Medically Reviewed

The Relationship Between Addiction and Infidelity

- 5 sections

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Infidelity is when a person cheats on their romantic partner or spouse with another person. Addiction is a condition characterized by compulsive and dangerous substance use. Although unrelated, addiction and infidelity are closely linked to each other. This is because the devastating cycle of substance abuse, intoxication, poor decision making, and more damages relationships and can lead to cheating.

As reported by NPR, surveys have found that 21% of men and 19% of women admit to cheating on their partners – and another 7% say they prefer not to answer one way or another. Moreover, when asked if they have thought about cheating, 28% of women and 41% of men said yes. Although it’s true that rates of infidelity in the United States have increased over the last two decades, there are certain factors that are known to cause or worsen rates of infidelity. One of these is substance abuse or addiction.

What Counts as Infidelity?

Different people will respond to this question in different ways. In the end, what exactly counts as infidelity should be decided upon between the individual couple. Common examples of activities that are often considered infidelity include:

  • Engaging in sexual activities with someone outside of the relationship
  • Spending time with or money on someone outside of the relationship
  • Attending functions and social gatherings with an outside interest
  • Hiding or lying to one’s partner about spending time with someone else
  • Seeking emotional or physical fulfillment from someone who isn’t one’s partner
  • Developing an emotional attachment to someone who is outside of the relationship

In short, infidelity is anything that involves betraying the other partner’s trust in a way that causes emotional damage to the other partner.

The Connection Between Substance Abuse, Addiction, and Infidelity

Cheating can easily spiral out of control – between the secrecy, the lies, and even the thrill of living a double life and sneaking around behind someone’s back. However, cheating isn’t always easy or fun. Sometimes, people will use drugs or alcohol to lower their inhibitions, gain courage, and continue cheating on their partner. Or, someone who is considering having an affair while sober may end up acting out on these thoughts once they have used drugs or alcohol.

When people consume alcohol, they may use it as an excuse or something to blame their actions on. For example, someone may get drunk, blackout, and blame their cheating on the effects of alcohol. People who blame cheating on alcohol abuse may say things like “I wasn’t myself” or “it was only because of the booze.” Alcohol and drugs also make people more relaxed and carefree, leading to a lower sense of awareness in regard to harmful behaviors and consequences.

Drug abuse is known to cause people to act differently, have shifts in perspective and thinking, and even boosts in self-confidence – all of which could potentially lead to infidelity. Unfortunately, long term substance abuse often leads to drug addiction, and people who suffer from addiction may engage in infidelity at higher rates than the general population.

A Look Into Sex Addiction and Infidelity

When most people hear the word “addiction,” they think of addiction to drugs or alcohol. However, sex addiction is another type of addiction that may lead to cheating and infidelity. Sex addiction refers to engaging in sexual acts, sometimes dangerous ones, despite negative side effects and consequences. While some people have higher sex drives than others, sex addicts seek sexual activity or risky sexual activity to fix an internal urge or craving.

Since people who are addicted to sex seek highs through sexual behavior, infidelity is fairly common among sex addicts. In addition, some people who are addicted to sex may also become addicted to drugs or alcohol, further affecting their thought processes and leading to higher rates of cheating and infidelity in relationships.

Coping With the Effects of a Cheating Partner by Using Drugs and Alcohol

When it comes to addiction and infidelity, substance abuse doesn’t always come first. Sometimes, people who have been cheated on will turn to substance abuse to cope with the effects of a dishonest partner.

When partners find out about their significant other’s cheating, they may experience an array of difficult emotions ranging from anger, sadness, and resentment. Individuals who have been cheated on experience self-blame, loss, anxiety, reduced self-esteem, depression, and a reduced sense of self-worth. Individuals may also begin to believe that they are unworthy of monogamous relationships. All of these feelings and thoughts can be difficult to deal with, leading some people to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope.

Regardless of the situation, using drugs and alcohol to cope is never a good idea. While substance abuse may produce temporary highs, happiness, and distractions, the problem of infidelity will still be present in the relationship. If individuals continue to use substances to cope with a cheating partner, they may develop an addiction, poor mental health, and worsening problems within their relationship.

Repair Your Relationships By Getting Help from an Addiction Treatment Center Near You

Fortunately, addiction is a treatable disease. In addition, addiction treatment centers focus on more than treating addiction – they also focus on helping people heal their relationships in recovery. Counselors are available to help partners discuss their troubles and feelings and learn ways to communicate, re-build trust, and remain faithful. Through family therapy and intensive counseling, you can overcome your drug or alcohol addiction and infidelity problems.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, don’t wait any longer. Call today to speak to a dedicated treatment professional.