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Sex + Relationships

Why People Cheat, According to Relationship Experts

Who knows what’s really going on under the sheets.

Cheating is no picnic for those involved but it does happen – and quite often. There are a lot of definitions out there for cheating. Is it a hookup? Sexting? Internet porn? Swiping right? Or not being entirely open with your partner? Advances in technology have created plenty of new ways to be unfaithful so chances are very good that you know someone who has cheated on their significant other or is cheating on someone right now. Maybe you’ve been cheated on before, or even cheated yourself.

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According to Esther Perel, a couples therapist and an expert on sexuality, sometimes there are things that even two young adults in a happy relationship can’t provide for each other. It might come as a surprise that most of Perel’s patients who’ve cheated on their partner are not chronic philanderers but people who are extremely monogamous in their beliefs.

After working with her patients, Perel found that those who cheat do so when finding themselves in a conflict between their values and their behavior. At a certain point, the passion in a relationship can wither away. It is possible for partners, when reaching this point in their relationship, to start longing for an emotional connection that they have lost. In a 2015 TedTalk, Perel said, “At the heart of an affair you will find often a longing and yearning for emotional connection, novelty, freedom, autonomy, sexual intensity, a wish to recapture lost parts of ourselves.”

The negative views surrounding infidelity in our culture make it difficult to not see unfaithful partners as the villains in the situation. Alicia Walker, a Missouri State University sociologist, interviewed forty-six women from across the United States who had cheated in their relationships. Most of the women were rejected by their partners after trying to address issues with sexual dissatisfaction and a lack of intimacy. Not wanting to break up with their partners, these women felt they had little choice other than to cheat.

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Another reason that cheating is argued to exist is that we humans are designed for it. But how is this possible? Linda Rodriguez McRobbie, author of the article, Is Infidelity always bad? says that according to evolutionary psychology, ancient men would seek out sex with multiple partners to ensure that their genes are passed on. Ancient women, according to recent discussion among anthropologists, would have sex with multiple partners for protection and sustenance.  

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Regardless of the arguments made by therapists and sociologists, monogamy in a relationship just doesn’t work for some people. Relationships at any age always come with the risk of betrayal and betrayal from a loved one cuts deep. While breaking up is how most people would immediately react after being cheated on, is it possible for the relationship to heal from it? Some experts believe so but there needs to be different lens around cheating to enable that healing.  

 

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