What Causes Adultery? Seven Reasons Married People Cheat

Updated April 10, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

When you got married, there was likely an understanding that you and your partner would only engage in sexual intercourse together. If you or your spouse violates that rule, that is considered adultery. To commit adultery is an inherently controversial act, and it is a common reason for divorce. Many people have speculated about the potential underlying roots of adultery and what prompts individuals to cheat on their spouses. Before the causes of infidelity can be examined, the act of adultery itself must first be probed.

An overview of adultery

In Western culture, adultery is heavily frowned upon and even illegal in many American states. Punishments include enforcing grounds for divorce, fines, and incarceration. Despite the ethical breaches and potential legal consequences, many people have engaged in adulterous acts for one reason or another.

Is your marriage adultery-proof?

Marital unhappiness

It is not uncommon for a married woman or man to engage in an adulterous relationship simply because they are unhappy in their current marriage. The cheating husband or wife may feel as though their spouse does not listen to them, fails to show care/attention, or simply doesn't love them anymore. Many people would argue that the reasons above do not justify infidelity. However, marital unhappiness is one of the most common reasons behind the commission of adultery. Many other causes of adultery may stem from a lack of happiness in the relationship.

Boredom/need for something new

Sometimes, adultery is triggered by sheer boredom. Over time, some marriages can begin to feel routine. In some cases, the bored married woman or man may become dissatisfied with their predictable, familiar marriage and begin to seek a thrill elsewhere.

However, an unhappy spouse does not always seek out a lover. Sometimes, he or she just so happens to meet a new person. The potential chemistry or initial attraction may excite the unsatisfied spouse who then decides to engage in adulterous acts with this other person. Whether or not the extramarital relationship lasts after the original passion and exhilaration depends on many factors.


Cheating husbands and wives may engage in adultery simply to get back at their spouse. Their urges to get revenge can be motivated by perceived wrongs or transgressions committed by their partner. A married woman or man who knows that their spouse had an affair with a coworker may then respond by entering an extramarital relationship of their own, for example. Sometimes, the unfaithful married person views cheating in response to prior cheating as "evening the score" or otherwise getting back at their spouse who hurt them. Rarely does cheating for the sake of revenge engender positive outcomes, though. 


Some cite narcissism as yet another cause of infidelity or adultery. A happy, fulfilling, and even exciting marriage may not be enough for a narcissist. A narcissistic woman or man could feel compelled to be loved, wanted, and desired by more than just their husband or wife. Therefore, the narcissistic spouse may either seek out extramarital lovers or simply cheat on their partner when the opportunity presents itself.

Narcissists have a tendency to bring out the darker corners of human sexuality and are infamously regarded as cheaters. These people tend to feel as though societal norms such as monogamy are beneath them. Narcissists often view themselves as superior to others and believe that rules are for other people. They may feel that they are immune to consequences such as societal punishment for adultery. The give-and-take dynamic which inherently occurs in marriage is often too much for a narcissist and can prompt them to feel as though they are losing control. This perceived loss can prompt the narcissist to cheat on their spouse in order to somehow regain control and power in their marriage.

Lack of sexual satisfaction

Ilona Titova/EyeEm

Adultery is sometimes motivated by a lack of sexual satisfaction in the cheating person's current marriage. The married woman or man may genuinely love their spouse, yet cheat on them because they believe their extramarital lover can satisfy them in a way that their spouse cannot.

Some may argue that a man or woman who truly loves their spouse could never cheat on them. However, the validity of this claim remains highly debatable. Sexually unsatisfied husbands and wives have, in fact, cheated on their spouses despite claiming they love them. 

Falling out of love/falling in love with someone else

Although falling for an extramarital lover is seemingly rare, it can and does occur. Sometimes the cheating spouse meets someone else outside of their marriage and feels a strong connection with them. Sometimes, the unfaithful husband or wife misconstrues emotional or sexual intimacy as 'love,' especially if these feelings have been lacking in the marriage.

In some cases, husbands or wives have left their current marriages to pursue healthier relationships with their paramours. Sometimes these relationships work out, and other times they do not. Nonetheless, falling in love with another person or simply falling out of love with one's spouse can incentivize the commission of adultery, often as a means to give the partner grounds for divorce.

Exposure to other cheaters

A surprising study revealed that the children of parents who had affairs are more likely to cheat on their future spouses, even if they witnessed their parents receive some sort of punishment for adultery. Of course, this is not to say that every child with parents who have engaged in affairs will become cheaters. However, one's environment can significantly impact their values, beliefs, and choices later in life. 

Working on honesty in your marriage

Is your marriage adultery-proof?

A couple who has experienced adultery in a marriage may be able to get through it if they are willing to talk about it in an honest way. It may be important not to villainize your spouse for committing adultery but rather focus on how to get through this violation of trust. If you find out that your partner has had sexual intercourse with somebody else, it can be devastating, but therapy can help. The relationship can be salvaged if both people are willing to be honest with one another.

How therapy can help

Adultery is a betrayal. When you find out that your spouse cheated on you and had sexual relations with somebody else, it is painful, and you may have a lot of feelings. You could be angry, depressed, hurt, or frustrated. A licensed mental health professional can help you work through these emotions. Moreover, a couples counselor can help the two partners understand why the adultery occurred and see if there's any hope to save the marriage. Remember that a couple's counselor is there to help you. They can help you and your partner understand why the affair happened in the first place and what to do next.

Every one of us will encounter hardships or difficulties in our relationships. However, what ultimately makes the difference is how we choose to handle them. Sometimes, the best course of action is to pause, reflect, and think carefully about the next step to take. Making decisions in the heat of the moment is rarely a good idea and often breeds hardship, including the ugly aftermath of adultery. While the potential causes of adultery are plentiful, this does not make the act any less harmful or hurtful. Many marriages have suffered or even ended due to one or both spouses’ lack of fidelity. There are many productive alternatives to adultery, including talking with your spouse, going to couples counseling, or sitting down with a professional for a one-on-one session.

If you are contemplating adultery or have experienced it, you might feel ashamed or embarrassed. These are normal emotions, but they can also prevent some people from getting the help they need, especially in person. An online therapeutic setting may help you feel more comfortable discussing problems in your relationship. Internet-based counseling also tends to be more flexible, allowing you to schedule sessions anytime day or night. 

Online therapy has been proven to be a legitimate form of couples therapy. A recent study found that couples undergoing web-based counseling using video conferencing experienced positive outcomes, including increased relationship satisfaction and enhanced mental health. 


Seeking help should be revered as a sign of strength, not weakness. Here at Regain, we pride ourselves on having compassionate, licensed professionals to provide high-quality counseling and therapy. Whether you’re looking to safeguard your relationship from adultery or heal from the harmful effects of infidelity, counseling can help—get started today

For Additional Help & Support With Your ConcernsThis website is owned and operated by BetterHelp, who receives all fees associated with the platform.
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started
This website is owned and operated by BetterHelp, who receives all fees associated with the platform.