Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

Ever Wonder Why Men Cheat and Why Women Cheat?

Hope for Healing Registration Opens Today at Noon CT! Space Is Limited!

Designed specifically for wayward spouses, Hope for Healing is a supportive, nonjudgmental environment for you to heal and develop empathy. Over the years, this 17-week, small group course has helped thousands of people find hope, set healthy boundaries and move toward extraordinary lives.

"The sooner after D-Day you can become involved in Affair Recovery, the better. I went from not being welcome in my own home to sharing a bed with my wife once again - much sooner than I expected. EMS Online helped us to communicate effectively, and Hope for Healing really helped me understand the issues I have with myself. Meeting strangers that are in the exact same situation as you is so helpful. They become your friends and confidants." - E., Pennsylvania | April 2021 HFH Participant

Spaces fill up quickly for this course. Click the button below to learn more about Hope for Healing and to claim your spot.

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Ever Wonder Why?

why do men women cheat

Why men and women cheat may be the most common question we hear. After all, how do you reconcile the unfaithful spouse's behavior when it seems so contradictory to their past? How do you wrap your mind around such foreign, out-of-the-blue behavior?

If you're asking the above questions about a cheating spouse, you may also be asking countless other questions like:

  1. Why did they do it? How could they do that and still want to be with me and love me?
  2. What does the other person have that I don't?
  3. Why would they risk their married life here with me for cheap passion with someone who is so messed up and trashy? Can't they see how unrealistic the new relationship really is?
  4. Why do men cheat or why do women cheat and then seemingly have no conscience about it?
  5. Did he or she ever really love me to begin with?
  6. How does a betrayer or a cheating spouse think? (i.e. WHAT were you THINKING?!)

I'll take a shot at trying to answer some of the questions below, but keep in mind the limited space here doesn't allow for exhaustive answers. I'll do my best to speak to the issues in a concise and pointed manner. For more help though, please visit our free resources.

Why did they do it?
How could they do that and, at the same time, still love me and want to be with me?

For starters, a key principle in life—and certainly in understanding infidelity—is the concept that behavior does not equal motive. How often have you done something you didn't want to do? It happens all the time. And while infidelity is horrible and gut wrenching, it is certainly something that people can get into and then discover it's not what they really wanted.

All too frequently, we follow our emotions, falsely believing we want something, only to discover once we have it that it's not what we want at all. In the moment of truth, when the mistake is discovered, it can seem like it's too late. Loyalty bonds have been broken, hearts crushed, vows shattered. I firmly believe lives can be healed, but many times, at the beginning, convincing the parties that their lives can be restored is the bigger challenge.

For the hurt spouse, the question to the cheating spouse remains, "How could you if you really cared about me?" The fact is that caring has little or nothing to do with what they've done. They behaved in spite of caring. A tragic yet poignant aspect of these situations is how they actually reveal to the unfaithful mate what they really wanted all along.

The larger issue is usually for the hurt spouse. It may be painful to believe that their mate really does care about them. You see, believing that means they should or will feel compelled to consider re-entering the relationship, which is a very big leap emotionally. Time, expert help, and proper reconciliatory efforts are the only commodities which can reveal the truth. If you're what they really want, then they'll go the distance and give you the necessary space to heal.

What does the other person have that I don't?

There's no way to determine the why right now. A lifetime can be spent searching for the why. There are as many reasons why as there are stars in the sky. The complexity lies in the multitude of factors driving that choice for the cheating spouse.

For some, the infidelity is caused by unhealed and unresolved baggage brought into the marriage. At times, it's a maladaptive response to problems in the marriage. Rather than addressing issues head-on, someone may use some form of infidelity as the solution to their dilemma.

At times, it's about an addiction and, at times, it can even be a situational mistake where someone does something careless in the moment and then feels trapped and unable to disentangle themselves. I'm certainly not minimizing harmful and hurtful behaviors, but it is very possible to end up where you don't want to be and then be absolutely lost on how to extract yourself and salvage the marriage.

Typically, the cheating spouse says they enjoy how the affair partner makes them feel. Affair partners tend to serve as a vanity mirror, casting an image of ourselves that we think looks pretty good, and the spouse as a makeup mirror, magnifying and highlighting all our flaws. This is why the affair partner seems to be the preferred commodity, but, in the long run, it's just an illusion, and eventually, the negatives and unresolved baggage will show up to destroy once more.

Why would they risk their married life here with me for cheap passion with someone who is so messed up and trashy?
Can't they see how unrealistic this relationship really is?

In all honesty, there is a good chance the person who's acting out isn't even thinking about risking a life of calm and serenity for the excitement of being with someone else. The compartmentalization that most betrayers and even addicts utilize separates the two realities in their mind. The risk is part of what brings the adrenaline and excitement, but the reality of losing everything they hold dear doesn't really hold any weight in the moment. At one level they may be aware that they could lose everything, but the reality of that possibility doesn't really register in their mind. This explanation seems literally incomprehensible to the betrayed spouse, however, it's a very real mindset for the betrayer. It's a difficult concept to explain to someone who's not an addict. It's a bit like trying to describe light or color to a blind person. You can tell them what it's like, but unless you experience it, then it's hard to believe someone could actually think this way.

