Why People Cheat

One reason why people cheat is what I like to call “conscience searing”. Here is an example:

Bob and Cindy

Bob and Cindy had great childhoods. They grew up in loving families with strong religious and moral backgrounds.  Neither of them got into any serious trouble and both excelled at school. They met each other in college. They grew closer through the college years and before they knew it Bob had popped the question to Cindy. A joyful wedding and a wonderful honeymoon followed. They were madly in love and nothing would ever come between them. Things were good in the early years. They were best friends. Their sex life was exciting and satisfying. They had great jobs and great friends.

After a few years it was time to start a family. The decision was made for Cindy to stay home and care for the children while Bob continued his career and supported the family financially. Bob took on more responsibility at his job to bridge the financial gaps. Cindy settled into the motherhood role. Nine months later they welcome their first child into the world. What a life changer this moment is. No longer does the world revolve around the two of them. No longer is life spontaneous and care free. Bob and Cindy roll up their sleeves and move forward into the new chapter of their lives with smiles just a little smaller than before.

Then one Friday afternoon Bob is called into his boss’s office. A reduction in force has eliminated his position. Uncertainty and conflict enter their lives. Work is scarce and they blow through their savings and 401k to survive. Tension mounts. Disagreements grow worse. Bob withdraws. Cindy hounds. Finally after 6 months a position opens up. It pays less than before and requires more travel but it will pay the bills. Bob jumps at the chance. Things are tougher now. The honeymoon is over. Cindy notices how Bob is messy and always is hounding her for sex. Bob notices how Cindy never lost all the weight after the baby. 


Bob travels to Boston twice a month for work. He normally travels with Lisa his assistant. Lisa really looks up to Bob and is young and fit. They spend a lot of time together and discuss work and life frequently. Over the months their talks slowly turn to relationship issues. Bob feels that Lisa understands him more than his wife. Lisa “respects” Bob more than Cindy does. Bob has fun with Lisa and enjoys the chemical rush of being near her. Their talks turn to flirting. Bob feels his wife doesn’t understand him. Cindy never made him feel like Lisa does. Lisa admires Bob. She always says the right thing and when she touches his arm the sparks fly. Bob deserves to be admired doesn’t he? He deserves to be wanted and desired doesn’t he? Soon the flirting turns to touching and kissing. Lisa responds to Bob’s advances. There are no kids to worry about or nagging wives. Cindy never met Bob’s sexual needs and doesn’t Bob deserve to have his sexual needs met? One night after too many drinks Bob and Lisa end up in bed together. The sex is incredible. The best he has ever had. Cindy has never satisfied him like Lisa does. Doesn’t Bob deserve better? Bob can’t stop now. He has the best of both worlds. Cindy will never know….


Cindy is lonely. Bob is away on business trips half of each month. Even when Bob is home he is distant and pre-occupied. Cindy craves the attention and affection she used to get from Bob. She turns to the internet to fill the empty hours. Then one day Steve sends her a message on Facebook. Steve is an old boyfriend of Cindy. Their relationship ended badly. Cindy always wondered “what if?” Cindy starts innocently texting and chatting with Steve. They discuss old times and their current lives. The innocent discussions turn to complaints about their current relationships and spouses. Steve asks if Bob is treating Cindy well. Cindy answers honestly no. They both discuss what could have been if their lives were different. What they would have done is they could start over. Slowly the text and emails turn to flirting. Cindy asks herself if she is in love with Bob anymore.  The feelings are gone. If you love someone doesn’t there have to be feelings? Maybe she made a mistake. Steve pours on the pressure and affection. Cindy decides she hasn’t loved Bob for years. She has been pretending for the sake of the kids. One day, after a big fight over the phone with Bob, Cindy finds herself at a hotel in bed with Steve. The feelings she has are overwhelming. It has to be right. Cindy decides she never really loved Bob. She felt sorry for him and married him only because there was no one better at the time. Bob is a pervert and abuses Cindy and the children. God wouldn’t expect Cindy to stay with a monster like Bob would He? God wants Cindy to be happy right?

Does anyone see how the two affairs developed? Why do people cheat? Bob and Cindy are not psychopaths.  They didn’t go looking for an affair. They didn’t wake up one morning and decide to destroy their family and spouse. What really happened was “conscience searing. A series of small, seemingly innocent, decisions that pile up to become huge issues. What seems incomprehensible to newlyweds can suddenly look “justified” later on. The affair is justified by tearing down the partner. Shame is covered by false accusations and justifications. The conscience is seared until they truly believe it’s okay to have an affair. That God will bless their awful decisions.  It’s okay to destroy the person you once loved more than anything in the world.

Please be watchful for the small signs, the small indiscretions. Build barriers around your marriage to stop the outside influences from invading. Stay in touch, physically and mentally, with your spouse. Don’t ignore the warning signs. Both of these affairs could have been stopped cold at numerous points. Don’t let “conscience searing”  destroy your marriage.

