I was catching up with a long distant friend over Gmail Chat and somehow the conversation turned to cheating. How did we even start on the subject? We were chatting about relationships, he was telling me about how he had learnt from his previous relationship and was asking what I thought about abstaining from sex at the start of a new relationship. I told him my thoughts, that abstinence is not a theory I subscribe to but I can see the rationale…sometime during this chat, I asked him why he had previously cheated whilst in a relationship (he has not cheated in his current relationship). His response:
‘Cheated occasionally when I was feeling bad about the relationship and needed a break’.
We started to talk about the importance of communicating with your partner and the importance of telling them about your cheating past and what led to you cheating (in order to reduce/prevent you from cheating again). I told him about a past relationship where I had cheated on my partner and how in a later ‘buddy’ relationship I had told my buddy about this past. My friends thought that was a bad idea, they were (rightly I think) concerned that he would judge me unfavourably for having cheated in the past.
So I thought I would do some text based research. I texted my friends who I knew had cheated before or are cheating currently. I also texted one friend that I had no idea whether he had cheated before or not and this was the response to the question. ‘Okay doing some research for the blog. Why do people cheat? What are your thoughts?’
These are some of the responses I received. I also decided to indicate whether the response came from a man or woman. I feel that men and women cheat for different reasons so I want to see if any trends emerge:
• Because you want out of the current relationship, On a subconscious level you are trying to break up (woman)
• Cos they are selfish – you do it because you do it, simple (woman)
• The thrill of experiencing sexual attraction with someone other than your partner, it’s more exciting. People cheat because they are bored/unhappy/unfulfilled (man)
• I don’t know why. Plus I don’t really cheat so I really wouldn’t know ? (man – I know he has cheated although in the text he (jokingly?) denies it)
• Dissatisfaction generally, sex, fantasy, love, fulfilment, recognition and respect, seeking attention, irresponsibility on partner’s side, beauty, communication, generational gap, I can go on and on, these are my personal experiences. (woman)
• Because they know they won’t be caught and there is a certain allure to the naughtiness of the act. Plus and more importantly a relationship is not the natural state of things, all the things it promises, a sense of security, joy, constant sex…what you end up getting is boredom and all the insecurities the other party brings to the table, none of the romance or excitement you were hoping for ( man)
• They’re weak? They can’t be bothered to try and stay committed? Can’t let a skirt get away? I think it’s mainly the idea they can get away with it and so why not? (man)
• Easy, Indiscipline (woman)
One of my friends said her response was too long to send via text so sent an email. I am reproducing the relevant bits in its entirety below:
“Why people cheat? What a complex question? Firstly, I’m assuming we’re talking about sex because personally I believe you can cheat by kissing or fooling around with someone who isn’t your partner or even by getting emotionally closer to another person. But, we both know how ‘extra’ I am.
Sex doesn’t usually have much to do with love, and once you separate the act of love making from the notion of love, the reasons for cheating become clearer. For some people I think a lot of the thrill is in the chase of pursuing some one and in the discovery of sexual pleasure with someone new. As much as you try to maintain spontaneity and creativity in a long term relationship you grow to know your partner and anticipate their likes and their responses. For some people this is a turn on, for others it’s the beginning of sexual bed death and is boring.
Obviously, it happens that at a point in time you can find someone else more sexually attractive or they can give you something or perform sexual acts or sex in a way that your partner can’t or isn’t willing to try.
Some people cheat because they are in denial. They think they are fooling themselves, their peers and wider society by maintaining the facade of being heterosexual and being in a conventional relationship when really they’re bisexual or gay (not that I like those labels) and need to explore or fulfil that side of themselves with someone of the same sex. They may also be scared of reproach if they come out.
The only thing I can tell you with any certainty is why I personally cheated, which not something I’m proud of or thought that I was capable of, but I guess we never really know what we’re capable of until we’re tested in a given situation. Anyway, the main reason was I felt emotionally neglected and distant from my partner. .. That chasm allowed me to become very emotionally close to someone else and once you feel that bond it’s easy for attraction to develop and not too big a leap for you to act on it. The reason why I continued cheating? Because I fell in love and I guess wanted to explore that side of myself.
The crux is, it’s only cheating if your partner doesn’t know about it. So the real question is, why don’t people tell? That’s a whole other debate. I guess because if you’re married or co habiting for example you risk losing a lot. Access to children perhaps, money in a settlement, the trust and closeness of someone whom you may care about and have a shared history, your best friend perhaps. So maybe people don’t tell because they’re scared of losing those things and are cowards, but often I guess because they know their actions will hurt someone they may love, but don’t care enough not do it” (woman)
So what are your thoughts on why people cheat? Have you every cheated? In your response please indicate in brackets if you’re male or female, I’m curious as to whether any trends will emerge.