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Why people cheat



Cheating is always a topic of conversation, because while it happens all the time, it still manages to feel like a shocking heartbreak. Either it’s happened to you, or you’ve cheated on someone, or your friend’s wanker ex cheated on them, or your entire office is chatting about the Seann Walsh and Katya Jones kiss.

Every time it happens, there’s usually one big question: Why? Why do people cheat? Why don’t they just end their relationship if they’re miserable? Why do they stay with people they can’t stop cheating on? Why? Why? Why?


Sheela Mackintosh-Stewart is a matrimonial consultant and a divorce lawyer, so she’s heard more than her fair share of cheating stories.


She’s noticed that there are certain triggers that can lead to infidelity. It’s not that there’s something wrong with a person’s partner so they look elsewhere, but that they don’t know how to deal with an unmet emotional need.

“Modern relationships undergo constant pressures, whether that’s handling the demands of everyday life, having to constantly juggle a hefty work-life balance or dealing with pressures on social media,” Sheela tells

“It is these stresses that can sometimes accumulate and lead to a relationship breakdown, and in some cases, infidelity.


“For Strictly Come Dancing’s Shann and Katya – who are both in serious long-term relationships – their kiss has been a result of intense stress, increased proximity and of course going by the telling of events, alcohol.

“In general, though, cheating encompasses a wide range of relationship-straying, from emotional cheating (surreptitious texting of an intimate nature) to sexual cheating (casual one night stands to prolonged sexual affairs).


“Common triggers I have seen include boredom, loneliness, depression, marital unhappiness, the need to spice it up and escape from the ordered predictability and humdrum of daily life, and domestic routine with the intoxicating edge of danger and thrill.”


Sheela notes that many cheaters are looking for validation, often out of a place of insecurity and anger. Often infidelity will occur when a person is feeling particularly vulnerable and doesn’t feel their additional emotional needs are being met – such as when a parent dies, when work becomes stressful, or a midlife crisis. “Cheating is often just a symptom of a much greater underlying rot that has set into relationships which haven’t been properly communicated or dealt with by the couple, including feeling neglected, trapped, unsupported or having needs unmet,” she explains.


Makes sense


But while an outside expert can look at cheating and say ‘yep, that’s all down to insecurity’, it’s tricky to keep that distanced, rational view when it comes to encountering cheating firsthand. You might not get a neatly packaged explanation tied up with a bow. You might cheat and not really understand why.


Amy*, who’s cheated on her current partner multiple times, recognises that her behaviour isn’t healthy, and is working to understand why she cheats.


“Largely it’s meeting up for a drink and then going to their place/a hotel. It fizzles out a few months later but the odd text, then one night it will start back up again,” Amy explains.


“I knew it was awful of me and that I was risking everything, but I was bored and sad and wanted attention. I think at the time I thought ‘well if my boyfriend’s not interested maybe somebody else will be’.


“It’s definitely because I’m depressed and I do it for a distraction. When someone new and exciting (and usually European so with a sexy accent) is interested in me then it’s lighting up a different part of my brain and distracting me from how shit I feel otherwise.


“The shame and guilt the next day is the worst comedown, but I still go back for more. It’s like MDMA or something.


“Also I think because my mental health is bad and I’m feeling worthless, I don’t care if they treat me horribly because it’s what I deserve.”


Amy has spoken with her therapist to look into why she keeps cheating. She feels intense guilt, but that hasn’t taken her out of the cheating and self-hating cycle.


“My therapist says it’s because I don’t feel like I’m good enough for my boyfriend, so am trying to sabotage the relationship so that it can come down to a ‘well you cheated’ and not ‘you’re not good enough’,” she says.


“I feel guilt all the time, and it’s definitely even more damaging to my self esteem. I probably let my boyfriend get away with stuff (nothing bad, just like, watching eleven hours of football) that I wouldn’t if I was faithful, but because I cheated I end up thinking ‘oh it’s fine, let him have that, you cheated on him you heinous woman’.”


Like many people who have cheated, Amy is beginning to wonder whether a monogamous relationship is right for her.



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  1. Pingback: Why people cheat — Voiceheadlines

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