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Perfect explanation of the

Perfect explanation of the small complaints and unrealistic expectations that can build up beneath the surface of a marriage. Thank you! It's amazing how easily we all fall into self-serving beliefs.

Very helpful

This was very helpful. I am the betrayed and I can relate to the situation in the blog so much. My husband was unhappy in his job and he, too, told me many times that I "let myself go" and had poor posture and my clothes were unattractive- all after we had the kids. He became a sex addict to "escape" and "medicate" himself - for 28 years. So, I heartily agree, watch for the small issues to grow and become big out of control issues. Thank you for this blog, it is very helpful and thought provoking.

I think it is very easy to

I think it is very easy to become complacent with our marriages and to ignore the small things. We put our children or work before our spouses. Sometimes these situation blow up and we end up in a huge mess. One thing I learned is that the best thing I can ever do for my children is to have a strong loving marriage.

Great read. My wife and I are

Great read. My wife and I are close to our 16th anniversary. Cindy is my wife exactly - from circumstances (me being gone for work, old boyfriend who cheated on her) to thought process (rewriting the past, villianizing me to cover the guilt, deserving to be "happy" instead of being miserable with me). I have evidence of a physical affair, but she will not admit. Even though we are 9 months in, I'm still "crazy" because they are "just friends." I am not pursuing it aggressively or being nasty. I just make it clear that I know but am still able to display kindness and love for her. It is what it is. I am at peace because I know God is in control.

She left our home with our young son 2 months ago and is fast tracking a divorce. He had to leave the only home/school/friends he has ever known. She has even rationalized that this will be better for him and that "kids are resilient." We are pretty much a textbook case. In any case, this community is incredibly helpful and I know there is purpose behind this pain. I pray for my wife and son daily. Please pray for her/us as well. Thanks so much.

Spot on

Thank you for this article. I can understand and relate to these feelings and actions so well from Cindy's example and now Bob's example. Life, why is it so confusing sometimes?

Bottom line

They had affairs because they wanted to. Doesn't matter if they went looking for it ir not. End results are the same.

If your not happy in your marriage, do somerhing about it. Work to fix it, get a divorce. Something.

You are right jbh. They reach

You are right jbh. They reach a point where they are so burned that they actually think its okay to do such terrible things. A well known family counselor has stated (and I agree) that we all are capable of an affair given the proper circumstances. I think if we are fair with ourselves we all have gotten way to close to that edge. The important thing is to stay far away from that edge.

What was left out....

Just going to touch on a few areas that I think the article did not address:

Morality. Many people just do not live by the same morals as the rest of us. They sell out their morals to fulfill their lust.

Lack of personal integrity. Some people become so selfish and self deceived that they sell out their own person integrity. They would never lie in a business deal, but had no issue looking into the eyes of their spouse and telling a lie.

Lack of understanding. Many do not understand that when they take their vows, if they had a Christian ceremony, they made a vow, they entered a covenant not only with their spouse, but with God.

Lack of personal Christian growth. So many Christians buy into the idea that as long as they ask for forgiveness it is okay. They have failed to work on their own personal Christian growth. They remain baby Christians and when their testing comes they fail because they do not have the power that is afforded to Christians to resist temptation when it comes. The sin is not in the being tempted. Even Jesus was tempted. The sin is in falling to the temptation.

Just a few of my thoughts. Thank you for the article.

What Was Left Out

I agree, the first thing I asked my husband when I found out about his cheating was....How could you go to church each Sunday, stay active in church groups, be a volunteer for youth activities all while lying to me and having sex with someone else? His response was "my spiritual life and my marriage are two separate things and have nothing to do with each other". What a rediculous thing to think and say! Where was he when we said our vows in the church?! I agree with you...the sin is not in being tempted, it is in falling to the temptation.

Exactly what happened to my wife

I was in a very bad place for a few years due to losing two jobs over a 3-year span. My wife started disconnecting from me and I was so angry at God. She started to get deeper with God, but in doing so she sought guidance from our church's youth pastor who was very deep in his faith and something my wife was craving.

Well, as you can imagine, one thing led to another an my wife -- fortunately it didn't go physical in this case -- had an emotional texting affair with this man for 2 years that I finally exposed and brought to our head pastor last summer.

She knows what she did was wrong and sees the choices she made that led to this. I was in a bad place in life and the culmination of my insecurities and fears caused me to sink into depths that I had never known. Plus I was very naive in thinking that, even though I was going through rough times, that my wife would still have my back for better or worse. Well she was in a bad place, too, in being disappointed with our marriage and the person I had become and she found excitement in this secretive relationship.

So now, nearly a year later, we are still together and going to counseling regularly to try and correct the communication and behavioral traits that led us to where we are today after 20-plus years of marriage. I truly pray that God is good and can reconcile and redeem our marriage covenant. I love and cherish my wife so much and can't picture myself with another woman. Her heart is still very hard toward me with no respect or love, but she says she is being obedient to God by staying in the marriage.

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