Why We Cheat
Infidelity is a hot topic of conversation, but being faithful does have its merits.
If fidelity is a matter of skill, then why are some talented and others
People who enter into long-term monogamous relationships, and who really
keep their promises, "tend to be very healthy mentally," Peter Kramer,
MD, tells WebMD. Kramer, a psychiatrist, is the host of The Infinite
Mind on NPR and author of Listening to Prozac, Should You Leave?
and most recently, Against Depression.
"There are lots of things that they're not, and that makes it possible
for them to do this thing that may be in some ways difficult," he says.
Don-David Lusterman, PhD, a marriage and family therapist and author of
Infidelity: A Survival Guide, says he thinks some people who cheat are
what he calls "pursuers," who are also called womanizers when they are
men. "They tend to require great numbers of conquests and they perceive
them as conquests," Lusterman tells WebMD. "I see that as a
developmental flaw in an individual, as opposed to an affair frequently being a
function of some disruption in the couplehood. They're very different
In clinical terms, he says, pursuers often have a narcissistic personality
disorder. They crave and demand affection and attention but are not able to
return it in kind.
Those who aren't pursuers may be susceptible to an affair because they are
not aware that something is amiss or lacking in the relationship. Given the
attention of another man or woman, "they just suddenly feel more
special," says Luanne Cole Weston, PhD, a psychologist and expert moderator
of WebMD's Sex MattersÂ® message boards. "They ceased to feel as special in
their own first relationship."
Others are well aware of their frustration and they actively seek what they
want outside the relationship. "I do hear some variation of that quite
frequently," Priya Batra, PsyD, a women's health psychologist in the Kaiser
Permanente health care system, tells WebMD.
The proverbial midlife crisis can be another trigger for cheating, "And
then you have the younger person who hasn't tasted enough of everything who
maybe committed prematurely," Weston says.