Can People in Good Relationships Cheat?


As we have heard, seen, and read, our model for romantic love is based on the notion that as long as a marriage is healthy, people do not go elsewhere. If individuals feel safe, appreciated, and cared for, it is less likely that they will roam. Relying upon this theory, for ages, we have believed that an affair is an indisputable symptom of a marriage becoming problematic and toxic.

And without a doubt, for several cases, this stands true. A number of affairs are encouraged by the presence of marital dysfunction, such as conflict avoidance, emotional disconnection or loneliness, and resentment.

In these cases, affairs happen so people can fill certain voids in their life or find something close to an exit. In that context, infidelity happens to be the result of a deficit, and therapists aim to identify problems that caused one of the partners, in this case, the husband, to cheat in the first place.

Therapists often say that instead of being a problem’s symptom, infidelity is considered by many to be an expansive experience involving growth, transformation, and exploration. Following are some powerful themes that emerge from research on infidelity in good relationships.

In Search of a New Self

For some individuals, an affair means the facility of an alternate reality that can be re-imagined or reinvented by themselves. Psychologists say that sometimes when people in a marriage start to seek the attention of somebody outside of that union, it is not their partner whom these people are turning away from but the person they have become. These people are not in the search for another lover as much as they are seeking another version of their own selves. Viewing infidelity from this perspective clarifies why an affair is often not a symptom or pathology but simply an identity crisis. This also explains why men in happy marriages diverge and end up cheating on their spouses.

The Lure of Unlived Lives

While some men are wholly invested in their quest for finding their unexplored self, others find that they are more drawn by memories of who they once were or aspirations about who they could have been.

Men, who are going through significant transition periods in their lives, for example, a mid-life crisis or periods of retirement, may experience uneasiness due to the belief that they have missed out on something crucially important. As if there are aspects of their life that have been neglected or not explored fully.

This increasing nostalgia for all of their unlived lives and identities left unexplored results in men having affairs to get revenge on all potential deserted possibilities.

The Seductive Power of Transgression

Transgression happens to be a core aspect of our nature as human beings.  Psychologists state that a disregard of rules feels like an assertion of our freedom over convention, possibility instead of constraint, and ourselves over society. Even as adults, we find this to be a powerful aphrodisiac.

Transgression power is found in the risk that you may be caught while doing something inappropriate, breaking taboos, or pushing boundaries – all of which are titillating and exceptionally arousing experiences, more so if there are greater things at stake. This insight into human tendencies throws light on why men in happy or relatively stable marriages get lured in by the idea of transgression, especially those who are upstanding citizens in society and have lived responsible and committed lives.

An Antidote to Deadness

More than all of the theories stated above, the most dominant theory explaining why men cheat in happy marriages is that it makes them feel alive. As per psychologists, some common words that men use to describe the sense of aliveness are “power,” “freedom,” “rejuvenation,” and a feeling of “revitalization,” “vibrancy,” and “renewal.”

Therapists add that seeing from this lens, men’s affairs are often their reaction to tragedies that take place in their lives, including but not limited to the diagnosis of cancer, infertility, depression, or unemployment, all of which diminish their confidence and self-worth, robbing them of any hope or joy. The helplessness or vulnerability these people feel in these difficult phases of life is, according to them, countered by jolts of love or sex outside their marriage. This delivers to them an essential affirmation in terms of life and happens to be a powerful cure for “deadness.”

Apart from the heavily loaded theories above, some common reasons why people in stable marriages cheat in today’s day and age are as follows:

Jealousy Over Digital Devices

In this age where our lives are oversaturated with digital devices, married people spend ample time using their phones under the pretense that they want to spend quality time with their partner. An example of this is a couple going out for dinner, but both of them spend the entire evening using their phones.

In these situations, where an individual gives more attention to devices rather than their partner, they enhance the insecurities of their partner and heighten a feeling of abandonment.

The Clinginess Factor

It may seem counterintuitive to believe that somebody who is insecure about themselves has greater chances of committing infidelity, but the truth is that people who have a hard time trusting their partners are usually extremely anxious that their partners will abandon them. So instead of having faith in their marriage, these clingy people stand a great chance of going out of their way to cheat because, in their minds, they are combating an abandonment which as of yet has not even occurred.

Fear of Inadequate Sexual Performance

Men who fear that they are mediocre or even terrible when it comes to sexual performance usually seek out an affair involving somebody new. This, for them, is an escape from persistent worrying about their poor sexual performance.

Blame The Genes

As research states, the tendency men have to be promiscuous often runs in their family and is part of their DNA. A gene for dopamine receptor called DRD4, which has links with men’s tendency to cheating, explains why some men do so even in stable marriages. How this works is that these men are motivated by the idea of pleasure which is followed by a reward in the form of dopamine release. To sum it all up, men stray for a number of reasons; none of those, however, justify the act of cheating. It is imperative that women know the reasons behind men’s infidelity so that they can make conclusive decisions about the future of their marriage.