Awesome Trish asks: “Why do people cheat? Even the respectable kind? Why would you cheat on someone you immensely love, and not just for cheap thrills? Why do we stray? And is confessing about this something that we do to clear our conscience at the cost of our partner’s? What if one such episode causes you to break-up with someone you’ve believed is your soul-mate for life? How does one deal with that nagging urge to go back in time and 1. Not cheat at all; 2. even if you did stray, just don’t tell your partner about it cuz God knows, your relationship is over for good and you will never have another chance at it. The regret is undying, even if you’ve forgiven yourself for whatever happened.”
Dear Awesome Trish,
I’ve written a post for those who have been cheated on, but I suppose it’s about time I addressed the other side. The answer to your question is a rather complicated one. There is no one reason that people cheat, just as there’s no one reason that people do anything. Some people eat chocolate cake because they’re hungry, others because they feel lonely, still others because they’re punishing themselves for being “bad”. All action is simply a manifestation of that individual’s energy – a result of that particular moment, trigger, belief system, etc. The same action performed by the same person can even be representative of different things depending on the situation. So, I’m afraid that this explanation is going to have to be quite general. What is the big picture, underlying reason that would drive otherwise nice people do something as horrendous as cheat on their partner?
Is it “wrong” to cheat?
Before we look at why someone might cheat, we have to first clear something up: It’s not wrong to cheat. I know, I know, some of you are going to want to yell at me now. Hold your pitchforks for just a second and let me explain. You see, there really is no such thing as right or wrong. The Universe/Who You Really Are doesn’t see things that way. And so when you do, when you judge things as inherently good or evil, you end up tying yourself in unnecessary knots. The second you declare that something is wrong, you shut down your ability to see any worth in it. All situations, no matter how they might seem, carry a potential gift. Even painful situations are there to show you something. But you have to be willing to see it, you have to be open to receiving the gift. Declaring something to be bad or evil or wrong inhibits your ability to do that.
Instead of seeing things as right or wrong, see them as wanted and unwanted, remembering that you don’t get to declare things as universally wanted or unwanted. You can simply state your own preference. For the sake of this blog post, I’m going to assume that to you, cheating is an unwanted activity. But why? You might think that’s a stupid question, but have you ever taken the time to dissect why you find cheating so reprehensible? It’s well worth doing, especially if you have a pattern of manifesting cheating into your reality.
Forgive yourself to move forward
Since I already covered the side of the cheatee in another post, I’m going to address this question from the point of view of the cheater. Why is what you did so horrible? You might be thinking “because I hurt someone I love.” Only, you can’t hurt someone else. Not really. Their pain is their responsibility and part of their manifestation. You cannot make yourself responsible for it. This may sound like I’m letting you off the hook (and, in a way, I am), but that doesn’t mean that your work is over. I’m not saying, “Go out and cheat as much as you can because there’s nothing wrong with it. Lie to your loved ones all you want.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
What I am saying is this: as long as you keep beating up on yourself and judging the actions you took as inherently wrong, you can’t move forward. You can’t shift any energy. You’ll just be stuck. If you want to feel better and get to the heart of what’s really going on, if you want to become a match to the wonderful, healthy, authentic relationship you want to have, you’re going to have to be willing to let go of the idea that you’re just a bad person who did a bad thing. The truth is far more complex than that.
You did something that, from your NOW perspective, you wish you hadn’t done. The key phrase here is: “from your NOW perspective”. You see, no one ever does anything without having a good reason. You may not know what that reason was right now, but you can be sure that if you took some kind of action, you had a reason for it, and at the time, that reason seemed perfectly valid to some part of you. The fact is that at the time, cheating was the best feeling option you had access to. Just because you now realize that perhaps it wasn’t, that there were other options, doesn’t make you a bad person. You were doing the best you could.
The Band Aid Response
For many people, cheating on someone they love, is part of their fight or flight response. They’re in a situation which is painful for them in some way. Perhaps they’re with a person they truly love and cherish, but they have beliefs that they’re not worthy of such love, which creates an enormous amount of discord in their vibration. The love they’re experiencing won’t match their belief, creating an enormous amount of stress and pressure. When enough pressure builds up, the reptilian brain takes over and the fight or flight mechanism kicks in. Something has to be done to break the tension and when that something occurs as a result of the pressure blowing up, the results are almost always going to be destructive. The person does something that they don’t really want to do, but which, at that precise moment, allows them to feel relief. Think of a drug addict who doesn’t want to be addicted, but can’t help himself from shooting up. In that moment, the heroin brings relief, although in the big picture, it’s actually wreaking havoc in his life. Or the overweight woman who desperately wants to lose weight, but after having a fight with her mother, finds herself mindlessly scarfing ice cream. In that moment, she is able to feel a bit better, even though she’ll ultimately feel even worse for having eaten that many calories.
