Cheating is one of the worst things that can happen in a relationship. And usually, when it happens, there are underlying reasons why the person chose to do it.
Recently, I stumbled upon a decade-old thread where a (now deleted) user wanted to know just that when they asked: "People who cheated on their spouse, what drove you into doing it?"
The thread got hundreds of responses from people who gave the reasons — and they were all varied — on why they cheated on their S.O. Below are some of the top and most up-voted responses:
1."I cheated in a longterm relationship once. I was constantly being accused of it, and constantly defending myself and trying to prove my fidelity. When the chance came to cheat, I thought, Well, I'm being punished for nothing. Might as well do something to deserve it. Later on, I found out he had been cheating on me, which was one reason that led to our breakup. It was a f'd-up relationship all around."
2."The short of it is: I'm having an affair because I'm miserable in my marriage, but I don't think my husband could support himself comfortably if I left. I have a better and more secure job, and he's just not that good with money or keeping on top of things. That was fine back when he was single, but it's not a great way to be when you're responsible for helping to raise children."
"He's a great father. He's just not a very supportive spouse. We've grown apart, and I'm not in love with him anymore. We live more like friends/roommates than we do husband and wife. In an ideal world, I'd live right next door to my husband and share raising our kids together happily.
I wasn't looking for a lover when it happened. I met someone over a shared hobby — he was/is married, with children around the same age as mine. We hit it off, very friendly, and both thought the other was in a happy and stable relationship. That made it much easier, actually, to become good friends. I never once thought that he was interested in anything other than a platonic relationship, a commiseration on the stresses of being a parent.
Over time it became apparent that I felt a strong attraction to him, and when I told him that I was concerned about it, and thought that perhaps we should step back, he confessed the same attraction. It was a really difficult process to go through because neither of us wanted to be an adulterer, but in the end, I realized that this person made me happy in a way my husband had never made me feel.
We make our children — and to a lesser degree our respective spouses — our priorities. I would never ask or demand he leave his wife, even if I left my husband. I would never contact his wife or reveal the affair to her. We speak every day, but only manage to get together every other month or so. Sometimes, it's longer than that due to responsibilities at home or work, and that's OK. We both accept it and make the best of it, since the relationship that has developed is not solely a physical one.
I don't enjoy lying to my husband. I get no thrill out of it. I don't expect people to understand my decision — I can understand that. But the fact is, relationships are complicated, and there are always more factors at work than the average outsider can know."
3."He cheated on me. I forgave him. He promised to change, and I gave him a chance. He didn't change. So I went out and cheated out of resentment. Then I regretted it deeply and broke up with him without telling him that I had cheated. I still regret cheating, though. F cheating."
4."I created a lot of excuses in my head at the time. I became convinced he (my husband) didn't pay attention to me, our marriage was probably failing, that he didn't provide for me like I felt I deserved, that he had hurt me so badly in the past, etc., that it was only fair that I seek out someone who would find me sexy and pay attention to me who had never caused me any pain. So, I was driven to cheat by the logic I created in my head making it OK."
"Now, looking back on it, there was no reason that it was OK. Something in my head wanted to cheat for whatever reason. I strongly think it was a matter of wanting attention, validation, and feeling that I was desirable."
5."You get stuck in the monotony of the relationship, and its routines at times make you feel the urge to take risks because that's the only thing that gets the endorphins going. If you were to evaluate whether or not the grass is greener on the other side, 9 times out of 10, it's not. You should never try to 'go on an adventure' when the person you have is THAT amazing."
"And, personally, to answer the question truthfully, I have never physically cheated, but have emotionally cheated, and emotionally cheating can be as bad and betraying as physical cheating. I 100% regret it and have learned my lesson the hard way."
6."I did it because we had split up (in my head only, we kinda said it, but nothing changed). He wouldn't move out, wanted to still stay in my bed, and acted like we were fine even though he was a complete a**hole. He would NOT leave, and it finally took me telling him that I had a date for him to move out. I don't regret the cheating because he ignored me and wasn't a nice person."
7."I'm thinking of doing it. Why? Because my wife just doesn't want sex anymore, and its been 13 years without sex. I was hoping that things would change, but I realize they won't. The rest of the relationship is good but for this one area."
8."I've never had a lot of confidence. So calling me stupid, freaking out about little insignificant things, and threatening divorce nearly every day (including the day after we were married) took its toll on me. I met someone online, and we talked a lot. We never thought of each other as more than friends, but there were some lewd pictures swapped as well as inappropriate conversations. At this point, I'd just like to say that it was still cheating even though I didn't sleep with anyone. It's in the betrayal."
"She was distracting me from my problems, and I was distracting her from her relationship problems with her ex. I remember lying to myself about the situation. I'd tell myself that I was helping her clear her head of the other guy. The fact was that it felt really good to be wanted for once.
