What motivates people to cheat on the one’s they claim to love?
LOVE LAB SAYS:
This is a difficult question to answer since there are so many factors that can be involved and I believe they may be somewhat different for men and women. A question like this can be answered in an entire book, but perhaps I can dedicate an article to this at some point. For now, I’d like to attempt to answer it in brief.
First, we need to separate the condition of being ‘in love’ with ‘loving’. Being passionately and romantically in love with an individual is different than having fond and caring feelings for them. It is one thing to not stray because you cannot stop thinking about your object of affection, the thought of being with others is simply not as arousing to you, and their reciprocation is of the utmost importance. It is quite another situation when you have been together for a bit and your commitment to the individual is more out of respect and obligation, as well as attachment.
I think people are much less likely to cheat when they are romantically ‘in love’ with someone since a lot of their mental resources are so focused on the object of their love. If people are promiscuous during this time, I would attribute this to insecurity of getting reciprocation from their loved one or of general insecurities over their self worth.
Also, some people believe that a physical indiscretion does not really betray the object of their affection; they have a sharp distinction between sex and love. In their minds, these individuals are not really ‘cheating’ and believe that what you don’t know won’t hurt you.
As far as when people have fallen out of love and claim to ‘love you’, there are both cultural and physiological factors that can lead an individual to cheat. In these cases, I believe a lot depends on the strength of character of the individual combined with the societal treatment of infidelity.
Men and women, at this point, would have different reasons for cheating. Men are programmed to like novelty and seek to spread their genes (sperm) as much as possible. Not every man has the same mating strategy; some are more likely to stick around and ensure that their progeny survives while others take quantity over quality. There are genetic factors involved in this, with certain men being more likely to cheat than others (to be discussed in details in an upcoming article). Women also have a biological program to reproduce successfully (create fit progeny that would have the necessary resources to survive). However, resources are a very important factor for women and many women cannot monopolize good genes and resources in the same package.
Those with partners who are missing the good genes are prone to be attracted to men with masculine features and testosterone markers during their ovulation. Women are probably less likely to physically betray a man with good gene markers since there would be no payoff with that; however, it may be possible that they may try to secure material benefits from other men by various means or simply seek a partner who can offer both.
I’d like to point out that in spite of these evolutionary/biological factors, humans are perfectly capable of not cheating regardless the instinctual drives. In this sense, I really believe the character of the individual plays a major role. Some people may want to cheat, but they don’t because they have decided for themselves not to do it. We have the ability to have this conviction and some people are simply more evolved in this respect, choosing to be honest regardless of how this may conflict with their mating strategy.