Everyone has their own (surprising) reason.
There's no sex like beginning-of-a-relationship sex. The anticipation. The exploring. The grabbing-your-new-lover-as-soon-as-they-walk-in-the-door, throwing-them-onto-the-kitchen-table-and-making-love-with-the-fervor-of-a-Greek-god-and-the-enthusiasm-of-Rush-Limbaugh-on-an-anti-Hillary-tirade. (Apologies if your lover's face is replaced by Rush's chubby mug next time you're together.)
Inevitably, what was once fresh and unfamiliar can become boring or lackluster. And that magic can only occasionally be recaptured with your significant other through the joy of make-up sex. But some people don't want to have to argue over whether or not it was their turn to do the dishes in order to rekindle that unfamiliar feeling.
Infidelity statistics are notoriously hard to come by because people tend to lie on surveys, but according to Infidelityfacts.com (the fact that the website exists is a statement in itself) 57% of men and 54% of women have cheated in a relationship at some point in their lives.
Dave Carder, author of Torn Asunder Workbook: Recovering From an Extramarital Affair, said that infidelity generally falls into two distinct categories. "There are predators who are out looking all the time," he said. But it is the second group that is the most typical. "The other kind of adultery happens to people who are not looking, but they just get swept off their feet," he says. "There is a lot of shame, remorse, guilt, problems in the marriage. Those people are a very different group of people than the first group."
Infidelity is nothing new. If Adam and Eve had had more options they'd probably have cheated on each other. These days it's much easier to reach for that forbidden fruit, and everybody does it for their own reasons. Below, reasons people stray:
1. "I cheated for a same-sex hook-up."
Tamara is a 30-year-old psychologist living in Austin. Until her last relationship, which ended when her boyfriend found out she was doing a chick she met at work, she had never cheated on a lover.
"The relationship was going okay," she said. "But I had always wanted to try hooking up with a girl and this one was the only one I had ever really been sexually attracted to."
When Tamara told her boyfriend, he reacted less enthusiastically than she anticipated."He instantly broke up with me," she said. "He didn't even try to suggest a threesome."
In the end, she thinks she is better off. "What kind of man doesn't at least try for a threeway?" she asked.
Carden said there was nothing particularly unique about this situation, outside of the same-sex angle. He did note that it's not always the person in the realtionship who falls into a cookie-cutter category of infidelity. He explained that male or female, there are people out there who just like doing married people.
"There is a type of infidelity called 'poaching' that has some initial research behind it," he said. "That is where people actively decide to look for married people only. They don't look for anyone who might be looking for a committed or long-term relationship. They just want to sleep with other people's spouses."
Often times, it is the fear of getting caught rather than any sort of admirable morality which keeps a relationship monogamous.
2. "I cheated to even the score."
"It was a long time ago, but I guess it was revenge," said Anthony, a 34-year-old financial analyst in Dallas. Early on in his long-distance relationship with his current wife, he found out that she had had sex with a frat boy in the front seat of her car after a sorority mixer. He decided to pursue what had been an innocent flirtation with a woman who worked in the same building as him.
"There is a class of relationships that was researched in the nineties" said Carden, "a power-based relationship where a the couple has to keep everything equal and level. If one spouse has an affair the other spouse will probably go out and do it as well. It's called an "Intimacy Avoidance Marriage."
"The myth is that cheaters always get caught, but that is not always true," said Anthony. "You have to respect a guy who doesn't get caught and has some busty, aging blond that no one knows in the back row of at his funeral."
3. "I cheated to feel wanted."
The most common reason to cheat is probably due to a lack of attention from one's lover.
"There is no doubt that a lot of infidelity happens as a result of boredom in a current committed relationship," Carden said. "But I think the majority of people get swept off their feet when they make contact with somebody else. They find the rush of feelings overwhelming. They haven't felt like that since junior high when the had a crush on somebody. They fell so much more alive and younger. It is something that becomes self-perpetuating and kind of takes on a life of its own."
Andrea, a 24-year-old graduate student in Austin, knows what Carden is talking about.
