“Once a cheater, always a cheater”.
Although l do not condone cheating, I find this statement to be reductive. Yes, there are certainly individuals who fit the description; just like vampires, once they taste their very first drop of infidelity, they succumb to overindulgence and cannot stop themselves from sinking their teeth into other people. However, there are other individuals who strive to rectify their mistakes by working on themselves and rebuilding the trust. Believe or not, infidelity can occur in the most loving relationships. So, what can be classified as cheating and why do so many people resort to it?
What are the different types of cheating?
- The most wildly recognised form of infidelity is having sexual contact with anyone other than your partner. Sexual infidelity includes but is not limited to kissing, touching of intimate body parts or erogenous areas, caressing, oral sex, penetrative sex.
- Although definitions may vary, emotional infidelity is more commonly regarded as having feelings for someone other than your partner, and, therefore, emotionally investing in another individual as well as, perhaps, ignoring the emotional needs of your partner.
- Viewing pornography may be considered by some as infidelity, since it can be regarded as a sexual activity that occurs outside of the relationship.
- Even though flirting, without having any intention to go any further, may be seen as quite innocent by some, it can be viewed as “micro cheating” by others (in other words, not quite cheating but still an act that would upset a partner) (Psychology Today, 2023)
- While some experts do not necessarily consider sexual fantasies to be harmful for a relationship, they do maintain that fantasising about a partner can enhance the connection and better the relationship (Whitbourne, 2019)
Take minute to think about the following:
How do you define cheating? Did some of the points made above resonate with you?
In order to avoid any potential hurt, it is vital that both you and your partner clearly define your relationship parameters.
So why do people cheat?
By using the word “cheat”, I refer to any acts that would break the trust in the relationship and would constitute as a betrayal. Here are some potential reasons:
- They have fallen out love with you. Unfortunately, not every relationship is meant to be; sometimes people grow apart, sometimes they change. Regardless of the reason, the loving feelings they once had for their partner have now dissipated.
- They seek variety. This is, undoubtedly, very common, as some individuals struggle to accept that they honeymoon phase is over. After having ascended the heavens during this lust-filled, hormone-induced stage of the relationship, they foolishly try to keep their feet above ground by seeking excitement outside of the relationship.
- They are struggling mentally. I have seen clients who are not able to express themselves emotionally and, as a result, suffer in silence. It is an extremely lonely space to be in, often with no respite. As such, in an attempt to gain some temporary relief, they look for a distraction which may come in the form of a vice or sex-scented wool that they pull over their eyes.
- They need an ego boost. At times, when an individual struggles with low self-esteem and may not feel worthy of love or even desirable, they end up seeking for validation from external sources, e.g. a colleague, a neighbour, an acquaintance. This type of approval is fleeting, which means that it can become quite addictive – in other words, they can’t get enough.
- They struggle to have a healthy functioning relationship. Perhaps being around extremely dysfunctional relationships or possibly going through trauma(s) (e.g., breakup, being subjected to abuse, grief) may result in an individual being unable to form a secure attachment style. Thus, they may self-sabotage by looking elsewhere. Read Ellie Bull’s article on the subject for more information.
- Something is lacking in the relationship. This is also very common, as lots of individuals struggle with communicating their needs to their partner. Many feel ignored, rejected, not appreciated enough or not valued enough in a relationship which might then push them straight into someone else’s arms.
- They want to hurt you. Perhaps they feel that you have wronged them somehow and are now seeking to execute their revenge and unleash their wrath. Or, more sinisterly, they may enjoy causing you pain.
If you are thinking about cheating
Please take a moment to consider how it may affect your partner and your relationship. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What am I hoping to gain?
- What is behind this urge? Am I looking for a distraction? Am I looking for someone to make me feel good? Am I bored of my current partner?
- Can I have a conversation with my partner and talk to them about how I’ve been feeling? Is there an area of our relationship that we may need to work on? Are my needs not being met?
- Could we see a couples’ therapist?
If you have been cheated on
Remember that you are under no obligation to stay in the relationship. Here are some questions that you can ask yourself if you’re unsure of what your next steps are:
- Am I willing to salvage this relationship? If so, at what cost?
- Am I staying in the relationship for the right reasons?
- If I stay, what boundaries would I need to put into place? What would I need for my partner to do to show me that they’re putting in the effort?
- Am I willing to stick around, despite not knowing how long it may take me to forgive my partner?
- Am I willing to do the work necessary to get the relationship back on track? E.g., if my partner felt that their needs weren’t being met, could I attempt to work on that particular area?
- Could we see a couples’ therapist?
Rebuilding the trust is no easy task – you will be confronted by a tornado of emotions throughout the process, some good, some bad. If you choose to leave, you are not a failure. You did what was best for you.
Remember – no matter what you may be going through, cheating is never the answer. Once that line is crossed, your relationship will never be the same again.