Why do people cheat?
What is cheating? Most people would say that cheating is sexual activity with someone other than your spouse or partner. However, ‘sexual activity’ includes more than just physical intercourse. Flirting, sending sexual emails and texts, becoming involved with someone in an intimate and sexually-charged relationship, even if non-physical – all these can count as cheating. Whatever form it takes, cheating on a partner involves lying, duplicity and deceit. It is a risky business, too. The consequences of being found out are invariably dramatic and painful, particularly if there are children involved. And these children are often the product of the ‘illicit’ relationship. In the U.S., it is estimated that 2 to 3% of all births are the result of cheating. So, given that we all know the damage and hurt that cheating can cause, why do statistics show an ever-increasing number of cheating incidences, particularly among people under 30? Social Attitudes The fact that young people are more likely to cheat indicates that our social attitudes to cheating are changing, and that cheating is not viewed with the same outrage by society as in, for example, Victorian times. In those days, a woman who was known to have had sex with a man other than her husband was effectively cast out by society and her family. The rules for men were, as ever, more lax. It was considered normal for a married man to have sex with a prostitute if he felt the need, but to have a sexual relationship with a ‘lady’ was shocking and unacceptable. Nowadays it is considered normal and even advisable to have multiple sexual partners before marriage, and sexual promiscuity carries almost no negative connotations. So how can we expect younger people to give up that life of sexual adventure forever, after marriage? Unhappiness Many people cheat because their current relationship is making them miserable and they are desperately seeking some happiness, even occasionally, with another person. This unhappiness can take many forms: Boredom and loneliness, feeling neglected by a partner. An affair provides the romance and excitement missing from the relationship. Revenge. Being badly hurt by a partner, perhaps by infidelity. A desire to pay him or her back. Feeling trapped. Using cheating as an escape, a fantasy that allows one to cope with a claustrophobic relationship. No longer being in love with a partner. Cheating seems more convenient than going through the pain of a break-up. Opportunity and Temptation Even for someone in a loving, happy relationship, it can be difficult to resist temptation when it is presented to you often and regularly. Of course it takes two to tango, but when that hot, tanned, and shapely girl at the gym keeps bumping into you, making obvious suggestions and cracking sexual jokes, it’s hard to say no. And when you’ve cheated once, it just gets easier and easier. Sex-drive and Instinct The emergence of a sexual connection is always exciting. That’s what makes us human. The anticipatory thrill that we feel when we start to connect with another person sexually is like no other. In the animal kingdom, sexual attraction is immediately acted on and satisfied without complication. But for us humans, there are always the consequences to consider. Sexual excitement can make us completely blind to those consequences. It can literally shut down our reasoning and logic, so that afterwards, when it’s all gone bad, we berate ourselves: ‘How could I have been so stupid?’ ‘What was I thinking?’ ‘I didn’t know what I was doing!’ Unfortunately, by then, it’s too late. The damage is done.