As someone who has been through an infidelity, I understand how terrifying that betrayal can feel. I’ve discussed in a couple of articles about how to deal with cheating immediately when you find out and about strengths from recovering through this process. However, I haven’t really discussed why people cheat. One of the questions that played on my mind for years is how could someone cheat on their partner. To this day, I don’t truly understand how someone could mentally bring themselves to the point where they would be willing to cheat on someone they once loved, but I’ve also gained some knowledge on why people cheat and how you can even avoid someone who cheats in the future. I may not know the exact reason on why your partner cheated on you, but hopefully this list gives you some idea and gives you some red flags to pay attention to in the future.
1. The relationship was already over. Sometimes people cheat because the relationship was already over in their minds. The writing was on the wall. You were going to break up or divorce eventually. An opportunity to cheat presented itself to your ex-partner and they decided to go for it. This situation most likely happened to those of us who had broken up with our ex-partners and realized a few months after the breakup happened that this person cheated. Cheating is wrong, regardless if the relationship is over. As tough as it may be to accept right now, recognize that the relationship was over anyway. The breakup was going to happen and be thankful that it did, because your ex demonstrated another negative part of their personality.
Future Fixes: When you are in a relationship and you know it’s over, then end it. We all have reasons to want to hold onto a dead relationship. You may feel like a failure when a relationship ends, even when you know this relationship isn’t working for you. As a result, you stay in the relationship hoping things will change but knowing that there is a very little chance of it ever changing. In these relationships, you have tried everything. You tried couple’s counselling, personal counselling, compromises, sacrifices and exhausted all your resources to save your relationship but nothing seems to work. There are other reasons you might want to stay in a relationship that have nothing to do with your love and commitment to this person. Maybe you need the financial security, you share a pet or have a child together, maybe you have never broken up with someone before and simply don’t know how to end things, or you are afraid of being single. Whatever your reasons for being tempted to stay in a bad relationship, work through what those reasons are and end the relationship as soon as possible. Cheating is wrong but in this situation, a person may cheat because they are unhappy, know you are unhappy and don’t really see an exit on the horizon. This doesn’t justify their reasons for cheating but it may give you insight on why they cheated and the importance of ending a dead-end relationship.
2. Your ex has an issue with lying. Some people don’t know how to tell the truth. For one reason or another they simply struggle to be honest. This could have something to do with their own personal insecurities. Maybe they are in denial and don’t even want to admit the truth to themselves. Some people are addicted to lying.
Future Fixes: Create a boundary for lying and do not under any circumstances allow someone to lie to you. There are many situations where someone gets cheated on and they say something like the following. “She cheated on me and I’m shocked. In the past, she always had a habit of lying to me. I would tell her to stop, but nothing would change. Eventually she stopped lying and I thought we were past this, but now she’s cheated on me. How could she do that?” Lying is a huge indicator that someone will cheat on you in the future. I’m not talking about little white lies either, not the kind where someone says your hair looks nice even though it is an unflattering haircut. I’m talking about a huge lie. These lies could be anything from a woman telling you she’s an expert at playing a musical instrument (she’s never picked up an instrument in her life) to impress you to a man telling you he’s never owned a credit card in his life when he’s racking on tens of thousands of dollars of debt. When you hear these lies, you have two healthy ways you can handle this. You can either break up immediately and say you dodged a bullet or if you truly believe this person made an honest mistake and is the love of your life, then you can forgive them, and if they ever lie to you again, you end it.
That may sound harsh but a healthy relationship doesn’t consist of huge lies. People can lie and make mistakes, but after you forgive them the first time, there should be no reason for further lies in your relationship. A relationship needs trust and if someone is breaking your trust repeatedly by lying, then they are just one step closer to breaking your trust by cheating. Save yourself the drama and heartache by sticking to a boundary that you will not accept lies from a partner. If they do lie to you and you forgive them, then they have one more chance with you, and that’s it. You must be willing to end the relationship and walk away if a person continually tells you huge lies.
3. You are dealing with issues of insecurity and jealousy. Jealousy can tear apart relationships and it can also cause someone to feel like they might as well cheat. Let’s use an example to illustrate this point. Maybe you met an amazing guy but he is constantly jealous of every guy you hang out with. If you even look at a guy he asks you who you are looking at and if you think he’s hotter than him and want to be with him. This goes on for months and years. You can’t even hang out with a platonic male friend without your boyfriend getting extremely jealous and angry about it. Eventually an opportunity presents itself to hook up with a very attractive guy who doesn’t act jealous, possessive or insecure and you end up cheating. The logic behind this is you might as well cheat because you are getting punished for it anyway. The jealous boyfriend is punishing her for cheating anyway and over a long period of time, someone gets fed up and cheats anyway. Again, there is no excuse for cheating. Cheating is wrong in this scenario but you may have to accept that if you are battling insecurity and jealousy, then you might already be treating your partner like they cheated anyway. When you punish a person for something they haven’t committed, then a person feels like they might as well cheat anyway.
