12 Things Important to Know About Cheaters, According to Science

In a world inundated with information, sifting through the noise to understand complex human behaviors can be challenging.

Written by Kate Holmsy. Updated on 12 Things Important to Know About Cheaters, According to Science

In a world inundated with information, sifting through the noise to understand complex human behaviors can be challenging. Infidelity is one such behavior that has long been a subject of societal scrutiny, condemnation, and intrigue. Drawing upon empirical studies and scientific research, this article ventures to provide insights into the minds and motives of cheaters. So, whether you’re curious or concerned, let’s dive into what science reveals about this age-old phenomenon.

Cheating in romantic relationships has been depicted in literature, movies, and countless discussions around dinner tables. But what does modern science say about it? Does the act of cheating originate from inherent human tendencies, or is it a result of specific environmental triggers?

Let’s explore some critical findings that might just change the way you view infidelity.

1. Evolutionary Perspectives on Cheating

Ever heard of the ‘selfish gene’ theory? This theory posits that genes striving for replication may encourage behaviors that maximize reproductive success. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • The Selfish Gene Theory: At its core, this theory suggests that we’re driven by our genes to reproduce. This can sometimes manifest in seeking multiple partners to increase the odds of gene propagation.
  • Variety Can Mean Genetic Diversity: From an evolutionary standpoint, mating with multiple partners can lead to greater genetic diversity, strengthening the gene pool for future generations.
  • Caveat: While these theories provide a foundation, it’s essential to remember that modern humans operate on both instinctual and rational levels. Societal norms, personal values, and emotional factors play a significant role in decision-making.

2. The Brain Chemistry of Cheaters

Infidelity can be a chemical rollercoaster. Certain neurotransmitters and hormones are often in play.

  • Dopamine: This feel-good chemical is associated with pleasure, reward, and novelty. Engaging in secretive acts or new relationships can lead to a dopamine rush.
  • Oxytocin & Vasopressin: Often dubbed the ‘love hormones’, these can create feelings of attachment. However, their levels can also be elevated during illicit affairs.
  • Cortisol: The stress hormone can be higher in those engaged in deceptive acts, possibly due to fear of being caught. 

Our bodies produce a slew of hormones that, in various combinations, can influence our behaviors. Testosterone, oxytocin, and vasopressin, among others, have been linked to relationship dynamics.While some might argue that a heightened level of certain hormones could incline one towards infidelity, it’s essential to note that we aren’t solely slaves to our biology.

Through mindfulness, self-awareness, and interventions like therapy or even medication, in some instances, individuals can mitigate potential hormone-driven impulses.

2. The Brain Chemistry of Cheaters
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3. Environmental Triggers & Cheating

While biological factors are relevant, our environment and experiences are equally pivotal.

  1. Childhood Experiences: Those who’ve witnessed infidelity as children might be more inclined, either through learned behavior or rebellion.
  2. Peer Influence: Being in an environment where infidelity is normalized can influence behaviors.
  3. Opportunity & Accessibility: The digital age has made connecting with others easier, potentially facilitating affairs. 

Environment plays a crucial role in shaping our behaviors. To counteract an environment that condones or encourages cheating, one needs to establish and fortify personal boundaries. This could involve reassessing social circles, understanding and avoiding personal triggers, and fostering open communication with partners about potential vulnerabilities.

Introspection, combined with proactive efforts to cultivate a supportive and understanding environment, can significantly diminish the lure of infidelity.

4. Comparison: Why Do Men and Women Cheat?

The narrative around infidelity often attempts to pigeonhole one gender as being more prone to cheating. However, it’s a myth that one gender is more predisposed to cheat than another. Besides, motivations can differ.

Studies present mixed findings; some suggest men cheat more due to evolutionary drives for diverse mating, while others indicate women might cheat when they feel emotionally unsatisfied. However, a comprehensive view indicates that the frequency of infidelity is roughly comparable between genders, but the reasons can differ.

Men Women
Physical attraction Emotional connection
Variety seeking Feelings of neglect
Ego boost Seeking validation

5. Relationship Satisfaction Isn’t Always the Culprit

Surprisingly, many who cheat claim to be happy in their primary relationship. This suggests that factors other than relationship dissatisfaction can lead to infidelity. Relationship dissatisfaction isn’t the sole catalyst for cheating.

Sometimes, the quest for personal validation pushes someone towards infidelity. An individual might cheat to feel desirable, especially if they’re battling self-worth issues. Curiosity and the thrill of novelty can also be enticing, luring individuals into affairs purely for the experience or the “rush” of doing something forbidden.

