Why would you cheat if you’re in love and have a great sex life? It’s not like sex is missing from your life, so what’s the point of going outside the relationship for it? Sure, perhaps a new body, a new experience, and even newfound pleasures sound appealing, but are those enough to risk flushing your current relationship down the toilet?
I recently received a letter from a woman who cheated on her husband. However, there was nothing wrong in her current relationship. They were madly in love, and their sex life was amazing. But, she cheated anyway. Shortly after, she felt awful about it and fessed up to him.
They are now working on their marriage, but she is still struggling trying to figure out why she cheated in the first place. She can’t figure out why she’d risk something so great for a quick moment of pleasure.
When I was in my 20s, I worked in a store with several women. At the time, I was in a stable relationship and had no desire to cheat. However, I found one of the women very attractive. So much so that my behavior around her would certainly be considered sexual harassment in today’s day and age. I felt overpowered with desire. I would say I was infatuated. Anytime I was near her, I was “activated” and my brain felt like it turned off while my body turned on. I couldn’t even think around her because I felt urges I couldn’t stop. Fortunately, I did not give in to those urges. I wanted to, but my loyalty to my girlfriend and my compassion for how she’d feel if I cheated overrode my natural, animal desires.
Looking back in my life, there were several occasions that cheating was presented to me as an option. However, I resisted each one. How did I resist where others weren’t able to?
Perhaps it’s because I’ve always felt an incredible sense of loyalty toward anyone I was with. This loyalty drove me to always consider my partner’s feelings, sometimes even over my own. In some cases that would seem a bit dysfunctional. For example, people-pleasers are always giving to and helping others, but leave little compassion and energy for themselves all the while building resentments. This is dysfunctional. However, I used this dysfunction to my advantage when it came to temptation. After all, it’s hard to please my partner if I’m cheating on them!
Of course there’s the thought of, “What if I don’t get caught? If my partner doesn’t know, then there’s no harm done, right?”
Thinking about not getting caught helps make the prospect a bit more alluring, but how is that different than thinking about not getting caught committing a crime? Would you think that way about robbing a bank? It’s possible you could get away with it, so why not try it? It appears the punishment for getting caught committing a crime is a bit more harsh than that of cheating, at least in the eyes of the infidel, so far fewer people will rob a bank. And since cheating on your partner isn’t something you can go to jail for (in the US at least), the result of getting caught is just lots of emotional turmoil, though that can be just as bad if not worse than jail.
Cheaters don’t often think about the consequences of their actions, they think about their actions in the moment. It’s a quick high that overrides cognitive thought.
But, what about cognition and the ability to choose? What about will power? I recently read that the executive control center of our brains, the area responsible for resisting urges and acting on impulse (among other things) is what can prevent cheating from happening in the first place. In other words, if you are able to think about the consequences and be more analytical during temptation, you might be less likely to cheat. If you are overpowered with sexual desire but are still able to think about the logistics of your actions, you could essentially prevent yourself from taking steps that might hurt your partner and ruin a perfectly good relationship.
If however you’re the type to react on impulse and turn off cognitive function (decision making and analyzing, for example), you might be overly tempted to react in a way where cheating occurs. Narcissists and anti-social personalities might do this, putting them in a high-risk category as cheaters. But even if someone doesn’t have a psychological label, there’s still the question of conscious, cognitive control over unconscious animal desire, and the question of “Which one wins?”
Which leads to another: If you’re a good problem solver and like to look at things analytically, are you less likely to cheat?
That depends. Do you still enjoy sex? If yes, then you have it in you to cheat. We all have it in us. But how we go through the rest of life may determine if cheating will happen for us or not. For some people, it’s easier to not communicate with their partner because of old triggers and fears, so they might build anger and resentment, making the prospect of cheating much greater. However if they choose to be honest and share some hard–to–express stuff with their partner, like revealing what they like and don’t like in the relationship, it may help them to avoid temptations outside the relationship.
Of course if their partner acts unfavorably and invalidates their emotions, or simply doesn’t care, then cheating might be inevitable anyway. But this article is about those who cheat that are in good relationships. What happens when you have open, honest communication with your partner, and the sex and everything else is great, but you still cheat?
The answer may lie in the ability to exert will power, which is a highly cognitive process. The problem is if one isn’t really conscious when becoming “activated” by someone they are attracted to, and simply allows their low-level, animal desires to take over, cheating can absolutely take place. However, this is actually good news for all of us. It means that since we know there will be times when temptation is great and that we might not be able to control ourselves, we’ll know what situations to avoid.
