Is Cheating Genetic? – Answers Given by Relationship Experts

Many human behaviors can have some roots in genetics, and many people will debate whether a human’s actions are from nature, nurture, or both. This is debated along many aspects of life, from how people learn things to even various habits that humans engage in.

One example is cheating in a relationship. While nothing excuses betrayal, can some people be more prone to it based on genetics? We hope to shine a light on cheating by explaining if it’s genetic and how one is enabled to surpass their genes and avoid cheating actions.

Can Cheating Be Genetic?

So, is there a “cheating gene?” Not exactly. However, research indicates that some genes promoting thrill-seeking behavior may increase one’s chances of cheating. For example, research conducted by Binghamton University, the State University of New York, in 2010 indicated that people, no matter who men or women, with a specific type of “thrill-seeking” gene, DRD4, are more likely to act out on impulses, particularly when they feel like it gives them a thrill.

With cheating being taboo, some people may do it just for the thrill so that if they get caught, they’ll be in major trouble.

Infidelity Can Be “Absorbed” from Your Parents or Family Members

The answer to “Is cheating hereditary?” is complicated, with evidence that actions can be a product of how you were raised. If your parents cheated on each other, or you had an older sibling who did so, you may adopt the behavior because of this. You may believe that this is a typical way to cope, even if there are consequences due to cheating acts.

The answer is usually somewhere in the middle of the nature versus nurture debate. According to AskDougAndChris research, while specific genes can affect your impulses, upbringing can override or enhance that. In addition, some people can hold back any urges, even if they have thrill-seeking genes or were raised by cheating parents.

Psychological Problems That Can Cause an Adultery Attack

Besides genetics and how a person was raised, cheating in a relationship can be a byproduct of mental health issues. Again, this does not excuse betrayal but offers an explanation and is something a person suffering from these issues should be mindful of. Let’s look at some mental health issues that may cause cheating.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

The relationship between BPD and cheating is, once again, a complicated one. BPD can lead to an increase in impulsive behaviors, including cheating, and someone with such a disorder is more likely to be a victim of sexual abuse. However, there is no direct link between BPD and cheating, necessarily.


Someone with a narcissistic personality is, by nature, more likely to cheat. Narcissists do not put their spouse’s needs ahead of theirs, so if they feel like cheating, they will do so. For many narcissists, a spouse is not a special person.

In addition, despite what you may believe, many narcissists secretly have low self-esteem. It is a significant reason why many, especially men, cheat. People who do not feel secure in their appearance or actions may cheat to make themselves feel better.


Someone with paranoid delusions may be more likely to cheat. One reason for this can be because they believe their spouse is cheating despite a lack of evidence. A paranoid person may believe it’s okay, as they have deluded themselves into believing their spouse has done it first.

Once again, none of these mental health issues excuse cheating spouse. However, with proper medication and therapy, people learn to control these thoughts and urges, decreasing their chances of cheating in marriage or other relationships.

Can You Blame Your Genetics When Busted Cheating?

If you’re a cheating spouse and own up to cheating, is your genetics a reasonable explanation?

The answer is no. It’s not. While specific genetics or mental health conditions increase your chances of cheating on someone, you’re still responsible for your actions. Don’t use your upbringing as an excuse, either.

Instead, it would be best if you thought about preventing this from happening the next time. For example, do you avoid any triggers that can lead you to cheat on someone? If it’s due to a mental condition, is there any chance you take medication to prevent it?

Percentage of Relationships That Work After Cheating

The exact percentages can differ, but one APA study indicated that 53% of marriages that experienced cheating divorced after five years. While not all of those divorces were necessary because of cheating actions, there’s no denying that behavior leads to damaging the relationship.

Cheating, for most, is the ultimate way of destroying a person’s trust. This is because you were dishonest to your partner with another person. It can take a long time for a person cheated on to show forgiveness and start trusting you. In many cases, they are unable to, ending the relationship.

With that said, it is still possible to rebuild trust. Apologizing immediately and taking full responsibility is one way. Another way is if you and your spouse agree to go to couples counseling, which can help repair your relationship.

Cheating is a time when you should critically examine your relationship as well. What leads to this cheating behavior? Why did you do it? What did you see in the person you cheated on your spouse with? Answering these questions can lead to a road to recovery. However, it can still be long, and like a scar, it can heal but never fade.

In Any Case, You Have the Last Word

Ultimately, cheating is your responsibility. While specific nature and nurture circumstances can make you more prone to cheating, it is something you still can control. Having a healthy relationship and finding other ways to experience thrills are some ways you can avoid cheating.

If needed, feel free to seek a marital counselor, be bold and point out problems in the relationship before they get too bad. Cheating can be a product of a bad marriage, and while that’s not an excuse,  it’s up to you and your spouse to fix it.

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