You can’t tell if someone will cheat on you just by looking at them. Of course, everyone can cheat, but statistics suggest that only around 30% to 60% of people actually go through with it.
So what is the difference between those who habitually cheat and those who don’t?
Is There 1 Thing all Cheaters have in Common?
If there’s one thing all cheaters have in common, it’s poor impulse control. An opportunity tempts them and they lack the emotional maturity needed to resist it.
Although their minds might be telling them it’s wrong, their lack of self-control makes it impossible for them to fight the urge.
Cheaters, especially chronic cheaters, struggle to control their impulses. While we all make mistakes and sometimes hurt those we love, cheaters know their actions will cause pain but do it anyway.
This behavior is associated with an inability to resist the urge to do something, even though you know it’s wrong.
Unfortunately, compulsive cheaters have always given in to their urges and have failed to develop the moral values and empathy needed to resist temptation.
Rather than asking themselves, “Is it ok for me to cheat on my partner?” They are only asking what’s in it for them.
While cheaters can change their ways, many struggle to stick with a self-improvement plan that would correct their unhealthy behavior.
They Use Their Emotions as Guidance
Cheaters rely on their emotions for guidance, either ignoring or being unable to appreciate the feelings of others or the consequences of their own actions.
As a result, they may feel their behavior is completely justified simply because their feelings tell them it’s the right thing to do.
Many cheaters develop this lack of control early on in life. For example, someone who grew up in an environment where emotions were silenced or belittled will struggle to air their feelings later in life.
Instead of discussing problems in a relationship, they’ll shut those feelings down and find a different outlet – in the form of someone else.
A person who was over-indulged as a child and allowed to follow and express their urges regardless of the situation may cheat for very different reasons.
For them, infidelity is a right because they grew up believing that “they are entitled to do whatever they like without reciprocity.”
Although the reasons for a person’s inability to control their impulses vary, the result is almost always the same – infidelity.
The cheater lacks the emotional depth to evaluate their urges and weigh up the potential consequences of giving into them.
In a sense, a cheater is like a carpenter with an empty toolbox – the only way he can create something new is by breaking the piece of wood he had in the first place.
What do all Cheaters have in Common?
Some studies suggest that cheaters have more than just a few habits and personality traits in common.
According to one, cheaters tend to be fans of rock and roll, while another suggests that cheaters usually have a longer ring finger than those who remain faithful.
Aside from these rather obscure commonalities, there are other habits that all cheaters develop.
#1 An Inability to Control Impulses
Cheaters go with their urges, putting their emotions above everything else.
A person with poor impulse control “is often unable to resist the sudden, forceful urge to do something that may violate the rights of others or conflict with societal norms.”
#2 Privacy or Withdrawal
Cheaters will carefully guard their private lives, often keeping secrets from their partner or remaining stubbornly vague about where they’ve been or who they’ve been talking to.
Their phones are usually locked to keep prying eyes at bay, but at the same time, that means excluding their partner from a vital portion of their lives.
Serial cheaters may even be cagey about their past relationships and family, refusing to share details about their upbringing or who their friends are.
This behavior exacerbates the problem. As the distance between the cheater and their partner grows, the urge to cheat grows with it.
The cheater has forced their current partner out of their lives but now seeks the comfort of having another person to share their most private thoughts with.
#3 The Ability to Lie
When people cheat, they must lie, concocting stories to explain their behavior and failure. A quick lie is easily believable if your partner is late home from work.
This lays the groundwork for further deception and gives the cheater a useful fall-back position.
When confronted, they can easily turn the situation around, blaming the loyal person for their lack of trust or inability to support them during a difficult period at work.
Serial cheaters may warn their partners in advance, saying they’ve got to put in extra hours at work to cover for somebody else when they’re really setting themselves up for an affair.
A cheating partner also lies to themselves, denying what they’re doing is wrong and justifying their behavior by highlighting what they see as their partner’s shortcomings.
#4 They Rationalize Their Behavior
Even when caught, some cheaters refuse to admit to any wrongdoing.
Instead, they will justify cheating by laying blame at their partner’s door.
They may accuse their partner of failing to provide sexual satisfaction or claim that their partner’s job takes up too much of their time and attention.
A serial cheater feels they have the right to fulfill their needs outside of their relationship, often because they lack the skills to talk honestly and openly about those needs.
#5 They Feel Unloved
People repeatedly cheat because of a deep-seated fear that they are not enough. Their insecurities and low self-esteem lead them to conclude that they’re not worthy of love.
Cheating is a way to get the reassurance and attention they crave without making themselves vulnerable.
Lacking the ability to express their feelings and concerns, they cannot make a true connection with another person, largely because they fear such a connection is impossible.
What Personality Traits do Cheaters have?
In addition to displaying certain behaviors and habits, serial cheaters share some specific personality traits.
That’s not to say that every person with low self-esteem cheats, but those who see themselves as unworthy are more liable to seek comfort outside their relationship.
