The reasons people cheat in relationships, according to science

Length of a relationship has no impact on whether a partner will cheat 

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Tuesday 02 March 2021 12:22 GMT
This is why people are unfaithful (Stock)
This is why people are unfaithful (Stock)

Think you can spot the telltale signs of a cheat? Perhaps someone who settled down too soon before playing the field, or a cold, calculated type who's adept at covering their tracks? Well, you'd be wrong.

It's actually people who have had higher numbers of sexual partners, or have impulsive tendencies, who are more likely to cheat, according to a study.

Although each relationship is unique, researchers at the University of Queensland studied why people are unfaithful found that there are certain factors that indicate a person is more likely to cheat.

According to the findings, published in the British Journal of Psychology, people who are impulsive may cheat simply because they do not pause to consider the situation, instead acting on their immediate thoughts and emotions.

Additionally, those who have had more sexual partners in the past are inclined to be unfaithful and seek out other partners because they have developed certain “skills” in the area, according to researchers.

“Participants who had experienced sexual intimacy with a greater number of partners also reported greater extradyadic sex and extradyadic kissing inclination,” the study authors wrote. “This inclination may be attributable to the individuals’ skills at recognising sexual advances or recruitment of sex partners.”

Unsurprisingly, the top reasons for cheating are feelings of detachment from a partner and low relationship satisfaction - and researchers also found that length and the depth of relationship commitment have minimal impact on fidelity.

To understand the factors that lead individuals to cheat, researchers surveyed 123 heterosexual people aged 17 to 25, all of whom were in relationships.

Apart from issues stemming from relationship satisfaction and compatibility, the study also found that men are more likely to have sex if they cheat, whereas men and women were equally likely to cheat by kissing.

Cheaters typically have had previous sexual partners
Cheaters typically have had previous sexual partners

Fortunately, if you have been cheated on, it may be beneficial - as a previous survey on the effects of break-ups found that women who are cheated on ultimately grow from the experience and learn to choose better mates in the future.

This article was originally published in August 2019.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in