As much as we all might wish cheating is rare, the fact is, it happens... a lot. For some folks, it’s a one-time thing. You make a mistake, learn from it, and move on. But for others, cheating can become more of a pattern. You want to be faithful to your partner, but you don’t know how to stop cheating. If you find yourself wondering why you can’t resist the urge, the first thing to know is that this behavior is more common than you might think.
In a 2015 study published in Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, researchers found that the average person has about a 42% chance of cheating on their partner. Another study, conducted in 2017 and published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior showed that once someone cheats, they are three times more likely to cheat again.
But why? Why do serial cheaters cheat? According to NYC relationship expert Susan Winter, there are many motivating reasons for repeated infidelity, and only you can know what your own motives are. She says it could simply be the desire for personal validation. "Who doesn't want to feel attractive?” Winter tells Elite Daily. “The cheater feels elevated by their conquest. This proves their worth. And the more hits of recognition and personal validation gained, the better the cheater feels about themselves." After all, sex is addicting, and getting with other people can distract you from your worries for a short time.
For some, Winter says the impetus to cheat is about unhappiness in a relationship, explaining that "serial cheaters ... can be motivated by resentment. If their spouse is constantly belittling them, cheating is one way of getting even. It shifts the power dynamic and feels like a win for the partner that holds long-standing resentments." Maybe you don’t feel valued and loved by your partner, so you are seeking out that affirmation from other people. You’re stuck in a loop of feeling frustrated, asking yourself, “Why do I keep cheating?” Yet that lack of fulfillment in your own relationship leads you to infidelity again and again.
It could also boil down to self-esteem issues. "Insecurity demands that more is better," Winter says. '"When in doubt, increase the numbers [of partners] to pump up your value, attraction and desirability." Having secret affairs can fill the hole in your heart and mask the negative feelings you might have toward yourself.
Any of these could be the cause, but relationship expert and host of the Dates & Mates podcast, Damona Hoffman, thinks cheating comes down to another common issue: addiction.
“Serial cheaters are essentially addicts,” she says. “They are addicted to the endorphins that come from falling in love (even if it's just for one night) and the adrenaline that comes with the potential for being caught.”
Understanding why people are unfaithful is one thing, but what about serial cheaters who want to change their ways? Is it possible to turn over a new leaf if you’re willing to put in the work? The short answer is: Yes and no. Here is what the experts say about how to stop cheating for good.
You've got some legit options. You can either work to change, or just embrace your truth and follow a less traditional — but more honest — path.
Knopp, K., Scott, S., Ritchie, L. et al. (2017) Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater? Serial Infidelity Across Subsequent Relationships. Arch Sex Behav. 46: 2301. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-017-1018-1
Watkins, S. J., & Boon, S. D. (2016). Expectations regarding partner fidelity in dating relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 33(2), 237–256. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407515574463Haupert, M. L., Gesselman, A. N., Moors, A. C., Fisher, H. E., & Garcia, J. R. (2016). Prevalence of Experiences With Consensual Nonmonogamous Relationships: Findings From Two National Samples of Single Americans. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 43(5), 424–440. https://doi.org/10.1080/0092623x.2016.1178675
Rubin, JD, Moors, AC, Matsick, JL, Ziegler, A., & Conley, TD (2012). On the Margins: Considering Diversity among Consensually Non-Monogamous Relationships. Journal of Psychology , 22 (1). Retrieved from https://journal-fuer-psychologie.de/article/view/324
Susan Winter, NYC relationship expert
Updated by Elite Daily staff.