Why Do People Cheat On People They Love?

Last Updated on November 1, 2021 by Alexander Burgemeester

Why do people cheat on people they love? Most people who cheat in relationships claim to love the partner they have wronged very much truly. Usually, their sincerity is doubtful. After all, if you really love someone, it means you have to maintain a certain level of trust, commitment, and honor, right? 

So, what does cheating say about the person?

When you cheat, it means you aren’t to be trusted, you cannot commit, you have no respect for your partner, and you just do not care about them. So, how can a cheater still love the partner they cheated on? 

According to Institute For Family Studies, 13% of married women and 20% of married men admit they were engaged in sexual activities with someone outside their marriage. The percentage, in fact, gets higher as people get older. 

Yes, couples in longer marriages can also be inclined to cheat. Men could cheat in their 70s, and women could do so in their 60s. Therefore, infidelity does not wait for age or how long you have been with your partner. 

It leaves us with two burning questions:

1. Why do people cheat on who they love?

Why do people cheat? They can cheat out of anger, for needing something unconventional, to improve their self-esteem, or out of sexual desire. 

2. Do you really love them if you cheat on them?

There is no concrete answer for that, as the circumstances could be complex, or they may be dealing with their personal problems.

So, let us look for some reasons for these questions.

Why Do People Cheat According to Science?

Before we jump into the reasons, let us revisit the question of whether love even existed in a relationship before adultery. 

If they love you, it might be more complex than simply one single reason. Emotions are challenging, and feelings are even more troublesome to figure out.

Dr Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist, says the most prevalent cause people have for cheating on someone they love is not as uncomplicated as them having never been in love with their current partner in the first place.

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Human beings are biologically motivated to create sexual and romantic connections with others, which is the number one motive for cheating in relationships. “Romantic love is not an emotion, it’s a drive,” Fisher pronounced in her TED Talk on the topic. “And, in fact,” she continued, “I think it’s more powerful than the sex drive.”

Fisher led an experiment with a team of scientists who studied the brains of people in love. Fisher and her team presented their subjects with an indeterminate photograph first, accompanied by a photograph of someone they love to read which area of the brain became activated.

The outcomes revealed that the area of the brain responsible for overseeing the reward system became activated when people looked at a photograph of their lover. This is the very area that becomes activated when you pet a puppy, when a mother gazes at their child or when you do cocaine.

What confuses things is that romantic love is not the only thing that motivates women and men when they fall for someone. There are three kinds of drives humans have that causes us to experience feelings of love:

Why Do People Cheat?
  • Sex drive

Sex drive is the desire that commands how frequently a person wants sex.

  • Romantic love drive

The drive toward romantic love is what makes a person direct their energy to just one person.

  • Attachment drive

The drive toward attachment is the need a person feels for safety with a long-term partner to raise children with them.

“In short, we’re capable of loving more than one person at a time,” reveals Fisher. She explains that it is why people cheat. “Because it’s scientifically possible to feel a deep attachment to a long-term partner at the same time, you feel intense romantic love toward someone else and, at the same time, feel sexual attraction toward another person.”

Fisher advanced the notion, addressing, “We are physiologically capable of ‘loving’ more than one person at a time.”

There is an unbelievable amount of proof that implies humans are capable of loving more than one person at a time, which could effortlessly lead to a sexual relationship with more than one person.

The increasing popularity of polyamorous dating apps also shows that a monogamous relationship isn’t for everyone.

Certainly, this does not make cheating alright, but science states that you can still be in love with the person you cheated on. All of this still does not make the pain any less.

However, at least now you know the scientific reasons why cheaters can be absolutely genuine about the emotion they have for their partner, even while they are engaging in infidelity. 

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10 Reasons Why People Cheat on People They Love!

There are many reasons why people cheat, and here are some of them.

#1 Diminished Intimacy

If your needs are not being met, you might go looking for that satisfaction somewhere else. However, this is not how you deal with a lack of intimacy in relationships.

Instead of looking for intimacy elsewhere, you have to talk to your partner, discuss your needs and what they do to bring that contentment back. 

#2 Neglect

Negligence in a relationship indicates the feelings of being disregarded or trivial when you do not feel like your partner’s precedence anymore. Some people look for attention from another person if they are not getting it from their partner.

Both partners require to give each other attention; otherwise, it can be seriously damaging for your relationship. Men need to know their efforts do not go unrecognized, while women need to feel appreciated and understood.

If you are not getting the attention you yearn for, communicate it to your partner.

#3 Looking for a Burst of Dopamine

A study in 2010 examined the dopamine D4 receptor gene in 181 volunteers. Dopamine D4 is the neurotransmitter that administers pleasure in the human brain.

The results showed that 50% of participants with the longer gene variant had cheated on their partners. The researchers also found that people with the longer variant “were more likely to be risk-takers, and displayed addictive traits.”

The results of this study suggest that people cheat on the one they love for an adrenaline rush that delivers dopamine. 

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#4 Revenge

No matter what you call it, revenge or retaliation, this is a terrible way to display pain and anger. Resentment is the mindset of attacking the fire with fire, i.e., I’ll hurt you when you hurt me. However, cheating should never be employed as a defence.

People sometimes cheat out of a desire to get revenge. Maybe you just found out that your partner cheated. You are shocked and wounded. You may want to make your partner go through the same sentiments, so they genuinely experience the hurt they caused you.

