The Real Reason Why Happy People Cheat

Cheating is something that couples deal with more often than we’d ever expect. But it happens, and most would consider it the worst form of betrayal. It can easily be blamed on a flawed marriage, a lack of love, etc. But what about marriages that are seemingly perfect? The truth is, happy people also cheat. And one therapist believes she’s discovered why (check out page 4).

Infidelity is viewed differently around the world

cheating couple

What constitutes cheating may be different based on what culture you’re in. |

In the United States, infidelity is a reason to leave a relationship. But in other parts of the country, it’s upsetting but not destroying. Therapist Esther Perel wrote in her essay for The Atlantic that she spoke with women all around the world about their thoughts on what infidelity meant to their relationship.

In Paris, cheating was a sensitive subject that quite a few women had been involved in (on one side or the other). In Bulgaria, women saw cheating as “unfortunate but inevitable.” And in Mexico, women were more empowered today than they had ever been to stand up to the men who cheat. But it’s not always the men who cheat in this modernized Western world.

Next: Cheating doesn’t always mean this. 

Cheating does not always signal an unhappy marriage

UnHAppy Couple

Does an affair really mean it’s over? | LuckyBusiness/iStock/Getty Images

The most difficult thing with cheating is trying to understand why it happened. Yes, there are some marriages that are in serious distress and lead people to stray. But some spouses are incredibly happy — and claim to be in love — but still cheat. In Perel’s article, she describes counseling a young woman who was in the middle of an affair but had nothing bad to say about her husband or marriage. And that’s where it gets difficult to pinpoint the cause of an affair. If things seem perfect, why cheat?

Next: Marriage isn’t what it used to be. 

The concept of ‘marriage’ has changed through the years — and so have our thoughts on infidelity


Marriage and cheating isn’t what it used to be. | Digital Vision/iStock/Getty Images

Marriage is not what it used to be. Years ago, marriage was about economic stability and reproducing rather than finding lifelong love with a partner. But today, people expect all that and more. And when infidelity does occur, it’s often the biggest betrayal possible in a marriage because there was so much packed into one partnership. People used to stray because they were not married for love and didn’t have free reign over who their spouse would be. But in this modern day, we have the ability to choose our partner and fall in love, yet cheating still exists. And because of that, it has become something so destroying that many marriages don’t last once infidelity occurs.

Next: Here’s why happy people cheat. 

Happy people sometimes consider affairs to be a form of ‘self-discovery’


Could being with someone new help you find yourself? | Zinkevych/iStock/Getty ImagesA

The reason happy people cheat could be one thing: self-discovery. It might not have anything to do with their partner or the marriage. In Perel’s article, the woman she was working with had a seemingly perfect life, but it hadn’t always been that way. She didn’t let loose as a child or ever explore her sexual options. She married young and worked full time to help support her family. And although her family was tight-knit, something was still missing, which Perel believes is the reason she strayed with a man she’d never consider a life partner — she merely wanted to explore another option.

Next: The reasons for cheating vary, but the root does not. 

The reasons for cheating might differ, but they often involve self-discovery

Smiling Couple

Taking care of yourself is always the most important thing. | OJO Images/iStock/Getty Images

The particular reason why happy people cheat might vary from one person to another, but self-discovery can often be the root cause — even if people don’t realize it at the time. When Perel asks her clients why they cheat, they often say they don’t know. But after delving into their pasts, it sometimes becomes clear: They’re searching for a new version of themselves — a version that they once had and lost or were never able to find.

Next: The real reason for cheating is usually overlooked because of this. 

Cheating often involves something called the ‘streetlight effect’

Couple Argument

Maybe there was something wrong in the relationship all along. | Dima_sidelnikov/iStock/Getty images

The streetlight effect is the idea that we search for an answer in the easiest spot rather than where it might actually be — the same way a drunk person would search for their lost keys under a streetlight rather than in the darkness, where they might actually be. When affairs are found out, the partner who was cheated on always takes it personally. This is likely because it’s easier for the cheater to blame a failed marriage as the reason rather than search within themselves for the actual reason. But with self-discovery, it usually has nothing to do with the other person.

Next: Modern technology makes cheating easier. 

Social media is playing a big role

Cheating Couple

More and more people cheat online. | AntonioGuillem/iStock/Getty images

It’s easier to reconnect with old flames now than it ever was before. All it takes is a simple friend request to either reconnect with someone from the past or get to know someone new. Even high-profile people are not immune to cheating via social media. And with more people joining Facebook and Instagram, the social media cheating likely won’t subside any time soon. Perel explained that she has seen many people who have cheated after reconnecting with past romances on websites like Facebook.

Next: In Perel’s article, she stresses this. 

But marriages are still salvageable, even after infidelity

Couple arguing in a marriage counseling or divorce proceedings

Talking to a therapist may help. | AntonioGuillem/iStock/Getty Images

Although Perel stresses that she does not condone affairs, she does say that just because an affair occurs does not mean the marriage is doomed. But instead of burying the past, she encourages couples to rebuild their relationship from it. She explains in her article that it does take a strong marriage to be able to come back from something like that, but it’s possible. The most important thing is not burying the affair or creating a “don’t ask, don’t tell” vibe in the relationship. It’s about opening up about the affair and starting brand new after it.

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