6. Some Personality Types Might Be More Pron

While it’s a contentious topic, research indicates that individuals with certain personality traits, like narcissism, might be more inclined to cheat. 10 For example, narcissists often seek external validation, and affairs can provide that in abundance.

Their lack of empathy might make them blind to their partner’s pain, and their heightened sense of entitlement can justify the act in their minds. Similarly, individuals with pronounced impulsivity may act without considering consequences, leading to infidelity.

The Types Of Women Most Likely To Cheat (According To Psychology)The Types Of Women Most Likely To Cheat (According To Psychology)

7. Digital Infidelity: A New Age Concern

In the age of the internet, the boundaries of infidelity have expanded. With the rise of the internet, emotional affairs, sexting, and online intimacy have blurred the lines of traditional cheating. It’s crucial to set boundaries in the digital age.

Digital infidelity can range from emotionally charged conversations, sharing intimate details, and sexting to engaging in virtual sex. These actions, while lacking physical contact, can still be considered cheating if they breach the boundaries of trust and exclusivity set in a relationship. The digital realm offers anonymity, making these actions seem harmless, but the emotional repercussions on a relationship can be profound.

8. The Cost of Cheating

Beyond the emotional turmoil, infidelity can have real-world repercussions. From therapy bills to potential legal fees in case of divorce, the financial costs can be substantial. 
Cheating can also destabilize the very foundations of a relationship. Beyond the immediate pain and betrayal, it often leads to lasting trust issues, a decrease in relationship satisfaction, and emotional detachment. Moreover, it can result in mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and lowered self-esteem for both parties.

8. The Cost of Cheating
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9. Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater?

“Once a cheater, always a cheater” is a phrase many of us are familiar with. But this age-old adage isn’t always accurate. While past behavior can be indicative of future actions, it’s not a definitive predictor. Some individuals genuinely learn and grow from their mistakes, ensuring they never stray again.

However, others might fall into patterns of repeated infidelity due to unresolved personal issues or compulsions. So, as you can see, everything is not so simple. While some may fall back into patterns, many genuinely regret and rectify their mistakes. 

10. The Role of Age in Infidelity

While we won’t focus on specific age brackets, it’s worth noting that infidelity can manifest differently across life stages, influenced by personal growth, experiences, and evolving desires. 
Age can play a nuanced role in infidelity.

Younger individuals, still exploring their identities and desires, might be more susceptible to the allure of new experiences, including infidelity. On the flip side, midlife crises or feelings of stagnation in older adults can also lead to affairs as a means of recapturing youth or seeking change.

10. Avoid Tempting Situations
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11. Recovery Is Possible

Contrary to popular belief, many relationships can and do survive infidelity. While challenging, it’s possible for relationships to rebound from infidelity. A combination of therapy, open communication, and time can pave the path to recovery and rebuild trust.

Both parties must be willing to work towards rebuilding trust. For some, infidelity acts as a wake-up call, leading to a more profound, more understanding relationship, while others might find the breach of trust too vast to bridge.

11. Recovery Is Possible
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12. Cheating Is Complex

At its heart, cheating is multi-faceted, influenced by biology, environment, personal experiences, and individual choices. Infidelity is a multifaceted issue, intricately woven with biology, personal experiences, environment, and individual choices. Labeling it as mere betrayal oversimplifies the myriad factors at play. While the act itself might be as old as time, our understanding of it continues to evolve. In navigating the complex realm of infidelity, it’s vital to approach the subject with empathy, understanding, and a willingness to delve beneath the surface.

Steps to Prevent Cheating in Relationships

The fabric of a relationship is woven with trust, understanding, and mutual respect. However, at times, external influences, personal inclinations, or evolving feelings might threaten to unravel it. Cheating can act as a corrosive element in relationships, causing lasting damage. But with proactive steps, couples can fortify their bond and prevent infidelity.

5 Steps To Prevent Cheating – How To Stop A Man Cheating On You5 Steps To Prevent Cheating – How To Stop A Man Cheating On You

Here’s a look at those steps:

1. Open Communication

The first line of defense against infidelity is open dialogue. Regularly discussing feelings, concerns, and desires ensures both partners are attuned to each other’s emotional states. Creating a safe space for these conversations minimizes misunderstandings and fosters emotional intimacy.

