6 Painfully Honest Reasons Men And Women Have Affairs

Prevent suffering, therapy, repair work, and divorce by becoming affair-aware.

sad couple discussing how to handle their infidelity    
Drazen Zigic, Devonyu | Canva

Do you believe your commitment to marriage is enough to keep your spouse from having an affair and protect your relationship from infidelity? As common and devastating as affairs are, most people don’t understand why people cheat. But understanding the main reasons why men and women cheat and being affair-aware is the key to preventing adultery and unfaithfulness in your marriage.

If you don’t understand the "whys" of betrayal, your relationship is vulnerable to infidelity because you won't be able to recognize your partner is on the verge of cheating.


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Here are 6 painfully honest reasons men and women have affairs:

1. They lose their emotional connection with their spouse.

In most cases, affairs are symptoms of a loss of emotional connection. What is an emotional connection, and why is it crucial for keeping a relationship secure and healthy? Why will being emotionally connected in a relationship keep you safe from betrayal?

An emotional connection is when you and your partner care about what each other feels. There's nothing more healing than our partner's emotional understanding when we are in emotional pain. There's nothing more hurtful and potentially damaging than being emotionally ignored by the person we love the most. Have you been there, felt that distance, and longed for an emotional connection?


When your partner does not respond to your emotional pain with emotional understanding, you get hurt and rejected. This is true for everyone! When your emotions are not validated, you eventually shut down or get angry. Both shutting down and getting angry will cause damaging arguments and dangerous distance in the relationship. This is one significant way couples prepare the stage for an affair.

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2. A friendship turned into something more.

Few people intend to have an affair. Most affairs begin with an innocent friendship. Sure, some affairs are calculated and driven by desire. And even then, this drive is often a result of unmet needs. But this is not true most of the time. What might happen if you aren't emotionally connected with your partner and a friend or coworker outside your marriage responds to your emotional hurt with emotional understanding?


You may as well brace yourself for a release of the new love chemical called dopamine. It feels so good you will want more.

This is true for all new love relationships. They are consuming and create a euphoric feeling that most have difficulty escaping. The dopamine will open up your feelings. You'll feel alive and on top of the world. The power of this drug can't be overestimated, especially in the middle of an emotionally distant marriage.

Becoming affair-aware is about knowing that emotional distance in a relationship will make you more susceptible to reaching out to a friend for emotional comfort. This opens the door for new love attraction that is overwhelmingly powerful and deceptive. You can easily believe that the new love emotions that you are feeling are true love.

All new lovers suddenly become poets. Under the influence of dopamine, you become uninhibited and can express your most deeply felt needs and desires. You can write beautiful poems and text seductively. When you're under the influence of dopamine, the experience feels so great you want more and more of it. With dopamine on board, you'll do almost anything to protect the feeling that you're pretty sure is true love. If you believe this deception, you distance yourself from your spouse.


3. They fall for new love instead of recognizing lasting love.

Becoming affair aware is about understanding that new love is not true love. True love is enduring love. It is the love that creates families and support through good and bad times. True love is deep and abiding, knowing that your partner loves you as you are and will be with you through thick and thin.

True, enduring, mature love is driven by a chemical the brain releases called oxytocin. It is the bonding hormone that mothers have when they breastfeed. It causes you to want to protect and nurture the person you're bonded with. Oxytocin is released through emotional connection. The emotional connection between child and mother bonds them the same way it bonds adults. Humans are all big babies. You bond as adults the way babies bond to their mothers through emotional mirroring.



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4. They don't understand attachment styles.

Mary Ainsworth was a pioneer researcher in the field of attachment theory. She found that when mothers remain emotionally distant from their infants, children have insecure attachments with their parents. When children are emotionally insecure, they are clingy and challenging to comfort or they become distant and difficult to connect with. She called these insecure ways of relating attachment styles — either anxious or avoidant. Thousands of research studies have shown these same attachment styles exist in adult romantic relationships.

Part of becoming affair-aware is understanding your and your partner's attachment styles. About a third of people have insecure attachment styles makes it difficult to stay emotionally connected unless you understand them.

If you grew up with an insecure emotional connection with your parents, you are more vulnerable to being insecure and emotionally disconnected in your adult love relationship. Emotional disconnection will make you or your partner more vulnerable to a betrayal. You don't have to be a research scientist to understand attachment styles, and your attachment style doesn't limit your choices of a lifetime partner. Understanding attachment style is a vital part of knowing what you and your partner need in a relationship.

5. They weigh the challenges of kids, work, and other aspects of their lives.

Another thing that makes relationships vulnerable to affairs is the parallel lives you create when setting up dual careers. Modern-day is a dangerous time for relationships. The culturally expected dual-career marriage puts extraordinary stress on a couple's capacity to nurture their emotional connection. This becomes even more challenging when children are thrown into the mix. It can become unbelievably difficult to find 30 minutes a day to connect. That's an affair waiting to happen!


It takes time to wind down after a hard day. It takes time to give kids dinner, baths, and stories and put them to bed. And it takes time to emotionally connect with your partner and give intimacy a chance to be expressed. Emotional connection is the muscle that holds your relationship together. It has to be exercised to maintain its strength.

emotional attachment through physical bonding

Photo via Getty

6. They don't know the signs, so they can't get help.

The last part of being affair-aware is knowing what to do if you can't emotionally connect. It's about being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of disconnect. It's about recognizing and taking action if your relationship is already in trouble. There's nothing wrong with asking for help when you feel your relationship is on the verge of disconnect.


If an affair has already happened to you, then you understand the deep pain and destruction cheating can cause in relationships. The mere mention of the topic may give you flashbacks due to unhealed emotional memories since about 70 percent of people who have been betrayed have symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If that’s you, please don’t live with the betrayal trauma. There is no shame in asking for help.

If you hope to prevent infidelity and protect your marriage, then congratulations! If you've made it this far, you're already more affair-aware than you were a few minutes ago. When you keep your eyes open for these six reasons, you can relax and enjoy a safe, loving, and fun lifetime relationship.



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Dr. Michael Regier is a clinical psychologist, marriage counselor, and executive coach with over 30 years of experience working to help couples repair unhappy marriages and create forever love. He and his wife Paula are authors of the book 'Emotional Connection: The Story & Science of Preventing Conflict & Creating Lifetime Love.'