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Have you ever wondered why people cheat? The answer may not be as straightforward as you thought. 

Cheating isn’t merely a result of dissatisfaction in a relationship or a lack of moral fiber, as popularly believed. The psychology behind infidelity is far more intricate.

In this article, we delve into 15 psychological facts about cheating, each offering a different perspective on why people stray from their relationships. 

We’ll discuss insights derived from various studies, from how certain personality types are more prone to cheat, to the impact of power, and even the paradoxical occurrence of cheating in happy relationships.

Remember, understanding these reasons doesn’t mean endorsing them; we’re simply striving for insight.

1. Dissatisfaction Doesn’t Always Lead to Cheating

Contrary to what most people believe, being unhappy or unsatisfied in a relationship isn’t the primary driver for infidelity. 

In fact, some couples in seemingly happy relationships cheat too. 

What we need to understand here is that cheating is a highly individualistic behavior. For some, dissatisfaction might be a significant factor, while for others, it could be the lure of novelty or an inflated ego that leads them to cheat.

In a study, it was discovered that people often cheat out of neglect and the feeling of underappreciation in their current relationship. 

It was more about emotional satisfaction than physical dissatisfaction. So, if you thought that a perfect relationship is an absolute safeguard against cheating, think again!

2. Cheating Can Be Addictive

Psychological facts about cheating

Sounds strange, right? But it’s true. Cheating can be addictive, and not because of the physical intimacy involved, but due to the ‘dopamine rush’ associated with the act. 

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with reward and pleasure in the human brain. 

The thrill, the secrecy, the danger of being caught, all contribute to an adrenaline rush that increases the dopamine levels in the brain, making the individual crave more of it.

As studies also show, the excitement of an affair can become addictive, just like drugs or gambling. 

Once an individual gets a taste of this ‘forbidden fruit,’ they may find it challenging to stop, even if they understand the devastating consequences it might lead to.

[Related: What Causes A Man to Cheat?]

3. Insecurity Can Fuel Infidelity

Insecurity, one of the most intricate aspects of human psychology, often plays a pivotal role in infidelity. 

This might seem paradoxical because we often associate cheaters with confidence and audacity. But in reality, many cheaters are driven by feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.

According to studies, individuals with low self-esteem and negative body image were more likely to cheat. 

They often engage in infidelity as a way to validate themselves, seeking external affirmation to feel attractive or desired. So, remember, even the most confident-looking people can harbor deep-seated insecurities.

4. Cheating Can Run in Families

Psychological facts about cheating man

Inheritance isn’t just about genetics or assets; sometimes, behavioral traits also run in the family. 

It might be surprising, but research suggests that cheating can be a ‘family affair’. As the study found, individuals whose parents cheated were twice as likely to cheat themselves.

The reason behind this isn’t entirely clear. Some psychologists suggest it might be because children learn how to manage relationships by observing their parents. 

If they witness infidelity, they might perceive it as normal or acceptable behavior. This doesn’t mean that everyone who comes from such a background will cheat, but the likelihood may increase.

5. Cheaters Often Possess Machiavellian Traits

There’s a branch of psychology that studies personality traits known as the ‘Dark Triad,’ comprising narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. 

Those possessing these traits are more likely to indulge in morally questionable behaviors, including infidelity. Particularly, those with Machiavellian traits can be more prone to cheating.

Machiavellianism is characterized by manipulation and a lack of morality. A study found that individuals high on this trait were more likely to be serial cheaters. 

Their disregard for moral standards, combined with their manipulative skills, often drives them to indulge in cheating and easily manage the repercussions.

6. Power Increases the Likelihood of Cheating

Does power corrupt? In terms of fidelity, it seems so. Research indicates that people in positions of power are more likely to cheat. 

This is because power increases confidence, reduces the fear of consequences, and presents more opportunities for infidelity.

Joris Lammers at the University of Tilburg and his team found that power has a strong correlation with confidence and infidelity. It seems that people in power often feel invincible, leading to a sense of entitlement and a greater likelihood of cheating.

7. Infidelity is Not Always About Sex

Psychological facts about cheating woman

While it might seem counterintuitive, infidelity is not always about sexual attraction or desire. 

