Fashion’s DIgest is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.
We’ve all questioned it, here’s the answer…
It is a question we’ve all asked ourselves at some point in our lives. Now Danielle Pender, the author of a new book has the answer.
When researching for a story on infidelity for her new book, Watching Women & Girls, Danielle admits became fascinated with the reasons why people cheat. ‘For the main, the person who cheats is cast as the bad person, and the person who has been cheated on is the victim. But, like everything in life, it’s never that straightforward.’
‘Human beings aren’t as binary as simply good or bad, cheaters or non-cheaters. To look at it as a strictly moral issue is to ignore some of the lessons we can learn about infidelity and ourselves.’
So why do some people cheat? Here’s what Danielle has to say.
An escape from themselves
Psychotherapist Esther Perel is the authority on desire and infidelity. In her TED talk, Rethinking Infidelity, she discusses the point that often when a person cheats, it isn’t so much about their current relationship or even the potential of a new love interest. The thing that motivates them, sometimes subconsciously, is their desire to get back to a version of themselves that they feel they’ve lost.
An affair, the new attention and the excitement it brings, is often seen as a gateway back to the person they used to be, a way to tap back into their youth. As we all know, this electric period of desire very rarely lasts beyond the initial throes of passion, but for some, the allure can be too great.
In one of the narratives in Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women, Lina has an affair with a high school crush because she feels neglected by her husband. There are many heart-breaking passages where she describes how he won’t kiss her on the lips no matter how much she tries to initiate this simple display of affection. She yearns for some kind of meaningful physical connection, to be touched, and in the end, after trying rounds of therapy to address the issue, she seeks this affection elsewhere.
Katherine* and her husband had been married for twelve years and together for fifteen. They met at university on the same law degree and moved to London together to pursue their careers. For many years they were very happy and on a similar track, but after seven years of practising law, Katherine started to feel like there was more to life; “We started to become very different people to who we had been, it affected our relationship as we were living separate lives with different interests and friends.” Then, Katherine met someone at a friend’s party who she instantly connected with, “I knew as soon as I met him my marriage was over, I knew that we’d sleep together.” They embarked on a short affair, and after four months, Katherine left her husband. “It was sad,” she says on the breakdown of her marriage, “we were best friends for a long time, but the separation was good for us both in the end.”
In a recent US study, research scientists surveyed 495 people on the reasons why people cheat and how these reasons affect the length and intensity of the affair. One of the reasons they came across was purely situational; sometimes, you’re in the right place at the right time or, depending on how you view infidelity – the wrong place at the wrong time. Interestingly the study found that situational cheaters were less inclined to cheat out in the open, possibly because this indiscretion wasn’t planned, and they have no desire to leave their central relationships. Elsewhere in the study, it was noted that those who cited a situation as the primary cause of their infidelity were far less sexually satisfied, with much of the sexual activity being limited to kissing (86.7%) and cuddling (72.9%).
Need for variety or novelty
For some people, the thought of only having sex with one person for the rest of their lives is enough to send them running for the hills. Tara has always found it challenging to remain committed to one relationship sexually; as she explains, “I just feel that life is so short and I love to have sex, but after a while of being with only one person I feel an urge, it’s like a physical reaction that I find hard to control.” Tara explained this behaviour caused a lot of heartache in past relationships, so now she’s more open with partners from the beginning. “Now, I only engage in open relationships. Humans aren’t meant to be monogamous. It’s something we’ve convinced ourselves we should do, but it’s not real. It doesn’t make us happy.”
Interestingly the US study found that only one in five (20.4%) relationships ended because of one of the partner’s infidelity, and only one in ten (11.1%) affairs result in a longer-term relationship. This could be because of the stress and trauma that surrounds having an affair can negatively impact the new relationship or because often, the reasons for the affair are symptomatic of what is going on in the primary relationship. An affair is often a sign of dissatisfaction or unhappiness, but they’re not always driven by a genuine desire to split up. Infidelity can be destructive for couples and families and heartbreaking for the person who is on the receiving end, but maybe if we have more honest conversations about why people cheat, we can move beyond the good and bad binary and have healthier conversations about our relationships before they get to breaking point.
While you are here, make sure to check out our expert tips on how to cope with being cheated on.
Watching Women & Girls by Danielle Pender, £10.43 | Amazon
This moving collection explores how women and girls are looked at, look at one another, look at themselves, and how living as an object can shape their passions, fears, and joys. Danielle Pender considers sex, parenting, grief and class as lenses for the ways in which the world watches women — and how women are always watching back.
Watching Women & Girls by Danielle Pender is out now and available at all major bookshops nationally.
Words by Danielle Pender, the founder of Riposte.
*Name has been changed to protect identity.