"I like to feel wanted by lots of people," she said "My main relationship was a disaster, and while I didn't want to give up on it, I needed some validation and attention from outside. The guy I was with was incapable of giving me compliments but liked being in a relationship; the guy I was cheating with didn't want a relationship but constantly told me how great and beautiful I was. I was trying to aggregate the two into the ideal relationship."
In the end, she never came clean, but she did break up with her man—the aggregation wasn't worth the aggravation.
4. "Cheating is a way of life for me."
Experimentation, revenge and a cry for attention are extenuating circumstances that lead to cheating. But for some people, cheating is a way of life.
Daniel is a 29-year-old, newly married attorney in Dallas who says he has cheated on every girlfriend he has ever had. His wife doesn't know it, but he had another girlfriend when he met her and for the first few months that they were dating.
"I don't know why I do it, I just always have," he said. "One girl even caught me in bed with another girl, and though she had a fit, I swear, she liked me more after that. Obviously it is nice to be desired," he continued. "And there is a level of control when you know you are cheating, but the person you are cheating with has no idea."
"Some people need this," says Carter. "They need the rush. They are junkies for this kind of thing."
Daniel isn't the only attorney participating in extra-curricular debriefings. Thirty-eight-year-old Laura moved to Washington DC to practice law when she got married ten years ago. Although she admits she has slept with nine other men since exchanging vows with her hubby, she says she has a good marriage. In fact, she credits cheating with keeping her and her husband together.
"I am happily married, but I live a double life," she confessed. "I travel, and the internet has allowed me this, to 'cheat,' or, as I like to see it, feel fulfilled. My husband is what every woman wants—successful, smart, honest, incredibly good looking. Two errors: I'm 38 and I need sex more then he does, and he stopped listening to me because he is so busy. The internet allowed me to be anonymous, so to speak—get myself off, go home and play house, attorney, neighbor and friend. The only problem is I became addicted to it. I thought it would be easy to stop, but it's not. Once you cheat, f*ck a guy and walk away, you want to keep doing it. It's my drug."
"It's good that she's being honest about that," Carden said. "Every mood altering experience, whether it be alcohol, gambling, sex, whatever it is, always has diminishing returns. Over time she's going to have to do more or take greater risks. She will get more agressive and she'll no longer be satisfied with simple encounters."
5. "I cheated to find a new, better relationship."
And finally, we have the best excuse for infidelity (if there can be a "best" in this category): Finding someone better.
"My reason for cheating was spark and connection," said Beth, a 22-year-old recent University of Texas graduate. "My steady and I had been in it for a while. We had these ideas of a destination wedding, of never-ending love, of passionate lovemaking at eighty, baby names picked out, the works. But we had moved out of the puppy love phase and we became bored, monotonous and neglectful of each other. When new boy caught my eye and he made me feel that first spark, like he was someone I could really love, it took me back to that cloud nine," she added.
Carden said that when cheaters leave their partners for their other lover they often don't realize the mess they've created, especially if they have kids. "When you talk with those people five years later, and I do see them five or more years later, they realize you can't leave a family with children in the United States of America," he said. "The law will track you down. If you want out of your marriage, work through the marriage before you have an affair. Affairs don't solve anything, they only complicate life."
Carden stressed the difference between infidelity within a marriage versus infidelity between non-married partners. "I think boyfriend/girlfreind relationships, even if they have been living together for 10 years, don't have the level of committemnt that a married couple with children has. They just don't."
Carden also made sure to point out that cheating doesn't have to end a relationship. "If a couple has a good history and they went through lengthy periods where their relationship was rewarding, they have better than a 90% chance of reporting a high level of satisfaction in their relationship two years after disclosure."
Even so, you need to put some thought into it before telling your lover you've been humping the UPS guy. "First you need to work through a simple exercise," he said. "You need to list the benefits and the problems if you tell and the benefits and the problems if you don't. And that will help convince you whether or not you need to tell your spouse or partner."
After talking to these cheaters it's become apparent to this writer that the Mark Sanfords of the world won't stop making headlines anytime soon. Maybe there's a seed of infidelity waiting to sprout in all of our minds. What seems to seperate those who act on their desires and those who remain loyal is self-esteem and the value they place on their relationship. One thing is certain: There are many cheaters in the game of life and although cheaters never win, they certainly do get laid a lot.