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Reasons for Affairs

Why do people have affairs or cheat on their partner?

Relationship infidelity or cheating is a very common presenting issue in my work.  Statistically speaking the majority of adults have cheated at least once in a long term relationship, and for many there is a pattern: either they are the serial cheater or they are the partner who consistently finds partners who cheat on them.  Adult intimate relationships  will inevitably go through periods of difficulty and an affair is often the symptom of the a problem not the actual cause – albeit when a partner gets caught out the focus can be on the affair on not on the core relationship.  In the article below, Sadiyya Patel sets out what she has learned over the years working as an agony aunt. I reference the article because it mirrors much of insight that comes from my work. Importantly, an affair often acts as a useful pivot point in a relationship – either to address unmet needs or disquiet, or to promote change. 

7 Reasons For Affairs That You MUST Know About

From Sadiyya Patel BellaOnline’s Marriage Editor

The reason for having an affair are as many and varied as the people who have them. There is no one singular reason for infidelity. But if you take a closer look, you will notice that the reasons for affairs fall into 7 major categories. In this article we’ll take a look at each of these briefly.


Many people who have affairs are individuals who are unhappy with their marriages and who start looking outside the marriage to have their emotional and physical needs met. In many instances, these relationships began as friendships and they gradually evolved into a physical relationship as well.


There is no romance and passion in the marriage any longer. The married couple isn’t spending any time together or making the marriage a priority. One spouse, in particular, feels taken for granted and ignored. Anger and resentment build and they become soft targets for attention outside of marriage.

Having an affair makes them feel special and loved again. So many couples fall into this trap. If you’re taking your spouse for granted, you need to change that now. Schedule a weekly date. Make time to talk and reconnect. Look for ways to spice up your sex life and most importantly make time for sex and intimacy.


One or both of the partners is focused on finding fault with the other. Fault-finding, nitpicking and constant criticism hurt the spouse who then becomes hungry for approval, admiration and appreciation. Constant, carping criticism is deadly to a marriage. A spouse who feels that nothing is ever good enough will eventually stop trying.


This reason seems similar to number 2 above. But unlike number 2, the cheating spouse may be very happy in other areas of the marriage. The only problem is caused by a lack of sex or a boring, routine sex life.

One partner may lose the physical attraction they once had to the other or one spouse may be a poor lover who doesn’t fulfill the needs of the other. So the unhappy partner finds someone outside the marriage to fulfill these needs.

If your spouse is complaining about your love life, don’t brush it off. Do what you can to improve matters before it’s too late.


This is common amongst men going through a midlife crisis. They still want to know that they are attractive to the opposite sex and often set out to prove it by having an affair with a younger woman.

If you think that your spouse would be vulnerable to this type of an affair, then you could provide the ego boost that your spouse needs through frequent compliments and by showing appreciation. Tell him how good he looks, how you love his smile, how she still turns you on even after all these years. Tell your spouse these things before someone else does.


This type of affair can occur even in the happiest of marriages. An out of town trip, an office party with too many drinks and a willing co-worker can all lead to a mistake that is often deeply regretted the morning after.

These types of affairs are not caused by something lacking in the marriage, but more that the cheating spouse is poor at controlling his impulses.


(nb: I have put this in quotation marks as it is a label rather than an identified phenomenon)

How much sex is too much; not enough? – these things are highly subjective and definitions contentious so labelling desire as addiction or using it in an addiction model is generally unhelpful.  Agreements about the frequency of intimacy between consenting adults needs to be by mutual consent.  Too much for one can be too little for someone else: the meeting of physical needs within a relationship is however part of the 'deal' so agreement becomes important between partners. Counselling can help people negotiate this issue, potentially saving the relationship.

For additional reading on affairs and infidelity I also recommend the following books:

Getting Past the Affair:
A Program to Help You Cope, Heal, and Move On — Together or Apart
After the Affair:
Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful
First Aid for the Betrayed
Self help for the Betrayed

An affair can be a useful point at which to re-evaluate your relationship. Counselling offers a safe space for either you, or you and your partner, to come and discuss how you want to move beyond the affair to a new future.

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