Why Do People Cheat On People They Love? (25 Reasons)

Being cheated on hurts. It makes you question everything—love, trust, and even yourself. You wonder why—why would someone do this to the person they love?

It’s a tough question with no easy answers.

People cheat for all sorts of reasons, and oftentimes, those reasons are complicated. Maybe they’re not happy in the relationship, maybe they’re looking for something they’re not getting at home, or maybe they just made a mistake.

But still, it happens, and it’s something we need to talk about if we want to understand why people do what they do. Can you really love someone and still cheat on them? It seems like the answer is yes, but why?

That’s what we’re going to look at in this article. But before we go on, I want to make one thing clear: cheating is a choice, and no reason will ever make cheating okay. Now, let’s try to make sense of this messy, hurtful thing called cheating.

Emotional Disconnection

Sometimes, we can be in the same room with someone we love and still feel miles apart—that’s emotional disconnection.

Life gets busy, routines get monotonous, and couples just don’t make enough effort to connect on a deeper level. It’s not that they don’t love each other anymore, but things just feel a bit… meh.

Well, you know what might happen next. One partner might start looking for that emotional connection elsewhere. Maybe they confide in a coworker, share intimate details with a friend, or even develop feelings for someone who seems to get them in a way their partner doesn’t anymore.

"Just because you love your partner does not mean that you have a deep emotional connection to that partner. 

Sometimes you love your partner because you have a shared past, raised children together, and shared life. However, that does not mean that your current partner is anything close to a soulmate.

If a partnered person develops a deep emotional connection with a third party, that can be dangerous... Those two people did not start out looking for an affair, but that is the result.

People need to feel emotionally connected, and for whatever reason, our emotions seem to be connected to our loins."

Robin Graine, JD, CDFA | Court Certified Divorce Mediator and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, Graine Mediation

Lack of Communication

Communication is the lifeblood of any healthy relationship, and when it breaks down, it can lead to all sorts of problems, including infidelity.

When people stop talking, that’s when they start keeping all stuff to themselves. And one day, they might just spill it all to someone else—someone who seems to listen better. And that’s where those cheating thoughts can sneak in.

Here’s a thought—keep talking. No matter what your style is, talking makes everything more solid. And when you really listen to each other, there’s less reason to go looking for conversation somewhere else.

Unmet Needs

We all need certain things from our relationships. A little affection, a good chat now and then, someone in your corner—those sorts of things. But when those needs aren’t met, it can leave us feeling frustrated, unfulfilled, and even tempted to look elsewhere.

I’m not saying that one should look for someone who can fill in those needs if their partner can’t. You’ve got to have each other’s backs and really care about each other’s happiness. It’s about giving as much as you take.

Now, if you constantly feel like something’s missing, it might be time to have an honest conversation with your partner. Lay it out there—what’s important to you, what you need, what’s slipping through the cracks. It’s about patching things up together, not finding quick fixes somewhere else. 

Desire for Physical Intimacy

Let’s face it: physical intimacy is an important part of most romantic relationships. When that part starts to fade or isn’t quite hitting the mark, it can make a person feel lonely.

But more than the act, it’s more about feeling wanted. When someone doesn’t feel that their partner wants them the way they used to, it can be disappointing.

Now, if someone else starts to show them interest, and it feels like they’re being seen as attractive, it’s tempting. They might just go along with it because that physical closeness they’ve been missing suddenly seems within reach.

It’s not an excuse, but it happens.

The good news is that it can be worked on. Talking about what you like, what you miss, and even trying new things can put the zing back into the physical side of love. It’s about keeping that spark alive and remembering that everyone wants to feel desired.

Seeking Emotional Validation

Everybody likes to feel good about themselves every now and then. It’s a pretty basic need. So, when the person who’s supposed to be our biggest fan stops giving us the thumbs-up we need, it’s kind of a bummer.

So, when someone else starts to make us feel like we’re the bee’s knees, it catches our attention. They might just be saying, “Good job” or “I like the way you think,” but it’s like giving water to someone who’s been thirsty for a long while.

Right or wrong, that attention and the good vibes that come with it are hard to shake off and can pull a person in a not-so-great direction.

However, it’s important to remember that true validation and self-worth come from within. While it’s natural to desire your partner’s appreciation from time to time, relying solely on external sources for feeling good about yourself can be a dangerous game.

Thrill of the Chase

Sometimes what leads a person to cheat isn’t what’s wrong at home, but their love for the game. It’s that buzz you get when you’re after something you can’t have. It’s about the excitement that comes with “Can I get their number?”