2. Establish Boundaries

Every individual and couple has their definition of what constitutes cheating. While one person might find casual flirting harmless, another might view it as a breach of trust. It’s essential for couples to define and agree upon these boundaries to ensure clarity.

3. Prioritize Emotional Intimacy

Often, emotional disconnect paves the way for physical infidelity. Strengthening the emotional bond ensures both partners find comfort, validation, and emotional sustenance within the relationship, reducing the urge to seek it elsewhere.

4. Spend Quality Time Together

As mundane life takes over, couples often drift apart. Allocating regular “us time” can help in reconnecting and rejuvenating the relationship. This could be as simple as weekly date nights or periodic getaways.

5. Address Issues Promptly

Letting grievances fester can create emotional chasms. By addressing issues when they’re small, couples prevent them from snowballing into significant rifts that make them vulnerable to external influences.

6. Seek Counseling

If couples sense their relationship is faltering, seeking counseling can offer a neutral perspective. Therapy provides tools and strategies to address underlying issues, fostering a more robust relationship foundation.

7. Foster Mutual Growth

As individuals evolve, relationships should adapt. Encouraging mutual growth, be it through shared hobbies, learning experiences, or spiritual journeys, ensures the relationship remains dynamic and both partners are in sync.

8. Reinforce Trust

Trust isn’t just a one-time investment. Regular gestures, be it through words or actions, that reinforce trust can act as a bulwark against doubts and insecurities that might lead to infidelity.

9. Understand and Meet Each Other’s Needs

Every individual has specific emotional and physical needs. By understanding and striving to meet these needs, couples can ensure that neither partner feels neglected or compelled to seek fulfillment outside the relationship.

10. Avoid Tempting Situations

While trust is paramount, it’s also essential to be mindful of situations that might lead to temptation. This isn’t about distrusting one’s partner but recognizing that everyone has vulnerabilities.

Signs Your Partner Might Be Prone to Infidelity:

  • Emotional Distance: A sudden emotional withdrawal or lack of interest in shared activities.
  • Secretive Behavior: Increased privacy around phones or computers, and unexplained absences.
  • Changes in Intimacy: A noticeable increase or decrease in physical intimacy or affectionate gestures.
  • Defensiveness: Becoming defensive or evasive when questioned about their whereabouts or activities.
  • Alteration in Appearance: A sudden and unexplained change in fashion, grooming habits, or physical fitness routines.
  • Increased Criticism: Frequently finding fault with the partner or the relationship.
  • Nostalgia about Past Relationships: Frequently reminiscing about past relationships or comparing the current relationship to previous ones.
  • Avoiding Future Plans: Hesitation or avoidance when discussing future plans or commitments.
  • New Social Circles: Spending significant time with a new group of friends, especially if the partner is not included or introduced.
  • Gut Feeling: Often, intuition picks up on subtle changes in behavior or attitude that might indicate a shift in feelings or intentions.

Preventing cheating requires conscious effort, ongoing communication, and mutual respect. Recognizing the early signs of potential infidelity can enable couples to address issues proactively, fortifying their bond against external threats.


In the tapestry of human relationships, infidelity stands out as a complex thread woven from biology, environment, personality, and individual choices. While society often sees cheating through a black-and-white lens, science paints a picture rich in shades of gray.

By delving into the intricacies revealed by research, we not only foster a deeper understanding of the act itself but also of the nuanced human experience that surrounds it. As we navigate the maze of love and commitment, it’s crucial to remember that knowledge, empathy, and communication remain our most potent tools.

Frequently Asked Questions

⭐How common is cheating in relationships?

Studies vary, but it's estimated that anywhere from 20% to 40% of individuals have cheated at some point in a committed relationship.

⭐Are digital affairs less damaging than physical ones?

Not necessarily. Emotional betrayals, even in the digital realm, can be just as hurtful and damaging as physical infidelity.

⭐Can relationships genuinely recover after infidelity?

Yes, with effort from both parties and often with the help of counseling, many relationships not only recover but grow stronger after experiencing infidelity.

⭐ Is there a peak age or life stage when cheating is most common?

While infidelity can occur at any age, research suggests midlife (around ages 40-50) may be a vulnerable time for many, possibly due to the famed "midlife crisis."

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Kate worked in "The Fashion Magazine" for four years as a freelance writer and loved to consult and help people with their style. How to create your own style, how to look beautiful, and select trendy colors for your hair - these are just a few of many issues Kate will happily explain in Beezzly Beauty blogs!
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