Avoiding temptation by staying away from what tempts us can be a preventative.
It’s okay to accept that you are attracted to another person, but you still have the choice to act on those urges or not. The trick may be to allow cognition, the very act of thinking things through, to win the battle between your immediate desires and your long-term goals for your relationship. Unless of course you’re the type of person that feels no remorse and are quite experienced at deception. After all, once the cheating has occurred, the other person (the “cheatee”) has a funny way of showing up more and more, making your partner, at the very least, suspect something’s up. At the very most, they will know exactly what’s happening (or what happened).
So the idea that there’s no way I’ll get caught’ might sound appealing, but it only lasts as long as it takes until the point you do get caught. Is it worth the risk?
Once you give in to pure animal desire, it’s hard to turn back. So can you think your way to fidelity and stay faithful to your partner? Why bother even testing that! Why stay in a situation where the temptation is so great where you become activated?
I know I personally can’t work around very attractive people for long periods of time. Not because I’d cheat, but because I’d have trouble paying attention to my work! My mind and body engage when there are too many attractive people in the room, so I can’t get anything done. Even with practice, it is difficult to not want to take a peek at a desirable person walking by.
Think About The Future
There’s no way to narrow down one simple reason that a person might cheat while in a good relationship, as there might be a number of things that lead to it. The bottom line is what you choose in the moment that determines what happens next. And though it may feel that animal desire has full control over your behavior, you still have the ability to think about what will happen when your partner finds out what you did.
Even when your desires are at their highest level, ask yourself what will happen when your partner finds out, not if. This one small change in thought could save your relationship. We all have animal desires that kick in and make us want things we shouldn’t want, so we need to work with those desires and do what we can to create the best outcome for all. The urges may always be there in some way, so it’s not so much resisting them, it’s more about what we want for ourselves and our partner long-term.
Be aware of the early signs that can lead to more dangerous waters. If flirting is something you do regularly and you get a thrill when someone flirts with you, maybe you aren’t getting something you need in your current relationship and are seeking sources for it elsewhere. If that’s the case, talk to your partner and tell them what’s missing.
So much cheating can be avoided if you express what you need in your current relationship. That doesn’t resolve infidelity in all cases, but at least your partner will know what they can or can’t do for you. You may find out that they are having similar issues, which will give you a chance to bond even closer with them as your sort things out. Or… maybe you’ll both figure out that there are some needs that won’t ever get fulfilled, giving you both all the information you need to determine if going forward in the relationship is the right thing or not.
You can avoid possibilities of cheating by avoiding being in situations that might precipitate it. Don’t go to “those” places, or visit “those” websites. If you really are in the mood to be with someone else, maybe you don’t need to cheat at all – maybe you just need to leave your relationship. It’s not fun, and it can be painful, but I think I’d rather my girlfriend leave me before she cheated on me. At least I wouldn’t end up in some relationship triangle I wasn’t aware of and never agreed to be in.
If you have a great relationship however, you won’t want to leave it. The idea is to keep an open, honest line of communication between you and your partner. Doing that, cheating may never occur because you will have already talked openly about it. You might even talk about “extra-curricular” activities that you could both be involved in.
Unfortunately, many couples don’t talk like that. They keep to themselves and hope their partner doesn’t discover their darkest thoughts. You don’t have to share everything, but some things may need to be shared simply because by not sharing them and holding them in, they’ll show up in other ways. What you resist can persist. What you never discuss can get repressed, and some people act out when they are holding back.
Do you hold anything back in your relationship? Do you try to seek that which you hold back from others? Imagine what your relationship would be like if you held nothing back. Imagine if you could talk about anything.
The first line of defense is to stay away from temptation at all costs.
The second line of defense is to communicate with your partner and tell them things you may think they don’t want to hear.
The third line is when you’re in a tempting situation, think your way out – Think about what will happen when your partner finds out.
Great relationships are worth saving and sacrificing for because they are built and maintained with lots of careful attention, love, energy and effort. So if you find yourself in that extremely tempting situation, realize it’s like getting a tattoo: Once it’s on there, it’s not coming off. When your partner sees it, what are they going to say? Will it have someone else’s name on it? And if you are able to get it lasered off, will the scar ever go away?
Treat a great relationship like a rare, one-of-a-kind, beautiful object d’ art and perhaps you’ll be conscious enough to make sure it never falls off the table and onto the marble floor. And if you’ve already broken the relationship because of cheating, use what you’ve learned to make the best you possible next time, whether you’re mending your current relationship or seeking a new one. Every regrettable behavior has in it a powerful life lesson that will make a more amazing you.