It didn't last long. My wife found out and was very upset. I broke off contact with the other woman and avoided inappropriate online conversations since. That was 4 1/2 years ago, and I still haven't heard the end of it.
Today, I am more confident and realize that, at the time I was married, I was just afraid of being alone and didn't understand love. I also didn't want to hurt this woman who had already been hurt before by refusing her advances.
In the end, the marriage was a mistake, but I still care about her — though I don't love her — and we have two very loud kids that I do love very much."
9."She completely changed on me. We could be in the same room for hours without her even acknowledging I was there. The sex was scripted. I begged for her to hold my hand once in a while, but it fell on deaf ears. I later found out she was having an affair before I started mine. That explained her complete change in our marriage. I HATED the fact I was cheating, but I needed some form of human contact I was denied by my ex-wife."
10."I was hurting badly... My close friend had died of a long and complicated illness, and she tried stopping me from seeing him on his deathbed because she had had a rough day. I had realized that she never respected me. Slowly it dawned on me that I had never loved her. I sought out and had an affair because I wanted to feel again. I wanted to be important to someone...I was needy and stupid."
"I did this twice over the course of three years, and ultimately ended the marriage before she found out. I sought out counseling to determine the 'why's' of how I had let this come to pass, as I had considered myself a better man than that. I learned that respect was dead and that I was a complete coward.
If I were ever in a relationship like that again, it'd be long over before I'd ever find myself capable of cheating, so it's possible for an adulterer to change their ways; it is neither a fast nor easy change to make."
11."We went through a year of counseling. Had significant problems in more ways and areas than one. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. Too many issues around the house affecting both of us. Work got harder, which means we came home more frustrated, and then we let it all out on each other."
"I cheated for one month and realized I was a lot happier as a person. Got divorced. Never been remarried, but she's doing much better, I'm doing much better, so there's no real regret over what I did."
12."I created a lot of 'reasons' when doing it, but in truth, I was just bored. I missed the excitement of first being with someone, the attention. I felt like my S.O. didn't pay me enough attention, but in hindsight, while that may have been true, it was just as much my fault as it was his. I didn't want to break up with him because of the life we had together, but I also wanted something new. I tried justifying it so many different ways, but in the end, I did a horrible thing. I wouldn't say I am a sh**ty person, but I did a really sh**ty thing."
13."My own inability to sustain my self worth. I'm a validation junkie, need it all the time. I could argue this way and that about 'unsatisfactory sex lives' with partners, and it'd be technically true, but that's no excuse."
14."I blamed her. She ignored me and my efforts to make myself and her happy. I asked why she ignored me, and she could never give me a definitive answer. All I wanted to do was love her, but it seemed like she couldn't, or didn't want to, love me back. I felt nothing when I cheated the first time; it was exciting and new, and I felt like it was my way of getting back at her for all of these months of abandonment."
"As I progressed with different partners, I started to become angry with her for what she was making me do. She started to grow attached to me again, but I just didn't love her anymore. I'm selfish. I ignored her, and she hated me for it; we ended our engagement after two weeks of me, almost completely, ignoring her. She still doesn't know what I did, and who I did it with, even though she has met most of them."
15."Well, I thought it was because my wife didn't make feel like I was desirable, and this girl was beautiful, and she was all over me. At the beginning, I let that girl know that I was married and I wasn't looking for something more, but she didn't back off, and I was (am?) weak and fell for it. To put it bluntly, she was just my f-buddy, but her goal was to make me leave my wife for her."
"That girl fell in love with me (I think), and some random day she called my wife, and they meet each other and told her the truth and some made-up stuff, too, trying to make my wife leave me. That day was the worst day of my life, seeing my wife's face filled with tears because of me. That memory is what makes me focused on my wife now."
16."Honestly, I still don't know why, it wasn't anything to do with her or the relationship, I was just a complete tosspot. It happened on holiday, and I told her when I got home. We split up for a few months, then tried the relationship again — dated on-and-off for three years after that, but it was never going to work after that as much as we tried. I lost the only thing that mattered to me, and I still beat myself up about it. At least I know she's happy now, and I'm just about moving on from it."
17."I cheated in EVERY relationship I ever had before I met my current fiancé. I am relatively young, so I always chalked it up to the relationships not being 'real' (even though they were serious). I was also not getting what I needed sexually; for some reason, my partners always ended up being much less experienced than I, and the sex was lackluster/rife with guilt. The guilt of cheating ate at me for a while, but I eventually convinced myself that I was a broken person who would never love anyone wholly and properly."
"Then, three years ago, I met the man who will be my husband. At the time, I had been single for a while, and we both came into the relationship with open — if damaged — hearts. We both wanted the same thing, and that was to love.
I have been 100% faithful to him since the day we met, and the thought of cheating on him disgusts me and makes me want to cry. To me, now, being loyal in a relationship is a privilege, not a burden.
So, I am happy to report that sometimes people DO change."
You can read the full thread of responses on Reddit.
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.