Why Cheaters Cheat (1 Common, Controversial Reason)


For victims of an affair, one of the top-ranked questions for cheaters is, “Why?”

There are other questions tacked on to that simple question, such as “How could you do this to me?” and “How could you throw away X years of our relationship?”

But the main thing victims want is some sort of explanation that makes sense. Not only that—they want an internal light bulb to go off, one that gives them perfect understanding while releasing the all-but-unbearable pain and disappointment: “Aha, now I understand! I am satisfied with the reason and feel at peace now.”

There is one universal reason, which is somewhat controversial to say, as to why cheaters cheat. It may or may not be a satisfying reason, but it strikes to the core of how a cheater arrived at their ill-fated decision. Read on to find out…

Do You Really Want Affair Details?

Affair victims have a monstrous load of emotions to grapple with once they find out their partner has cheated on them. It is all-consuming, all-encompassing, and it takes time for the waves of this emotional tsunami to subside.

And one of the biggest problems an affair victim grapples with is getting an understanding of why their cheating partner made the decision to cheat. The victim wants a specific answer, specific to their potential situation:

  • Was it one thing I said or did?
  • What was the tipping point?
  • When did you make the decision?
  • Is the person you cheated with more attractive than me?

But what the affair victim really wants is a basic answer as to why anyone would choose cheating, when it’s just as easy to make a choice not to cheat. In particular, why would their partner—the person they love—make this choice?

Why Cheaters Cheat 

There’s one universal reason, and it’s a bit controversial: cheaters cheat because they have a character flaw.

Why is this controversial?

It seems that talking about someone having a character flaw is almost considered bad manners, like pointing out a disability. Somehow it seems more “politically correct” to use excuses such as “He said he was confused” and “She said she wasn’t happy.”

While these things may be true on the surface, deep down—down in the space where decisions are made about how to conduct our life—your partner made a decision to break your trust and faith in them.

Does their happiness rank over the trust you had?

Does their confusion rule over the commitment you made?

I can’t answer that for you. To me, these sound like what they are: excuses. And they don’t excuse the ultimate bad decision: to cheat.

We all have character flaws. But one where the gift of trust is thrown back in the face of the giver is one that seems exceptionally bad, because it causes such immense pain and suffering on the part of the person who gave the gift.

As the victim of an affair, here are 2 coping strategies to begin moving forward from the pain you are experiencing:

Coping Strategy 1: Don’t Press for Affair Details too Early

If you have recently learned of the affair, I must caution you: asking for details before you’re ready can do more harm than good. You may think you want to know all of the details, that having full documentation of all events, conversations, thoughts and feelings will somehow purge you of all the emotional pain you’re burdened with.

It won’t. There is work to do prior to that, and the next two coping steps will help you put your focus on healing. However, there are questions that some point down the road you still feel you must know in order to continue healing, and at that point you can weigh the pros and cons of having that knowledge.

Coping Strategy 2: Journal Post-Affair Feelings

Whatever you do, don’t bottle up those painful emotions. Just like dirty dish water—you’ve got to release the plug and let it drain out.

A very effective means for doing this is through daily journaling. Write down everything you’re feeling and thinking—with no judgments. It doesn’t matter if you use a notebook, loose-leaf paper, a computer program: the point is to have a safe haven to go to and let this stuff out.

Journaling can also help you sort out what you’re feeling. You may notice common themes, or particular sticking points that you are struggling to get past. A journal can help guide you on next steps as you heal from the affair.

My best to you in healing from an affair.

Do you believe that your people who cheat have a character flaw?

Does it make you uncomfortable to say someone has a character flaw?

If you are or have been an affair victim, what are or were your coping strategies?  

Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.