Why Happy People Cheat, According to a Relationship Therapist

Why Happy People Cheat, According to a Relationship Therapist

Affairs have existed ever since humanity came into existence. In the 1950s, a wife would find a bit of red lipstick on her husband’s collar and that would be it. Today, in the digital age, where social media and real life intertwine with each other, finding out your partner is cheating can be heartbreaking. Experts have a hard time estimating what percentage of the population strays, as being unfaithful can have different meanings for different people.

Esther Perel, a renowned psychotherapist is a specialist when it comes to infidelity, and we wanted to share the groundbreaking theory she has on why the majority of the population resorts to having affairs.

The definition of monogamy has transformed over the last few years.

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/East News, Invision/Invision/East News

According to Esther Perel, monogamy used to mean 1 person for life. Today, it’s 1 person at a time. We live in an era where we feel we are entitled to pursue our desires. If people used to divorce because they were unhappy, today, they divorce because they could be happier.

In the past, monogamy had nothing to do with love. Marriage was just a business transaction; today, it is a romantic arrangement, and infidelity threatens our emotional security. We used to turn to adultery as a space to find true love. Now that we look for love in marriage, adultery destroys it.

As partners, the pressure is high as we try to wear so many different hats.

Our romantic ideal is complex — we turn to 1 person to fulfill a broad spectrum of all our needs. According to Perel, our perfect partner has to be “my greatest lover, my best friend, the best parent, my trusted confidant, my intellectual equal, my emotional companion and I am it: I am chosen, I am indispensable, I am unique, I am irreplaceable. I am the one. And infidelity tells me I am not — it shatters our grand ambition of love.”

Affairs happen in happy relationships too.

Kevin Hart had an affair while his wife, Eniko, pictured above, was pregnant. His wife believes in second chances and forgiveness, and she shared, “So, as long as he behaves, we’re good.”

The concept of affairs only happening in troubled relationships is wrong. If we have everything we need at home, there is no reason to look elsewhere — or so we’d think. At the same time, there are people who, despite truly loving their partner, might, one day, admit to having had an affair.

At the heart of an affair is betrayal, hurt, and longing for an emotional connection, for novelty, for wanting to reconnect with lost parts of ourselves. According to Perel, “when we are attracted to another person’s gaze other than our partner’s, it’s not because we want to leave the person we’re with, but because we want to leave the very person we ourselves have become.”

In the shadows of an affair often lingers a loss, whether it’s a parent or a close friend or bad news from a doctor.


Robert Pattinson and Kristin Stewart, pictured above, formed a couple for 4 years until 2013 and eventually broke up because it was rumored that Stewart had an affair with a movie director.

All over the world, people who have affairs often say, “I feel alive.” Mortality often lives in the shadow of an affair because it raises questions, like “Is this it?” “Is there more?” “Am I going to live for another 20 years like this?” “Will I ever feel that thing again?” Esther Perel believes these questions might be the ones that push people to have affairs in an attempt to feel more alive and as an antidote to loss.

Although many people feel guilty for hurting their partner, they often don’t regret the affair itself.

Each affair redefines a relationship.

Beyoncé and Jay-Z went through infidelity but managed to survive it and now are happier than ever.

The truth is that the majority of couples who have gone through an affair stay together. Some of them will merely survive, but others will turn this crisis into an opportunity to improve their current relationship. Every couple will determine what the consequences of their affair will be. There can be hurt and betrayal on one side and growth and self-discovery on the other.

The relationship therapist shared what she often tells couples that come to her in the aftermath of an affair: “Today, in the West, most of us are going to have 2 or 3 relationships or marriages. Some of us are going to do it with the same person. Your first marriage is over. Would you like to create a second one, together?”

Would you give your partner a second chance after an affair? What do you think is the secret to a happy relationship? Let us know in the comments.

Preview photo credit

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/East News, AXELLE/BAUER-GRIFFIN.COM/East News

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