When I say the word “cheater,” what do you instantly imagine? Probably someone who has sex outside of a relationship, right? Well, cheating, my friend, is actually a lot more complex than that. People who cheat are driven by different reasons, depending on the personality types of cheaters. For instance, have you ever watched the movie Last Night? It’s a story about the inner workings of a marriage, where both partners are tempted by different forms of infidelity after a heated argument. It explores the complexities of relationships and the various ways people can be unfaithful.
You see, some cheaters are driven by traits like narcissism or entitlement. Others cheat because they’re bored or have low self-esteem. Some enjoy the thrill of secret affairs, of being sneaky and getting away with it. Some cheat because they’re afraid of intimacy. Then there are those who cheat because they have unmet emotional or physical needs within their relationship. Cheating is a complex topic after all. So, when we talk about the different forms of infidelity, it goes beyond just physical intimacy. Let’s try to shed light on the reasons people cheat. Our aim is to help our readers create stronger and more fulfilling relationships.
The 7 Types Of Cheaters – And Why They Cheat
Psychotherapist Esther Perel points out, “The reason for divorce nowadays is not that people are unhappy but because they feel they can be happier. We live in an era where leaving is not a shame. Overstaying when you can leave is the new shame. But if divorce or breaking up is not ridiculed anymore, why do people still cheat? Maybe a shocking incident like the death of a close one shakes them and forces them to raise questions about their own relationship or marriage. They ask themselves questions like … Is this it? Is there more to life? Am I ever going to feel love again? Do I have to continue for another 25 years like this?
As Esther points out, infidelity is way more complex and deep-rooted than it seems on the surface level. And so, to understand the reasons behind the different types of cheating or infidelity, we have to first know the different kinds of cheaters:
1. The self-destructive cheater
The first type on our list of types of cheaters is – someone who constantly self-sabotages. Such cheaters are so afraid of ending the relationship that they engage in behaviors that push their partner away instead. It’s like they’re subconsciously trying to create circumstances that would force their partner to call it quits.
Such a cheating partner may go to great lengths. For example, they may regularly cause drama in the relationship so that they get constant reassurance from their partner. If you’re wondering why such self-destructors cheat in relationships, here’s a list of reasons:
- As the relationship progresses and things start to get serious, their fear of abandonment overpowers them. Then they enter a mode of self-destruction. It’s as if their fear takes control and they can’t help but sabotage what they have
- Deep down, they carry a fear of rejection, and it drives them to push their loved ones away before they can experience the pain of being rejected
- Sometimes, their insecure attachment style plays a role in this behavior as well, making it challenging for them to trust and form healthy emotional connections
- They have a deep fear that their independence might get compromised in a committed relationship. So, to still feel free or liberated enough, they resort to self-destructive behavior like cheating
2. Types of cheaters – The wounded one
We’re talking about wounded cheaters here, the ones who have fallen out of love with their partners. In such a case, this is why people cheat:
- This specific type of cheating tends to stem from a deep-rooted issue, like a lack of love and childhood trauma
- Cheating is not just about sex or physical intimacy for them
- It’s primarily about seeking attention, a sense of importance, and that feeling of being truly special
For instance, Carol (27) from NYC, shares, “I was tired of doing what was always expected of me. I was tired of being a good mother, a good wife, and a good daughter. I just wanted the adolescence I never had. I wanted to feel safe and alive. I was not looking for a nice person to go on a date with, or a nice guy who would listen to me patiently. I was just looking for another self. That is when I cheated on my husband.”
Why does a cheating person show no remorse? Reminds me of Kris Jenner, who had cheated on her husband, Robert Kardashian. Referring to the guy she had cheated with, she confessed in her book, “He kissed me and I kissed him back. I hadn’t been kissed like that in 10 years. It made me feel young, attractive, sexy, and alive. Along with these feelings came a wave of nausea. I actually wanted to throw up at the same time. Because it dawned on me that I had not felt that way with Robert for years.”
Related Reading: The 3 Types Of Men Who Have Affairs And How To Recognize Them
3. The serial cheater
Remember how Rachel’s mother once told her, “Once a cheater, always a repeater”? In many cases, this theory does apply to serial cheaters. These individuals often have a tendency to be compulsive liars as well. Among the different ways of cheating in a relationship, this is the one where a cheater has the skill, practice, and experience to avoid getting caught. They constantly text other people, swipe dating apps, and engage in hookups. But why do they cheat in the first place? Here are the reasons:
- Having a variety brings thrill and adrenaline rush to them, therefore they engage in different levels of cheating
- Their commitment issues are deep-rooted and self-esteem is crumbled. So they fill that incompleteness by doing something that is ‘forbidden’
- To avoid feeling what they are feeling, they keep wanting several things that they can’t have
- They almost get a kick out of being rebellious and breaking norms
In fact, a study points out that getting away with cheating makes people feel good. It is called the ‘cheater’s high.’ Doing something that’s unethical and prohibited makes people put their “want” self over their “should” self. Instead of considering the long-term consequences on their reputation or their relationship, their attention becomes solely focused on the immediate reward and short-term desires.
4. The revenge cheater
Revenge cheating is an actual thing. And trust me, people can do some pretty strange things while seeking revenge. Just take the example of comedian Tiffany Haddish who shared her own revenge story. She admitted, “My boyfriend cheated on me on videotape on my birthday. I felt like he had pooped on my soul, so then I decided to poop in the sole of his shoes.” If people are willing to go to such extremes as defecating in sneakers, it’s not surprising that some may resort to cheating for revenge, right? Someone who cheats out of vengeance is one of the cosmopolitan types of cheaters, who engages in infidelity for revenge.
