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The Causes of Marital Infidelity

By Mitch Reid ; Updated June 13, 2017

The actual chances of infidelity might not be as high as many sources claim. In fact, Dr. John Grohol, founder and CEO of, suggests these chances could be less than six percent in a given year in his article, "How Common is Cheating and Infidelity Really?" However, he warns that this number could increase to about 25 percent, depending on how long the relationship runs. In either case, if you’re worried about infidelity in your relationship, learning the common causes of cheating can ease your fears or help you address potential problems.

Physical Desires

Sexual discontentment and desires often contribute to incidents of cheating, suggests Susan Whitbourne, professor of psychology, in her article, "The Eight Reasons that People Cheat on Their Partners." Some people expect that a new partner can serve their sexual needs better than his current spouse. This can especially true if the frequency or physical passion has diminished over the years. In other cases, a person might believe that in addition to sex with the spouse that she deserves more encounters.

Emotional Desires

Emotional needs contribute to incidents of cheating, as well. For example, feeling an emotional disconnect from a spouse might lead someone to pursue an affair, suggests Whitbourne. While this infidelity might initially be restricted to an emotional level, it could grow into a physical affair. In other cases, a partner might feel underappreciated by a spouse but praised by a third person, leading to cheating. Sometimes a spouse will feel completely satisfied with their partner, but an emotional desire to simply pursue new experiences could also lead to affairs.

Vengeful Desires

Affairs based on revenge are rare, despite over exaggerations in movies, notes Whitbourne. However, a husband and wife routinely face domestic disputes, it is possible that one member of the marriage might cheat out of spite. In cases like this, the cheater might make the affair known to cause his spouse emotional pain. On the other hand, the cheating spouse might still keep the affair a secret, as the satisfaction of secret payback could be rewarding enough.

Platonic Relationship or Affair?

Platonic friendships have the potential to evolve into emotional affairs, warns the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. However, the line between these two types of relationships can run thin. A platonic friendship becomes an affair when three conditions are met, suggests the AAMFT. The first is that an emotional affair will have more emotional intimacy than the marriage itself. The second is that the affair will involve some level of secrecy. For example, perhaps a husband intentionally does not tell his wife that he has daily video chats with another woman online. The third trait of an affair is sexual chemistry.

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