At first glance, if two people break up and one of them cheated, there’s a clear villain in that story: the cheater, who broke a promise and hurt someone they supposedly loved. But there are always two sides to every story. Why did they cheat? What led them to that point? To better understand and further examine rationales for cheating, we asked nine women of all ages to tell us why they made the decision. Below, learn about why women cheat on their husbands and boyfriends. (To protect their privacy, some names have been changed.)
1. “My husband only wanted sex once a month, refused to be romantic (married 20 years), and divorce would have been bad for the kids.” —Jennifer*, teacher, 43
2. “I was in a long-distance relationship for almost four years. We were very young and didn’t have a huge cash flow so we only saw each other four to seven times a year. We stopped having sex for the entire last year of our relationship and when he came into town I would notice that he was always texting ‘his friends that were girls’ when he was around me. I didn’t believe that he was going a full year without sex so I assumed he was cheating and then I started downloading dating apps in my city. I went on lots of dates and hooked up with one guy during the end of our relationship because I felt that we were pretty much over. Now looking back at it I wish I would’ve had the strength to end our relationship when I assumed he was cheating, and not being too scared to lose him.” —Morgan*, technology marketing, 25
3. “As someone who has cheated in every relationship I’ve ever been involved in (in some form), it’s important for me to say I don’t cheat because I’m unhappy. I’m actually very happy in my relationship. It sometimes feels like I’m not cheating ON my boyfriend so much as I’m cheating WITH someone else. I know this sounds like I’m deflecting blame (I know this is immoral and it is my fault, etc.), but the truth of the matter is that when I cheat, I’m solely satisfying my desires; I am not spiting him or getting back or compensating for something lacking in the relationship. I just want to do it — and so I do. It’s a blind egotism that allows me to put my feelings above his, but my intention is never to hurt him, only to please myself. I just want to have sex.
And, yes, before you ask, I still have fantastic sex with my boyfriend. He isn’t lacking in that area. Cheating hasn’t made me love my boyfriend any less; there’s just something infinitely sexy about something or someone new. It’s nervous, fraught with the fear of being caught, and awkward — plus it feels different.
Also, the concept of sex with men I don’t have to talk to or form relationships with afterward is intoxicating. When you’re single, you tend to stop yourself from engaging in relationships with men you don’t see a future with; when you’re in a relationship (and cheating), you’re only pursuing men you don’t see a future with. The sex is better, the dating pressure is off … I feel less constrained and more independent. And that makes me like my boyfriend more. So is it helping us? Perhaps. Of course, if he ever found out, he’d be devastated. So it’s all a matter of weighing risk with reward. And, of course, for the average person who may be slightly less flippant about morality, the guilt will always be a factor.” —Laura*, nurse, 26
4. “Spur of the moment. I was drunk and my boyfriend had been very acting very cold/distant toward me for a while. I missed the attention of feeling wanted.”—Melissa*, marketing coordinator, 24
5. “I wasn’t sexually satisfied in my relationship.”—Anisa, operations manager, 45
6. “Revenge. I was young (25) and I knew the relationship was already going down the drain. He cheated first and I tried my best to work things out, but unfortunately he wasn’t making the effort to make things better with me. He was always lying and didn’t care much about what was going to happen next. I was angry so I cheated. Two weeks later I moved out of his apartment. Two weeks after that I saw him with the girl he cheated on me with in the first place. So I had no regrets after that. It was my first and only time I cheated on someone.” —Linda*, health educator, 42
7. “I had been depressed and stressed, I was put on anti-depressants to help. I was starting to go out more and drink more and continued to feel too much pressure at home … I worked full-time, I took care of the kids, I took care of the house, I paid all the bills, my husband basically did what he wanted in between jobs and left the responsibilities to me. Despite many conversations, fights, and breakdowns nothing changed. The anti-depressants gave me a new energy and I started going out more, getting more attention, not having the weight of responsibility and basically drinking myself into oblivion. I eventually had an affair and later was diagnosed as bipolar. Once my medications were on track I was back to my responsible self … but my 18-year marriage couldn’t live through it.” —Christy, administrative assistant, 43
*Name has been changed.