The top 2 reasons why millennials cheat on their partners

According to a new study of millennials, there are two main drivers that make you more likely to cheat.

To reach these findings, researchers analyzed survey responses and written answers from 104 "emerging adults" who reported cheating in the past six months. The results, published in The Journal of Sex Research, claim that cheating is often related to issues of independence and interdependence.

What do those terms mean exactly? The "interdependence infidelity" category included cheaters who were more likely to be unfaithful because they felt their relationship wasn't getting enough attention (think poor communication, lack of spark, or not feeling loved). "Attention is a form of love, it is a behavior that sustains love on a daily basis—an essential nutrient," says Brandy Engler, Ph.D., an L.A.-based psychotherapist. "Millennials have strong beliefs about deserving attention and love and are less shy about seeking attention that previous generations, in my observation," she says. "Getting little or fragmented attention is not going to fly with millennial women. They are more likely to leave or to cheat than previous generations."

On the opposite end of the spectrum, "independence infidelity" includes cheaters who reported straying because they wanted more autonomy and independence from their relationship. According to Engler, this reason isn't necessarily unique to millennials. "Psychological development theories technically place the independence dilemma in the teen years—not twenties and thirties," she says. "But I would argue from observation that this dilemma of how to be autonomous and be in a committed relationship extends throughout the twenties."

According to the researchers, one theory as to why millennials cheat has to to with primary attachments—the bonds we form with the people closest to us early in life. Those who fell into the interdependence infidelity category were more likely to be "avoidantly attached," according to the study, meaning they had trouble getting close to partners. Meanwhile, those in the independent infidelity group were more likely to be "anxiously attached"—a.k.a. a fear of losing a partner made them more likely to push one away.

Though the majority of millennials cited these independence/interdependence issues as the reasons why they strayed, 40 percent of survey respondents chalked it up to good old-fashioned reasons like getting drunk, being attracted to someone else, and the exciting allure of an affair.

The bottom line? Cheating happens for all sorts of reasons. But if you catch yourself with lingering thoughts of infidelity, that may be a smart time to take a good look at what you want out of a partnership, and how you handle other relationships in your life.


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