If you’ve ever been cheated on, your first question was probably: why? Likewise, if you’ve been the one who’s stepped out on the relationship, your partner probably asked, or wondered, the same.
New research sheds light on the motivations behind cheating. Published in The Journal of Sex Research, researchers asked 495 young adults about their cheating past via an internet-based questionnaire.
The findings? For the most part, the responses confirmed what science already knew: People cheat because they’re dissatisfied with the relationship, feel neglected, are angry, or are attracted to someone else. But the questionnaire did reveal other reasons, too. Here’s what some people admitted:
“I had ‘fallen out of love with’ my…partner.”
“I was not very committed.”
“I wanted to enhance my popularity.”
“I wanted a greater variety of sexual partners.”
“I was drunk and not thinking clearly.”
Why does this matter? Well, it means that cheating is more than just about the love (or lack thereof) between a couple. It might be more about how the cheater is feeling about themselves or what type of not-so-good situation they got themselves into.
“It would be a mistake to conclude that all affairs (and infidelity-related behaviors) similarly result from deficits in the primary relationship,” the study authors write.
So what other factors make a difference? People who were less conscientious were more likely to cheat, as were people who had “insecure attachment.” Feeling insecure in a relationship is a recipe for unhappiness, and feeling less satisfied or committed pushes you to seek reassurance elsewhere. What’s more, people who avoid closeness are likely to step out for the sake of giving their self-esteem a boost. (Yes, it’s a hard truth.)
The researchers also found that all the typical reasons you hear about why men and women are likely to cheat are true. Men are in it for the sexual desire. Women step out because they feel their needs haven’t been met in the relationship.
If you’ve been cheated on, you’re probably replaying what went wrong in your relationship over and over in your head. Talk to your partner. It’s the only way to understand if there’s a hole in the relationship worth repairing—or not. It’s a hard (and awkward) conversation, sure, but it’s one that needs to happen.