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What kind of person cheats on their spouse?

Infidelity can happen in any relationship and to any person. While there are always multiple factors that contribute to a person’s decision to be unfaithful, research has uncovered some common traits and tendencies shared by those who cheat.

Quick Answers

– People who lack empathy and are more narcissistic tend to cheat more often. They put their own needs first.

– Those with poor self-control and impulsivity are more likely to give in to temptation. They act without thinking of consequences.

– If someone has cheated in a past relationship, they are more likely to do so again. Past behavior predicts future behavior.

– People who have a “grass is greener” mentality and get bored easily may stray to seek excitement outside the relationship.

– Childhood trauma like neglect, abuse, or having a caregiver who cheated can predispose someone to infidelity.

– Not feeling valued, appreciated, or emotionally fulfilled in the marriage increases the risk of cheating.

– Sexual motivations like wanting more sex, variety, or passion than what the marriage provides can motivate infidelity.

Personality Traits

Specific personality traits have been linked to a higher likelihood of cheating in relationships. Some key traits that may indicate a greater risk include:


Narcissists tend to feel entitlement and be focused on their own wants and needs above others. They crave admiration and validation. These desires may lead them to seek attention outside the marriage through affairs. Their sense of deserving whatever they want can override guilt over the pain for their spouse.


Impulsive individuals act rashly based on urges or whims of the moment. They lack restraint and forethought regarding the consequences of their actions. This makes them more apt to give in if an opportunity to cheat spontaneously arises rather than faithfully avoiding dangerous situations.

Low Conscientiousness

People who score low in conscientiousness tend to be less careful, disciplined, and concerned about obligations to others. As a result, they may disregard the commitment and emotional toll of cheating in pursuit of a self-serving desire.

Low Agreeableness

Agreeable people value getting along with others and are generally trusting and compassionate. Those who score low in agreeableness are less likely to care about harmony. This disregard for their partner’s feelings or needs can allow them to rationalize cheating.

Insecure Attachment Style

Those with an insecure attachment style, stemming from childhood relationships with caregivers, can exhibit neediness, dependence, jealousy, or avoidance of intimacy. These characteristics increase the risk of seeking external validation through an affair.

Other Factors That Contribute to Cheating

In addition to innate personality tendencies, other factors can interact to influence marital infidelity:

History of Cheating

The saying “once a cheater, always a cheater” has truth behind it. Those with a past history of infidelity in relationships are significantly more likely to do so again in the future. This pattern reflects a greater propensity towards cheating overall.

Boredom and Curiosity

People who lose interest and become disengaged in their marriage, or who crave variety and novelty, may start looking outside the relationship to cultivate those feelings. Affairs can seem appealing to provide a fresh spark.

Childhood Experiences

Having a caregiver who cheated or being cheated on in a past relationship can normalize the behavior. Childhood trauma and attachment issues can also limit abilities for trust, intimacy and secure bonding. These early experiences lay the groundwork for cheating later on.

Marital Neglect or Dissatisfaction

Feeling neglected, unappreciated, or emotionally disconnected in the marriage makes people more vulnerable to seeking validation elsewhere. Perceived deficits in the relationship can motivate looking to affairs to fulfill unmet needs.

Sexual Motivations

Desiring greater passion, more frequent sex, more variety and excitement in lovemaking, or a preference for risky anonymous encounters can all entice cheating. These motivations stem more from lust and physical attraction than emotional connection.

Situational Factors

High-risk situations that increase access and opportunity to cheat also play a role. These include frequent travel, having ample free time and privacy, excessive alcohol use, or a workplace environment with potential romantic partners.

Gender Differences in Cheating

Research has uncovered some tendencies in motivations for cheating that differ between men and women:

Men Women
– More likely to cite sexual motivations – More likely to cite emotional motivations
– Higher rates of cheating overall – Increased cheating in recent decades narrowing gender gap
– Younger men cheat more than older – Women tend to cheat later in life after years of marriage
– Opportunity is a strong factor – Cheat with someone they know rather than stranger

This highlights that while sexual motivations play a larger role for male infidelity, women are increasingly cheating for emotional connection lacking in their marriage.

Signs Your Spouse May Be Cheating

In addition to personality traits, there are behavioral changes that can signal your partner may be unfaithful:

Emotional Distance and Secrecy

Your spouse becomes cold, critical and withdraws from the relationship emotionally. They also become very secretive about their time and activities.

Change in Sex Drive

An uncharacteristic increase or decrease in your partner’s libido can reflect infidelity. Less interest in you and more interest elsewhere, or vice versa.

Working Later and Weekend Hours

Sudden unexplained overtime and weekend work hours take away from couple time together. Especially if this was not a past pattern.

Less Accountability for Time

When asked about their day or schedule, your spouse becomes evasive or defensive. Explanations for time spent don’t add up.

Money Issues

Any secret expenditures or accounts could fund wining and dining a lover. Even small amounts spent at hotels or restaurants can add up.

Less Engagement at Home

Your partner stops contributing to household responsibilities. There is less interest in family activities traditionally shared together.

Increase in Criticism of You

Your spouse becomes hypercritical about you and your marriage. This attempts to justify their own detachment and external focus.


When you ask questions, your partner turns it around on you and questions your trust. They deny concerns even in the face of evidence.

Grooming and Appearance

Suddenly, your partner seems to care more about looking attractive with new clothes, hairstyles, cosmetics, fragrances, fitness regimens.

How to Heal After an Affair

Discovering a partner’s infidelity can be an emotionally devastating experience. However, many couples are able to heal their marriages after cheating through concerted effort. Some tips include:


Open, honest communication is necessary to understand what led to the infidelity and how to meet unmet needs moving forward. Discuss your feelings without blaming or shaming.


The unfaithful partner should provide access to phones, accounts, and information about their activities to rebuild broken trust. Checking in often helps alleviate suspicions.

Cut Off Contact

The cheating partner must end all contact with the affair partner for good. Any continued interaction keeps the emotional affair alive and further damages the marriage.


Get guidance from a therapist experienced with affairs. Having a neutral third party provides perspective and helps you process intense emotions safely with support.


Both spouses must recommit to monogamy and devote energy to nurturing intimacy. Set goals to invest in the marriage and make each other a priority daily.


Ultimately, the betrayed spouse will need to forgive in order for healing to occur. This takes time, but letting go of anger helps reestablish connection.

Learn from It

Use the affair as an opportunity to address vulnerabilities in the marriage and grow together. The crisis can spark positive change.


While infidelity is complex, certain tendencies put some at higher risk. Traits like narcissism, impulsivity and history of cheating reflect increased odds, as do factors like marital neglect and boredom. There are also hints like emotional distance that may signal a spouse’s cheating. With commitment and counseling, many couples manage to recover stronger after the difficult revelation. Healing requires communication, transparency, forgiveness and desire to learn from the experience.