But here’s the kicker: that rush is like a sugar high, it doesn’t last. Once the chase is over, they’re often left wondering if it was worth it. The reality of hurting someone they love for a momentary thrill can hit pretty hard.

And the sad part? Your relationship with the person you truly love has already been tainted. The trust is broken, and the emotional scars can be difficult to heal.

"Many people love their partners, but they don't lust after them. People that have a strong desire for lusty, wild sex in their life usually don't find that with their long-term partner. 

They need to go outside of the marriage or partnership for that. Long-term relationships have many great benefits, but doing it the first time or the thrill of sneaking around is not on that list.

They justify their cheating by telling themselves that the lusty sexual liaison didn't mean anything. It might be true. Perhaps those rendezvous might not mean anything to the cheater. But it always means a lot to the partner who finds out about that transgression and breaks their heart."

Robin Graine, JD, CDFA | Court Certified Divorce Mediator and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, Graine Mediation

Different Relationship Expectations

We all enter relationships with our own ideas of what they should be like. It’s natural, but it’s also where things can get tricky. Different expectations can create a gap too wide for just love to bridge.

  • One envisions being a parent and building a family, while the other isn’t sure if kids are in their future.
  • One could be all set for a city move for a new job, while the other isn’t willing to give up their suburban comfort.
  • One can’t wait for weekend getaways, but the other prefers the comfort of home.

These mismatches can create a tension that makes the eyes wander, looking for someone whose wishlist matches theirs. It’s tempting to find a fit with a person who gets your vision for the future.

The key? Talk it out! Bring everything out in the open and do it early in the relationship. Because let’s face it, some differences are simply too fundamental than even love can conquer.

It’s better to figure it out sooner rather than when you’ve already started looking over the fence to see if the grass really is greener.

Revenge Cheating

Someone gets hurt—maybe their partner flirted a bit too much at a party, or they found out about a past slip-up. So they think, “I’ll show them,” and find comfort in someone else’s arms. In the heat of the moment, it feels like payback.

But let’s be clear: Two wrongs don’t make everything right—they just make things messier. You end up with more hurt than you started with, and now there’s this whole web of deceit that just complicates everything.

If you’re nursing a grudge, it’s way better to talk it out or even yell it out than to act it out with someone else. Instead of seeking revenge, focus on healing and figuring out what you need moving forward, whether it’s working on the relationship or walking away.

Low Self-Esteem

It’s a tough spot to be in, feeling like you’re not quite enough. It can happen to anyone. Maybe work’s been rough or you’ve been battling some personal gremlins. When you’ve got low self-esteem, sometimes you don’t see yourself through the loving eyes of your partner—you’re looking through a lens that’s, well, a bit muddied.

So along comes someone else who throws you a compliment, and you cling to it like a life raft. They say you’re funny, smart, or have the best smile they’ve ever seen. And that attention? It’s like sunshine breaking through the clouds. It’s tempting to go back for more because it makes you feel worth something again.

The real deal is working on that self-esteem. Cheating doesn’t patch up the holes inside—it just usually digs them deeper. Instead, build up how you feel about yourself because it’s something that sticks around longer than any fling. 

Stress or Life Changes

Big life events—like getting married or having a baby— can put a serious strain on relationships. The days leading up to saying “I do” or hearing that baby cries for the first time can be magical.

But they can also be super stressful. And when stress levels are high, people are more likely to make impulsive decisions, including straying from their partners.

They might feel like they’re losing their grip on who they are. They see their single friends living what looks like a worry-free life, and they start to wonder if they’re ready for this huge step.

Cheating during these moments is like hitting a pause button, trying to catch their breath or relive their “freedom” days, even just for a second. But deep down, it’s not about not loving their partner or not wanting that future with them. It’s about fear, being overwhelmed with changes, and not knowing how to deal with it all.

Lean on each other, talking through the butterflies and the doubts. Being a team makes crossing those finish lines—whether at the altar or in the delivery room—a lot more doable.

Fear of Commitment

Commitment can be a scary word, kind of like “taxes” or “Monday.” For some people, the idea of sticking with one person forever is overwhelming. They love their partner, no doubt about it,  but the thought of being trapped, losing their independence, or getting hurt makes them nervous.

And guess what? Those fears can sometimes lead people to cheat as a way to avoid getting too close or emotionally invested in their partners. Cheating becomes a way to put one foot out the door, just in case they decide to run.

Wanting to End the Relationship

Sometimes, people cheat because they want out of the relationship but lack the courage to end things directly. Instead, they choose to stray, hoping their partner will find out and do the dirty work for them—a coward’s way out.

