In the study, carried out by the University of Tennessee and published in the Journal of Sex Research, 104 young adults with an average age of 22 (59.6 per cent of whom were female) who’d admitted to cheating on their partner in the past six months were surveyed about why.
According to the study, there are two main reasons millennials cheat on their partners. It all comes down to either thinking your partner isn’t satisfying your needs, or feeling the need for more independence.
The first and greatest reason was interdependence. This is when you feel like your intimacy needs aren’t being met by your partner, which is often visible through poor communication, lack of spark or feeling unloved. Whilst interdependence was cited as the main reason for 73 per cent of participants, for a further 20 per cent it came down to a need for independence.
However some people admitted that they’d cheated on their partner because they were drunk, attracted to someone else or simply couldn’t resist the excitement or novelty of infidelity and the prospect of someone new.
Today’s young adults have very different attitudes to relationships than previous generations, largely because we’re being forced to grow up more slowly. With many of us struggling to move out of our parents’ homes, not to mention our casual dating culture, lots of millennials don’t settle down until much older than their parents and grandparents did. And if your boyfriend or girlfriend isn’t satisfying your needs, we don’t feel the need to “stick it out” as we’re in no rush to marry.
This was something 24-year-old Jess from Cambridge found when she cheated on her ex-boyfriend: Selfishly, he wasn’t giving me the confidence in us or myself, and someone else was willing to make me feel special again in that moment she explained to The Independent. “I think we’re so used to having attention in an instant (from social media and our phones) – we seek and expect instant gratification – that when things are bad with a partner and you’re lacking in confidence, kissing someone else gives you that quick rush that you’ve still ‘got it’.”
It’s normal to test your commitment strength in your early relationships, and you need to find out what you’re looking for. The study authors note that: “Because emerging adulthood is thought to be a time of exploration and experimentation, it is possible that engaging in infidelity is a path through which individuals seek to meet their developmental needs for independence and interdependence and promote their individual development.”
The two main reasons for cheating come down to two different attachment styles: anxious and avoidant. The former tend to worry about losing closeness in their relationship and as such often push their partners away. Avoidants, however, generally avoid getting too close to others and are more likely to think their partners aren’t meeting their intimacy needs.
Lead study author Jerika Norona suggests millennials think about what they really want from a relationship before it gets too serious. This can help their individual and relational goals coincide she told Broadly. “If they don’t, there is possibility for adaptive and explicit discussions about how those needs can be met within the relationship.”