Why A Spouse Cheats – Infidelity Explained

by Dr. Karen Ruskin on June 5, 2012

The question; Why Does A Spouse Cheat – is often asked of this relationship expert. The most common reason for infidelity, cheating myths debunked, cheater personality style, the definition of an affair, are all explained in a blog article I wrote in response to a request to be a guest blogger for Relationship Advice Cafe.

If you wish to learn concrete cheating prevention strategies, the top 6 signs to tell if your spouse will or is cheating, how your marriage at any stage can last, how to help your marriage be happy and successful, re-boot and re-connect your couple relationship – my newest book release, as seen on FOX & Friends, provides the answers. Dr. Karen’s Marriage Manual is available – order your autographed copy today.

Below is the full article written by this relationship expert and marriage/family therapist as it appears in Relationship Advice Cafe:

Infidelity – Cheating is an Epidemic

Statistics show that someone either has cheated, is currently cheating, or will cheat in 80% of all marriages over the course of the marriage.

This number has doubled in the past ten years.

Current statistics vary slightly as to what percentage of men versus what percentage of women is cheating. Approximately 50% of married women and 60% of married men are cheating.

What is an Affair?

Dictionary.com Definition:

“A romantic and sexual relationship, sometimes one of brief duration, between two people who aren’t married to each other.”

Wikipedia Definition:

Romantic affair

“Unlike a casual relationship, which is a physical and emotional relationship between two people who may have sex without expecting a more formal romantic relationship, an affair is by its nature romantic.”

“When a romantic affair lacks both overt and covert sexual behavior and yet exhibits intense or enduring emotional intimacy, it may be referred to as an emotional affair, platonic love, or a romantic friendship.”

Extramarital affair

“Relationships outside of marriage where an illicit romantic or sexual relationship or a romantic friendship or passionate attachment occurs.”

    Dr. Karen Says, Consider This:

Affairs can be divided into three parts:

  1. the dishonesty,
  2. the outside relationship,
  3. the sexual infidelity and/or emotional infidelity (i.e., affair of the heart)

All 3 parts differ in their degrees and their levels. Each part exists on a continuum.

Mental Illness

Typically, when experts are interviewed in the media about politicians or celebrities, the top two reasons stated for why infidelity has taken place is; sex addiction or narcissism.

There are various other diagnoses to make sense of why a person cheats not typically focused on in the media, but considered by therapists when evaluating a client, for example; co-dependency or borderline personality disorder.

It is the smaller percentage of the population that has a mental illness that leads them to cheat.


In the media it is often reported, men who are powerful they think they can get whatever they want and thus cheat (e.g., Bill Clinton).

Men who are with women that are powerful are said to cheat because they don’t have as much power in the relationship (e.g., Jessie James).

So, which is it, men who are powerful cheat or men who aren’t powerful cheat?

Men who are wealthy are described as cheaters because they feel there is a price for anything, thus they can buy what and who they want. Then how does that explain the fact that poor men cheat, too?

Whether you are a man or woman, with a mental illness or you have no mental illness, you are powerful or are not, rich or poor, a celebrity or not, know this; there are those who do cheat and there are those who don’t.


The blame game is using an excuse for why a person cheats. What about the notion of choosing to not cheat? The mind is a powerful tool. We as a society have become finger-pointers.

This external blame means that a person can offer a reason why they did what they did and rather than taking ownership of their own behavior, they can blame some default within them that is out of their control, leading to the problem behavior.

They can point their finger at mental illness, power, etc., as though it is some external “thing” where the cheating behavior becomes viewed as a symptom of a bigger problem.

When you get married, it is a vow to be true to the couple, true to your spouse. As tempted as you may be, there is still thought before action, and as humans, we have the capability to choose.

Cheating Myths Debunked

Myth #1: If you are a beautiful and sexy woman, or a handsome well-built man, your spouse will not cheat on you.

The level of attractiveness of a man or a woman in and of itself is not an indicator of whether or not they will be cheated on.