In fact, sometimes, it’s the emotional connection that drives a person to cheat. Emotional infidelity is when a person invests more emotionally in a relationship outside their primary one.

This form of cheating often stems from the individual’s need for emotional intimacy and understanding, which they might not be receiving in their current relationship. 

Therefore, emotional satisfaction plays a crucial role in fidelity, often more significant than physical satisfaction.

[Read: 10 Signs He Has Multiple Partners]

8. Men and Women Cheat for Different Reasons

The motivations behind infidelity are not universal; they can significantly vary based on gender. 

In general, men tend to cheat for reasons more related to sexual novelty and variety, while women often cheat due to emotional dissatisfaction.

Research conducted by The University of Texas substantiates this distinction. 

The study found that men often seek more exciting and varied sexual experiences, while women seek emotional connection and communication, which they might feel is lacking in their current relationship.

However, these patterns are not absolute, as infidelity is an extremely complex issue. It’s important to remember that everyone is different, and these reasons may not apply to all men or women. 

Infidelity can be influenced by a wide range of individual experiences and circumstances.

9. Cheaters Often Believe Their Cheating is Justified

cheating psychology

You might wonder how a person who cheats navigates their guilt. The answer lies in cognitive dissonance and self-justification. 

Cheaters sometimes don’t perceive themselves as bad people. Instead, they tend to convince themselves that their infidelity is justified, allowing them to lessen their feelings of guilt.

According to cognitive dissonance theory, individuals strive for consistency in their beliefs and actions. 

When there’s a conflict, like acknowledging infidelity but seeing oneself as a good person, people tend to change their beliefs to match their actions. 

In this case, cheaters may alter their beliefs about fidelity, convincing themselves that their actions were necessary or unavoidable due to circumstances.

However, this self-justification is often a self-deception that allows the cheater to avoid confronting the moral implications of their actions. 

Understanding this does not condone the act of infidelity, but it helps shed light on the psychological processes behind such behavior.

10. Some Personality Types are More Likely to Cheat

Personality plays a pivotal role in determining an individual’s likelihood of infidelity. 

Certain personality types, particularly those categorized as more impulsive or adventurous, may be more prone to cheat.

Research has found a significant correlation between infidelity and the “sensation-seeking” personality trait, which is characterized by the need for novel and varied experiences and a willingness to take risks for such experiences. 

These individuals often get bored easily and are always looking for new thrills, which might lead them towards infidelity.

Similarly, people who score high on “avoidance of commitment” also show a higher propensity for cheating. 

These individuals often fear long-term commitment and might resort to cheating as a way to escape the perceived constraints of their relationship. 

Understanding these personality traits does not justify cheating but provides an insight into the predispositions that might lead to such behavior.

11. Infidelity Can Occur Even in Good Relationships

We often assume that infidelity happens due to problems in a relationship. 

However, sometimes cheating can occur even in healthy and happy relationships. This revelation is indeed a puzzler – I mean why would someone jeopardize a good relationship?

Well, people sometimes cheat not because of dissatisfaction in the current relationship, but due to personal dissatisfaction. 

And personal struggles could be a result of internal struggles, a desire for novelty, or a simple lack of self-control. 

And because of these ‘personal struggles’, even when all the needs are met within the relationship, they still cheat for reasons that are unrelated to their partner or the relationship quality.

This is a reminder that infidelity is often a reflection of an individual’s choices and not necessarily an indicator of a flawed relationship.

12. How Attachment Styles Impact Cheating Tendencies

Psychological facts about infidelity

Our attachment styles, formed during childhood, profoundly impact our romantic relationships. 

They influence not just how we connect with our partners but also our propensity to cheat. 

For instance, researchers suggest that people with insecure attachment styles are more likely to be unfaithful.

Specifically, those with an ‘avoidant’ attachment style are more prone to infidelity. 

These individuals often struggle with commitment and closeness, leading them to seek distance from their partner, sometimes through cheating. 

On the other hand, people with ‘secure’ attachment styles, who are comfortable with intimacy and dependence, are less likely to cheat.

However, this doesn’t mean that people with insecure attachment styles are destined to cheat. 

It only just suggests a pattern. With self-awareness and effort, anyone can work on their attachment styles and build healthier and more secure relationships.

