What Are The Main Reasons For Infidelity?

Why do people cheat on their partners? What drives a person to engage in infidelity and risk destroying a relationship that has lasted for years? 

For most people, the reasons range from personal to circumstantial. Many do so because of a combination of different factors. Here we explore some of the more common reasons why people cheat. 

Common reasons for cheating on a partner 

Surprisingly, there is relatively little information as to why people cheat on their partners. Dylan Selterman, Justin R. Garcia, and Irene Tsapelas sought to remedy this by conducting a study, the results of which were published in a report entitled “Motivations for Extradyadic Infidelity Revisited”. 

The report investigated the relationship histories of 500 individuals to uncover their reasons for cheating. Based on the information they gathered, the authors came up with eight primary motives for infidelity: 

Decrease or loss of love.

Many cases of infidelity stem from a decrease or loss of love in the relationship. About 77% of the respondents claim that they were driven to cheat after falling out of love with their partner or developing more intense feelings for someone else. 

Desire for more variety.

Almost as many respondents (more than 74%) were driven to infidelity due to a desire to experience more varied relationships. This is often the result of boredom rather than a response to problems with the relationship. 

The desire for more relationship variety is more common among men than women. For most women, boredom isn’t a compelling enough factor to cause them to cheat on their partners. 

Feelings of neglect.

What does drive more women to cheat is the feeling of being neglected by their partner. In most cases, the partner who cheats feels that they don’t receive sufficient attention from their partners. This is similar to people driven to infidelity because they think that they aren’t loved. 

As many as 70% of the respondents surveyed said that feeling neglected was one motivating factor that led them to their behavior. 

Present circumstances.

Not all cases of infidelity are attributable to dissatisfaction with the relationship or partner. Some are simply a response to external factors during the time of the affair. 

In some cases, the actions aren’t deliberate, occurring only on the spur of the moment. Some factors that frequently lead to these incidents are drinking, drug use, or the availability of a willing third party. 

As with the desire for more relationship variety, this motivation is more common among men than women. 

To improve self-esteem.

Surprisingly, many people engage in infidelity to raise their self-esteem. This may seem counterintuitive, considering that unfaithfulness often results in feelings of shame and regret. Even so, nearly 60% of the respondents cited this as one of the primary reasons for cheating. 


This is another reason people cheat on their partners, although it isn’t quite as common as you might think. Of the survey participants, only 43% cited anger as a contributing factor toward their decision to cheat. 

What these respondents had in common was the desire to hurt or punish their partner. For people motivated to cheat because of anger, the primary goal was to get revenge for a perceived slight or wrongdoing. 

Insufficient commitment.

Some people are driven to cheat because they feel that the level of commitment in their relationship isn’t sufficient to keep them faithful. This may be due to their own thoughts and feelings of insufficient commitment or a response to the perceived non-commitment of their partner. In any case, 41% of the study’s respondents cited this reason as a contributing factor.  

Sexual desire.

A third of the survey’s respondents–about 32%–said that sexual desire was the primary motivating factor for their infidelity. Most of these individuals reported not receiving sex from their partners as frequently as they wished or in the specific manner they preferred. More men than women cited sexual desire as the primary reason for their infidelity.  


Taken altogether, these motives involve the person doing the cheating, the relationship, and the circumstances of the person and the partner. As you can see, there is considerable variation in the reasons for infidelity. 

For some people, cheating is motivated by a combination of two or more factors. However, there may also be other reasons that do not fit into any of the above primary motivation categories. 

Even so, these constitute the main reasons why people cheat. For anyone who has ever been unfaithful, the actions are usually attributable to one or more of the reasons outlined above.