Future Fixes: The only way you can deal with this moving forward is to work on your own self-esteem. Work through your jealousy issues because jealousy is very harmful to bring into a relationship. A relationship should involve two people who feel secure in themselves and in their relationship. It’s completely natural for you and your partner to find other people attractive. It’s okay if your significant other has friends of all sexes. Take this time to build up your self-worth and recognize that a healthy relationship does not include possessiveness or jealousy.
4. This person may have a habit of living a risky lifestyle. People who commit infidelity usually have traits that involve living a life of risk. For one person, a risky life could include drug addictions, experimenting with new drugs and even believing that they need drugs to function to do basic tasks. For another person, a risky life could involve constantly moving, never settling in one place for more than a few months, never having a girlfriend longer than a couple of months, and getting easily bored. Often, their risky lifestyle is often what attracts you to the person. You might find it exciting that this person is spontaneous, a thrill seeker, is open to everything and trying everything. However, sometimes these traits can be the very thing that makes this person more prone to committing an infidelity.
Future Fixes #1: Be on the lookout for red flags early in a relationship. Be honest about what traits you tend to find very exciting in a relationship that might be red flags. You can find a loving, committed and wonderful partner in life, but you also need to be honest about traits that are probably not good for a relationship. Nobody is perfect, so be open and flexible but also realize when something is a red flag. The woman who seems very dramatic, is labelled a hot mess, is very unreliable and inconsistent may be exciting to date but may end up causing heartache later in life. The guy who is always following his passion around the world, and doesn’t have enough savings to pay the bills next month, may be fun to be around but probably might not have the time, energy or resources for a monogamous and committed relationship.
Future Fixes #2: Be honest about what you truly want in a relationship right now. Your dating life doesn’t have to look a certain way just because of what other people think you should want. There may be times in your life where you aren’t looking for a serious relationship and just want to date, have fun and meet new people. There might be times where you are ready to settle down and commit to someone for the rest of your life. You could also be in a place where you don’t really know what you want but you want to put yourself out there and connect with different people. Ask yourself what do you want. There’s nothing stopping you from dating someone who may not be monogamous relationship material right now, but you need to be honest about if that’s what you really want, otherwise you risk getting your heart broken.
5. You have not agreed to an exclusive and committed relationship with your partner. Like the previous point about red flags, you should be honest with yourself about whether you are in a committed and long-term relationship with someone. You could be with someone for months or even years, but that person was never serious about you in the first place. I remember a couple of years ago a man told me how he suspected his girlfriend had cheated on him. When he talked to me about the situation, I realized that he did indeed have strong feelings for her, wanted a relationship with her and thought things were serious but, he also mentioned a few other relevant details. She never really introduced him to her friends or family. She always kept him at a distance. She never once referred to him as her boyfriend. When they broke up after months of dating, she said to him that she did not even agree that they were in a relationship. In her opinion, they were dating for fun, which means she can date other people. In his opinion, they were in a monogamous relationship but her opinion was that they were casually dating.
Future Fixes: It’s possible your ex-partner never viewed this as cheating because they felt they were never committed to you in the first place. Sure, you guys may have dated for months or even years, but to the other person this may have just been a fling and they felt they were open to still swipe on dating apps and meet new people. Although cheating hurts in these situations, it’s important to realize that this person was never serious about you in the first place. You are not compatible with this person and you deserve someone who is invested in the relationship, just as much as you are. At the very least, you deserve someone who can openly express that you are not exclusive and they are free to date other people. When someone keeps you on a string and is not willing to commit to you as an exclusive boyfriend or girlfriend, then view that as a sign of incompatibility and walk away.
6. You don’t have boundaries. You might find yourself attracting cheating partners because you don’t have boundaries and you don’t stick to your boundaries. Below are some signs you don’t have clear and strong boundaries.
- You believe that because you love and care about someone so much, that they should change and be a better person for you.
- You often feel like the victim in your relationships.
- You feel like your many of your friends, family and colleagues take you for granted and walk all over you.
- You tend to over share details about your personal life with the wrong people.
- You are afraid to speak up and tell someone how you feel.
