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New research reveals the real reasons that people cheat

Cheating is a destructive thing that is all too common. Plenty of us have had to either comfort someone who has discovered their partner has cheated on them, or even talked to a friend who has had an affair or a one-night stand with someone other than their significant other. It can be easy to write off everyone who cheats as a wholly bad person, but when cheating is so prevalent, many of us find ourselves asking: why do they do it?

There are definitely some out there who simply do not care about their partner, or openly believe that their desires are far more important than the feelings of their SO, but there are some deep-rooted problems that can contribute to a person's decision to cheat, especially those who have done it multiple times.

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According to new research, the common motivations behind cheating can give us an understanding of the psychology of the cheater. The study, published in the Journal of Sex Research, explains why people sometimes betray their partner even when they have a healthy fulfilling relationship which looks to be perfectly happy from the outside looking in.

'Motivations for Extradyadic Infidelity Revisited', conducted by Dylan Selterman, Justin R. Garcia and Irene Tsapelas, involved a questionnaire with hundreds of participants on their relationship history. The 495 participants were asked about their past relationships; namely whether they have cheated or not and the reasons they give for doing so. Many of the results went on to show that those who cheated were deeply insecure, requiring validation and reassurance from outside their relationship.

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A lot of people cheat because they are not satisfied with their relationship, feel neglected, angry with their partner, or are just giving into their attraction to someone else. But a common thread is that regardless of what they think of their significant other, they seem unable to handle finding their self-worth from just one person.

Other popular motives included:

  • “I had ‘fallen out of love with’ my partner”
  • “I was not very committed”
  • “I wanted to enhance my popularity”
  • “I wanted a greater variety of sexual partners”
  • “I was drunk and not thinking clearly”

While these are unsurprising in a lot of ways, many of these reasons don't involve the relationship itself being terrible, or any fault in their partner - they usually have internal problems about trust or validation. Those who have "attachment insecurity" see their own personal problems reflected in how they act in relationships. For these people, it is often easier to detach from important relationships to other people where they are less vulnerable - and also get an ego boost from the experience.

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An older study conducted by Florida State University backs up these claims, revealing that there's a direct link between insecure attachment and infidelity, but the researchers urge that this isn't all-encompassing.

“It would be a mistake to conclude that all affairs (and infidelity-related behaviors) similarly result from deficits in the primary relationship,” the researchers wrote, explaining that this doesn't pertain to everyone out there. And of course, just because an insecurity drives you in acting this way, it doesn't make it okay to do, but a flaw you have to work on if you want to have an honest and healthy relationship.