The Real Reason Why a Spouse Cheats?

: In your opinion, why do people cheat?

One reason is that some of us find dependency on another person to be particularly threatening. The thrill of courtship fades and our partner suddenly becomes “deep family.” We may feel that our sense of self and autonomy is in jeopardy the moment we find ourselves depending on a partner. The roots of these fears go back to our earliest experiences with our caregivers. As such, the only way of feeling free is to go outside of our primary relationship. Sometimes this is our solution to feeling trapped. We go outside because we seek admiration, novelty, and a renewed sense of hope and aliveness. Some of us fear depending on another person because we remember being abandoned, rejected, or punished and so we go outside the relationship to feel wanted or to punish our partner.

Still another reason people cheat is because they can, which leads us back to my first point about secure functioning relationships. Cheating comes naturally to the human animal. So then what prevents us from cheating on our partner? Fear of getting caught? That won’t stop us forever. Lack of desire to cheat? That is no assurance for the future. Desire to cheat can change over time or an unforeseen opportunity may arise. Being in love or feeling attracted to our partner? Again, a flimsy safeguard because feelings shift and change through time. What keeps us from cheating in the long run is fear of betraying our own principles and the ones that assure mutual safety and security with our partner.

When men and women cheat, it is often because they are feeling unfulfilled emotionally in their marriage. Instead of talking to their spouse, going to therapy together, or choosing another way to try to make the situation at home better, they turn to an affair, in hopes to fulfill what’s missing. Cheating, in my opinion shows an inability to see the big picture, and what is possible if you try other, healthier avenues to fill what’s missing. Even if you and your spouse can’t make it work, at least you can say you tried without having a third person having entered the situation.

: What is the best way to get over the heartbreak and move on?

JP: The best way to get over the heartbreak of being cheated on is to first realize that it was very much beyond your control, and that the cheating is more about your spouse than it is about you. This takes a long time, a lot of introspection, therapy, and other healthy life choices to figure out. I know countless men and women whose spouses cheated on them. They got divorced and are now in very happy, fulfilling relationships with someone else! It just takes time, patience, and the ability to let go of the past.

I think that people who don’t get over being cheated on are the ones who play the victim — the ones who never stop talking about how much their ex ruined their life. Being cheated on is like anything else in life that happens to a person, that is to a large extent out of your control. So, treat it like, ‘this was the card I was dealt. Now, how do I handle it and become happy again?’ instead of ‘my life would have been perfect if so and so never cheated on me and we were still together.’ He or she is gone, so let yourself have a big pity party, and then it’s time to get it together and figure out the life you want. It’s not easy! But countless men and women I know have been cheated on and are now in other relationships and blissfully happy!