Sometimes even the most unexpected people cheat on their partners. It can come as a shock, but even people in happy relationships cheat. Why? There is generally an underlying problem that may be separate from the relationship itself. Here are only a few reasons why even happily married people cheat.


They Aren’t Happily Married

Perhaps this is obvious, but many people who cheat keep up appearances like they are happily married when they aren’t. Usually, this is due to poor communication and conflict resolution skills. The warning signs of a marriage in trouble are if there is excessive criticism, or stonewalling in the relationship. These behaviors erode relationships over time, making it easier for one or both people to seek comfort elsewhere.


The Perception of the Health Marriage is Unequal

One partner believes everything is fine, the other wants out of the relationship. Many people are socialized to not make waves unless they are ready to jump ship, and some people will hide their unhappiness in a marriage. They feel like something is wrong or missing in their relationship, such as a mismatch in how love is expressed. If their love language is words of affirmation, but their partner never has anything nice to say about them, this is a recipe for disaster. 


Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem is one of the biggest reasons people cheat. People with low self-esteem seek external validation because they feel inadequate and worthless. An easy form of validation is to hear “you’re so hot, you’re so amazing” from a person who doesn’t know them – hence the cheating. They would rather seek validation from another source – despite it being cheap – rather than face their partner who may not find them as perfect as they would like to be. Furthermore, they may feel their partner does not give them enough attention or assure them they are not worthless enough. They fear their partner’s rejection, so they seek out attention from other people who can’t reject them.



Trauma is usually at the heart of why married people cheat. At some point, they had a traumatic experience that affected their ability to fully attach to someone else. This could have been childhood abuse, witnessing a traumatic event, or living below the poverty line. These experiences affect how this person can navigate adult relationships. If they have issues with abandonment, trust, or attachment issues, all of these can influence their desire to cheat.


What to Do?

Assuming both parties want to continue the relationship after an instance of cheating, the first step would be to start couples counseling. Counseling will help identify where breakdowns in communication are taking place and how to manage them. Conflict resolution and coming up with a strategy to prevent further cheating might be part of the counseling process as well. In addition, the counselor might suggest mental health therapy for one or both parties.



Sometimes a marriage breaks down for reasons they are not obvious. The reasons why married people cheat can be due to internal conflicts their partner is not part of. The cheating person may be struggling with low self-esteem, which causes anxiety and stress related to the stability of their relationship. Furthermore, the cheating person might have some post-traumatic stress that needs addressing. Traumatic experiences reshape how we see the world, and can influence how we make decisions and for what reason. A good place to start coping with an instance of infidelity is a seek out couples counseling and mental health therapy.


Family Strategies Counseling & Mediation is a marriage and family counseling office located in Homewood, IL. We help couples improve their relationships through strategic measures that are actionable and return results. We work with individuals, couples, children, and families. Email us at info@family-strategy.com or call (708) 798-5433 for information and appointment details.