up for being weak at times or not knowledgable about something. Use your strengths to your advantage.

      Build a strong foundation of love for you and your child. Make a happy home for that child, no matter where you live. Kids don’t need things, they need a happy mom.

      The best advise I can give you is: always look up to God and look forward. I am a faithful person and a lot of what helped me was connecting with God and having a strong belief that what was painful would eventually be turned into beauty. Time has passed and I can say that my life today is beautiful and my children are happy which is the greatest gift. Good luck.

      • blueskyabove

        Hi Josette – I just want to take this moment and second your recommendation of Marc and Angel. A betrayed spouse from another site turned me on to them years ago and I’m so glad I took the time to check out their website. I signed up for their emails right away and even today they are a gentle reminder to me of what is worth paying attention to in life and what to release. They are an amazing young couple!

      • MovingOn

        ExerciseGrace and Josette-

        Thank you so much for taking the time to give me such great advice. I know I will continue to re-read what you both wrote whenever I need a reminder or a pick-me-up when feeling down. This is so unbearable at times and I long for the day when he’s not on my mind 24/7, and where I’m not wishing he would come to his senses. This doesn’t make sense and I know it never will. I just can’t wait for it to get easier and easier. I know I have a lot of work to do. Thank you both so much again.

    • Rose

      Hi Sarah…just chiming to say you absolutely hit the nail here like you always do! I’m not going to make any other comments right now except that affairs are so, so complicated for everyone involved.

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