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Why people cheat

by Dr. Kelly Cambell

Understanding the reasons behind infidelity can help you avoid its damage.

For the full article click here

Why do people cheat?

Statistics show that 90% of South Africans feel that cheating or infidelity is unacceptable or amoral. So why then is it happening?

The dating website AshleyMadison.com with their slogan “Have an affair”, is now established in 26 countries and generates $90 million annually. In South Africa alone AshleyMadison.com has 163 000 subscribers and this number is growing daily. It would seem that in SA cheating is a booming business.

Noel Biderman, CEO of AshleyMadison.com states that; “It is not in our DNA to be monogamous. People cheat because their physical or emotional needs are not being met and a biological drive in each and every one of us can push us to seek out change.”

Is Noel’s statement correct? Let’s look at the reasons why people cheat.

The reasons why

According to Dr. Kelly Campbell, there are three main reasons why people cheat, namely: Individual reasons, Relationship reasons and Situational reasons.

Individual reasons, refer to the individual and his/her characteristics. In other words what is it about these individuals that will make them more prone to, or susceptible to cheat on their partner? Researchers has identified the following risk factors:

Gender. Men are more likely to cheat than women. This is purely biological. Because of men’s testosterone levels they are driven to engage in sex.

Personality. Some personalities are less conscientious than others. What this means is that people with a less conscientious personality will not consider their partner when engaging in infidelity. In other words, consideration for their partner will not stop them from cheating.

Religiousity. People with strong religious believes also tend to have rigid values. These values dictate their behaviour. For example, if someone does not believe in “thou shall not commit adultery” it will not stop them from committing adultery.

Relationship reasons, refer to the level of satisfaction within the relationship. In these cases it is the dissatisfaction with the relationship that causes infidelity. It is therefore factors within the relationship that causes the person to stray. Such factors could be unfulfilled sexual needs, excessive conflict (fighting), unmet intimacy needs (talking, sharing, romance), etc. Research also indicates that partner dissimilarity could lead to dissatisfaction with the relationship. Couples could be dissimilar in terms of age, level of education, income, personality, etc.

Situational reasons, refer to the environment. Someone might not have a personality for cheating and be perfectly happy in their relationship, but still find themselves in a situation or environment which could lead to infidelity for example, going skinny dipping with friends while your partner is asleep.

The nature of a person’s employment is also related to infidelity — individuals whose work involves touching other people, having personal discussions, or a great deal of one-on-one time could be more likely to have an affair. Another precursor to infidelity could be a gender imbalance in the workplace. A man working in a team that is only comprised of women could lead to the man having an affair with one of the woman.

Protect your relationship against infidelity

So it seems that Noel Biderman is correct. Some of the reasons given above fit Noel’s theory of why people cheat. However what Noel will not tell his customers, is that there are actually things you can do to protect your relationship from infidelity.

Talk to your partner about cheating. What is your partner’s definition of cheating? This will help you to understand what the boundaries of the relationship are. The couple therefore understands that if they cross a certain boundary they will be hurting their partner. For most people having sex with someone outside the relationship constitutes infidelity. However, having long conversations with someone from the opposite sex on your phone could also be considered cheating by your partner.

Foster trust. Some people believe that if they take an overbearing approach to their relationship they will prevent their partner from cheating. Such individuals will demand certain behavior form their partner and will fly into a jealous rage if the partner does not comply. They expect their partner to cheat rather than trusting them not to. This usually leads to resentment and eventually infidelity.

Instead try to foster trust in your partner. Assure your partner that you trust them, that you know they will never cheat on you. By placing your trust in your partner’s hands, they are reminded of their responsibility to be faithful. This creates a sense of solidarity between you and your partner. Loyalty is therefore earned and not demanded.

Maintain honest communication. It is sometimes unavoidable to develop feelings for someone outside of your relationship, or what is referred to as a “crush”. Our initial response is to hide this from our partner. However in doing so these feelings are given an opportunity to grow and could lead to infidelity. We hide our “crush” from our partner because we are afraid of their reaction to our feelings for someone else.

How would you feel if your partner confessed their crush to you? Would you become angry or discuss it with them? The truth is that, however difficult it might be for our partner, once we have confessed and discussed our feelings with our partner those feelings quickly dissipate. However if a person receives a negative reaction from their partner whilst confessing, it is unlikely that they will be truthful in the future. It is therefore essential to foster honest communication between partners. Honest communication also helps to identify dissatisfaction in the relationship.