Anger-motivated infidelity can occur for purposes other than revenge, though, including:

  • Frustration in a relationship when your partner does not seem to comprehend you or your needs
  • Anger at a partner who is not around much
  • Anger when a partner does not have much to give, emotionally or physically
  • Frustration or anger after an argument

Disregarding the underlying cause, anger can act as a strong motivator to become intimate with someone else. 

reasons people cheat on people they love

#5 The Opportunity Presents Itself

Some people cheat just because they could do so. If it is something that might never occur again, why not take the risk? Just having an opportunity to cheat can make infidelity more possible.

However, this does not suggest everyone who has the chance to cheat will do so. Other factors usually (but not always) add to the incitement to cheat.

Contemplate this situation: You are disappointed with the current distance in your relationship and dispensing with perceptions of low self-esteem around your face or body.

One day, a coworker you have become close to catches you on your own and says, “I’m really intrigued by you. Let’s get together sometime.”

You may not want to cheat if just one or two determinants were involved. But this succession of driving factors—the gap in your relationship, your sentiments about your appearance, the consideration of your coworker—can make unfaithfulness more possible.

Other potential scenarios can also lead to adultery, even in a fulfilling, strong relationship. You could drink a lot and then end up sleeping with someone after a night out.

You might be seeking physical comfort after a distressing incident. You could be working or living in an environment with a lot of emotional connection and physical touch. 

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#6 A Thirst for Change

Some people cheat when they want something distinct in their relationship or sense things have become a bit too complacent.

They might crave diversity in their sex lives or perhaps some sort of adventure to counteract their everyday life.

#7 Commitment Issues

Commitment problems not only are a condition of cheating but a significant cause why some relationships cease to exist. Commitment frightens some people away, and they ruin the relationship in the process to dodge the difficult way of breaking up. 

People who struggle with commitment might be more inclined to cheat in some situations. Additionally, commitment does not imply the same thing to everyone.

It is reasonable for two people in a relationship to have very diverse views on the status of their relationship, such as whether it is exclusive, casual and so on. 

Moreover, it is also likely that you might like someone and still be afraid to commit. In such cases, one partner may end up cheating as a way to bypass commitment, even if they really would want to stay in the relationship. Some other reasons might include:

  • Lack of interest in a long-term commitment
  • Seeking a more casual relationship
  • Looking for a way out of the relationship

#8 Falling Out of Love

The exciting feeling of falling in love with someone usually does not persist forever. When you first fall in love with someone, you may feel love, enthusiasm, and charges of dopamine from just receiving a text from them.

But the depth of these feelings usually weakens over time. Surely, permanent, enduring love exists, but those first-date butterflies will just take you so far.

Once the sparkle fades, you may apprehend that the love just is not there. Or perhaps you understand you are in love with someone else.

Sometimes, the person you love doesn’t love you anymore—it simply happens. When they fall out of love, instead of striving to fall back in love with you, they seek it somewhere else. Once the love has disappeared, it can be challenging to get that loving feeling back.

Keep in mind that falling out of love does not have to mean you do not love each other; it can make it more difficult to move on from a relationship that still affords a feeling of friendship, family, stability, and security.

But lingering in a relationship without romantic love may drive the desire to feel love again and trigger infidelity.

falling out of love

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#9 Resentment or Anger

Anger or resentment can involve being mad about your partner’s behavior, a bad situation at work, or an indefinite attitude about life.

Sometimes, resentment drives people to let off steam and suppress that feeling by cheating, which can additionally go hand in hand with retaliation.

#10 Low Self-esteem Issues

When people do not feel great about themselves, they seek validation from other people to become more self-reliant and feel better.

When your partner does not confirm your feelings or makes you think lowly about who you are, obtaining that reassurance can lead them to cheat.

Therefore, wanting to increase self-esteem can also trigger infidelity. When you have sex with someone new, it can lead to positive feelings. You may feel confident, attractive, successful or empowered. These feelings can boost your self-esteem. 

Several people who cheat because of self-esteem issues have supportive, loving partners who offer encouragement and compassion. But they may think, “They have to say that” or “They just don’t want me to feel awful.”

On the other hand, getting approval and admiration from someone new can seem exciting and unique. It might seem more straightforward to someone with low self-esteem, who may consider the new person has no obligation to the relationship to exaggerate or mislead. 

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Can The Damage Be Repaired?

The answer to this question is not straightforward. If you have been cheated on, you have to know that this was not your fault. No matter what reason your partner gives you to justify why they cheated, that is their responsibility, not yours.

The liability lands on them because they chose to cheat with another person and put their sexual desires before you and the relationship.

Obviously, a relationship is about two people—but even if your own problems might have been your partner’s choice for straying—they eventually chose to cheat.

If you have cheated and you do reveal the truth, you need to have a sincere and hefty apology waiting for them. You need to show them your regret and willingness to receive professional help through your actions. But it does not stop here.

If you cheated, you need to do a little soul-searching and find out why you cheated in the first place. What caused this? Was it motivated by a relationship problem or a personal issue? When you determine that, you need to fix that. 

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Alexander Burgemeester

Alexander Burgemeester has a Master in Neuropsychology. He studied at the University of Amsterdam and has a bachelor's in Clinical Psychology. Want to know more?

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