Understanding Adultery for Writers

Faithfulness in a relationship is a moral (and legal) expectation in many cultures, largely because it maintains trust and fidelity (and reduces the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases…). But adultery is a reality, in around 30% to 60% of all relationships it seems. In fact, it’s been estimated that 2% to 3% of all children are the result of infidelity. So if affairs impact real-life relationships, then they’ll raise their unhappy heads in our books. As a writer, it’s understanding the motivation behind a behaviour that will create characters with depth and authenticity.

So why do people cheat? As with any human behaviour, for a multiplicity of reasons, which is why we’re here. If you have a character who cheats, or a character who was been cheated on, then the keep reading so you can understand the fateful decisions that were made.

The Opportunist


In this situation, adultery is an unplanned, opportunistic act, and usually the product of ego. Opportunity presents itself to your character; maybe the nanny, the pool boy, the ‘practised seducer’, and the ego inflates. The heart soars at being wanted or desired, the mind is flooded with feel good chemicals. Impulse takes over and caution and good judgement are shoved out the back door.

Usually an isolated incident, this scenario is the least likely to be kept a secret. Guilt wins out and the character confesses, or those not-very-well-thought-out plans are exposed because they weren’t…well…very well thought out.

The Unhappy Adulterer


In this scenario, the foundation for adultery was built long before the act itself. This character is unhappy and/or their relationship unstable or unfulfilling, and the adultery fulfils a function in direct relation to this.

This can manifest in several ways depending on your character’s relationship and personality, but here is a quick list what can happen in real life:

  • It is a result of anger and the need to punish, or humiliation and the need for revenge
  • It may be a product of boredom, a desire to escape, or loneliness
  • It may meet needs which aren’t being met in the current relationship – physical and/or emotional
  • Cheating can be a mistaken attempt to resolve some conflict in the marriage, maybe even trying to stabilize a relationship

The Hunter Cheater

claws-197049_1280 (2)

The stereotype of this person is the smart, successful, smooth-talker. This character is looking for a ‘fix’ which has little to do with emotional connection or love. Their target is usually someone weak, needy or in a position of powerlessness.

This adultery is deliberate and habitual, and often compulsive. They generally are not interested in divorce or separation from their current relationship as they are quite satisfied with the status quo, and will go to significant lengths to hide their unfaithfulness.

The Emotion-Only Affair

virtual hugIn this case, your character will think, but not touch, and according to some research, it’s quite common. Fantasising about a person we could be/are attracted allows us to achieve some of the highs of an affair, whilst still remaining monogamous. Your character could be motivated by any of the following:

  • The desire to feel attractive
  • The desire to feel good about themselves
  • An outlet for boredom and monotony
  • To elicit jealousy in their partner

The Psychologically Unstable Adulterer

crazy cow

This character is going to be your least common, but most unusual. The one your readers are least likely to identify with, but most likely to be fascinated by. This character has psychological issues which underpins a warped, unhealthy drive for adultery. Their drive can be motivated by narcissism, psychopathy (and an inability to feel guilt), or a fetish. These characters don’t generally experience guilt – their actions are often ‘compartmentalised’ as unrelated to their marriage/relationship and are often associated with a sense of entitlement. They are likely to hide their infidelity, and will only be apologetic when discovered if they wish to maintain their relationship of convenience.

Do you recognise one of your characters in any of these types? I’ve certainly seen some similarities to people that I’ve crossed paths with… 😉 Was there anything else you wanted to know about adultery for your current work-in-progress? Comments and feedback are always appreciated. Connecting with others is why I write. You can comment below, or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Have a wonderful week,




Did you know…? I also write fiction! My debut young adult romance was just released. If you love epic stories of a love that defies boundaries then make sure you visit my author website www.tamarsloan.com.


  1. God, I’m in love with your blog!
    It it weird if I say it’s like you’re me from the future? I too, am a writer-psychologist-to-be with an interest in combining psychology with novel writing.
    Anyway, I’m so, so, so happy I found your blog, it’s all awesome and I cant wait to read more ^-^


    1. Hi Ace! Glad you’re enjoying it, I could be biased, but I reckon psychology and writing are a fascinating mix 😉 Best of luck with the writing and the psych study 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey, i dont know what’s up but on my computer I can’t access your blog? It takes me to a page saying you’ve deleted it, it no longer exists? I was on it on my phone like half an hour ago…


          1. OH! Ok, so I accessed your blog post through Psychwriter.com.au which is where I hit “Follow” but trying to open it from the Notifications > Comments section links to tamarsloan.wordpress.com
            No idea how you can fix that, but obvi something’s off somewhere. Good luck!

            (PS thank you ^-^ I’m very proud of the work I put in haha)


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