Why Do People Cheat On People They Love?

Do you really love someone if you cheat on them?

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Many cheaters claim to truly love the very partner they have wronged, and usually, we doubt their sincerity. After all, loving someone means maintaining a certain level of trust, honor, and commitment, right?

What does cheating say about a person? When you cheat, it says you can't commit, aren't to be trusted, don't care about your partner, and have no respect for them. So how could they still love you if they cheat?


According to statistics, in long-term relationships, "20 percent of married men and 13 percent of married women admit they’ve engaged in sexual activity with someone outside their marriage." And the percentages rise as we get older.

Women are most likely to cheat in their 60s, while men are most likely to do so in their 70s. Yikes.

Why do people cheat on people they love?

There are certain circumstances where people cheat on their partners because they don't love the person they are with anymore; however, there are many times where a person cheats on someone they truly love. 

Why do people cheat? They can cheat out of anger, for wanting something different, to boost their self-esteem, or out of sexual desire. 


Do you really love someone if you cheat on them?

There's no real answer for that, as the situation could be complicated, or they may be dealing with their own personal issues.

If they love you, it may be more complicated than just one single reason. Emotions are difficult, and feelings are even harder to figure out.

RELATED: 'Why I Cheated' — 5 Brave People Reveal The Real Reason They Strayed


Biological anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher says the most common reason people have for cheating on someone they love isn't as simple as them never having been in love with their current partner in the first place.

Human beings are biologically driven to form romantic and sexual connections with others. This is the number one reason why people cheat in relationships.

"Romantic love is not an emotion, it's a drive," Fisher stated in her TED Talk on the subject. "And, in fact," she continued, "I think it's more powerful than the sex drive."

Fisher conducted an experiment with a team of scientists who scanned the brains of people who were in love. Fisher and her team showed subjects a neutral photo first, followed by a photo of someone they love in order to record which region of the brain became active.

The results showed that part of the brain responsible for governing the reward system became active when people looked at a photo of their lover. This is the same region that becomes active when you do cocaine, when a mother looks at her child, and even when you pet a puppy.


What complicates things is that romantic love isn't the only thing that drives men and women when they fall for someone.

There are actually three types of drives humans have that lead to us to experience feelings of love:

1. Sex drive: This is the desire which dictates how often a person wants sex.

2. The drive toward romantic love: This is what makes us direct our energy to only one person.

3. The drive toward attachment: This is the need we feel for security with a long-term partner that allows us to raise children with them.

"In short, we're capable of loving more than one person at a time," explains Fisher. And that's 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 furthered the concept, writing, "We are physiologically capable of 'loving' more than one person at a time."

There's an incredible amount of evidence that suggests humans are capable of loving more than one person at a time, which could easily lead to a sexual relationship with multiple people. Thus, the birth of polyamorous relationships.

Obviously, this doesn't make cheating right, but science says you can still be in love with the person you cheated on. It still doesn't make it hurt any less.

But at least now you understand the scientific reasons why cheaters can be truly genuine about the love they have for their partner, even while they're cheating with someone else.


RELATED: 14 Signs It's Safe To Forgive Your Partner For Cheating

There are multiple reasons why people cheat on people they love.

1. A lack of intimacy.

Your needs are being unmet, so you go looking for that satisfaction somewhere else. This isn't how you deal with a lack of intimacy in your relationship. Instead of seeking out intimacy elsewhere, talk to your partner to discuss your needs, and what they can do to bring that satisfaction back.

2. Neglect in a relationship.

Neglect in a relationship means feeling ignored or unimportant, when you don't feel like a priority anymore. Some people seek out attention from another person if they aren't getting it from their partner.

Both partners need to give each other attention; otherwise, it can be extremely damaging for your relationship. Men need to know their efforts don't go unnoticed, while women need to feel understood and appreciated. If you aren't getting the attention you want, communicate it to your partner.


3. Seeking a dopamine burst.

A 2010 study examined 181 volunteers’ dopamine D4 receptor gene, which is the neurotransmitter that controls pleasure in the brain. The findings stated that 50 percent of participants with the longer variant of the gene had cheated on their partner. Researchers also found that people with the longer variant "were more likely to be risk-takers, and displayed addictive traits."

This suggests that people cheat on the one they love for an adrenaline rush that releases dopamine (the happy drug).

4. Revenge.

This is a horrible way to express hurt and anger. It's the mindset of fighting fire with fire (i.e., you hurt me, so I'll hurt you), but cheating should never be used as a weapon.

5. The opportunity presents itself.

Some individuals cheat just because they had the opportunity to do so. If it's something that may never happen again, why not take the chance? Scenarios can include meeting someone at an event and hitting it off, drinking too much, or having an attraction to a coworker.


6. A desire for change.

Some people cheat when they want something different in their relationship or feel like things have become a bit too comfortable. They may desire variety in their sex lives or maybe some kind of adventure to offset their routine life.

7. Commitment issues.

Commitment issues not only are a cause of cheating, but a big reason why some relationships end. Commitment scares some people away, and they destroy the relationship in the process to avoid the hard process of breaking up. 

8. Falling out of love.

Sometimes, the person you love doesn't love you anymore. It just happens. And instead of trying to fall back in love with you, they look for it somewhere else. Once the love has faded, it can be difficult to get that loving feeling back.

9. Anger or resentment.

This can include being angry about your partner's behavior, a situation at work, or a general feeling about life. Sometimes, anger drives people to let off steam and quell that feeling by cheating. This can also go hand in hand with revenge.


10. Low self-esteem issues.

When people don't feel good about themselves, they seek validation from sources to make them more confident and superior. When your partner doesn't validate your feelings or makes you feel low about who you are, finding that reassurance can lead to cheating.

Here's what to do if you or your partner cheated.

1. Decide if you want to reveal the truth.

If you've cheated, there may be others who say you shouldn't tell your partner, especially if you aren't interested in continuing to cheat; you would just be transferring your guilt to their hurt.

Other advice says to tell your partner, showing you want an honest relationship where you can express your mistakes and work through them.

However, if you do reveal the truth, you better have a hefty and sincere apology waiting for them and show through actions your regret and willingness to get help.


2. Practice forgiveness.

If you cheated, do a little soul-searching and figure out why you did it in the first place. What drove you to cheat? Was it driven by a personal issue or a relationship issue? 

Once you determine the cause, take steps to fix it. Then, you need to forgive yourself.

Don't fester in self-loathing because you hurt your partner. You can't move forward and make it up to them if you're throwing yourself a pity party. How can your partner forgive you if you can't?

3. Let them explain themselves.

If you've been cheated on, try to stay calm and don't make any rash decisions. Hear what your partner has to say about their actions, let them answer your questions, and refrain from physical confrontation.


If you feel like you can forgive them and move on, that's wonderful. But remember that not forgiving, even if it's after some time, can be daunting to your mental health.

4. If your partner cheated, don't blame yourself.

If you have been cheated on, understand that this wasn't your fault. No matter what reason or reasons your partner gives you to explain why they cheated, that is their burden, not yours.

The blame lands on them because they made the decision to cheat with another person, and put their sexual desires above you and the relationship. Of course, a relationship takes two to tango, but even if your own issues may have been your partner's reason for straying, they ultimately made the decision to cheat.

RELATED: 10 Tell-Tale Signs He's Cheating On You


Nicole Weaver is a Senior Writer at Showbiz Cheat Sheet and reports for New York Magazine and Teen Vogue. Follow her on Twitter for more.

Editor's Note: This article was originally posted on July 23, 2018 and was updated with the latest information.