Psychology Behind Cheating and Lying

21 Jul 2023
12 min read
Understanding the Psychology Behind Cheating and Lying

In general, human beings hold a strong sense of loyalty, yet cheating or betrayal is still common. But what exactly plagues the mind of your affair partner to do so? Or, to put it simply, what is the psychology behind cheating and lying?

Let’s look at some of the situational factors that make people cheat, as well as what may be going through the mind of a cheating partner in an affair.

Why Might People Cheat?

There are several reasons behind cheating in a primary relationship, including individual, relationship, and situational ones. Even more – when a person chooses to potentially ruin a long-term relationship by getting with some other person, there could be a long string of why it is so.

Let’s take a look at these most common reasons to figure out what may happen to go through our partner’s mind to make them reach the point where they feel the need to cheat.

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1. Individual Reasons

Once a cheater, always a cheater.

Some people cheat or choose to become cheaters because they feel like they are more inclined to cheat than their other partners. They see no point in rebuilding trust in the relationship they had ruined with their infidelity.

Well, some people really can’t help but keep being a cheater. They absorb the rumors much like a sponge soaks up water and use that to justify the reasons they cheated. This dives fairly deep into psychology with the power of suggestion.

Also, don’t underestimate the power of words. If a completely loyal partner keeps hearing from people around about cheating, they might absorb these suggestions and commit some form of infidelity.

Related reading: Coloring the Grey Zone – Is Flirting Cheating?

2. Relationship Reasons

Sometimes, a person cheats on their partner because they feel like they are in prison in their relationship. In this case, the reasons for cheating include falling out of love with a partner and staying married because they feel the need to stay.

When people move away from each other before a divorce, cases of infidelity may appear. Here are the main reasons why cheating during separation happens:

  • being convinced that a person only married you for money,
  • marriage without love,
  • a lack of desire between the partners.

Remember: a relationship can go sour for many reasons, and the cheating person may commit infidelity before realizing it.

Related reading: In a Transactional Relationship? Here’s How to Make It Work

3. Situational Reasons

The last set of reasons mostly refers to logistics. Here are the most common situations when they come into play:

  • Huge life changes: Situations such as marriage or bringing children into the world can cause major anxiety in most people. For some, it can get out of control to the point of infidelity.
  • Outside influences: Our mental health may take a nose dive, and we find ourselves in self-destructive intrusive thoughts. In this case, the decision to cheat comes from being convinced that the current partner has already done that – and everything a partner does will be seen as a potential sign of infidelity.

Related reading: Need to Catch a Cheater? Here Are the Ways to Do It!

Common myths and truths on the psychology behind cheating and lying

5 Things You Need t0 Know About Cheating

As a society, we tend to believe that cheating is bad. If you are labeled a cheater, you will forever remain that. But there are times when people take the side of the person in the wrong or even try to outright blame the person who had been cheated on for their partner’s infidelity.

When it comes to the psychology of cheating, it’s good to look at some facts about it. After all, many kinds of lies surround cheating but only a few truths.

While many misconceptions surround the idea of cheating, they seem to stem from two major ideas: a lack of sex and an unhappy relationship behind this deed. Let’s demystify these two common misconceptions first – and then proceed to the truths you need to know.

#1. Myth: A Lack or Denial of Sex Always Leads to Cheating

Whether they were in a healthy relationship or not, there tends to be one major excuse someone would have for getting with an affair partner, “They Were Not Satisfying My Needs.”

There are many reasons why a betrayed partner may not be able to fulfill the sexual desires of their primary partner:

  • Discomfort while having intercourse
  • Medical procedures that make it dangerous to perform
  • Lack of sex drive
  • Low self-esteem about one’s image
  • Just not wanting to

However, while this may explain why some people cheat, it isn’t always the reason. If there were relationship issues, they would be a cause for alarm in all relationship forms. After all, there are times when we all have dry periods when it comes to sex. And while a lack of a sexual relationship has the potential to lead to cheating it is obviously not the case.

Related reading: Characteristics of a Cheating Woman: Pay Attention

#2. Myth: Cheating Means You Are in an Unhappy Relationship

The fact that the cheating did happen could definitely mean that there are some form of relationship issues. However, there are people with affair partners who are, or say they are perfectly happy with their primary partner.

Of course, the issues may still exist but they more than likely have more to do with the cheating partner than the betrayed partner. More often than not those who cheat tend to possess narcissistic traits, and will often use whatever means they have to seek validation from any source they can get it from.

A narcissist is commonly described as a person with a mental health condition that makes them hold an unreasonably high sense of importance. However, you do not have to be clinically labeled as a narcissist to have any narcissistic traits.