- You feel guilty for speaking your mind.
- You are worried people will abandon you if you tell them how you genuinely feel.
- You often get angry, sad and frustrated at people who hurt you but you struggle to end the relationship and walk away.
- You are a giver to the extreme. You love giving to the point where others cannot keep up with you often. You tend to over give.
- You are passive aggressive.
- You are indecisive.
- You struggle to know who you really are.
- You believe having healthy boundaries would make you feel less happy.
Boundaries are so important to talk about because without boundaries, you allow toxic people to thrive in your life and you don’t stand by your personal values. Whenever I hear about cheating, it usually involves someone who doesn’t have healthy boundaries. Perhaps their partner cheated on them once, they forgave them and it kept happening repeatedly until someone broke it off. Without boundaries, you purposely allow yourself to feel miserable simply to keep someone in your life. Eventually the misery you feel from being in a relationship of distrust, disrespect and unhappiness builds up so much that you question if you can ever be happy in a relationship and become accustomed to having toxic partners in your life. Repeat this to yourself until it sticks. I must have healthy boundaries to have a healthy relationship. You must always have strong and healthy boundaries to find a loving and committed relationship with someone else.
Future Fixes: Identify your boundaries and stand firmly by then. Your boundaries are your own. Don’t ask other people what your boundaries should be and don’t worry about them matching up to some ethical code. Ask yourself what you truly want and are okay with. Once you have identified those boundaries, communicate them to other people in your life. Let your partner know upfront that you do not tolerate lying, and you will break up with them if there is any dishonesty in your relationship. Yes, communicating boundaries may be hard at first but this must happen. You will not lose the love of your life by being open and honest about your boundaries. However, you will lose many toxic people who will cause pain, drama and heartache by being upfront about what you want. This is a good thing. Remember that you can enable poor habits such as cheating by not having boundaries. Instead stand firmly by your boundaries and communicate what you want and be willing to walk away if your boundaries are not respected.
7. Lack of sexual and/or emotional intimacy in the relationship. Odds are something was off with your intimacy if the relationship with your partner was overall good, happy and full of trust. Infidelity can happen in relationships that seem healthy for the most part. In these situations, a cheating partner might love their partner, value the relationship and is overall pretty satisfied with their marriage or relationship. However, maybe the sex has been off for months or years. One partner wants sex far more than the other one. Perhaps there is regular and consistent sex but the quality of sex has diminished. Or perhaps the emotional intimacy is struggling. You feel like you don’t have much in common anymore, nothing to talk about anymore and you still enjoy doing certain activities together but feel like there’s not much more emotional intimacy beyond that. You feel lonely in your relationship. You feel unappreciated and like your partner doesn’t notice you or lacks interest in your life. This lack of intimacy can create an environment where infidelity seems to be the only cure. Infidelity is not the cure for a lack of intimacy but it is often the one people might try to grasp when searching for solutions to a relationship that has went off course.
Future Fixes: A healthy relationship can only thrive when you invest in that relationship. It’s important to keep up the emotional and sexual connection with your partner. You must continue doing new activities with your partner and embarking on new and exciting experiences together. Stop chasing a fantasy where everything works out great, and nobody cheats, even when there is absolutely no sex over a long period of time and you feel like a roommate with your partner. As humans, we crave physical and emotional intimacy with the ones that we love. Again, cheating is still wrong even when other aspects of a relationship are off but recognize that a lack of sexual and/or emotional intimacy is a symptom of a relationship that is headed towards infidelity. Treat your relationship as an investment. Make it work. Go to counselling, do fun things together, prioritize your relationship and work on getting the spark back. Keep dating each other. Stay interested in each other’s lives. When you grow apart, find common interests that bring you closer together. Relationships are not always easy, even when both partners deeply love each other. It’s important to go into a healthy and loving relationship with the attitude that you will make this work to ensure that there is always good intimacy in your relationship.
If you are reading this because you have been cheated on in the past, remember that you can have a wonderful, healthy relationship that is free of cheating. By understanding why people cheat, you put yourself in a good position to choose your partners more wisely. You don’t need to lose faith in love and a serious relationship. There’s no reason to focus on the negatives and falsely believe that there aren’t people out there who want exactly what you want. The problem isn’t scarcity. You have a huge pool of people who are looking for a serious, committed, loving and monogamous relationship. The problem could instead be with the types of people you are attracted to, a lack of having healthy boundaries or being unable to truly invest in a relationship for the long-haul. Don’t lose hope. Keep working on yourself and your own self-love.