Why do people cheat on others

Why people cheat even though they love their partner

This article first appeared at HuffPost.
People cheat. Men as well as women. And it happens more often than you might think: Scientists at the University of Montreal assume that the probability of an affair is between 40 and almost 80 percent. That's pretty high.
But why do people actually cheat? Especially when they seem happy in their relationship?
Scientists and psychologists have different answers to this. A very interesting approach comes from relationship expert Esther Perel. She said in a TED talk:
"When we cheat, it is not necessarily our partner that we turn away from, but the person we have become ourselves. We look much more for another self than for another partner."

Affair has something to do with ourselves

So it's often about a much more complex topic than physical desire.
Perel said that many of her clients cheated on their partner after a dramatic experience. For example, if they got bad news from a doctor or a parent passed away. So it had less to do with problems within the relationship than with the person himself.
"Death and mortality often exist in the shadow of an affair because they raise the question, was that all? Is there more? Will I continue like this for the next 25 years? Will I ever feel this again?" She said. "Possibly it is these questions that lead people to cross the line. Some affairs are certainly an attempt to combat an inanity - an antidote to death."

"Infidelity comes from inner emptiness"

Best-selling author and relationship expert Margaret Paul has a similar view:
"Infidelity generally comes from the same inner emptiness as alcohol and drug abuse, eating disorders, gambling addiction, shopping addiction, etc. In the case of infidelity - if the cause is emptiness due to self-abandonment - the affair is addiction: another person becomes it used to fill the inner emptiness and alleviate the inner loneliness, "she writes on a HuffPost blog.
But our biology can also explain why we cheat on people we love.
At least this is the view of the anthropologist and biologist Helen Fisher. In a 2006 TED talk, she explained the three components of love - from a biological point of view.

From a biological point of view, love has three components

According to Fisher, romantic love in a partnership exists because contact with our partner activates the reward system in our brain. The anthropologist found this out by showing study participants pictures of their partners and strangers and measuring their brain activity.
But it is not romantic love alone that drives people to act. According to Fisher, there are two other components that play a role that can explain the fling. On the one hand the reproductive instinct, which constantly reminds us that we should actually spread our genes as widely as possible.
On the other hand, we strive for attachment. We are looking for partners with whom we can maintain a close relationship, for example in order to raise the next generation.
But - and that is the problem - we humans are able to pursue all three "instincts" at the same time. "In short, we are able to love several people at the same time," explains Fisher.
Fisher may be right from a biological point of view. Still, it sounds a bit cynical when she says, "I don't think we were made to be happy - we were made to procreate."

But what if you want to be happy?

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It may be true that instincts also influence our actions. On the other hand, we are also developed enough to be able to make intelligent decisions about these instincts.
Cheating on the partner - no matter how much we love them - certainly has something to do with our own situation, as Peres says. But it also has something to do with the relationship. The affair itself is not the real problem. It's just the symptom of the real problem.
And as with an illness, it is not the symptom that should be combated, but the cause of the illness.
So if there has been a scam, we humans still have a choice: we can choose to leave. Or we decide to learn something about the relationship - and above all about ourselves - from it.
This is our chance to be happy.
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