Myth #2: If you are having sex with your spouse with frequency, your spouse will definitely not cheat on you, if you rarely have sex with your spouse, then your spouse is definitely going to cheat on you.

I see couples that have an active sex life and there is cheating going on, whereas for other couples, there isn’t cheating taking place. I have seen couples that rarely have sex and there is no cheating, and for others there is.

Rare sexual relations with your spouse isn’t a guarantee of cheating, although do note that it is a warning sign that may lead to cheating and you would be foolish to ignore it.

Myth #3: Cheating cannot be prevented.

Cheating can be prevented far more often than it is. In my recently released book, as discussed on FOX News Channel’s FOX & Friends; Dr. Karen’s Marriage Manual  I explain my Marital Cheating Prevention Formula – 5 Steps.

In addition, I explain The Cheater Meter (which educates the reader on the top 6 signs/predictors to tell if your spouse is cheating). This informative book also includes concrete strategies and techniques to re-connect with your spouse.

#1 Most Common Reason Reported For Cheating 

Lack of Attention

The most common reason reported by men and women for cheating is that they do not feel attended to. Lack of attention goes hand in hand with a lack of feeling appreciated.

This longing and void leads a person to desire the feeling of attentiveness, appreciation and in essence: feeling valued and wanted.

People Cheat Because They Make The Choice To Cheat!

When a person doesn’t feel their spouse is paying attention, it makes a person feel unwanted and sad and bad about their own value and self-worth.

There are many ways in which one can pay attention to one’s spouse.

Some examples of paying attention include: communication, being present, compassionate, hearing your spouse’s voice, empathetic, physically affectionate, nurturing, showing active consistent interest, patient, and sexual relations.

Humans long for connection. Without attention from one’s spouse, one feels disconnected from their spouse, which leads to feeling de-valued and un-heard. This in turn leads some to find this important human need elsewhere.

When I say “find,” only for some is an affair a plan (looking for someone to be with); for many, an affair isn’t searched for. The most common scenario where men and women that have cheated state that they didn’t plan to cheat, it “just happened.”

Then once it happened, they found themselves continuing with the cheating relationship/relationships. Although the person didn’t plan to cheat, I assert that it still was a choice.


If the #1 reason why people cheat is because their spouse isn’t paying attention to them, then why do some people cheat when they aren’t receiving attention from their spouse and others don’t?


There are those people that no matter what the circumstances are in their marriage, they will not cheat.

Making a choice to use an external solution (having an affair) for an internal problem (marital disharmony, disconnection) isn’t in some people’s decision-making book of life of choice.

Cheating is external, meaning it is using something outside of one’s self/marriage to fill an internal void. If there is something that is a problem internally, this means that the problem is within one’s self and/or the problem is within one’s marriage.

An internal solution to an internal problem would be to confront the problem head on, to get help with the problem that can lead toward a potentially healthy resolution.

Four types of personality styles are more likely to cheat

Cheater personality style type #1:

a)  “Externalizer”

When obstacles occur in your relationship, I refer to a person that typically seeks out unhealthy external options that masks, doesn’t attend to, doesn’t address, and doesn’t resolve the internal pain or the problem itself as an “externalizer.” Typically, this style of coping with life’s challenges is a developed behavior over time that started in one’s youth.

b) “Non-ownershipster”

I refer to a “non-ownershipster” as a person who typically doesn’t take ownership of his own actions and blames others instead.

Cheater personality style type #2:

How a person feels about other people. This style is characterized by one main trait that can be a warning sign that this person has the potential to cheat:

A person who isn’t remorseful or shows no empathy.

Cheater personality style type #3:

Secretive and/or lies.

Cheater personality style type #4:

The constant partier type who often uses alcohol and/or drugs in socializing with others is a personality style type. This doesn’t mean that the person who doesn’t drink or uses drugs is a non-cheater because there are those that do indeed.

If a man or a woman spends more time partying with others and thus less on focusing on the journey of relationship enhancement, less on coming home to be with one’s spouse but rather out partying with friends, this person is more likely to cheat than not cheat.

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