The Psychology Behind Cheating and Why So Many People Do It

Psychology
9 months ago

Throughout human history, extramarital affairs have been a part of relationships. In today’s digital era where social media and real-life interactions intertwine, discovering a partner’s infidelity can be devastating. Determining the exact percentage of individuals who engage in cheating is challenging for experts, as the definition of infidelity can vary among individuals. Renowned psychotherapist Esther Perel has developed a thought-provoking theory that sheds light on why a significant portion of the population turns to affairs.

The definition of monogamy has changed.

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/East News

Esther Perel offers an intriguing perspective on the evolution of monogamy. In the past, the concept revolved around a lifelong commitment to one person. However, in today’s society, monogamy has transformed into a sequential model where individuals pursue one partner at a time. This shift is influenced by a sense of entitlement to explore our desires.

Historically, marriage was primarily a practical arrangement devoid of romantic love. Nowadays, it has evolved into a union based on emotional connection and fulfillment. Consequently, infidelity poses a significant threat to our emotional security within the context of modern relationships. Therefore, instances of infidelity can have a devastating impact, as they undermine the foundation of love we strive for within our committed partnerships.

Partners feel a lot of pressure to fit into each other’s molds.

Charles Sykes / Invision / AP / East News

Our romantic ideal is complex — we turn to 1 person to fulfill a broad spectrum of all our needs. According to Perel, our perfect partner has to be “my greatest lover, my best friend, the best parent, my trusted confidant, my intellectual equal, my emotional companion and I am it: I am chosen, I am indispensable, I am unique, I am irreplaceable. I am the one. And infidelity tells me I am not — it shatters our grand ambition of love.”

Happy relationships can suffer from infidelity too.

Kevin Hart had an affair while his wife, Eniko, pictured above, was pregnant. His wife believes in second chances and forgiveness, and she shared, “So, as long as he behaves, we’re good.”

Many people believe that it’s only in failed and unhappy relationships that affairs take place, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. People might feel that they’ve found the love of their lives and still proceed to have an affair.

According to Perel, “when we are attracted to another person’s gaze other than our partner’s, it’s not because we want to leave the person we’re with, but because we want to leave the very person we ourselves have become.”

In the shadows of an affair, a loss usually lingers.

Robert Pattinson and Kristin Stewart, pictured above, formed a couple for 4 years until 2013 and eventually broke up because it was rumored that Stewart had an affair with a movie director.

All over the world, people who have affairs often say, “I feel alive.” Mortality often lives in the shadow of an affair because it raises questions, like “Is this it?” “Is there more?” “Am I going to live for another 20 years like this?” “Will I ever feel that thing again?” Esther Perel believes these questions might be the ones that push people to have affairs in an attempt to feel more alive and as an antidote to loss.

Although many people feel guilty for hurting their partner, they often don’t regret the affair itself.

Each affair redefines a relationship.

Beyoncé and Jay-Z went through infidelity but managed to survive it and now are happier than ever.

Infidelity and betrayal are two pills that feel very hard to swallow but many people choose to actually take them down. The relationships don’t always work after that, but in many occasions the two partners find a way to improve their union and keep going even stronger. Maybe the infidelity helps them discover the negatives in the relationship that drove them emotionally apart.

The relationship therapist shared what she often tells couples that come to her in the aftermath of an affair: “Today, in the West, most of us are going to have 2 or 3 relationships or marriages. Some of us are going to do it with the same person. Your first marriage is over. Would you like to create a second one, together?”

The aftermath is the hardest.

Many people find it helpful and absolutely needed to seek professional counselling after infidelity in their relationship. In their mind they might be thinking that their partner cheated because they are lacking something. But these feelings of self-doubt are not helpful at all and a therapist will listen without judgment and help you navigate through the situation. They will also help you realize whether this infidelity is a deal breaker for you or if you can get over it and start building the relationship from the ground up.

Cheating and all its forms can be one of the most hurtful things and the reason a couple fails and is driver to breakup. And there are signs to understand when your partner is fully devoted to you.

Preview photo credit Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/East News, Christopher Polk / FilmMagic / Getty Images

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