When someone cheats in a monogamous relationship, that person tends to automatically get the blame for whatever what went wrong. But it's time we start considering more deeply why it was that the person did what they did. So, why do people cheat? A recent study published Archives of Sexual Behavior found people who feel negatively challenged by their relationship can be more open to infidelity.
In other words, someone who's feeling neglected or otherwise hurt by their partner is more likely to cheat than someone who is perfectly happy with their relationship. The study finds that when people who are unhappy tend to be less attracted to their partner — and as a side effect, more likely to feel attracted to other people.
The researchers managed to come to this conclusion by conducting four studies.
In the first study, participants in relationships were asked to take an online survey that asked them how hurt they felt by their partner lately, how sexually attracted they were to their partner, and, finally, how often they caught themselves either fantasizing about or flirting with other people. Spoiler alert! They found that the people who responded to the survey saying they were hurt by their partners were also more likely to be less attracted to their partners and, as a result, more likely to fantasize about and flirt with other people.
In the second study, the researchers asked partners to either describe, in detail, a time their partner had hurt them or just talk about a typical day in their life together. Next, they were asked to rate how attracted they were to their partners and to say whether or not they found themselves attracted to pictures of other potential mates. What happened here? Yep, you guessed it. The people who just recalled the bad memory they shared with their partner were more likely to find their partner unattractive and, as a result, more likely to respond positively to the pictures of other people.
In the third and forth studies, the researchers put the people in more IRL situations with people they might be attracted to. In the third study, they created a situation where an attractive person of the opposite sex would ask one of their straight coupled participants for help. They also had people of the same sex asking the participants for help. It turned out, people were more likely to help the people of the opposite sex.
The third study established that people are likely to help people they're attracted to... but would they flirt with them? In the fourth study, researchers determined that they would. Especially if they're unhappy. The researchers convinced participants in monogamous relationships that something was not great about their own relationships. They then introduced the individuals to hot "interviewers" and recorded their interactions. So, yeah, feeling like your relationship is in trouble can result in some flirting with the opposite sex.
The main takeaway here? Cheating isn't always as black and white as it seems.