When it comes to some people’s feelings, they need constant validation and what some may view as worship even. Cheating here comes from not getting enough worship, developing low self-esteem, and going to an affair partner in order to seek validation.

With that, a relationship may have problems, but the issues may not always lie with the person being cheated on.

Like men, women cheat unconsciously

#3. Truth: A Cheater May Continue to Love Their Partner

One of the most common lies surrounding cheating is entering an affair with someone due to falling out of love. But the truth is this is normally not the case.

A person who cheats may still be very much in love with their partner. However, they may have other reasons to cheat on their partners, like falling in love with multiple people or wanting the thrill of sex with another person. Just because someone cheats does not always mean they don’t love their partner anymore.

#4. Truth: Cheating Often Happens Unplanned

Your partner may not have planned to cheat. It may have just happened. Alcohol, drugs, and other factors can lead to lost inhibitions and a lack of self-control.

Of course, unplanned cheating doesn’t hurt any less than planned cheating. A common misunderstanding makes people believe that all forms of cheating are preplanned.

#5. Half-Truth: Cheating Is a Form of Control

In some cases, cheating is used as a way to control others. Those with narcissistic traits may use their own infidelity to control their partner. If you don’t do exactly what they want, they will weave a tale of lies as they cheat. In this case, they do it to control you by convincing you that their cheating was your fault.

3 Types of Cheating

Aside from sexual intercourse, infidelity can have other reasons and forms. Let’s look at 3 other kinds of cheating that somebody might see from a person and the psychology behind these forms of infidelity.

1. Financial Cheating

You may start to notice that your partner acts differently in terms of finances. They may refuse to discuss this topic with you, not show you their bank statements when asked, and even go to strange lengths to lie about where the money is going.

Of course, there is some understanding of privacy in financial matters. However, if you and another person are in a relationship and live in the same home, being unable to converse about financial matters is a big red flag for potential cheating.

2. Emotional Cheating

Emotional cheating is often described as having an emotional bond with someone in the sense that you have a romantic relationship with them. However, you simply do not partake in sex or other sexual activities with them.

A person who is cheating on their partner in an emotional sense may lie about the relationship that they have with the person. They may tell lies about what they actually do with that person and may even put that relationship over their other relationships. They may even completely deny what the actual relationship means to them.

3. Non-Sexual Physical Cheating

Psychology is an interesting thing as each person views each thing in a different light. “All we did was kiss” or being told some story about how they touched each other intimately. Hugs that last longer than they should, one person sitting in the other person’s lap.

No amount of denial can change the fact that if these things or events similar to these happened with one person in a relationship that this is considered by most to be cheating.

3 Situational Factors That May Look Like Cheating (But They Are Not)

At times, what we perceive as cheating or ruined relationships are just situational factors that temporarily come into place. Here are three situations that may be commonly viewed as potential cheating behaviors in a person and why they are not always the case for men or women.

Related reading: How To Maintain Your Individuality While In a Relationship

1. Pouring Oneself Into a Hobby

Some believe that if you are not constantly at the feet or in the arms of your relationship partner, you may be cheating. But in reality, you could possibly be doing something like sitting next to them, knitting a scarf or building a model just across the room.

But rather than join you, they start to spin lies in their own head about how your relationship is going downhill and that the hobby is to blame.

Even if some people think that a hobby is cheating behavior, so long as it does not actively interfere with the relationship, it is not cheating.

2. Fantasizing

People tend to fantasize as a way to take control of their emotions. The same applies to yours. But if your partner starts fantasizing about friends, media characters, or celebrities in bed, it’s not always about cheating.

3. Talking with Others

When it comes to the psychology behind cheating, talking with others is seen as one of the biggest red flags when it comes to cheating. However, it’s more about the power of suggestion that leads to major misunderstandings between people.

There are definitely cases in which talking with others has been proven to be a case of cheating. However, there have also been cases where cheating was suspected but completely misunderstood.

Final Thoughts: Accountability Is Key

In most relationships, jealousy is a thing that happens. As we look into the psychology behind cheating, even the most innocent mundane things can be seen as cheating behaviors.

That’s why it’s always valuable to gain a better understanding of ourselves and others. If cheating and lying has impacted you, hopefully, this article has provided you with helpful insights. Now that you know, it’s important to center accountability when cheating happens. This applies whether you are the cheater or the one who has been cheated on. No matter the reasons for cheating, people are responsible for their actions and choices. Psychology should never be used as a way to justify hurtful or dishonest behavior.

Relationships Author
Geoffrey Williams
After taking a required Intro to Psychology course as an undergrad, I have never looked back. Since my doctoral program, I have specialized in adult relationship therapy. Through my studies and clinicals, I wrote several articles for professional journals and currently in the midst of writing a book.

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