It’s An Ugly Truth: The 8 Most Common Reasons People Cheat

November 9, 2012  |  
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Cheating is one of the most guilt-ridden actions a person can partake in, and being cheated on is one of the most painful experiences a person can have. So, why does it happen? Why would someone want to hurt someone like that? When you look at the underlying emotional issues behind cheating, nobody ever meant to hurt somebody else—they were just finding an unhealthy way to avoid their own pain. Here’s what I mean.


They’re looking for an escape from real life

Many people use romance and sex as an escape from real life. When with their boyfriend/fling/hookup buddy, real life things such as work, health issues or finances are not discussed. But, no relationship can go on for long without real life issues coming up. And that’s when many people, that use relationships as an escape, will look for someone new that won’t remind them of real life.


But real life is part of any healthy relationship

The person that cheats for this reason has some major growing up to do. Typically, they are not strong enough to amend the things they are unhappy about in their life—perhaps a job they don’t like or drama within their family—and since they cannot find productive ways to work on their own happiness, they turn to someone else to fill their voids, or help them ignore their problems. But that puts far too much pressure on a partner. No partner can ever truly make a truly unhappy person happy. Which is why the person that isn’t dealing with their problems will continue to cheat, because the next guy won’t fill that void either.


They want to be “new” again

Many people are addicted to being “new” to somebody. They like being mysterious, and having a person crave knowing more about them. But they like to keep a person in that state of craving. And obviously, as relationships progress, you can’t remain mysterious forever, or else you wouldn’t be able to get emotionally close. So, as soon as the mystery goes away for some people, so does the fidelity.

But that’s a problem of ego

The person that needs to be constantly “new” to someone is not comfortable with who they are. They are not okay with someone seeing that they are a flawed human being like everyone else—with a crazy family, quirky habits and maybe some digestive issues. They are not okay with this because deep down, they do not know what is special about themselves. Or they don’t believe anything is that special about them. So, they need the mystery to remain. But, your partner shouldn’t suffer because you haven’t worked on your own self-esteem.

They want someone to be “new” to them again

Some people only want to know the facade of another person. A woman meets a man that is successful, has a great reputation, is on top of his game and she likes that. But, it turns out he himself is normal, with a crazy family, quirky habits and maybe some digestive issues. Some people value themselves based on the people they are with, and once they discover their partner is just ordinary, it takes a toll on their own ego. And they seek someone new and “exciting” to feed their ego again.

But that person does not know how to love

Underneath it all, everyone out there is ordinary in many common ways. An emotionally stable and healthy person has learned how to see what is loveable about a person, even in the mess of everything that is maybe not so great about them. This type of cheating comes down to a self-esteem issue again. The person that cheats to be with a more exciting, and perhaps more famous/successful person, doesn’t have enough confidence in herself to say, “I’ll love who I love, because all that matters is that I’m happy, not what people think.” They are way too busy worrying what people think.

Co-dependency issues

Pretty much anybody that cheats struggles with some codependency issues. Think about it: cheating is the worst option, and if a person were comfortable and capable of being alone, they wouldn’t cheat. They would just say, “I’m not happy in this relationship” and spare their partner the pain of being cheated on. But, instead of facing the scary world of being single, they let their partner take the brunt and get cheated on.

But that’s not fair to your partner

No relationship you will ever be in will be made of real love if you’re terrified of being alone. If that’s the case, then you’re just desperately swinging through the jungle of love, grabbing onto whatever vine (whatever person) you can just so that you’re not alone. And any time you feel the slightest neglect from your partner, which happens in every relationship because life happens, you’ll cheat. And that is not a sustainable pattern. Do the work you are responsible for doing by learning to be happy alone. It’s the only way you can ever make someone else happy because it’s the only way you will ever enter relationships with confidence, rather than fear.

Their current partner would fall apart

If left, the current partner would become deeply depressed, would have a mental breakdown, or might even do something to harm themselves or others. That is a very tough spot for the emotionally stable partner to be in. But, everybody wants happiness which is why someone with such an unstable partner, might look for love elsewhere, while still being a rock for their partner.


But you can’t fix that person

If a person is so unstable that they would fall into a deep, debilitating depression, or hurt themselves if left, you’re not helping them by staying with them. They were going to have a breakdown sooner or later, if not because of your leaving them then because of something else. You should never live in misery just to hold somebody else up. If something terrible happened should you leave that person that is not your fault. You are not a therapist. You’re an individual deserving of a healthy and happy relationship.


They aren’t getting enough attention from their partner

One partner becomes extremely busy with work, or perhaps taking care of a sick family member, and his or her relationship has fallen to the backburner. This is when the other partner might cheat because they are not getting that constant affirmation that they are an attractive, desirable, lovable person—all the things we usually get from a relationship.


