The personality traits that are linked to cheating.

Whoever said Australians were disengaged with politics? Pah! Just throw together a former staffer, a marriage of 24 years, an illegitimate child, and the Deputy Prime Minister and bada bing, bada boom – you’ve got yourself an engaged country, buddy.

The appetite for the developing story about Barnaby Joyce’s affair with Vikki Campion has been insatiable; women and men alike are hungry for the ins and outs of the relationship that may well see one of Australia’s most powerful men fed to the angry (and particularly ravenous) jilted women of Australia.

Barnaby Joyce and Vikki Campion.

When working for a women's media organisation you learn quickly that adults have an innate interest in stories of infidelity of all shapes. We consume them with such intensity, it's as if collating experiences and stories somehow insulates us from the potential pain of a wandering partner.

We want to know how we can avoid being cheated on. The warning signs. The red flags. The patterns of behaviour that tell a woman 'something isn't quite right here'. We are curious to know all the whens and whys and hows, no matter the distance or differences between the women who share them.

And that's why, ever since the Joyce story broke, Mamamia's readers have been debating what exactly makes a cheater cheat in the comments section of every post.

One of the key questions you have asked is, well, why? Why do some people have the propensity to be unfaithful, when to others the sheer thought is abhorrent? Why do some men do this again and again and again when they have a beautiful wife and children at home? Are some personality traits actually linked to cheating?

On the phone to Sydney-based clinical psychologist Jacqui Manning, The Friendly PsychologistI asked precisely that.

And yes, it just so happens they are.

The first thing Manning specifies is that there are different motivations for infidelity. Sometimes, a partner may be unfaithful not because they are predisposed to be, but because the state of their relationship has deteriorated to a point where they become "a situational cheater."


A breakdown in communication "can definitely spark cheating," Manning says.

"Sometimes people get to phases where they’re unhappy about their sex life or intimacy and don’t talk about it," Manning tells Mamamia.

Listen: Sexual Therapist Esther Perel speaks about the reasons 'happy' people cheat, on No Filter. (Post continues...)

"What these people should be encouraged to do is see if their relationship can be revived and refreshed. If you find a new hobby to do together, for example, things can be rejigged. If you're in a long-term monogamous relationship it's very normal to feel the temptation... all of us do at some point."

Situational cheaters aside, these are the personality traits that Manning says are linked to serial cheaters.


"The narcissists of the world need a lot of validation from those around them, so often get their needs met from flirting, or being loved from outside. Often, for a narcissist one person is not enough," Manning says.

"Coupled with this is a lowered sense of empathy - people can often be gobsmacked at the cruelty of cheating on a romantic partner, but a narcissist can’t understand how hurtful it is. They don’t know what’s it’s like to feel sad, and because of this they're likely to be repeat cheaters."


The curious connection here is a desire for power; Manning says those in positions of influence are more likely to be unfaithful simply through an abundance of opportunity. Donald Trump, she says, is the ultimate example of this.

This also extends to individuals who are in the business of, well, themselves.

"If you’ve been successful at a quite young age, for instance TV stars and movie stars, if you’re in that bubble of success and used to others catering to you, then that becomes an expectation," Manning says.

"People who have been conditioned to always think about what makes them happy and content - and believing their needs being met is the most important thing - are more likely to be serial cheaters."


Those who may not identify as narcissists but still place a higher value on their own feelings than those of others are more likely to cheat.

"These people can recognise that it might hurt their partner, and they recognise that it might be a deal breaker for the relationship, but the need to satisfy their own needs and thoughts can override everything else," Manning says.

The problem here is that once you put yourself ahead of your partner once you're more likely to do so again in the future.


"For many cheating once almost breaks the seal," Manning says. "Those who have cheated before find themselves able to do it again because they’ve done it before and know the world didn’t stop."

Lack of confidence

On the opposite side of the spectrum are those who are unsure of themselves; the men and women who feel a sense of apprehension as to where their lives are going, and look externally for a sense of security to remedy that feeling.

The statistic that illustrates this best is that adults with an age ending in '9' are the most likely to cheat of any age, because, as Manning puts it, "they start to reflect on where their life is at."

Manning cites an extensive study conducted by cheating website Ashley Madison, and reported by The Wall Street Journal in 2014 that showed those close to a milestone birthday were 18 per cent more likely to stray than other ages.

So while it might sound silly at 29, 39, 49 and 59, the pull to cheat is at its absolute pinnacle.

What was Barnaby Joyce's age when his affair with Campion allegedly began?



Have you noticed these traits in a partner who cheated on you? Let us know in the comments below.

For more from Jacqui Manning, visit her website The Friendly Psychologist here.