Understanding Infidelity: Why We Cheat

Can you handle the truth?

hand cheater

"Why" is usually the hardest and most painful question to address after someone cheats. It's easier to answer "where," "when" and "how," but those questions rarely offer the answers that fill your deepest needs. "Why?" is the one resounding question that will echo through your mind  long after an affair.

And the answers can vary. Even scientists and therapists don't have a clear reason to exlpain why people cheat. In fact, when researchers question men and women about cheating, men brag about their supposed infidelities while women minimize, lie and cover up their affairs. Helen Fisher, a social anthropologist, says it's for good reason: Women have traditionally suffered from the revelation of infidelity more than men. Women can lose their children, their financial support and even risk domestic violence as a result.


Still, lots of people do it. Almost half of those in committed relationships cheat. Those who don't probably think about it. A staggering 98 percent of people have fantasies of people other than their mates. With the prevalence of social networks like Facebook, it is easier than ever to act out those fantasies, either online or in real time. But why do people cheat?

Contrary to popular belief, affairs do not always happen when people are unhappy in their relationships. Actually, some say 80 percent of affairs happen because of opportunity. If this is true, it doesn't matter how often you have sex with your spouse or whether or not you take out the garbage, your marriage is at risk for infidelity. Cutting out friends of the opposite sex doesn't work, nor does restricting time on the internet. What works is honesty.


Tell your partner how you feel. If he does cheat, ask him "why?" Ask him to be honest with you. Let him know you are ready to sit down and have an honest, heart-to-heart talk about what was going on in your relationship prior to the affair.

Are you ready to hear the whole story from his perspective?  If not, get real friendly with the "why?" because sometimes it's easier to wonder than it is to know the truth.

Tammy Nelson, PhD is a sex and relationship expert and the author of The New Monogamy; Erotic Recovery After Infidelity and Getting the Sex You Want; Shed Your Inhibitions and Reach New Heights of Passion Together.

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