Heartbreak

5 Hard-To-Accept Reasons Even Happily Married People Cheat

Photo:  NoName_13, Ikostudio, freestocks.org | Canva 
Woman cheating on husband

We all tell ourselves that maintaining a "happy marriage" is the secret to protecting yourself from infidelity. After all, affairs only take place in problematic relationships, right? That's usually the case, but in my counseling practice (specializing in infidelity) some of my clients in pleased relationships cheat on their partner anyway. They say things like: "I wasn't looking for it. It was just there, simple and easy." Or, "I couldn't resist and couldn't control my urge." Or, "I just wasn't thinking and made a mistake."

One of my male clients even told me: "I love my wife. She is my best friend, an amazing partner, attractive, and a great lover. I cannot ask for more." And yet, after 30 years of happy and faithful marriage, he caved to feelings of lust for another woman and cheated on his wife. The obvious question is: Why? Why did he stray if he 'couldn't ask for anything more?

He told me: "Suddenly, I found myself crossing the line that I never thought I would, being intimate with a stranger ... cheating on my partner, the one I love and care for so much."  He was sobbing. "I was monogamous for over 30 years and now my wife is broken and devastated. She wanted to leave the marriage even though we were the happiest couple. All because I made a mistake. It was a big mistake, but what about 30 years of being faithful? How come that doesn't count? Why can’t she forgive me and move on so we can continue enjoying our life together?" So, what's going on here? 

RELATED: I Was The Other Woman In Several Relationships & Here's What You Should Know

Here are 5 hard-to-accept reasons even happily married people cheat:

1. Temptation is everywhere

More than ever, with our technological advances, extramarital intimacy is cheaper and easier. You can find someone to be intimate with anywhere, anytime. Temptation tugs at us online and in the real world (from attractive co-workers and flirtatious neighbors to online sites exclusively dedicated to cheating). In a culture obsessed with immediate gratification, temptation becomes harder to resist.

2. Cheaters often suffer from a lack of self-esteem

Often, the underlying issue of affairs in healthy relationships is low self-esteem and lack of maturity. For some of these people, because they lack self-esteem, no matter how much love they receive from their partner, it is never enough. They take for granted what a wonderful relationship they have — even if their partner tells them every day how appreciated they are, how attractive they are, etc. After a while, that praise becomes predictable and therefore less potent to the ego. The insecure person starts to wonder: Well, YOU like me but does anyone ELSE find me attractive? Their infidelity is driven by a strong emotional need to conquer 'new bodies' so they feel loved and reassured of their self-value. Cheating provides an instant boost to their self-esteem. Unfortunately, this boost is short-lived, leading to even more feelings of emptiness.

   

   

RELATED: 14 Scorned Women Describe The Exact Way They Caught Their Partners Cheating

3. Sometimes people crave a feeling that a happy marriage just can't provide

Of course, not all cheaters suffer from a lack of self-esteem. So, what's going on for confident, secure people who stray from their happy relationships? In this case, the affair is not designed to withdraw or disconnect from their partner (they still love their spouse and want to remain in the marriage), but rather it is their way of expressing loss and longing — for freedom, excitement, passion, novelty, etc ... things that even happy relationships cannot provide. Their affair represents a wish and desire to experience and reconnect to lost parts of themselves, aspects they wish they could re-integrate into their life again (even for just a little while). 

4. All humans have conflicting wants and needs

The fact is, we're walking contradictions. Human beings have competing needs that pull us in different directions. Our brain evolved to include three layers: a lizard brain, a mammalian brain, and the neocortex. While, yes, our brains do crave passion, intimacy, and safety, our brains can feel those three things for different people. The unique interplay of our sub-brains drives our contradictory needs as they work at odds with each other (having different functions and goals). 

It is not surprising that we find ourselves conflicted between our hearts and our minds, between who we are and what we want, between our values and our behaviors, between our short-term needs and long-term goals, between stability and novelty, and between marital commitment and personal freedom. So, it's not entirely unnatural (for example) to truly love your husband, to desire the hot guy at the office, and to feel deep safety and comfort with yet another man. 

RELATED: The Most Surprising Reason People Cheat, According To Research

5. Monogamy isn't for everyone

Last but not least, I would like to suggest that we question some of our assumptions about marriage and monogamy. Modern research certainly challenges us to rethink our outdated understanding of the topics. Researchers are now asking questions such as: 

   

   

  • What if monogamy and marriage are not compatible with human design?
  • What if a monogamous happy marriage cannot provide or fulfill all we want and need?
  • What if, romantically, we can love more than one partner at the same time?
  • What if passion or lust are short-lived?
  • What if we can become more forgiving toward the affair and treat it as a mistake or natural human condition rather than an indication that the relationship itself is fundamentally problematic?

Questioning our assumptions about monogamy helps us better clarify why affairs take place in happy relationships. It also helps us understand the motives that might lead our spouse to cheat. And should 'the worst' happen, this new understanding will also, hopefully, help each partner heal and grow to become a better person (and a better partner).

RELATED: 5 Types Of People Most Likely To Cheat, According To Science

Moshe Ratson, Founder and Executive Director of spiral2grow Marriage Family Therapy, is an innovative and well-known licensed psychotherapist, MFT supervisor, business consultant, and executive coach.