Nellie, a chef, used to think that people who cheated on their partners were awful until she cheated on Tag. In several candid diary entries, which she was gracious enough to share with me, she has tried to explore answers to the emotionally racking question, “Why do we cheat on someone we love?” Through pages and pages, she traces the path of her emotions that led to her cheating on Tag. However, she is yet to truly understand why do humans cheat on someone they love.
Nellie feels her life was all right before she kissed someone else. It was just all right, and not exciting. “My life has been good. Tag and my son loved me and I loved them. It was monotonous though – I felt like I was enduring love. I sometimes felt trapped and whenever I mentioned this to Tag, he would get upset. It hurt me too. I spent years questioning my feelings. Ever since I cheated on someone I love, I have been racking my brains to understand why we cheat on someone we love. If there’s love in the main relationship, what leads us to stray?” Nellie writes in her diary.
We could keep flipping through Nellie’s diary to understand how it feels to cheat on someone you love, but, in my opinion, an expert might help us understand better. So, to find the answers, I turned to counseling psychologist Shazia Saleem (Masters in Psychology), who specializes in separation and divorce counseling.
Do You Really Love Someone If You Cheat On Them?
Cheating, from an outside perspective, looks like a horrible thing to do but to understand why we need to look for a counter perspective. Let us try and look at it from Nellie’s eyes. She tried to battle the attention of men and women for so long. One day, she gave into temptation with a coworker, Brock, who had been, as she describes in her diary, “a genuine flirt”.
“I kissed him but never slept with him. I may consider it in the future. I do not feel bad about the decision, which was quite surprising as I thought I would feel terrible for cheating on Tag. Am I falling out of love? Or, can a woman cheat and still be in love? My experience has taught me that there is no one, single answer to why do humans cheat on someone they love. It’s all very complicated,” Nellie writes.
When I asked Shazia how can a person cheat on someone they love, she said that more often than not, such individuals lacked emotional awareness. “They are not in a position to identify their emotions. In some other cases, they seek thrills outside of a relationship that has become dull and monotonous. In such circumstances, they cheat without realizing the consequences of their action,” she says.
Sometimes when you cheat and fall in love, you realize where your relationship with your primary partner stands. You need to reflect on why you did it in the first place. You can jump from partner to partner all you want but you need to fix something inside you before you can be in a stable and fulfilling relationship. So, let’s explore the cheat on someone you love psychology to try and understand it better.
1. Why do we cheat on someone we love? Self-exploration
Searching for a new sense of self is one of the answers to the question, “Why do we cheat on someone we love?” For those who cheat, adultery is less of a problem and more of an extensive experience that promises growth and transformation. For many cheaters, infidelity could be an outlet for repressed emotions – it could bring them freedom. Blinded by the idea of self-exploration, one may not have thought their actions through. This is one of the possible explanations for why do we cheat on someone we love.
Men may be especially vulnerable to emotional flooding as they are often told to “man up” when they are young. While growing up in adherence to these so-called manly standards, they may end up stifling their joys and pain. Thus, to them, adultery is more of a release, an explosion of emotions that may obscure their present for a while. and hold them back from realizing it.
Who cheats more, men or women? Studies in the General Social Survey suggest that men are more likely to cheat but then women aren’t too far behind. A person may be blinded by the emotion, and therefore, not understand how it feels to cheat on someone you love. So, why do you end up cheating on someone you love? The primary reasons why people choose to explore outside of their relationship are:
- To escape from their current situation
- To feel an adrenaline rush
- Curiosity to find out what’s out there beyond the relationship
- Higher sex drive than their partner
- To explore themselves and see who they might have been if they had chosen a different path
2. Neglect is a reason why we cheat on someone we love
How can a person cheat on someone they love? Ask a person who feels neglected in their relationship and you’ll realize that it is not as unthinkable as it’s made out to be. Being ignored or made to feel unimportant can give rise to an emptiness within. To fill it, a person may seek love outside of their relationship. The feeling of finality in a relationship can create room for feelings for another person – as happened with Gary, an accountant.
Gary cheated on his girlfriend of five years after he sensed that their relationship was hitting a dead end. “Cheating was a last-ditch effort to get a reaction out of her and see if she cared. She really didn’t and I got my answer,” he says, adding, “I do not recommend cheating on someone you love to find out if your relationship has run out of steam. This could end up affecting both people, especially your partner’s ability to trust again.”
A lack of intimacy is also perhaps why we cheat on someone we love. When needs go unfulfilled, an individual starts seeking intimacy elsewhere. In such a scenario, before giving in to your pent-up desires, you could try talking to your partner – you could try to spice things up in the bedroom before plunging into adultery. Negligence from our partner can arise some very negative emotions, like:
- Feeling of worthlessness
- Trust issues
- Fear of abandonment
Sometimes, the person you love doesn’t love you anymore. It just happens. And instead of trying to fall back in love with you, they look for it somewhere else. Once the love has faded, it can be difficult to bring it back. According to the Journal of sex research, the number one reason for infidelity is lack of love.