There are several personality traits that many cheaters have in common:
#1 Narcissistic Tendencies
Chronic cheaters have much in common with narcissists. Both have an “inflated sense of self-importance” and lack empathy for the feelings of others. Both also seek constant attention and praise from those around them.
In the early days of a relationship, both partners are absorbed in one another.
However, as time passes and the initial passion fades, that level of attention also starts to dwindle. For a chronic cheater, this can feel like a failure to “feed the narcissistic supply”.
As neither a narcissist nor a cheater feels empathy, they don’t feel guilt either. In their eyes, the affair is justified because they’re not getting the attention they feel they deserve.
#2 Low Self Esteem
Many cheaters are emotionally dependent on their partners and terrified of losing them. They are so afraid of being alone that they hedge their bets by having multiple partners instead.
In many instances, this cheater grew up in an environment where their role models’ relationships were difficult or uncomfortable.
They may have been exposed to infidelity at an early age or have been told that their feelings didn’t matter.
Chronic cheaters have such a poor opinion of themselves that they become convinced their relationship will fail. This justifies them for being unfaithful, saying it’s only a matter of time, so why not?
#3 Nothing’s Ever Enough
Like narcissists, cheaters always want more. So they embark on an affair in search of more excitement, more attention, and more recognition. The need to be seen and appreciated outweighs everything else.
Even if you lavished praise, love, and attention on this cheater, they’d always seek more.
Although some cheaters can change, those driven by narcissistic tendencies will likely cheat again.
Someone who’s cheating on you will often project that behavior onto you.
For example, instead of admitting they’re late home because they’ve been seeing someone else, they’ll accuse you of a similar indiscretion.
Cheaters want attention, especially from the opposite sex. Although flirting doesn’t necessarily lead to cheating, it does fulfill similar goals.
Flirting gets the cheater the attention they feel their partner cannot give them. It also gives their egos a boost at their partner’s expense.
They disregard their partner’s feelings, telling themselves their behavior is acceptable because their partner can’t fulfill their needs.
#6 Twisted View of Reality
In a cheater’s view, infidelity is perfectly acceptable. They can justify their behavior by accepting a vision of the world that is contrary to their partner’s.
In their minds, the affair occurred because of their partner’s shortcomings and not through any fault of their own.
They believe that if their partner were more interested in sex or gave them more attention, they wouldn’t have to seek it elsewhere.
Cheaters also tend to believe their own lies. They use deception to absolve themselves of guilt.
They tell themselves it doesn’t mean anything or that their partner won’t find out, so their behavior can’t hurt them.
This twisted view of reality is one thing all cheaters have in common.
What is the Most Common Cause of Cheating?
If you’ve cheated on a partner, you probably told yourself it was completely acceptable.
However, your partner appeared unable to fulfill your needs, so you sought out someone who could. That seems a reasonable explanation at face value, but it’s unlikely to be the root cause.
Last year, a study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found eight root causes for infidelity: “anger, self-esteem, lack of love, low commitment, need for variety, neglect, sexual desire, and situation or circumstance.”
Although these are all common causes of cheating, they still fail to address the underlying problem, which experts say is “a sense of emotional disconnection from your partner.”
That emotional disconnect goes hand-in-hand with some of the most common causes of infidelity.
For example, cheaters may feel angry at their partners because they find it difficult to express themselves or because they feel they’re not being heard.
The perceived lack of emotional support can also lead to low self-esteem and a sense of not being loved.
The need for variety is harder to associate with a sense of emotional disconnection, but a partner who felt close to their spouse would be unwilling to inflict pain.
A cheater is emotionally disconnected enough to disregard their partner’s feelings.
Situational cheaters usually stray in response to specific circumstances and rarely become chronic cheaters.
For example, someone who cheats in a long-distance relationship may have been lonely and will regret their actions.
Studies also show that situational cheaters end their affairs sooner and rarely risk publicizing them.
The cheater is likelier to experience guilt and find the emotional maturity needed to talk to their partner and correct their behavior.
The one thing all cheaters have in common is a lack of impulse control. Unfortunately, they also tend to be opportunistic and have an inflated sense of their own importance.
Not only do serial cheaters adopt similar behavioral habits, but they also share several personality traits.
For example, they often have low self-esteem, a sense that they are unworthy of being loved, and an inability to express their emotions clearly.
Instead of establishing a deep, meaningful relationship, they hide behind meaningless affairs, hoping these will fill the holes in their emotional life.
Then, to save themselves, they seek validation elsewhere, blaming their partners for their own unhappiness while using this to justify cheating.
Cheaters tend to find it difficult to establish a stable, loving relationship.
Because they lack self-esteem, they feel they’re unworthy of love and are terrified of being alone.
To protect themselves against that eventuality, they risk losing what they desire most – someone who loves them.
Being in a relationship with a cheater can be exhausting. Their constant need for attention and affirmation is draining and can end up causing the type of emotional disconnection that caused the cheating in the first place.
The only way to save a relationship with a cheater is through honest communication, which is often what they’re trying to avoid.