I get it, life happens, and sometimes things just don’t work out. But think about it—what about the laughter, the shared love, all the memories? Doesn’t all that deserve a proper goodbye? Sure, it does. Just because the relationship didn’t last forever doesn’t mean you should forget all the good that was there.

The best move? Sit down and have that conversation. It’s about giving respect to what you’ve had and letting both of you move on without the messy aftermath of infidelity. Let’s not ruin the good parts by ending things on a bad note.

Cheating might seem like the easy way out, but being honest is the bravest—and kindest—thing you can do.

Situational Temptation

Let’s talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong feelings. We’re human, and sometimes temptation sneaks up on us. Whether it’s a work conference in a fancy hotel or an old flame popping up with a “Hey, remember me?” text, situations can take us by surprise.

And before they know it, they’ve done something they never thought they would. Their love for their partner hasn’t changed, but they slipped up. If only there was a signage that said, “Watch out, temptation ahead!” But, sadly, there’s none.

The best way to handle this? Be honest with yourself about your vulnerabilities. If you know you’re prone to temptation when you’re out drinking, maybe it’s best to avoid those situations altogether.

Addiction or Compulsive Behavior

Sometimes, cheating stems from deeper issues like sex addiction or compulsive behavior. These conditions can make it incredibly difficult for individuals to control their impulses, even if they truly love and care for their partners.

  • Sex addiction is characterized by an obsessive preoccupation with sexual thoughts and behaviors that can interfere with daily life and relationships. People with this condition might engage in risky sexual activities, have multiple affairs, or use pornography excessively despite negative consequences.
  • Compulsive behavior, on the other hand, can manifest in various ways, such as excessive gambling, shopping, or even lying. When it comes to infidelity, individuals with compulsive behavior might find themselves repeatedly cheating, even if they feel remorseful afterward.

A therapist can provide a safe and supportive environment to explore the underlying causes of these behaviors and develop strategies for managing them effectively. Remember, addiction is a complex issue, but with the right treatment and support, recovery is possible.

Influence of Peers

Ever heard the saying, “You’re only as good as the company you keep?” It’s got a point.

When someone’s crew doesn’t really get the whole ‘faithfulness’ thing, it can rub off. Everyone around might be cheating or talking about it like it’s no big deal. And in that crowd, it’s easy to think, “If they’re doing it, maybe it’s not so bad.”

But hang on. Just because your mates are doing it doesn’t mean it’s a free pass for you. Cheating can mess up a whole lot more than just tonight’s plans.

So, choose your company wisely. Surround yourself with people who have healthy relationships and who share your values of honesty, loyalty, and respect.

Escape from Personal Issues

Everyone has their battles, and sometimes, those struggles get overwhelming. Sadly, for some people, the escape route leads them into the arms of someone other than their partner.

Cheating becomes a distraction from the daily grind. It’s the wrong kind of break, but at the moment, it feels like a breather. Yet, each step in that direction takes them further away from handling their real issues head-on.

Due to a Lack of Maturity

It may not be the easiest thing to hear, but sometimes people cheat simply because they haven’t matured enough yet. They might love their partner—yes—, but when it comes to making grown-up decisions, they’re still at the kids’ table.

Maturity is having the guts to be honest rather than sneaking around because it seems easier. So, yes, they might love deeply, but if they’re not ready to show it through their actions, trouble isn’t far behind.

Growing up happens at different rates for everyone. But part of loving someone is doing the work it takes to grow up for real.

Unrealistic Expectations of Their Partner

People might enter relationships with a list of expectations. They dream of the perfect partner who ticks all their boxes: a mind reader, a top chef, a rock star in the sheets… you get the gist. The problem is, when their partner turns out to be human, they feel let down.

They start thinking that maybe this isn’t the relationship for them because it’s not living up to their fantasies. And when someone crosses their path who seems to meet even just one of those sky-high expectations, they might just jump ship.

It’s a risky jump, though—because sooner or later, they’ll probably find out this new person has their own set of flaws, as well.

Feeling Unloved

No one likes feeling left out in the cold—especially by the person they’re with. If someone starts to feel unloved, it can really sting. They’re no longer getting the warmth, the cuddles, or the sweet texts they used to, and it leaves a gaping hole in their heart.

Then, someone else comes along and throws them a smile or a compliment. Simple stuff, really, but boy, does it work magic on a lonely soul. This person starts filling the hole with the attention they’re getting, and before they know it, they’ve slipped up.