3. The adrenaline rush could foster a desire to cheat
Temptation has been called sin for reason. When someone tells you not to do a thing, you may have felt the desire to do it, even more, to seek the thrill – such a thought would feature in the catalog of the cheat on someone you love psychology. For thrill-seekers, the very prospect of an extramarital affair or sex outside a primary relationship is exciting and forbidden, which answers the question, “Why cheat on someone you love?”
“Temptations will always exist in a person’s life. Other people may have things – like a better car or house or lifestyle – that you may want in your life. But, if you keep comparing and giving in to temptation, how will you lead a normal life? There is always going to be a person who is more attractive than your partner. Self-control is required to battle temptation. You need to ask yourself how well you can manage your emotions. It is all about self-awareness,” says Shazia.
Things that can provide you with an adrenaline rush from outside of your relationship:
- Better lifestyle
- A partner who is physically more attractive than your primary partner
- A partner who is more spontaneous and brings a sense of thrill
- Better compatibility
According to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, 26% of the participants indicated that they had cheated on their partner because of the low quality of their relationships. The majority of these respondents placed greater importance on physical attractiveness and reported a higher sex drive than their primary partners.
4. The need to feel wanted or desirable is why a person could cheat
Why do we cheat on someone we love? It could be because of low self-esteem. When people do not feel good about themselves, they attempt to achieve validation from other sources to feel confident. When your partner does not respond to your feelings or makes you feel miserable about yourself, looking for that reassurance could prompt you to cheat.
Dylan, a graphic designer said that he cheated on his partner, Sean, because he wanted to feel desirable. “Sean is very successful – to the extent that when we attend social events, he is the center of attention. It always seemed like it was all about him and I felt like I was in his shadow. I believe I cheated on someone I love because I started feeling less wanted. There were clear cheating guilt signs in my behavior afterward and I realized it was selfish of me, but at the same time, I felt free after a very long time,” he says.
Dylan’s infidelity uncovered some of his patterns and underlying emotional issues like
- Craving attention
He said it helped him see how unhappy he was with himself and that in itself was hurting his relationship with Sean. However, he was also saddled with many complex questions. He can’t help but wonder, “Why cheat on someone you love in the first place? And, is it possible for someone to love you and still cheat on you? If you cheat on them, do you love them?”
5. Why do we cheat on someone we love? Maybe, for revenge
Love is supposed to be a beautiful and safe feeling, right? So why cheat on someone you love? A person who is in a relationship, but feels lonely and scorned may be able to answer your question. An ignored partner or a partner who has been cheated on could be burdened with a lot of hurt and resentment.
In this blind rage, they may resort to cheating as well – to use it as a weapon to hurt the other. They also feel cheating is a way to quell resentment. “Hurt is certainly among the reasons why we cheat on someone we love,” says Shazia. But her advice is to control that urge to cause hurt before it takes over the rational sense of mind.
6. Some people cheat as they separate sex from love
Is it possible for someone to love you and still cheat on you? For a person who separates love from sex, the answer to this question might well be “yes”. There are several types of cheating – emotional, physical, and long-term affairs. When it is all about the physical aspect for an individual, they might see the act of cheating as being completely disconnected from the love they share with their partner.
Some people believe that sex and love are two different things that are not to be mixed together. So, for such cheaters, the commitment of the heart is what matters. Thus, they could enter into a sexual relationship with someone else outside of their primary relationship and not consider it a violation of their commitment to their partner.
- The urge to cheat is a clear indicator that your relationship is not fulfilling enough
- People who tend to cheat lack emotional maturity
- Seeking fulfillment outside of a relationship and/or the desire for thrill and the adrenaline rush could also prompt a person to cheat on a partner they love
- Negligence from your partner is also one of the major reasons people choose to cheat
- Revenge cheating is among the most common forms of infidelity but is also the most harmful for all parties involved
Whatever the reason for cheating, it hurts. Are there some reasons for cheating that are better than others? Is it possible for someone to love you and still cheat on you? For a person who has been betrayed, the answer will always be a clear, resounding no. For them, the main question spinning around in their minds is: how can a person cheat on someone they love?
If you are a man who has been cheated on you could wonder, “Can a woman cheat and still be in love?” Likewise, a woman may wrestle with questions like “Would he have cheated if he loved me?” Or a person may grapple with, “What to do when you cheat on someone you love?”
Shazia says that cheating is a choice and the person who cheats should be able to take responsibility for their actions. However, she says it is the cheater’s choice to reveal they committed adultery. Such emotional complexities make it important to understand the reasons behind cheating. Once those issues are resolved perhaps a person can work on improving oneself and in the future, avoid making impulsive decisions in life.
Yes. If a person is remorseful and wants to mend their ways, they can attempt to make things right again in a relationship that has gone awry in the aftermath of infidelity. It might take some time to rebuild the trust, though.
There is no one answer to how a person can cheat on someone they love, but yes, it’s possible to be in love with a partner and still cheat on them. When a person does that, they could be insecure or bored in their relationship or there could be a lack of intimacy. Cheating also happens for the sake of fun or a sense of thrill and not necessarily because one has fallen out of love.