You’ve heard it, your momma’s heard it, your grandmomma’s heard it…but is it actually true? And if it IS true, why does it happen? This will be the topic for todays article so buckle up.
This is a big topic but affairs may not be as ‘rampant’ as you might thing. Men are more likely to cheat (21% of males have had affairs) and women are slightly less at 15% average. Men win again! Animals. Ok, back on topic: lets answer the ‘why people cheat’ question before we answer if they’ll always be a cheater.
This is not a ‘one size fit’s all’ topic. The ‘cheater’ may have had cheating parents or they may be chronic liars. They may be narcissistic or have some type of attachment disorder – all mental health disorders aside, here are a few potential reasons of WHY people choose to have an affair.
Ok, the last one seriously borders on an attachment disorder but I really wanted to get to an even 10.
Looking at this list, you may be able to narrow it down even further. Often in couples sessions, we discuss the issue around ‘needing’ the other person to be ok. Now, look again at the list above; how many of the 10 things correlate to depending on the other person to be ok.
In every couples’ session the affair connects on 1 of 2 things – there’s something missing in the offender or there’s something missing in the relationship. It’s valid. Take reasons 1-3 and just add “I NEED more” at the end and you’ll discover that the issues stem from the person cheating, not the person being cheated on. Look again and you’ll be able to add “I need more” to reasons 5, 6, 7 and 9. That only leaves 4 (Resentment), 8 (Revenge) and 10 (Abandonment issues) to identify. Resentment and revenge dial into ‘victim stance’ and being afraid to get hurt or abandoned (IS EVERYONE) to the point that you’ll sabotage a relationship is really no. 7 so lets just take that one off altogether. Surprise surprise; turns out that a person who cheats likely does so because of their own personal issues - not the other way around. In other words, if you were cheated ‘on’, it’s not actually because you weren’t enough of something (sexy, loving, attentive, exciting, fun, smart, pretty, thoughtful, handsome, rich, etc.)
Now to address the main pop psychology message that ‘once a cheater always a cheater’. It is a myth and scientific research shows quite the opposite. People who cheat may never cheat again – in fact, many people only cheat one time. One and done. Repeat offenses happen when the root issue of infidelity isn’t addressed and worked through. Remember, the person who’s cheating is often going through their own kind of crisis - compassion is helpful.
Being rejected always feels harsh and most of the time, the person cheated ‘on’ leaves the experience feeling like it’s their fault. Like they weren’t enough for the other person which isn’t necessarily valid. However, if you’re cheated on often or more than once with the same person, you most definitely play a part in the pattern (which is something you get to figure out).
This can be a sensitive subject for many people. That said, a therapist can help immensely with the process.
Thanks for reading and as always, don’t forget to follow, like and share if you think this information was helpful. The website for all things therapy is www.meaningtolive.com
Till next time, awareness up.
Jed Thorpe, CMHC