"I had an employee who kept telling me he couldn't go out of town for training as his wife was jealous and believed he would fool around with her if he went out of town. 

I said, "I know you, and you wouldn't do that to your wife and family. Up to you." 

He took a couple of training sessions—she kept it up throughout— he did not fool around on her, but she kept getting harsher as she did not want him to go.

He went out of town on a training session, and this time, he fooled around with her, and he didn't care. He fell in love with this woman and left his wife. 

I asked him why and he told me, "Damned if I do and damned if I don't. I might as well be happy. She kept looking for it, so I gave it to her." 

You get what you give—she imagined and believed he would as her father had done that to her mother, making it happen even though neither one really wanted it to happen."

— Rita Cragwall | President, The Law and the Promise | Author, "I AM the God Particle"

Childhood Experiences or Past Trauma

Sometimes, the answer to why someone cheats is buried in their past.

If they’ve gotten a few emotional scrapes as a kid or past wounds haven’t quite healed, it can affect how they handle their grown-up love life. They might love their partner for real, but deep down, they’re still that little kid looking for a safety net because the ones they had before let them down.

When things get serious sometimes, old fears come knocking. They might cheat because they’re scared of getting too close and getting hurt again. It’s like a defense strategy—mess it up before it messes you up.

"Before I healed my childhood trauma, I was a serial cheater. I cheated on every boyfriend, partner, and fiance I had from the age of 15 onward. At the age of 35, I fully healed myself and realized—it wasn't about them at all; it was about me.

I loved some of them dearly and was angry at myself for hurting them and sabotaging the relationship. 

When I truly understood why I cheated, it made sense: 
1. I was scared they would abandon me, so I hurt them before they could hurt me. 
2. I was also terrified of getting too close to anyone, which led to sabotaging the relationship.

Angela Marie Christian | Positive Intelligence Coach and Mindfulness Teacher

Extended Time Away

Distance can make the heart grow fonder, but it can also lead to temptation and infidelity. Long business trips, deployments, or any situation that puts miles and miles between two people for a while can weigh heavy on love.

Life doesn’t press pause just because they’re apart. They might start to feel disconnected like they’re missing out on everyday moments of their partner’s life.

Cue in someone else who’s around and gets what they’re going through. Suddenly, the distance from their loved one seems even bigger, and the comfort this new person offers seems like a cozy blanket on a cold night.

So, what’s the fix? Keeping the love fresh and active, even with the miles. Regular video calls, surprise letters, or even a countdown calendar for when they’ll see each other next can help bridge the gap. Fill that distance with reminders of why you’re waiting for each other in the first place.

Fear of Aging

When the birthday candles start to crowd the cake, they might feel like they’re losing their grip on youth. It’s a deep-seated fear that life is passing by too fast, and they’re no longer the young, fun person they once were.

In a moment of panic, they might cheat with someone younger because it makes them feel like they still “got it.” They gravitate toward someone who flirts back or appreciates them in a way that makes them feel young again. It’s not about a lack of love for their partner but about trying to hold on to a feeling, a younger version of themselves.

Inherent Entitlement

Believe it or not, some cheaters cheat because they think it’s their birthright. They’ve got this foolish idea inside their head that the world owes them. They walk around like life should be handing them extras just because. 

This sense of entitlement could come from the way they were raised or just an overblown sense of self-importance they’ve cooked up over the years. They might tell themselves, “I worked hard, now I deserve a bit of fun,” even when that “fun” is no laughing matter for their partner.

And, you know, these types of cheaters—well, they can be a bit of a dangerous breed because their self-love is through the roof.

They might say they love their partners, but the scary amount of love they have for themselves? That’s where the real problem is. It’s one thing to pat yourself on the back, but another to do it at the expense of someone else’s heart.

Still Figuring Out What They Want

This one’s for those at a crossroads in life, not 100% sure about their direction. It’s perfectly human not to have all the answers, especially when it comes to love and the future. But it’s definitely no excuse to cheat.

When they’re unsure about where their life’s heading, it can make them look in all sorts of directions —including directions they shouldn’t. They start asking themselves questions like:

  • Am I living the life I meant to live?
  • Have I missed out on something or someone else?
  • Is this person really the one for me?

They wander off looking for answers and sometimes end up in someone else’s arms, hoping to find what they’re missing. But let’s be real: answers about who you are or what you want in life don’t usually come from sneaking around. 

They Wonder About the Life Not Lived

We all have moments where we wonder about the paths not taken.

