Experts Reveal What Leads to Cheating in Relationships

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Let’s be clear that cheating is absolutely never okay and there’s no excuse for it. That said, plenty of people probably want to know what relationship patterns usually lead to cheating. This is not to excuse an unfaithful partner’s behavior, it’s just to explain how infidelity happens. With that understanding, let’s dive in.

The Study

In 2002, experts at Tilburg University set out to understand cheating by analyzing 1,000 study participants over the course of eight years. The study, titled Estranged and Unhappy? was created in order to figure out if cheating is the result of relationship troubles, or if it causes issues within otherwise healthy relationships. The authors aptly wrote, “Infidelity is largely believed to have damaging consequences for personal and relationship well-being.”

The Results

Researchers found that the unfaithful partners felt stress and guilt, questioned their morality, and overall experienced “lower psychological well-being” after cheating. While that’s hardly surprising, what is interesting is that participants experienced lower levels of happiness within their relationship before cheating occurred. Major life events and stressors added to the likelihood of infidelity as well. The study reads, “By showing that well-being starts to decline before infidelity happens, this study provides a differentiated view on the temporal dynamics of infidelity.”

Photo by Helena Lopes

Basically, cheating can be a result of relationship problems rather than a cause.