Dating & Relationships

Our Reasons For Cheating Depend On Our Personality, Gender, and Attachment Style

March 2, 2018 by Justin Lehmiller

A recent study published in the Journal of Sex Research identified eight distinct motivations people can have for cheating (read all about those motives here). Beyond simply demonstrating the factors that motivate cheating, however, this study also examined how our personality, gender, and attachment style are linked to our reasons for committing infidelity. Here’s a quick review of the key findings.

· Sexual desire motivations (e.g., cheating because you want more frequent or different sex) were more common among men, as well as people with higher levels of attachment anxiety (i.e., greater fear of abandonment) and fewer relationship growth beliefs (i.e., less confidence in your ability to overcome conflict).

· Anger motivations (e.g., cheating because you’re mad at your partner) were more common among those high in attachment anxiety, as well as those high in attachment avoidance (i.e., difficulty getting close to others)

· Lack of love motivations (e.g., cheating because you’ve fallen out of love) were linked to being high in attachment avoidance, having more relationship destiny beliefs (i.e., believing that relationships are either meant to be or they aren’t), and having fewer romantic beliefs (such as they idea that “true love lasts forever”).

· Neglect motivations (e.g., cheating because your partner isn’t spending enough time with you) were more common among those with lower levels of agreeableness (i.e., less care and concern for others), more attachment anxiety, and more relationship destiny beliefs.

· Lack of commitment motivations (e.g., cheating because you weren’t very committed to a partner) were more common among those with higher levels of attachment avoidance, attachment anxiety, and romantic beliefs, as well as fewer relationship growth beliefs.

· Situational motivations (e.g., cheating because you were drunk or on vacation) were more common among men.

· Esteem motivations (e.g., cheating in order to boost your self-esteem) were more common among those with higher levels of attachment avoidance.

· Variety motivations (e.g., cheating because you want more variety in sex partners) were more common among men, as well as those with an unrestricted sociosexual orientation (i.e., an easier time separating sex from emotion).

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To learn more about this research, see: Selterman, D., Garcia, J. R., & Tsapelas, I. (2017). Motivations for extradyadic infidelity revisited. Journal of Sex Research.

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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