  • What if we’d chosen a different career path?
  • Married our college sweetheart?
  • Moved to that exotic island we always dreamed of?

It’s natural to have these fleeting thoughts about the life not lived. It’s not a sign that they don’t cherish what they’ve got—just curiosity knocking on the door… maybe.

But when that wondering turns into wandering, that’s when things go off the rails. They might feel like cheating gives them a glimpse into a different life, a taste of freedom they think they missed out on. The thought process goes a bit like this:

  • They’re craving experiences they think they’ve sacrificed for the relationship.
  • They’re scared of missing out, afraid the relationship has them tied down.
  • It’s about trying a life they imagine could’ve been, even for a moment.

The reality, though, is that this whole idea of “Life not lived” is often just a fantasy. Real joy comes from cherishing the life they’re leading, including the love they’re in. 

More Insights From the Experts

“In other words, they were entirely self-centered. It was all about them: 

  • What they wanted
  • What they felt they deserved
  • How underappreciated they felt 

Never considering me— what I wanted, how I felt, or how underappreciated I felt.

To be clear, cheating is not the answer to any question. It is not the solution to any problem. If anything, it raises more questions and creates even more problems.

Only a cheater would have you believe that it is your fault that they did what they did—a clear case of victim-blaming and shaming. 

No one held a gun to their head and made them cheat; no one forced them into it; they did that all by themselves. They could have done things differently, such as simply ending the relationship before they were off to the next.”

Jerry Brook | Certified Professional Life Coach, Good Together | Author, “Good Together

“What is evident in the affair’s aftermath is the pain that it has created. The hurt partner’s life has been turned upside down, and they grapple with the question, “How could you do this to me?” 

Thus, hurt partners can end up in an agonizing place. Their reality is unsettled, and the place they go to for support—the relationship—is now mired in distrust.

If you were to ask someone, “Would you wish such pain on the person you love?” chances are they would say “No.”… People cheat on people they love because they forget their “No.” They forget the reasons why not to cheat.

I strongly feel that if people were truly aware of the potential damage an affair could cause to their loved ones, there would be less infidelity.”

Jason A Polk, LCSW, LAC | Relationship Counselor, Coach, and Owner, Colorado Relationship Recovery

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there ever a good reason to cheat on a partner?

Cheating is a betrayal of trust and a violation of the commitment made in a relationship. While the reasons behind infidelity can be complex, it’s never a justifiable solution to underlying problems.

What should I do if I’ve been cheated on?

If you’ve been cheated on, it’s important to allow yourself to feel your emotions, process what happened, and seek support from trusted friends, family, or a therapist. Take time to reflect on what you need and want for the future, whether it’s working on the relationship or moving on. 

Can a relationship recover from cheating?

Yes, it is possible for a relationship to heal and recover from infidelity, but it requires effort, commitment, and a willingness to address the underlying issues that led to the cheating. Seeking professional help through couples therapy can also be immensely beneficial in navigating this challenging process.

Does cheating mean the end of the relationship?

Not necessarily. Every relationship is different. Some couples are able to overcome infidelity and work towards a stronger bond, while for others, cheating may indeed mark the end. It depends on the individuals, the circumstances, and their willingness to work through the aftermath.

Final Thoughts

If you’re the one who cheated,

It’s time for a hard look in the mirror. Admit where you’ve gone wrong and own it up. Trying to justify what you did will only make things worse. Instead, it’s time to grow up and start the hard work of making things right.

Even more so if there are kids in the picture. If you’ve got a family, if you’ve got kids, you’re not just betraying your partner—you’re letting down the whole family.

If you’re dealing with past hurts, work on it because it’s not fair to pass that pain down to your children. They don’t need to deal with the fallout of trauma they weren’t part of creating.

For those of you who’ve been cheated on,

While it’s easy for someone outside to just say, “Walk away,” only you can truly decide what’s next.  Just remember your worth, alright?

Take a long, hard look at what’s happened and ask yourself if a second chance is really what you both need and deserve. At the end of the day, it’s your heart, your life, and you call the shots here.

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Clariza is a passionate writer and editor who firmly believes that words have great power. She has a degree in BS Psychology, which gives her an in-depth understanding of the complexities of human behavior. As a woman of science and art, she fused her love for both fields in crafting insightful articles on lifestyle, mental health, and social justice to inspire others and advocate for change.

In her leisure time, you can find her sitting in the corner of her favorite coffee shop downtown, deeply immersed in her bubble of thoughts. Being an art enthusiast that she is, she finds bliss in exploring the rich world of fiction writing and diverse art forms.