Please don't hear me saying this is an excuse for this type of behavior. It absolutely is NOT. The person who lives like this still does know that what they're doing is wrong and that there are ways to deal with the mess they've created, but they have to make that choice on their own. We can help create opportunities for them to come out of the haze of their choices, but it requires their own commitment to the process.

Why do men or women cheat and have no conscience about it?

Why do people cheat and have no guilt regarding their actions? The real answer is that only a very small percentage of the population experience little to no guilt when acting out. The vast majority feel the prick of guilt, but they use defense mechanisms, such as blaming, victim thinking, minimization, rationalization, or denial, to push their conscience away. If they have resentments toward their mate, they may justify their actions by feeling their spouse deserves it because of their lack of concern for their emotional and/or sexual needs. If they've been engaging in the behavior for a longer period of time, their heart may have become hardened to the behavior and it no longer seems that bad, at least to them.

A lack of remorse doesn't mean someone has no conscience. It can be an indication that somehow, in their mind, they have come up with a way to justify what they've done in order to avoid taking responsibility for the failure.

Did they ever really love me?

This one is hard to answer. It all depends on how you define love. One thing is for certain, if someone betrays their mate, we all agree that what they've done is not loving. However, I believe every human being is capable of loving someone and, at the same time, in a moment of selfishness, acting in ways that are contrary to love. Loving your mate in no way precludes you from being angry with them and saying something hurtful. Saying something hurtful certainly isn't in the same league as a betrayal, but if your love for your mate isn't sufficient to keep you from acting in a way that's unloving toward them, then their love for you may not be sufficient to keep them from doing something hurtful to you.

On the other hand, I believe many people, including cheating spouses, have a pretty shallow understanding of love. They get married thinking they love their mate, but in reality, they love how their mate makes them feel about themselves. If that's the case, they will continue in the relationship as long as the marriage continues to make them happy. But if, for whatever reason, the marriage ceases to make them happy, or if they find someone or something that makes them feel even better, then it won't be long until the allure of something or someone better draws them elsewhere.

If that occurs, does it mean they never loved you? Almost surely, no, but it can get complicated, especially when one or both spouses are neither honest nor sure about their feelings. It's possible that the unfaithful partner's journey into the forbidden may have opened their eyes and helped them realize that their spouse is what they really cherish. At this point, their reality begins to shift and it's a teeter totter of guilt, despair, and confusion as to what to do next to try and save the marriage. At the very least, if they are choosing to work on the relationship, I believe their betrayal and the response of their partner may be the very thing that begins to teach them the true meaning of love and open up a door for true reconciliation. I know this type of restoration is possible. I've seen it with my own marriage as well as countless others who decide to give the marriage a chance to be restored.

How does a betrayer or cheating spouse think? (i.e. WHAT were you THINKING?!)

I'm sad to say, if they had really been thinking and considering the impact of their actions, there is a good chance they never would have done this. I can't tell you how many times I've heard both men and women state if they had known the consequences of their actions before they had acted, they would have never done it. I think very few people rightly consider all the costs when they act out in betrayal. For your sake and theirs, I wish they had been thinking. I'd have less business, but the world would be a safer, happier place!


Regardless of where you've landed after your attempts at reconciliation or healing, I want you to know there is hope today. The callousness of your spouse or the unrelenting hurt in your own heart doesn't, at any level, disqualify you from being able to find hope, healing, and a restored love. It's not easy, and it's not overnight, but the hard work that occurs during the healing process makes the end result more than worth it. Relationships are at risk. The rest of our lives are at risk. Such precious commodities need a proven approach that is rooted not in shaming or 'guilting' you or your spouse into recovery but in leading you down a road of discovery and healing.

I hope and pray you'll reach out today for help. If you'd like to join us at our upcoming EMS Weekend, you'll want to hurry and register here: https://www.affairrecovery.com/product/ems-weekend.

Hope for Healing Registration Opens Today at Noon CT! Space Is Limited!

Designed specifically for wayward spouses, Hope for Healing is a supportive, nonjudgmental environment for you to heal and develop empathy. Over the years, this 17-week, small group course has helped thousands of people find hope, set healthy boundaries and move toward extraordinary lives.

"The sooner after D-Day you can become involved in Affair Recovery, the better. I went from not being welcome in my own home to sharing a bed with my wife once again - much sooner than I expected. EMS Online helped us to communicate effectively, and Hope for Healing really helped me understand the issues I have with myself. Meeting strangers that are in the exact same situation as you is so helpful. They become your friends and confidants." - E., Pennsylvania | April 2021 HFH Participant

Spaces fill up quickly for this course. Click the button below to learn more about Hope for Healing and to claim your spot.

Register For Hope For Healing!

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