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Why do people cheat?

If you’ve ever been cheated on – or were the one doing the cheating – you probably want answers. Here are three science-based theories on why we cheat.

Most people would agree that cheating on a romantic partner is wrong and harmful. Yet it still happens pretty often – and hurts like hell when it does. Why is it so hard for some people to remain faithful to their partners?

Sexperts who study cheating have come up with three theories that might help explain why people do it. In a video put together for the series Love, Factually, evolutionary biologist Dr. David Barash and anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher discuss the science behind cheating.

Humans aren’t naturally monogamous

Biologically speaking, monogamy might not be natural for us humans, explains Dr. Barash, co-author of the book The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People. Humans are not alone in this, he says, almost all mammals out there aren’t 100 per cent monogamous.

But just because monogamy isn’t natural for humans, it doesn’t mean we can’t learn to do it, Dr. Barash emphasizes. Hey, playing the violin isn’t natural for anyone, he points out, but you can learn with practice and it’s great if you can do it! Fidelity is something that takes effort, he argues.

So if it’s not natural for humans to have one sexual partner, what are the reasons for them to have several? For men, it’s pretty simple. According to the theory of evolution, the more women they have sex with the greater the chance they’ll pass on their genes.

Women, on the other hand, wouldn’t exactly benefit from getting pregnant every time they cheated on their partner. Even if it were possible, it wouldn’t be desirable: a whole lot of energy and resources goes into pregnancy and raising kids. But a woman could obtain support from the man she’s got on the side if her current partner were no longer in the picture, for whatever reason, says Dr. Fisher. Her lover could be there as a sort of back-up to help her out and provide for her kids if needed.

Cheating is in our genes

But if monogamy isn’t natural for anyone, why do some people seem to be better at it than others? Well, one explanation is that it’s in their DNA, Love, Factually’s host explains. Researchers who study cheating have found two genes linked to infidelity.

The first, DRD4, has to do with the hormone dopamine, which is involved in pleasurable things like having an orgasm. The DRD4 gene comes in different sizes and one study found that people with longer versions were more likely to be into non-committed sex, whether that meant cheating on their partners or having one-night stands.

The other gene is called AVPR1A and could help explain why some women struggle with monogamy. The gene codes for the hormone arginine vasopressin, which is connected to feeling empathy and bonding with a sexual partner. Women with one version of this gene may be more likely to cheat, research has shown.

Our brain systems make us do it

Another theory on cheating has to do with the separate systems in our brain that are involved in romantic relationships and sex. Humans have evolved one brain system that’s related to their sex drive, another that has to do with feeling romantic love, and a final system linked to attachment to a partner, explains Dr. Fisher.

This becomes problematic when the three different brain systems are not directed towards the same person, she says. So someone could be sexually attracted to the guy who serves them a cup of coffee every morning and at the same time feel a sense of deep attachment towards the long-term partner they sleep next to every night.

Source: Why Do We Cheat ? | Love, Factually

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Recent Comments (13)

  1. i have been faith to my
    i have been faith to my husband and still cheating on me……how will go about it and i truly love him

    1. Hi Joyce, that is a difficult
      Hi Joyce, that is a difficult question and has no straight answer. You need to take time and think about what you want for yourself and the relationship. You have the ability to make an informed decision. All the best.

  2. My story is quite difficult.
    My story is quite difficult. I met this girl when we were back on high school and I fell for her. So I decided to spark the flame and I told her the truth. So I finale got her heart and since then I have sworn to myself make her happy. The problems started when she was just bout to go to the University. She was a Virgin and I had big plans of how our first time would have been great as we shared our virginity but sadly that didn’t happen . she instead met this guy and then poof her virginity was gone. She didn’t tell me until we had Sex that’s when she dropped the bomb and booom my world just sank and broke down onto a million little pieces. Somehow I was so attached to her and had made a promise to myself that no matter what I wouldn’t leave her. Somehow I managed to let it go and I forgave her. I gave her a second chance. Then recently she met with this friend. I had a bad feeling bout him cause he called all the time texted and every time I picked up her phone she got defensive. Whenever he called she left to talk in the bedroom or the kitchen and I felt like there was something going on. My trust diminished in her. I kept asking her why and she got angry and defensive claiming that his her best friend. Until recently when I found out that she’s been cheating on me again emotionally. This happened when she was in the University. Before she joined the University she was okay, loving and noted most things when they went wrong. Now she changed.. Completely. I forgave her again cause I keeping thinking maybe it’s me, there’s something I’m not doing things right. I keep questioning myself how to make this relationship better but I don’t feel like she doing the same. I’m caught up and I need help. She was recently on long holiday and now she back. I’m scared the situation might go back to the way it was.. .

    1. Hi Tony,

      Hi Tony,

      Sorry that you are going through this.

      Its quite clear that you are not the one with the problem but she is.

      The sad reality is that you cannot change her unless she wants to change herself.

      She has been cheating on you and you keep forgiving her so what do you think will make her stop?

      You will only stop hurting if you make a decision. Either you are in an open relationship and accept it, or leave her and move on with your life.

      Its not an easy decision but its one only you can make.

      Take time and think about it then make a decision.

    2. Hi tonny I sadly have the…
      Hi tonny I sadly have the same story as you I have been with her since class seven but sadly in campus things doesn’t seem to go well am confused too I have tried my best to make it work forgave her almost 12times over cheating issues

      1. Hi Among, we are so sorry to…

        Hi Among, we are so sorry to hear what you are going through and commend your strength to open up and share with us. Like we advised Tony, the sad reality is that you cannot change her unless she wants to change herself. She has been cheating on you and you keep forgiving her so what do you think will make her stop? You will only stop hurting if you make a decision. Either you are in an open relationship and accept it, or leave her and move on with your life. Its not an easy decision but its one only you can make. Take time and think about it then make a decision.

  3. I think in a relationship…
    I think in a relationship its just hard to cope up with someone who keeps on cheating

  4. Thank you for your feedback…

    Thank you for your feedback Amon. We think so too!

  5. When cheating is…
    When cheating is intrisically positioned in ones blood, adjourning that bad moral becomes difficult. It’s like seeing a lion & you fail to take a hideout becoz u don’t eat a lion. What do you expect it to do to you????

  6. Nobody is born a cheater! A…

    Nobody is born a cheater! A person may be non-monogamous and are unable to vocalise it. But cheating is not engraved in anyone’s DNA.

  7. My current situation, like…
    My current situation, like 2years back, i was caught cheating but it wasnt my fault, i went in search of job and somebody decided to take advantage and since i was desparate i gave in,my then bf noticed it but forgave me and i decided never to fall back in search a trap, i decided to love him and promised never to cheat on him,2018 we got married officially nd av never broke my promise to him, i love him,the problem is when i found him with any makosa, instead of apologising, he keeps saying”do you know how much you have passed me through, he uses the previous situation as his protection,now like 3mnths ago, he have been having an affair with a certain lady but when i ask,he bcomes angry, the last time i asked him abt the lady, he repeated what he have been telling me,what i did years back, am in great pain since i didnt do it with intentions,now am confused wat to do,wen i rem what went on that time my heart pains and since he promised to forgive me,i took a journy to heal but now my wound is fresh, please help

    1. Hi Shantel, thank you for…

      Hi Shantel, thank you for reaching out to us. We are so sorry to hear that you have been through such a hard time. When trust is broken it can take a lot of time and work to get it back. From what you are describing it is possible that the trust broken was never quite regained. You have admitted your mistakes and tried to make amends but the issue is used to attack you.
      Communication is an important part of any relationship. Have an open and honest conversation with your partner. Explain how their actions are affecting you and the relationship. Try not to be confrontational because that would put them on the defensive and the resulting conversation would not be productive.  Be ready to listen to their fears and feelings and respond to them as well.
      This article has some pointers that could help you learn how to better communicate.

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