[Also read: 10 Signs of a Promiscuous Woman]

13. Technology Facilitates Cheating

The digital age has not only revolutionized our lives but also redefined infidelity. With the advent of technology, cheating has become more accessible and more complicated. 

Social media platforms and dating apps have made it easier to connect with others, which can often lead to emotional or physical infidelity.

As a research found, people who use social media excessively are more likely to cheat, as it provides increased opportunities for contact and secrecy. 

Moreover, online interactions can quickly turn intimate, leading to what’s known as ‘micro-cheating’ – a series of seemingly small actions that can be emotionally unfaithful.

While technology can be a wonderful tool for communication, it’s crucial to be aware of its potential pitfalls. Also, establishing boundaries and keeping open communication with your partner to prevent misunderstandings and potential issues is very essential.

14. Cheaters Are Likely to Cheat Again

The saying “once a cheater, always a cheater” might hold some truth. While it’s not fair to brand all cheaters as serial offenders, research does suggest a pattern. 

Those who have cheated once are more likely to cheat again in future relationships.

This pattern, as research explains, could be due to various factors like lack of remorse, failure to understand the root causes, or simply the thrill of forbidden love.

However, it’s important to bear in mind that people can change. Cheating is not an indelible mark on one’s character, and with genuine remorse, introspection, and effort, individuals can break out of this pattern.

15. Cheating Can Be a Form of Self-Sabotage

Why people cheat psychology

Infidelity is not about the pursuit of pleasure. Sometimes it’s a manifestation of self-sabotage. 

Some individuals, often subconsciously, create problems in their lives, particularly when things are going well. 

They might cheat on their partners to instigate a crisis, driven by their belief that they don’t deserve happiness or success.

Psychologists term this behavior as ‘self-sabotage’ and it often stems from low self-esteem and feelings of unworthiness. 

Cheating in this context is not an attempt to seek out happiness but rather a self-inflicted punishment. It is a complex psychological issue that often requires professional help to address.


The psychology behind cheating is complex. It’s a subject that requires empathy and understanding to explore. 

More importantly, while understanding the reasons behind infidelity can be valuable, it doesn’t excuse the behavior. 

Faithfulness is a choice, and it’s one that each person must consciously make in their relationships.


Why Do People Cheat Even in Happy Relationships?

This question often baffles many as it contradicts the common belief that dissatisfaction leads to infidelity. 

However, the psychology of cheating suggests that individuals can be unfaithful even in fulfilling relationships. This often arises from personal dissatisfaction or internal struggles, not because of problems in the relationship.

For instance, the need for novelty, thrill, or affirmation can drive someone to cheat, regardless of their relationship’s quality. It’s also influenced by personality traits, life circumstances, and individual choices. 

In such cases, cheating is more about the individual’s issues than about the relationship itself.

Can a Relationship Survive After Infidelity?

The aftermath of infidelity can be devastating for any relationship. However, whether a relationship can survive after cheating is not a simple yes or no. 

It largely depends on the individuals involved, the circumstances surrounding the infidelity, and the willingness to work through it.

Surviving infidelity requires deep introspection, honest communication, genuine remorse, and a commitment to rebuilding trust. 

Sometimes, couples may even emerge stronger, having understood and resolved the issues that led to the infidelity. However, there are times when the damage might be irreparable. 

In a nutshell,  the survival of a relationship post-infidelity varies on a case-by-case basis.

Does Cheating Always Mean the End of a Relationship?

Cheating is often considered a deal-breaker in relationships, but it doesn’t always signify the end. 

Similar to the previous question, whether a relationship ends after infidelity depends on various factors, including the severity of the betrayal, the cheater’s remorse and willingness to change, and the cheated partner’s capacity to forgive.

For some individuals, infidelity is an insurmountable breach of trust that marks the end of the relationship. For others, it may serve as a wake-up call, prompting them to address underlying issues in the relationship. 

While cheating is undeniably hurtful and damaging, it does not invariably mean the end of a relationship.

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Destiny Femi

Destiny Femi is a dating coach whose work has helped transform the love lives of countless people. With a writing style that is both insightful and relatable, Destiny has amassed a following of hundreds of thousands of readers who turn to him for advice on everything from finding the perfect partner to maintaining a healthy relationship. Through his articles he has inspired people around the world to become more confident, authentic, and successful in their dating life.

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