But tough times will fall on anyone

Anyone you are with will eventually come onto a rough patch and not be able to be the world’s best partner for a little while. This type of cheating, once again, comes down to a self-esteem issue. The confident and secure person has enough love for him or herself that they don’t feel a major void just because their partner got busy. Only those with major self-esteem issues go into a panic, and potentially cheat, when they don’t get attention for a few weeks.


There is a reason co-workers and classmates often fall in love: they bond over a common understanding of one another’s stresses, struggles, ambitions, dreams, and even schedules (they’re thrown together a lot because of their shared activity). Cheating with a co-worker is a very common type of cheating for this reason. A person may feel that their co-worker understands them much better than their partner does.

But that’s a cop-out

If you are a good communicator, you should never feel that your co-worker, or anyone else, understands you better than your partner! Your partner should be the one that gets to lend you a listening ear, or a shoulder to cry on, or advice on your most trying times. If you feel your partner hasn’t been doing those things, it’s either because they’re a terrible partner (in which case, again, you should just leave them and if you haven’t you probably have codependency issues) OR because you haven’t given them the chance to.


Because they are allowed to

A lot of the cheaters out there cheat because they are allowed to—because their partner always takes them back, or perhaps even turns a blind eye. Training is basic for every animal from dog to human; if you positively reinforce a behavior (by staying with a cheater) they will continue to do that behavior.


But if you’re letting someone cheat…

Then you probably still struggle with many of the issues addressed on this list; codependency, low self-esteem, not enough love for yourself, communication deficiency and so forth. Nobody is forcing you to be with him or her. If you’re cheated on continuously by the same person, you allowed that to happen. You’re only keeping them around because if you were alone, you’d suddenly be faced with all of your own personal issues.

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  • Kath

    The reason- not reasons people cheat is because they want to. As to whether or not one allows it to happen to them repeatedly (mark you, you can’t say you’re being cheated on if you’re unaware) is one’s choice.

  • Dandy

    Very poor article

  • LuLuSlim

    MN really needs to stop with the 99 page clicks needed to read an article. The page takes to long to load up and then there are those annoying ads that are in audio. *I’ll pass. (I do enjoy the comments though! lol)

  • italianostaliano

    I clicked on all 17 and although not the best way to keep someone’s interest, it didn’t kill me.

    Now to the article. There is something that has not been mentioned to which I never have been, that being marriage. Many people marry for all the wrong reasons and soon find themselves in a situation with someone they really didn’t know as well as they thought they did and find cheating the escape you mention, yet they don’t want to go as far as divorce (at least not yet) for all the reasons one can think of. My point is when you add a bad marriage to the mix it exacerbates the emotional insecurities of people

  • Name

    is there a contradiction in saying that everyone is ‘special’ and then later saying that later they will be revealed as ‘ordinary’.

  • Why’d the woman in the first pic the pic get her bra off, but left her shirt ON? dumb pic

  • Pingback: It's An Ugly Truth – Madame Noire | Love Advice()

  • L-Boogie

    My list includes:
    Like Water for Chocolate
    The Color of Water
    House on Mango Street

  • Pingback: The Ugly Truth Way People Cheat from Madame « Spirit Of Fire()

  • dreama

    Gaaag – I know I’ll take a tarring for this but here it goes. This article isn’t really “8 reasons people cheat” it’s an exercise in demonizing a behaviour. This reads like an opinion piece – is there actually any data to back up any of these assertions? They sound like the reasons that jilted lovers use to get to sleep at night (in other words – from a very emotional place) Maybe people “cheat” because monogamy is plain boring and unnatural. Or maybe it’s because some people require more or less stimulus than others. The “myth” of monogamy is a one-size-fit’s-all approach foisted on us by those who never intended it for themselves – men. In almost all cultures monogamy is not expected of men, either explicitly (plural wives) or implicitly (sewing their oats, mistresses, hookers, deemed acceptable – simply not acknowledged). Just because society roundly condemns or approves something doesn’t actually make it inherently bad or good – see history for slavery, misenagation, gay rights, women’s rights, etc.

    • Xavier713

      Do you want to be with just one person?

      • dreama

        Do you want to have just one friend? Do you want to eat just one meal. Do you want to do just one job for your entire life. As a matter of fact, name me one other thing that you just want to do with one person and one person only for your entire life.

        • Xavier713

          Yes I would if I was fulfilled with that one meal, friend and and or woman. Call it simple but in my eyes less distractions draws you closer to the truth. And that one thing would be sex I’ll have a long time to get better at it.

