This month the Sex & Relationship columnists responded to a recent report in the Daily Mail about cheaters and their behavior. Here’s what Savannah has to say about cheaters…
The phrase, “once a cheater always a cheater,” is so common and sadly often believed by many. Cheating is a terrible act of betrayal, especially if the cheater is a serial cheater, but not all cheaters continue to cheat after they’re caught. No two cheaters are the same. The problem with cheating is that everyone has an individual idea of what cheating is. For instance, there is the well-known definition of cheating, which is when someone has physical sexual relations with someone outside the relationship. Other types of cheating could include financially cheating your partner, cheating on your partner with pornography or online webcam sessions, hiring prostitutes or going to strip clubs, talking to an ex or seeing them occasionally etc. Many people have very different boundaries when it comes to cheating, and there are cases where boundaries were never discussed within the relationship but rather assumed. Cheating and boundaries should be a discussion to have when you’re in the dating phase, and if you’re past that phase, then that conversation ideally should happen soon after committing yourself to that person, so everyone understands what is and is not acceptable behavior within that relationship.
When someone cheats on an individual, often the cheater feels guilty and ashamed. However, the excitement and rush of the chemical dopamine can hinder their judgment. That can explain why cheating could happen only one time. If the cheating is ongoing, then the cheater has consciously made the choice to continue cheating, knowing the consequences. There are many neurochemicals that are present when someone is cheating, or about to cheat. Those chemicals can hinder judgment, even for long term affairs. Cheaters usually cheat to escape or feel better about themselves. Sometimes there have been long standing issues in the relationship and the cheater cheated to feel better for a moment. There is no excuse for cheating, but that could be one of the many possible explanations for cheating.
There are times when a person finds out their partner has been cheating for a while, including years, possibly with multiple strings of affairs. These cases are often caused by a couple of factors including issues within the relationship, but also issues within the cheater themselves. Cheaters can cheat because they haven’t developed the proper coping skills to deal with issues that arise within a relationship. For instance, a wife finds out the husband has been cheating for years, and they agree to talk it through in therapy. The wife finds out that not only had she been inadvertently hurting her husband’s feelings, (though he brought it up many times), he also witnessed his father cheat on his mother. Therefore, he has unresolved childhood issues surrounding that event in his life. Cheaters are often also suffering and not always enjoying their affair, though some do.
The final topic to address when it comes to cheating is sex and porn addiction. Sex addiction (with porn addiction falling under sex addiction), often has been something the cheater has been dealing with or denying for years prior to being in the relationship. Sex addiction and porn addiction are very serious issues within relationships. Not only is the faithful spouse/significant other dealing with the betrayal of cheating, but they also are coming to terms with the fact that their partner has an addiction. Sex and porn addiction are found to be the most psychologically damaging addictions to faithful partners. Sex and porn addiction must be addressed with professional help, but the addict themselves must want the help, in order for their behavior to change and save the relationship.
Porn addiction has been found to have the same addictive effects as heroin, and often porn addicts find it difficult to recover in our hyper sexual society. If sex or porn addiction is taking place within a relationship the faithful partner should make sure they are taking care of themselves during the discovery phase. This is because sex and porn addiction are often not talked about, and have an increased stigma surrounding it because “everyone watches porn.” If the couple chooses to work through this betrayal, trauma, and addiction together in couple’s therapy, Emotionally Focused Therapy is highly recommended because often individuals with addiction struggle to feel and identify their emotions, hence why some cheaters don’t seem as remorseful as the faithful partner would expect them to be.
Cheating falls upon a spectrum, like most other issues. Cheating is not simply black and white, but rather falls into shades of gray. Some cheaters are more “stereotypical” and others have a deeper story as to why they cheated. If cheating has or is occurring, it’s important to address the issue head on, and possibly involve a professional to help figure out how, or if, you want to move forward.