No matter how bad the consequences are.
Cheating can be one of the most destructive actions you can take in a relationship. It destroys trust and trust is often very hard to rebuild. Everyone knows this but people cheat anyway.
Some people don’t particularly care. They simply meet their own needs and don’t take much notice of the needs of their lovers. Most people don’t want to destroy trust and create chaos in their relationships.
So why do people still cheat?
In my practice over the past 30 years, I have seen scores of couples who have come into counseling because of an affair or repeated affairs. Often, an affair is the catalyst that gets the couple working on their relationship. Recovering from breaches of trust is very difficult and so the work is much harder than it would be if they came into therapy before an affair.
Here are the reasons I see most often on why some people can’t stop cheating despite knowing the chaos it is likely to create:
1. They are impulsive.
Many people are impulsive in lots of areas of their lives. Impulsivity is very common when it comes to sex especially when people have been drinking or using other mind-altering substances. The opportunity is available so people don’t think through the consequences of their actions, they simply act.
Sometimes impulsivity is a symptom of deeper problems. For example, some forms of mental illness have impulsivity as a symptom. In those cases, impulsivity is usually seen in lots of areas of life.
2. It’s an extreme effort to avoid conflict.
Some people find conflict really difficult to manage. They will do almost anything to avoid having conversations in which they know a lover will disagree and most likely be upset with them. These people repeatedly cheat even in polyamorous or non-monogamous relationships.
If they believe their lover will not accept their choice for a lover or if they know they will be breaching their agreements, they simply do what they want and hope that their lover will not find out. They live the ‘it’s easier to beg forgiveness than to ask for permission lifestyle’. The reality is that forgiveness is harder to give than permission.
3. They’re using an affair to exit a relationship.
Many people find it hard to end a relationship and so will use an affair as a way of leaving the relationship. Some have trouble accepting they truly wish to end the relationship until they find themselves involved in an affair.
Mira Kirshenbaum calls this the ‘ejector seat affair’. The person hopes their partner will discover it and kick them out or having the affair will give them the courage to leave.
4. It is a means of managing boredom.
The sexual excitement at the beginning of a relationship is not everlasting. There are some chemical elements to that crazy excited, high, in love feeling.
For some, when this dies down and transmutes to the feelings that go with a stable, multi-layered relationship, this becomes an issue. They become bored and go looking for that feeling of excitement and intensity again.
5. They are retaliating for their partner’s affair.
Some people feel the only way to react to their partner cheating is to go and cheat themselves. Somehow, this makes them ‘even’.
Of course it doesn’t work. It just complicates things as they have the anger about the partner cheating and their own conflicted feelings about their cheating.
6. Monogamy doesn’t work for them.
Since polyamory and non-monogamy became more visible and more acceptable, this is happening less often. However, there are still people who don’t realize that the problem is monogamy is not a good fit for them.
These people are attracted to lots of people for many different reasons and want different types of relationships. They often experience FOMO (fear of missing out) when they are in monogamous partnerships. They feel trapped or stifled as well. They have a much higher rate of cheating than people who are comfortable in monogamous relationships.
7. They are trying to sabotage themselves or their relationship.
These people cheat when things get ‘too good’. On some level, they feel that they don’t deserve a relationship that is this close or working this well and so they sabotage by cheating. Some of these people have a fear of intimacy and it just feels too much.
8. They have a fear of commitment.
People who fear commitment can find themselves cheating whenever a relationship gets to the place where they should move to the ‘next stage’. The pressure to commit is often internal rather than from the partner.
Monogamous society has an unspoken timetable for moving relationships forward step by step to the next stage. It can make people uncomfortable when people don’t move on to the next stage at the right time.
Parents ask questions like “When are you going to get married?” or “Isn’t it time you moved in together?” or suggest that if you are thinking of a family, time might be running out. There is a timetable when you are considering having a family — at least for women.
The biological clock is not something we can avoid if we want to have our own biological children unless we choose to freeze eggs for later use.
9. They’re using an affair to bring the passion back to their marriage.
They think that either they will feel more passionate about their spouse as well or that possibly being found out will lead to the passion coming back into their marriage. This is a lousy strategy and rarely works.
If you cannot seem to stop yourself from cheating, here are some things to consider:
Analyze why you are cheating.
You are likely to need some help figuring this out so this is a good time to seek out therapy or coaching to help you understand what is driving you to cheat.
Figure out if you really want to stop cheating.
It’s no good saying you will stop if you don’t really want to. If you find yourself in this position, spend some time learning about ethical non-monogamy. Cheating is unethical non-monogamy. There are many types of ethical non-monogamy and one or more may appeal to you and if you are in a relationship one or more may appeal to your partner as well.
Think through the consequences for yourself and your partner if your behavior remains unchanged.
Are you OK with these consequences? If not, get some help to change your behavior and/or negotiate a different relationship pattern with your partner.
Dr.Lori Beth is a sex & intimacy coach and psychologist who works with individuals, couples and polyamorous groups to help them explore sexuality, explore kink and BDSM, recreate a healthy sexual identity after trauma as well as deepen their awareness and understanding about intimate relationships. Book a discovery session to see how she can help you create a lasting sizzling authentic sexual life. Is polyamory for you? Take the test to find out!