The Scientific Reason People Cheat On Those They Love

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The Scientific Reason People Cheat On Those They Love

Minds = blown.

Many cheaters claim to truly love the very partner they have wronged and usually we doubt their sincerity. After all, loving someone means maintaining a certain level of trust, honor and commitment, right? 

Well, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher says that having an affair isn't as black and white as we'd like to believe.

RELATED: 'Why I Cheated' — 5 Brave People Reveal The Real Reason They Strayed 

Fisher conducted an experiment with a team of scientists where they scanned the brains of people who were "in love."

They would show subjects a neutral photo first, followed by a photo of someone that he/she loved in order to record which region of the brain became active.

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The results? The part of the brain responsible for governing "the reward system" would become active when a person looked at a photo of their lover. This is the same region that becomes active from things like cocaine or having an orgasm.

"Romantic love is NOT an emotion, it's a drive," Fisher states in her TED Talk, which you can view above. "And in fact, I think it's more powerful than the sex drive."

But the problem is: romantic love isn't the only type of love that's activated when we fall for someone.

There's actually three other types of love:

1. Sex drive: There is the desire which dictates how often a person wants sex.

2. Romantic love: This is what makes us direct our energy to only one person.



Did you know that romantic love is a comparable high to cocaine? The brain activity during romantic love is an increased amount of dopamine, causing us to feel euphoric. The thing is, relationships go through stages, and once you have passed romantic love, you head into attachment & the power struggle stage. Many times people miss or crave the high of romantic love, and mistakingly assume romantic love should last. It’s also hard for people to work on their attachment and power struggles in the next stage, so some of us crave that high even more. This can create some unhealthy patterns including: being stuck or drawn to unhealthy attachment, or cheating. Unhealthy attachment has the ability to create such low-lows, therefore we move back into high-highs, highs that can resemble the euphoria in romantic love. Sometimes people find that spark with others and follow through, as the hidden parts of an affair create an even bigger high. But we must understand the high from these dynamics are more addiction like. The behaviors and patterns replicate addictive behavior, and it’s more about a chase for a high then anything representing love. The evolutionary reason for this stage to end, is that if we stayed there we would be unable to function, parent, or do much of anything else. Romantic love would hijack us like any other kind of high. Once you move to the next stage, you must work for those moments of mystery, intimacy, and excitement with your partner. Have date nights, explore new hobbies together, have intimate conversation. There are plenty of ways to create intimacy, but don't confuse it with the high of romantic love. Allow yourself to evolve from this stage, recognize it for what it is, and don’t confuse it with love. There’s so much more joy we can find in healthy attachment and intimacy. #nytherapist

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3. Attachment: This is security we feel with a long-term partner that allows us to raise children with them.

Which means, dun, dun, dun:

"In short, we're capable of loving more than one person at a time," explains Fisher.

And that's why people cheat.

Because it's scientifically possible to feel deep attachment to a long-term partner AT THE SAME TIME you feel intense romantic love toward someone else and AT THE SAME TIME feel sexual attraction toward another person, Fisher said.

Minds. Blown.

RELATED: 10 Tell-Tale Signs He's Cheating On You

Obviously, this doesn't make cheating "right" and it certainly won't make you, the cheated-upon feel any better, but at least you now have scientific proof that cheaters can be truly genuine about the love they have for their partner — even while they're banging someone else.

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Nicole Weaver is a love and entertainment writer. 
Editor's Note: This article was originally posted on July 23, 2018 and was updated with the latest information.