Couples Academy

What Makes People Cheat in a Long-Term Relationship?

What Makes People Cheat In A Long-Term Relationship

Being cheated on isn’t fun. But does it happen more often than it should? Yes. What makes people cheat in a long-term relationship? What factors motivate such behavior? As it turns out, there is more than one reason someone in a long-term relationship decides to betray their partner. Knowing those reasons can help you understand why cheating happens as well as how to prevent it from ever happening.

What Makes People Cheat In Long-Term Relationships?

Before infidelity happens in a relationship, the warning signs are vague. You don’t rationalize how such a betrayal could happen until it does happen, because that is when you ask all the questions that start with why.

“Why did they do this? Why don’t they care about me? And why can’t they change?”

The truth is that infidelity—and the reasons for infidelity—occurs more often in relationships than you would want to believe. Usually, cheating happens when a person’s need for self-gratification outweighs their need for intimacy. When both self-gratification and intimacy have been lacking in a relationship, it’s even more fuel to fire to betray their partner.

There is an acronym to help you recall the emotions often leading to cheating and affairs: HALT. It stands for Hunger, Anger, Loneliness, and Tiredness. People don’t want to feel any of those things. What humans want is a good meal, sleep, intimacy (or sex), and just enough work to feel a sense of accomplishment. At the same time, humans have a contradictory need for something more. Humans need a loving connection with other people.

If the desire for intimacy and a long-term monogamous relationship trumps the desire for self-gratification, you reduce cheating. When a person wants something more, however, it’s hard to stay faithful.

Motives For Cheating

There are no justifications for cheating, only reasons that drive people to make such a decision. In a 2019 study on the motives behind cheating, researchers picked out eight main reasons that included boredom, hunger, anger, neglect, and lack of interest. Let’s take a more detailed look at these:


When examining many of the reasons people cheat, a lack of variety in the relationship was a recurring theme—particularly among men. Let’s face it: Monogamous relationships mean spending time with the same person every single day for the rest of your life. You know them—their body, their likes, and dislikes. Some people want to explore other lands, so to speak, leading them to someone else.

Falling Out Of Love

Long-term relationships are sometimes long-term because it’s comfortable. Familiar. Maybe you fell out of love a while back but never broke up because you were content. A lack of love could eventually drive someone to seek it from other people, leading to cheating in the relationship.

Now there are a lot of reasons for falling out of love. Perhaps you two have been together for a while and things have gone stale. Maybe you have outgrown one another. While struggling to portray to family, friends, and neighbors that everything is perfectly fine, you are both struggling to smile.

Emotional Neglect

Although this is similar to falling out of love, it is also different. Not getting enough attention from your partner or spouse can be devastating. Needing validation encourages people to seek it from others, such as the friendly coworker or the person they connected with on Instagram.

Self-Esteem Issues

Yes, infidelity does have severe consequences. Some people, however, feel that being wanted by more than one individual is riveting. It’s exciting, too, to fear getting caught. This drives the ego and prompts people to cheat.

Lack Of Commitment

When you’re dissatisfied in a relationship, you don’t feel committed to doing anything, even sticking around. A lack of commitment is often connected to falling out of love or feelings of neglect, and so those who often lose a sense of intimacy find themselves cheating to fill the void.

Sexual Desire

What’s the greatest source of self-gratification? Sex. If the current relationship isn’t fulfilling sexual desires, be it style, frequency, or behavior, then some people are driven to seek fulfillment elsewhere.

Anger Or Revenge

There are many stories of revenge cheating out there on the internet. Someone threw someone’s video game console on the lawn and, next thing you know, that angry partner cheats. Then it happens back-and-forth until the relationship deteriorates entirely. While cheating because of anger isn’t as common as other motives in this list, it does happen.

Can a Marriage Survive a Long Term Affair?


Sometimes cheating is purely situational. You had one too many drinks and ended up going home with the person you struck up a conversation with at the bar. Often, these circumstantial bouts of infidelity are brought on by other issues, such as trauma, depression, substance abuse, or a mixture of reasons. Rarely is this premeditated.

How To Stop Cheating In A Long-Term Relationship Before It Starts

Unfortunately, many of the reasons behind cheating in a long-term relationship or marriage stem from a lack of something. Sometimes this is a lack of boundaries, where one person feels like they are doing everything to support the relationship while the other doesn’t. Sometimes there is no sexual chemistry or one partner has been away for years.

The best way to keep cheating from ever happening is to, first, communicate. Toxicity in a relationship is a main motive for infidelity. Learning how to express your needs, wants, and desires can solve far more issues than keeping everything bottled up inside or taking out your frustrations on your partner.

Second, consider attending therapy. For those people who can’t control their need for instant gratification and temptation, therapy can get to the root of those issues. Have trouble talking about emotions? Don’t know how to set boundaries? Struggling to ignite passion in your relationship? Therapists can help with all that and more.

Final Thoughts On Cheating

What makes people cheat in a long-term relationship? Many things, but it comes down to this: either there is a need that must be fulfilled or a lack of intimacy driving the behavior. By communicating with your partner better, cheating can be prevented. By understanding each other’s needs, you build a stronger relationship.

Couples Academy can help! Our counseling services do more than help you overcome infidelity. Learn how to strengthen your bonds and improve communication in your relationship, so you feel a deeper love and trust with your partner. Give us a call today for more information.