The Real Reason People Cheat (And Why Temptation Is SO Powerful)

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The Reason People Cheat

What do you think?

Why do we cheat?

This question is the heart of Esther Perel's TEDTalk on infidelity. Among many other great points Perel makes by exploring the ins and outs of cheating, what really stands out is why we want what we can't have ... and why we go to great lengths to get it.

Perel says that cheating is "universally forbidden, but universally practiced." Why then is it so rampant?

The power of the forbidden is simply irresistible. We know it's wrong, and we know it will hurt our spouse or significant other, but we do it anyway. We want it, and even if/when we obtain it, what we give up in exchange leads to great loss.

Even the Bible covers forbidden want with Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve want the fruit, they eat the fruit, and find satisfaction in doing so, but are then exiled from Eden. The same goes for cheating: the end never justifies the means, but it doesn't stop people from seeking what they truly desire.

Whether it stems from our own thoughts of jealousy ("I want her perfect skin") or anger ("I'd sure wish I could punch that guy in the face"), we experience forbidden desire every day. Just because we want something doesn't mean we should have it, right? I mean, what would happen if you outwardly expressed your jealousy or anger like the examples above? In the end, it would get you nowhere (though you'd probably feel much better).

So then, why do people continue to cheat?

During her talk, Perel says, "People are deeply monogamous in their beliefs, but find themselves in a conflict between their values and their behavior. [They] cross a line they didn't think they'd ever cross ... and for what?"

It's almost as if cheaters are stepping outside themselves, acting like people they never thought they would be or become. "I would never cheat" is now replaced with "But what if I could?"

What is so important that we'd risk our relationship — or our marriage with the one we pledged eternal commitment to — for the sake of getting what we want? Why do we listen to this voice in our head telling us to stray? What is the core driving force that brings us to cheat?

According to Perel, it's not the risk of losing our partner's trust. In fact, it's a much deeper issue within our own person that causes problems from the get-go.

Watch the complete TEDTalk below for a more in-depth look at infidelity:



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