For more information on couples counselling/therapy, please feel free to contact me. Contact details



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Six ways to communicate better with your partner

Diane Barth describes 6 great tips for couples to develop their emotional communication and deepen their relationship. These are:

  1. Make small talk
  2. Don’t ask about experiences, share them
  3. Listen carefully
  4. Ask questions and don’t assume the answer
  5. Talk about yourself, but not all the time
  6. Increase shared moments

For the full article by Diane Barth- click here

Conflict in relationships - The Drama Triangle

Conflict or to argue is a normal, and sometimes even healthy, part of any relationship. Arguments are often useful for couples to establish boundaries and set ground rules within the relationship. For example an argument over inances could determine how a couple will spend and save their money. Arguments can therefore add to the strength of the relationship.

However arguing excessively with no resolution to the conflict can weaken a relationship and leave both partners feeling frustrated and sad. Such couples could be caught up in the ‘Drama triangle’.

What is the Drama Triangle?

The ‘Drama triangle’ theory was developed by Stephan Karpman in order to explain the roles people adopt and how the interaction of these roles can lead to drama or conflict. Therefore this theory can also be applied to couples and the conflict they experience.

As you can see from the illustration below there are three roles associated with the drama triangle:

  • The victim, someone who feels helpless or hopeless, in need of help or rescue.
  • The rescuer, a person who is ready to help and provide help and support to the victim.
  • The persecutor, someone who is blaming, critical, oppressive and angry.

In a relationship both partners can adopt any of these three roles and become involved in the drama or conflict.

How does it work?

A person, who is dealing with negative emotions (victim), will often cry out to their partner for help. This is the ‘rescuing phase’ or rescuing side of the triangle. The partner (rescuer) responds by consoling and supporting the victim.

However, during the rescuing phase the negative emotions of the victim turns to anger and the victim becomes the persecutor seeking to persecute or punish the rescuer. Therefore rescuer is forced to adopt either the victim role or become a persecutor themselves. In other words the rescuer can move to either point in the triangle.

Lets use an example to explain how the Drama Triangle works:

The story of Susan and Peter

Susan and Peter have been married for 6 years. Two years ago Peter cheated on Susan with another woman. When Susan found out about the affair she was outraged and threatened Peter with divorce. Peter immediately broke off the affair and promised Susan that he would do anything in his power to save their marriage.

For the first six months Peter was very attentive and caring towards Susan and showered her with affection. They also attended marriage counselling. It seemed that Susan had forgiven Peter and Peter even arranged for them to go on a second honeymoon.

However, for the past year Susan and Peter argue on a daily basis. The arguments are intense and usually end with Peter walking away. During one of these arguments Susan became so enraged that she attacked Peter with a shoe. Peter spent the night at a friend, while Susan called his phone every five minutes.

Susan and Peter’s arguments usually follow the same pattern: Susan will send a message to Peter’s phone while he is at work. In the message Susan (victim) will tell Peter that she is feeling depressed or sad or that she cannot move forward with the marriage. She will often also tell Peter that she cannot forget about the affair.

These messages will prompt Peter (rescuer) to leave work early and rush home with a bunch of Susan’s favourite flowers in hand. Coming home Peter will try to console Susan by talking to her, making her tea, cooking dinner, etc. However during a certain point in their conversation Susan (persecutor) will make comments such as ‘Did you also buy that slut flowers’ or ‘Were you thinking of me when you had sex with that whore’.

After such comments Susan will fly into a rage and an argument will ensue. Peter, now the victim will usually try to calm Susan down but eventually he will walk away from the fight to go and cry in the bathroom. At other times Peter (persecutor) will also become angry and start to yell at Susan.

From this scenario it is clear that Susan and Peter are caught up in the drama cycle (Drama triangle). Their arguments are not resolved and so they continuously repeat this dysfunctional pattern.

If we compare this scenario with our Drama triangle theory, it is clear that Susan struggles with her feelings of hurt and disappointment in Peter. She therefore plays the victim role seeking Peter’s help and support. Peter responds to Susan’s cries for help by trying to rescue her; to help and support her.

However during the rescue phase, Susan’s negative emotions turn to anger for Peter and they start to argue. In this persecutory phase, Susan becomes the persecutor wanting to punish and hurt Peter to make him feel as she does. In this scenario we can see that Peter usually chooses the victim role walking away from the fight or sometimes chooses the persecutor role as well, fighting with Susan.

In this case neither Susan nor Peter are able to identify and calmly talk about their feelings. In fact, they are so driven by their emotions that they simply react on their feelings instead of talking about it.

This is why couples therapy can be so helpful for Susan and Peter. A therapist can provide an objective third-party perspective and help them to identify and process their negative emotions and address their dysfunctional patterns. A therapist can provide them with the necessary environment in which they can learn new communication techniques in order to resolve their arguments and build their relationship.

This has been one example of many in which the Drama triangle can play out within a relationship. If you want more information on couples counselling, please feel free to contact me. Contact details



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