Let me share my friend Serena’s experience. Her partner cheated on her, and in an act of retaliation, she slept with his best friend. She wanted to make him feel the same pain and betrayal she had experienced – “a taste of his own medicine” in her words. This type of cheater acts out of anger and a ‘tit for tat’ attitude.
Related Reading: 5 Confessions Of People Who Had Revenge Sex
5. Emotional cheater is one of the types of cheaters
What are the signs an affair is turning into love? The American singer Jessica Simpson confessed in her memoir Open Book that she had an emotional affair with co-star Johnny Knoxville, during her marriage to Nick Lachey. She wrote, “I could share my deepest authentic thoughts with him and he didn’t roll his eyes at me. He actually liked that I was smart and embraced my vulnerabilities. First off, we were both married, so this wasn’t going to get physical. But to me, an emotional affair was worse than a physical one. It’s funny, I know, because I had placed such an emphasis on sex by not having it before marriage. After I actually had sex, I understood that the emotional part was what mattered … Johnny and I had that, which seemed far more of a betrayal to my marriage than sex.”
Therefore, if you’re wondering what type of people cheat, you must know about the emotional cheater. They go beyond someone’s physical appearance. Emotional cheaters could be one of the cosmopolitan types of cheaters with emotionally unavailable or workaholic spouses. As Jessica Simpson has pointed out, an emotional affair starts as a friendship outside a relationship or marriage. But then, it grows into a deeper intimate connection involving long vulnerable conversations and emotional attachment. It may or may not lead to a physical affair.
Now, why do people resort to emotional infidelity? This interesting study on why people cheat in relationships can help us get some answers. A group of 495 individuals (mostly heterosexual) who had admitted to cheating in their relationships were gathered for this study. The researchers asked the participants why they cheated. It turns out that most of them felt some sort of emotional attachment to their affair partner. But here’s the really intriguing part: it was much more common among those who reported feeling neglected or unloved in their primary relationship. Here are the main findings of the study:
- Around 62.8% of the participants admitted to expressing affection toward their new partner
- A similar proportion, 61.2%, engaged in sexually explicit conversations with them
- About 37.6% of them had intimate conversations, while 11.1% even said the words “I love you”
- It seems that for those who felt less connected to their primary partner, the affair helped them find a way to experience greater emotional intimacy and fulfill that need for connection
- What’s fascinating is that when infidelity was due to a lack of love in the primary relationship, the individuals involved found the experience more intellectually and emotionally satisfying. It’s like they were seeking that missing love and connection elsewhere and found it in the affair
6. The cheater with a high sex drive (and low self-control)
Haruki Murakami writes in his novel, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, “Sex drive’s decent energy. Y’ can’t argue about that. Keep sex drive all bottled up inside and you get dull-witted. Throws your whole body out of whack. Holds the same for men and for women.” So, having a sex drive isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, a study points out that not all people with strong sexual desires are prone to infidelity.
But the ones who have low self-control are more likely to cheat. Fetish cheaters (especially if they have any kind of sexual addiction) can be among them too. The BDSM kinks of the parties involved may instigate a fetish cheater to engage in infidelity.
7. The online cheater
Having online affairs is one of the different ways of cheating in a relationship nowadays. The various levels of cheating in this virtual world are: sending DMs on Instagram/Facebook, posting comments, using dating apps like Tinder, and sending nudes to strangers. These online interactions or social media cheating may or may not translate into real-life encounters.
In a study conducted with 183 adults who were in relationships, researchers found that more than 10% of participants had formed intimate online relationships. About 8% had experienced cybersex, and 6% had even met their internet partners in person. It’s worth noting that over half of the participants believed that engaging in an online relationship constituted infidelity or unfaithfulness. The numbers rose to 71% when it came to cybersex and a whopping 82% for in-person meetings.
So, now that it’s clear that cyber affairs constitute one of the different types of cheating, let us answer the question – what type of people cheat this way, and why? Well, there could be various reasons:
- Some individuals with low self-esteem may seek validation and attention through these online interactions. They may feel a sense of affirmation and importance when someone shows an interest in them (it’s much easier to get validation online after all)
- Others might cheat out of boredom, craving some excitement that is lacking in their current relationship. And as we know, the online world is full of temptation
- It could also be an attention-seeking tendency, where they enjoy the thrill of getting attention and online responses from others
- They are shy or have health issues, or connecting with people in real life is just hard for them. Internet makes these barriers go away
- Understanding the most common types of cheating in a relationship can help you monitor your actions and avoid acts that can hurt your partner
- Revenge cheaters are motivated by their rage and resentment toward a partner who has cheated on them, and they feel that revenge cheating is the only way to hurt their partner as badly as they were hurt themselves
- Serial cheaters tend to have low or no remorse, are deeply insecure, and constantly need validation from others
- Online cheating (or cyber infidelity) doesn’t involve physical intimacy in most cases, but the lies, secrecy, and betrayal that come with cyber affairs can ruin a relationship
In her thought-provoking TED talk titled ‘Rethinking Infidelity … a talk for anyone who has ever loved,’ Esther Perel says, “At the heart of an affair lies a longing and yearning for emotional connection, novelty, freedom, autonomy, sexual intensity, a wish to recapture lost parts of ourselves and an attempt to bring back vitality in the face of loss and tragedy.”
No matter what types of cheaters people may be or the reasons behind their actions, the guilt of betraying a partner and the trauma of being betrayed can cause a lot of emotional damage on one’s mental health. Healing from these wounds and rebuilding trust can be life-changing. But in some cases, this journey may require professional help. This is where our compassionate and licensed counselors from Bonobology’s panel of experts can provide valuable support to you. Click here to reach out to them on your path to healing and growth!
This article has been updated in June, 2023.