When People Cheat When They're Happily Married, It's For This Reason

It has more to do with them than anything else.

Married person hides ring from happy marriage to cheat on someone they love. AntonioGuillem | Canva

If the Ashley Madison hack from years ago taught us anything, it's that more people feel the DESIRE to cheat than go through with it. While the former Ashley Madison CEO previously claimed a 1:1 ratio between men and women under 30 on the site, the hack revealed that only 15 percent of Ashley Madison's members were women. The notion that men and women cheat in equal volumes is false. Yet, anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher tells us that men and women have courted clandestine affairs for longer than we have historical records.


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And clearly, we're baffled by the "is it right or is it wrong?" complexity of infidelity, because over 7 million people have watched her popular TED talk "Why We Love, Why We Cheat," trying to make sense of this painful behavior. It's as if we're searching for some miracle answer about cheating that's somehow slipped through our grasp. So let's dig into it ... We took this topic to the best resource we could find — Dr. Helen Fisher herself. Helen was joined for this powerful discussion by three Experts who deal with the aftermath of infidelity every day in their practices: psychologist Dr. Foojan Zeine, psychologist Dr. Alicia Clark, and counselor Marta Rocha.


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What you'll find by the end of their discussion is that cheating is not limited or skewed to one gender over the other — both genders do it. It's just that the question of "Why do men cheat?" has become a huge part of our cultural conversation around masculinity and relationships. Also, infidelity is neither on the rise NOR declining. Basically, there is no evidence to prove that we're more inclined to cheat today than we were in the past. That said, what also hasn't changed is how much infidelity is a scar that never fully leaves a person; whether you're the person who cheated or you were cheated on. You may reach a place of forgiveness, but like all scars, a mark remains forever.

The Real Reasons Why People Cheat (Even When They're Happily Married) Pexels / RDNE Stock project


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And humans have raised objections against adultery pretty much forever. The 10 commandments were penned in 1450 BC, 3500 years ago, and the seventh commandment is "thou shalt not commit adultery." Considering that civilization as we know it has only existed for the past 6000 years, we have viewed infidelity as morally wrong for over half of our time on Earth. 

So, if we all believe it's immoral and destructive ... why do so many people cheat anyway? It turns out the answers are both varied and rather surprising. Dr. Zeine makes an excellent point about how much of the reason people cheat on people they love starts with how they see themselves reflected in their partners. When passionate love fades, it's too easy to allow your self-esteem to fade, too. Often, people then look to someone else who lusts after them for a reflection of that glowing, idyllic version of themselves that they once saw in their partner.

RELATED: The Vastly Different Reason Why Men & Women Cheat

Melanie Gorman is the former Senior VP of YourTango Experts. Helen Fisher Ph.D., is a biological anthropologist and Senior Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute and Chief Scientific Advisor to the dating site Match. She is the author of the book The Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray, among other titles. Foojan Zeine is a psychotherapist, Life & Executive Coach, and the author of Life Reset: The Awareness Integration Path to Create the Life You Want. Marta Rocha is a therapist who has a passion for helping couples, families, and individuals who are struggling with multicultural issues, relationship problems, parenting problems, anxiety, stress, and depression. Dr. Alicia Clark has been a practicing psychologist for over 25 years and has been named one of Washington’s Top Doctors by Washingtonian Magazine. She is the author of Hack Your Anxiety: How to Make Anxiety Work for You In Life, Love, and All That You Do.