Cheating and lying go hand in hand. You cannot cheat without lying and when you lie, you are cheating.
However, there is a subtle difference between cheating and lying. A cheater is someone who ignores and breaks the rules, while a liar is someone who doesn’t tell the truth.
We are very much aware that cheating and lying are wrong according to all rule books. But we still cheat and lie. Why? What is the psychology behind cheating and lying?
Both cheating and lying are behavioral patterns and are closely linked to some thought patterns. Infidelity is considered one of the most compelling reasons for breakups. Often when a relationship breaks up because of infidelity, it is written off as “If it happens, it happens”. We rarely pause to think about why it happened.
By knowing the thought processes of cheaters and liars, we can get to the bottom of this. What motivates a partner to stray, betray the trust placed on them, and seek intimacy elsewhere?
This article tries to understand and unravel the psychology behind cheating and lying. Knowing the reasons can help the betrayed partner come to terms with the situation instead of blaming themselves for the breakup.
Psychology of cheaters and liars
1. It “just happens”
Though this may sound cliché, it is the truth. Even a straight-thinking monogamous person, when they find themselves in certain situations, may be tempted to cheat. And if the opportunity presents itself, cheat they will. But remember, this is not to justify their actions or to absolve them of the blame.
When a person gets an opportunity to stray without apparent consequences, they may find the situation too tempting. Typically, before cheating, a person will weigh the risk factors of being caught cheating. When the risk is minimal, they go ahead with it, even if there is always a possibility of being discovered and brought to book.
2. Infidelity need not always be about sex
Sex is one of the major constituents of a romantic relationship, and its role in cheating and infidelity cannot be ignored. But it is not the only contributing factor in all instances. Other factors like emotional and intellectual needs may not be met by the primary partner. So the cheating partner will seek an affair partner to meet these needs.
Ideally, both partners should evolve as individuals at the same pace in all aspects of life. When it doesn’t happen this way and they find themselves at different levels and wavelengths, they may not be able to relate well with each other. This is a trigger for cheating.
3. A cheater may continue to love the partner
A person may cheat due to various factors. Unless they are already out of love with their primary partner, cheating need not alter this. Even after cheating, the cheater may continue to be in love.
By cheating, a cheater obviously is betraying the trust placed on them by their partner. Even if they are aware of what they have done, a cheater may not fall out of love with their partner. It may seem strange that a cheater can continue to love their partner and still stray outside the relationship. The reasons for cheating may be issues related to commitment or body image.
4. Cheating doesn’t mean an unhappy relationship
A person may stray even when they are in a happy relationship. The typical image of a cheater ingrained in our minds, thanks to movies and media, is that of someone unhappy and unsatisfied in their relationship with their primary partner. This need not always be the case.
Even someone totally in love with their partner may stray because of their inherent polygamous trait or apathy toward commitment in the relationship. Often their own inferior body image may make a person forget everything and plunge headlong into adultery with an affair partner.
5. A lack or denial of sex need not translate to cheating
We automatically assume that a partner trapped in a sexless relationship will cheat. This is not always true. Though sex is indeed one of the driving factors in a relationship, it is not the only one. It’s common for a person to cheat when they are experiencing emotional distress or if they feel they aren’t getting enough respect in the relationship.
Cheating may happen for reasons other than sex or sexual pleasure. A lack or denial of sex can be a good trigger for infidelity and raises the chances of straying. Despite having a sexually fulfilling relationship, if a partner’s emotional needs are not met, they may seek an affair partner and commit adultery.
6. A cheater may not want to leave their partner
This is not what a partner wants to achieve through cheating. In fact, they cheat because they want to stay in the relationship but at the same time get what they lack in the relationship. If they leave the partner and end the relationship before hooking up with an affair partner, it won’t be called cheating.
Most partners who commit adultery never even consider the option of ending their relationship. They use adultery as a means to supplement their needs. They feel that they need this for them to be happy and content. So they cheat.
7. Cheating often happens unplanned
Infidelity does not always follow a plan. It may be spontaneous when the opportunity presents itself to the participants. This is more accurate for those in happy and committed relationships. They never actually looked out for ways to cheat and whom to hook up with before the actual act. They never made elaborate plans to commit adultery.
This often happens in happy, committed couples whose relationship is on a downward path. The reasons can be anything from less time spent with each other to low libido. When they find excitement and attention with an affair partner, they feel the urge to go after it.
Psychological facts about cheating man
Though there is no discrimination between men and women when it comes to cheating, their reasons and methods of cheating vary vastly. Here are some psychological facts about cheating man.
- He is impulsive in seeking sexual gratification.
- He feels inadequate and inferior.
- He believes that he is unwanted, unloved, and misunderstood.
- He justifies his infidelity by placing the blame on his partner.
- He convinces himself that it can’t be helped.
- He feels powerful and in control.
- He harbors the fear of being abandoned or rejected.
- He enjoys the risk involved and actively seeks the thrill.
- He uses this to punish his partner.
- His idea of love is distorted.
- He is going through an identity crisis.
- He isn’t thinking about the consequences.
- He’s narcissistic.
Psychological facts about cheating woman
The reasons for a woman to cheat are quite different from that for a man.
- She feels unappreciated and taken for granted.
- She has low self-esteem.
- She’s hurt, so she hurts by cheating.
- She finds it thrilling.
- She feels there is a lack of passion and excitement in her primary relationship.
- She doesn’t value the commitment in her relationship.
- Everyone is cheating, so she is too.
- There is a lack of emotional connection in the relationship.
- She lacks impulse control.
- She thinks “monogamy” is unnatural.
- She’s unhappy.
- She’s narcissistic traits.
- Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
Why do cheaters want to stay in relationships?
Not all those who cheat want to end their relationships. They want to stay in their relationships and want to enjoy something more by cheating on their primary partner. They still love their partner and don’t want to change the status quo of their relationship. Here are some reasons why people cheat on someone they love.
- They feel insecure and seek validation through infidelity. All they want is to feel wanted.
- They think their life is monotonous and uninteresting and want more excitement.
- They want to explore more without changing anything about themselves or their lives.
- They are plagued by unresolved childhood trauma. But they are scared to leave their partner.
- They are curious about how different life would be with an affair partner. But they don’t want anything to change.
- They are disappointed with their partner because of their unrealistic expectations. They try to fill the deficit with an affair partner.
- They want to experience the euphoria of a new relationship, even if it is a clandestine one with an affair partner.
- They feel they deserve more than their partner can offer. They want to keep both primary and affair partners.
- They are afraid of loneliness. They want the stability of a relationship in their life.
- They stay in the relationship for the sake of their children. Though clichéd, this is one of the most common reasons for cheaters to stay in a relationship.
Final thoughts on the psychology behind cheating and lying
The psychology behind cheating and lying is as complicated as the minds of human beings.
Once a cheater, always a cheater. This is something that has been drilled into our minds for ages. This is as untrue as the tales of Scheherazade. When an addict or a convict can reform, why not a cheater? However, a cheater can change only if they want to and the underlying causes have been addressed.
The psychological reasons for cheating include low self-esteem, lack of love and commitment, need for variety and excitement, neglect, and being taken for granted. But just because a partner strays and wants to experience more excitement doesn’t mean they no longer love their primary partner or want to leave the relationship.
In fact, they want both primary and affair partners. They want more.