          • dreama

            Listen – We’ve already co-opted the term and meaning of monogamy from it’s original definition, which was “one partner for life”. We’ve basically finessed the definition to make ourselves feel better about our own morality, while still clinging to a sense of self-righteousness about those “other” moral deficients. What you all now profess to believe in is “serial” monogamy i.e. one partner at a time, if we say we’re committed to each other. How many people REALLY believe in, and practice monogamy? You know, the REAL one. Your scenario is basically a false one – quite simply -you haven’t found that one meal, or one friend, or one anything else – because it doesn’t exist. There is NO mammal species that practices monogamy. Although there are a few animals that were previously believed to “pair” for life, DNA on the offspring has proved that siblings actually don’t always have the same parents.

          • dreama

            I answered, not sure what happened to it – but here’s the short answer: Your scenario is patently false, you have not committed to any “one” thing or activity or relationship (of any kind, including friend) that fulfilled you for life, to the exclusion of others because it doesn’t exist.

        • Pivyque

          Just because you are monogamous doesn’t mean you have to live your life with that person only. Yes, my husband is the only person that I want to sleep with, but I have friends to do other things with, as well as family and coworkers. So, yes I do just want to be with only him the way that I am, but i’d have to have multiple meals lol I’m just not compromising on that!!! I WON’T DO IT!!

    • Pivyque

      There is no “good” reason to cheat. Be in an open relationship or be single. What’s the point of betraying trust? I don’t believe that monogamy is unnatural and I don’t believe that being with multiple people is wrong. Different strokes for different folks. You just have to be on the same page as the person/people you are dealing with.

      • Dreama

        People get married or pledge monogamy for the same reason I wear a bra every single day, because it’s a social construct that has consequences. A bra literally has no merit whatsoever but I would be ostracized with these 40 yo Double DD’s if I didn’t wear one, at work, in my social circle, etc. I could name a million of them. 150 years ago not only was it “ok” and legal to beat your wife, it was considered sound advice that men passed on to their sons. We can pretend they don’t, but social taboos and norms carry a LOT of weight, whatever their merit. Women in China used to bind and mangle their feet because small feet were considered the height of femininity and beauty.

        • Dreama

          Oh, and, as soon as I get home behind closed doors that harness comes OFF!

        • Lola

          All your responses are cogent! I haven’t read such thought-provoking comments in quite a while and I hope to read more from you.

          While I enjoy being in a committed/monogamous relationship, I find that I start to get extremely bored after 3 years – every time like clock work. This is not an indictment on the man I happen to be with, it is just who I am. Of course, I keep this to myself because as you alluded to, society would deem it an anomaly.

          • Karim

            You should read Lacan Theory of Wants. Once you have something for a while, you will want something else. That goes for everything not just relationships. Why does everybody care about “society”? Unless it is against the law, and you don’t wrong others, do you!!!

        • Pivyque

          Honestly, I don’t care about social taboos and norms. All I am saying is that people can agree to have an open relationship. Regardless of reason, betraying someone’s trust is never the right thing to do. As I have said before, different strokes for different folks. My friend has an open marriage and they are happy with that. I don’t see the point, but as long as they are happy with it, me seeing the point isn’t necessary. I have been with my husband a long time and I haven’t felt the desire to be with anyone else. Not everyone feels that way and I have no right to think any less of them because of that. As for a bra…same thing. Some people like it, some people don’t. It’s all about preference.

        • Karim

          You don’t have to get married, just like you don’t have to wear a bra (yuck!!!), but when you chose a behavior you chose the consequences. If chose not to wear a bra you will have to deal with ppl staring. If don’t get married will have to deal with… what exactly? I hose not to get married because I want my space, but if I did I would respect the other person.

    • Karim

      Wow, so this is how people really think? Behaviors are typically demonized when they are known to involve the deceiving or hurting of another person. Just like stealing, beating women, and conning people out of money are demonized. It goes back to that whole treat people how want to be treated thing. If don’t want to be in relationship don’t be in one, but it is wrong to tell someone you are only with them and betray them behind their back. And for your so-called analogy with slavery, when you unjustly deceive or cause harm another thatis typically the barometer for right and wrong not laws. I could use our whole slavery analogy for an excuse on why rape or sleepng with a child should be okay. And wasn’t slavery demonized because it was purely selfish and subsequently made illegal?

  • Great article and yes I went through every page too. But my internet is fast and my page load pretty quick so I didn’t mind reading all 17 pages. But the even number pages are the reasons people cheat and the odd number explains why you shouldn’t cheat in detail and why you should just leave if your unhappy or each reason.

  • Anon

    i was interested in reading the article. but i’ll pass on 17 clicks. i will assume it was entertaining.

    • E McArthur


  • RJ5951

    Other reasons that didn’t make the list

    Yearning for a partner other than your own
    To go shopping (the person you’re cheating with may have ends)

  • Purple_Crush

    You said 8 reasons but there’s 17 pics to click on…err uhh…no thanks

    • The even numbers on the pages are the reasons and the odd numbers are explaining in detail why the reason shouldn’t be and why you should leave rather than cheat.