There are many reasons why people say they cheated, such as sexual desire or low self-esteem. But no one causes their partner to cheat. It’s never your fault.

Infidelity, or cheating, is one of the most damaging things that you can do in a relationship. Although couples can and do recover from cheating, many others don’t. And even if you choose to stay together, it can take a lot of work to repair the damage.

But studies show that cheating is very common. According to a 2017 study of 484 adults, 44% of people in romantic relationships engaged in infidelity.

One thing that’s important to keep in mind is, you may have both played a role in the damage that’s been done to the relationship. But infidelity is a choice that should never be blamed on the victim.

With that said, there are many different reasons why people say they cheated. One 2020 study identified 8 key reasons for cheating. These included:

  • anger
  • low self-esteem
  • lack of love
  • low commitment
  • need for variety
  • relational neglect
  • sexual desire
  • situational factors

As you can see, the reasons behind cheating widely vary and are based on each individual and relationship. Here, we list some of the most common causes and risk factors that may lead to cheating within a marriage.

Some people cheat on their partners in an effort to achieve sexual satisfaction or fulfillment.

They may claim a need for variety in sexual partners or feel sexually unsatisfied in their relationship. They may have simply been sexually attracted to someone and chosen not to fight that attraction.

Many people cheat on their partners out of anger or for revenge. They feel angry or resentful towards their partner for something, and may use cheating as a type of punishment. They may feel like cheating is a way to get adequate revenge for the ways in which their partner has hurt them.

For example, you might be angry at your partner for cheating on you. You might choose to cheat on them, wanting to inflict the same level of pain on them as they did to you. Or you might have just had an intense fight, and the anger you feel might lead you to cheat.

Some people cheat for the simple reason that they’re no longer in love with their partners. Most of us get into romantic relationships because we feel the initial pull of attraction.

Some people lose that attraction or love for their partner as time passes. When you’re no longer in love with your partner, it may be more tempting to cheat.

Some people may even cheat as a way to leave a relationship that no longer makes them happy. In addition, people who feel less committed to their relationship in general are more likely to cheat.

Feeling neglected in a relationship is another reason people say they cheated. For example, maybe your partner is spending more and more time at work, leaving no time to focus on your relationship. Maybe they live physically far away and you haven’t been able to see them for a long time.

Maybe you and your partner simply don’t feel connected, and you’re feeling alone in your relationship. The romance has fizzled out.

No matter the exact circumstances, feeling neglected in a relationship is often cited as a reason why people cheat.

A very common reason why people cheat is because, to put it simply, the opportunity presented itself. For example, maybe someone cheats because they are under the influence of alcohol and their inhibitions are lowered.

Maybe they cheat because they’re left alone with a colleague while on a business trip, or because they’re away for military duties. Just because it was due to circumstance doesn’t make the cheating any less hurtful.

On top of these commonly cited reasons, there may also be individual factors that put someone at a higher risk of becoming a cheater. This risk factors include:

  • insecure attachment style
  • mental illness that causes impulsive behaviors, such as bipolar disorder
  • substance use disorder (SUD)
  • previous experience with or exposure to infidelity, especially in their parents’ relationship
  • personality traits (“neuroticism” in women, and “narcissism” in men)

You know your relationship best, and nothing you read on the internet can tell you with 100% certainty if your partner is cheating on you. Trust your gut.

If you suspect that your partner is cheating, it’s best to approach the subject with them directly.

If you have a gut feeling that your partner is cheating on you, and they display several of the signs on the list below, then it may be time for an honest and upfront conversation.

  • Secrecy: suddenly becoming secretive about phone or computer use
  • Improved appearance: starting to dress differently, use a different cologne, or spend more time getting ready
  • Unexplained changes in schedule: suddenly having to work longer hours at work or have more social events on the weekends
  • Changes in sexual behavior: seeming uninterested, or more interested, in being intimate with you
  • Lying and avoidance: when you bring up concerns, they either lie to you or try to sweep concerns under the rug
  • Becoming unreachable: long periods in which your partner is impossible to get a hold of, with no (or inadequate) explanation of why
  • They accuse you of cheating: some people who cheat may project their guilt onto you, and accuse you of cheating
  • Awkward or uncomfortable friends: friends who may know about the infidelity suddenly become awkward or less friendly around you
  • Unexplained expenses: money missing with inadequate explanation
Was this helpful?

Infidelity is incredibly damaging to relationships, and the betrayal can have a lasting effect on your sense of trust and self-worth. While it’s undoubtedly painful, there are ways to cope with cheating.

First of all, remember that you’re not to blame. No matter why your partner cheated, one thing is for sure: You did not “cause” them to betray your relationship. This was a choice that they made. You’re not at fault. Try to practice self-compassion and remind yourself of this as often as you can.

It’s natural to have many different feelings come up during this process. You might feel a mixture of anger, grief, guilt, resentment, and more. Allow these feelings to be present without judgment. Accept that it will likely take a long time to work through these painful emotions.

Although it may be tempting to, try not to seek revenge or make big decisions out of anger. It’s also healthy to leave children out of the conflict.

This is a time to focus on you and your healing. With the right support, you can overcome this and learn to trust again – whether in this relationship or the next one. Therapy can help you to process this experience. It’s your choice whether you prefer to attend couples counseling or to leave the relationship and work on your healing in individual therapy.

If your partner has cheated on you, then you’re probably in a lot of emotional pain. This pain won’t last forever, but you may need to work on rebuilding trust (whether you choose to move forward in the relationship or not).

Therapy can help — you don’t need to go through this alone. In addition, there are free support groups for people going through the same experience, including: