There is not one definitive reason that fully explains why people cheat as there is usually an accumulation of contributing factors consisting of past events, future hopes, social and cultural conditioning, personal desires, needs, wants, and preferences.
However, there is one glaring reason I believe is at the root of the majority of decisions to cheat, and one that we don’t often talk about:
Generally, we gamble with what we think (at the time) we can afford to lose.
If someone believes, either consciously or subconsciously, that the risk they are taking is worthwhile and offers them the opportunity to gain more than they already have, there is usually a good chance they will go for it.
It is not easy to quantify “more than” when relating to a relationships or people, as what appears as “more” to one, might be worthless to another.
This is why, as much as it feels personal when someone isn’t loyal and doesn’t choose us as their number one priority, cheating is not a reflection of the value of the person who has been cheated on.
Often, within our relationships there is a certain area that we feel lacks intensity, or has something missing. We may desire a deeper spiritual, emotional, mental, or physical connection—and, if someone comes along who seems to fit that void, we may feel tempted toward them, without the awareness that they are likely only providing us with a “missing part,” rather than the entire package.
Therefore, we may feel completely satisfied by maintaining a relationship with our partner, along with someone we have started an affair with. This is all well and good, and even moral and ethical, if we are also willing to tell our partner that we feel this way, and if we communicate openly and honestly about our needs and desires.
It’s perfectly natural to feel pulled toward something or someone who interests us, as everything in life has a unique appeal. What attracts the attention of one, can be a complete mystery to another, and that includes the magnetism and dynamics that bring people together. However, that does not automatically mean it is fair, or that it gives us the right to act upon it when we have committed and pledged loyalty to our partner.
We all have different perceptions on what we consider interesting and what we look for in a partner. Often it is the subtle, hidden qualities or quirks that other people simply do not see, that draw us toward someone.
What many people fail to realize when they cheat, or are tempted to cheat, is that new things or people are often tempting, shiny, and exciting in the beginning.
Almost every romantic relationship starts with a spark as there is mystery, intrigue, and an insane level of attraction that can make us feel like forgetting the rest of the world exists.
This is due to the chemistry that occurs between two people which brings on feelings of lust, passion, infatuation, bonding, desire, and romance. This is where the saying “love is blind” comes from. We can become so mesmerised by our energy field dancing with someone else’s, that we become unconscious, or turn a blind eye to the true state of affairs.
The chemistry that fuels and intoxicates our body and mind plays a large part in cheating, as it can alter our perception to such a degree, we ignore warning signs.
The saying “love is a drug” can also be true due to the amount of dopamine released when we are around someone we strongly and deeply connect with. Falling in love can make us feel high, because in the beginning of a relationship we are immersed in the feel-good chemicals released in the throes of new “love.”
In the early, infatuating, initial stages of relationships, the feelings we associate with love are just chemicals altering our state of mind. It isn’t “love” as such. The emotions we experience are caused by serotonin and oxytocin flushing our system.
When two people share chemistry, the pleasure centers within the brain engage, sending out overwhelming feel-good emotions which deliver a craving sensation we can rapidly become addicted to. Every time we connect with the person we feel addicted to, our craving is soothed. This is usually why affairs begin, and why we can become irrational just to get this “hit.” We also may make decisions we would steer away from if our minds were rational and clear.
These intoxicating chemicals can cause us to instantly and deeply entwine with someone we might normally consciously choose to avoid. We may even cheat with someone we know is bad for us, or become involved a relationship that goes against our ethics and morals. We may try to convince ourselves that cheating must be “right” due to the thrills, highs, and extreme emotional reactions we feel when we are around a particular person.
We are likely to feel out of control and as though we just want to ride the wave to see where it takes us. This can be an incredible feeling, but if we aren’t careful, it can be a dangerous one. Especially as so much pain and trauma can be felt if the truth comes out—and highs (and lives) come crashing down.
When chemistry is strong many things that would normally be a priority can fade, as we do not have clarity of mind or sound judgment. Our desire to be connected to someone becomes stronger than our desire to remain balanced, rational, and in control of our emotions.
Therefore, when we cheat, we are often not thinking straight and may feel as though the gamble is a worthwhile one. The temptation for the new can be far greater than the contentment felt with the old. However, what we may fail to see is that shiny new things can also crack, scratch, crumble, and reveal their own set of issues over time. As Robert Frost explains, “Nothing gold can stay.”
So, while we may foolishly think we are getting a good exchange, and that we have nothing to lose by risking the old, we will only be replacing it with the fairytale illusion of the new.
In the early days, we might believe it is worthwhile cheating as we have found something that appears to have more value than what we already have, but it is essential to remember that we are only being been blinded by the initial shine, and we are not seeing past the “brand newness” and thrill that is found at the start of almost every new venture.
In the beginning we can never know how a relationship will turn out as we can’t possibly know someone after five minutes, weeks, or months. It takes years to discover all the hidden nooks and crannies within each other’s personalities. So, attempting to trade or gamble based on initial highs will likely be an upward climb, before a traumatic fall.
As with most gambles, they only feel good when they end with a win. And so many who take the risk soon realize that foundations built on lies and deceit will always contain some level of mistrust. It isn’t easy for trust and faith to exist when there is always the underlying risk that history will repeat itself and that you will be left if something better comes along.
If we think we have discovered something more amazing than what we have, rather than cheat, the healthiest for all involved is to end our current relationship, before attempting to start anew.
Gambling with what we think we can afford to lose always results in a loss somewhere along the line—even if the only thing we lose is the respect, trust, and faith from those we hope to be involved with in the future.
Author: Alex Myles
Image: American Beauty/Imdb
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Social Editor: Sara Karpanen