When a relationship is affected by cheating it can be devastating and difficult to process no matter which side you’re on. Whether it was a one-night stand or a drawn-out affair, the mix of hurt, betrayal, anger and blame can be hard to cope with and move on from. But understanding the reasons you or your partner cheated can help minimise emotional damage on both sides. We spoke with Olga Levancuka, leading life coach and author of How To Be Selfish to get some helpful advice on why people cheat and how to deal with it.
A Sense of Thrill
It’s the idea of forbidden fruit: your partner wanted to do something for the thrill and they met someone who excited them and forgot what’s really important. Maybe things had started to slow down between the two of you; finding time to be romantic can be difficult when you have to deal with day to day life, so it’s easy to neglect the passion and desire that drew you together at the start of your relationship.
It can be tempting to feel like the victim – it’s perfectly natural. However, spending too long in victim mode isn’t healthy. Many people can become defined by what’s happened to them and feel like they are the ones who brought this upon themselves. Channel your energy into things that can truly benefit you. Think about what led to the infidelity, accept some of the responsibility if you think you have to and use this in-depth thinking to become better and stronger.
Perhaps you and your partner don’t have the same hobbies or interests and they met someone who does. They think they’ve finally found someone who shares the same passion as them, wants the same things and has the same drive – this drive for cheating is about compatibility.
In this case, your partner may try to blame you for not engaging with their interests and hobbies. Whilst this might have been the case, remember you aren't at your partner's beck and call. Perhaps the two of you should have found a mutual interest or accepted that your differences were what made you interested in each other in the first place. Either way, you can accept responsibility for not trying out new things with your partner, but you can’t accept the blame for what they did.
The Grass Is Always Greener
This may sound like the first reason, but it's not. Here, the cheater is not cheating because someone exciting happened to enter their life and they got carried away; it’s a mindset they have. They always think the next best thing in their life – whether it's a better job, bigger house, nicer car or better relationship – is just around the corner.
The grass is hardly ever greener on the other side, and a cheater will soon find that out. It’s not worth trying to change their mindset, in this case, it’s best to let go. Every time you feel low, remember that your now ex-partner ruined a relationship for someone they barely knew. Everything that made their affair exciting will soon be gone when they have to face the ‘real world’ together. A cheater who thinks the next thing will always be better will never truly be happy and a partner deserves more than that.
This is one of the most common excuses for a cheater. They had one too many and it “just happened”. Let’s be frank here, cheating is cheating, drunk or sober. It still causes the same amount of pain. There are usually two distinct types of situations when drunk cheating can occur. For some people, alcohol can affect their ability to make decisions, which means a drunk person can end up cheating without even realising. However, drunk cheating could also be a warning that something is seriously wrong in the relationship. Alcohol reduces inhibitions and sometimes helps express repressed emotions, implying that they’re not fully happy in the relationship.
This is a tricky one. If you really think the relationship is worth fighting for and you want to give it another go then it’s worth looking into the reasons you or your partner cheated. Focus and re-examine your reasons for being in this relationship, if you think you can rebuild trust then stick with it. If you think you’ll worry every time they are out and about or think you’ll be tempted to stray again then it’s best to part ways.
Chasing The Fairy-Tale
People don’t just cheat because they’re after sex, sometimes they’re seeking romance – adventure and the excitement of being wooed, pursued, understood, appreciated and admired. Just think about the first few months of your relationship, the flirting, the expression of how much you appreciate each other. The hope of reliving this romance can lead someone to cheat.
If you’ve been cheated on, you’ll feel horrible about the fact that your partner chose to find romance with someone else. A good approach to this is to spend time with people who appreciate you and can remind you what they love about you. This will work wonders for your self-confidence, which will likely have taken a hit. Accept that perhaps your relationship was stuck in a rut, but it was not just your fault.
It Wasn’t Really Cheating
How do you define infidelity? Is it sexting? Signing up for an online dating account? Infidelity means different things to different people, and your definition could be different from your partner’s. Some people cheat without realising they are cheating. Emotional cheaters might develop a connection with someone they’re chatting with online and have never met, but this is still a form of cheating, and it’s probably worse as it means your partner felt the need for a stronger emotional connection with someone else. Feeling like they’re stuck in a relationship can drive the cheater to seek emotional reassurance elsewhere.
This one is perhaps the one that will make you blame yourself for letting your emotional connection with your partner slip away. Don’t make that mistake. An emotional connection with someone else means that your partner has already left the relationship and is ready to create a bond with someone else. It’s time for you to look forward to finding someone else to rebuild a life with.
How To Be Selfish by Olga Levancuka, £20 is available now.