The act of cheating is generally a band aid solution, something designed to temporarily relieve the pain, but which ultimately doesn’t “cure” the underlying disease. It can, in fact, make things worse. If you have a tumor in your leg and you put a band aid on the spot, you haven’t cured the tumor. And, by ignoring it, you’re simply allowing it to fester and get worse. Band aid solutions aren’t always destructive, of course. But the ones occurring within the context of a fight or flight response, i.e. when you bring pressure and desperation into the mix, generally lead to an almighty shitstorm.
Does that mean that when you cheated, you couldn’t really help yourself? Well, yes, kind of. When you allow a situation that’s really not serving you to get so out of hand that your survival instincts take over, then yes, you could argue that you couldn’t help yourself. Only, you’re the one who let it get that far. Exploring why you would do that is the real work. Cheating is not the disease. It’s a symptom. Don’t make the mistake of focusing all your attention on the symptom, which is what you’re doing when you judge the cheating as wrong, while ignoring the real, underlying cause.
There’s a reason you cheated
This is always true, in every case. No one does anything for no reason. In fact, no one does anything for any other reason than to feel better. If you slept with someone else, it was because in that moment, it felt better to you than whatever you believed the alternative options to be.
That reason, however, is yours. No one drove you to cheat. No one forced you to do it. No one forced you to keep yourself in a situation that was clearly abhorrent to you, causing you to build up so much pressure that you turned into the equivalent of a wild, wounded, flailing animal. This is your shit and you have to own it. Don’t blame yourself – that doesn’t help at all. But if you want to resolve why you cheated and move towards what you want, then you will have to take responsibility for your actions. And I’m not talking about the cheating – that’s secondary. I’m talking about the actions that made the cheating necessary.
Questions to ask yourself
As I said, the specific reason why someone might cheat are too varied for me to dissect here. But in general terms, you cheated because there was something wrong, something you were ignoring. Your partner got cheated on because there was something wrong, something they were ignoring. The event of the cheating was a wakeup call for both of you. But how can you figure out what that something was?
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:
- How does your current relationship differ from your ideal relationship? – this is an exercise well worth exploring. A lot of people think they have to settle for something far less than what they truly want. They then pretend that they’re ok with this (this is called denial), out of fear of losing the partner they have. What they’re failing to take into account is that they can attract to them everything they want, without sacrificing anything. You don’t have to give up love to get more authentic love. But you do have to trust that you CAN have the love you want. If you’ve been trying to tell yourself that you’ve received enough, that it’s not ok to desire more, create more, reach for more, then you’re denying your own nature. And yes, this can lead to big, explosive band aid behavior like cheating.
- What have you not been saying to each other? – Has something been bothering you? Have you been wanting to ask for something, but haven’t dared? What have you been silent about for far too long?
- Are you afraid of your partner? – do you walk on eggshells, out of fear that your partner will leave you? Are you keeping yourself small, putting your own desires on the back burner, sacrificing Who You Really Are in a misguided attempt to make them happy?
- Are you having authentic conversations with each other? – are you able to discuss your fears, talk through your feelings, tell each other what you really want, what scares you, what triggers you? Or are you keeping secrets from each other?
Sit with these questions for a bit. Yes, they may be very painful and awkward, but that’s the point. There’s something REALLY painful in your life that you’ve been ignoring. If you want to avoid being driven to cheat again (by yourself), you’ll need to be honest with yourself and your mate.
Cheating as a mirror
Since all action is a manifestation, and all manifestations are perfect, the act of cheating (and being cheated on) is also a perfect mirror to what’s really going on. Most people are so insecure in their ability to attract love into their lives, that when they find some, they do everything possible not to lose it. They lie to themselves, sacrifice too much, twist themselves in knots, keep secrets from their partners (to protect them), do whatever they can to avoid a fight and therefore any kind of serious discussion, and create a kind of fake, inauthentic, make believe, cardboard cutout relationship. In a sense, they’re pretending to be someone else, someone their partner will hopefully find appealing and pleasing enough not to leave. What’s worse is that usually, both partners are playing that game. This is pretty much a recipe for doom.
Now, let’s say that you have this fear of being left by your partner. And let’s say that this fear and others have been festering and you need to blow the relief valve. What manifestation would more perfectly mirror back to you this fear, but cheating? Doesn’t it pretty much guarantee that your fear will come to fruition? Isn’t that just the perfect way to sabotage your relationship?
What do you do if you’ve cheated?
Ok, so you’ve cheated. Now what? Do you tell your partner? And, if you do so, aren’t you just spreading the pain around? Wouldn’t it be better just to keep this to yourself and leave them in their blissful ignorance?
Let me give you some harsh but necessary truths here:
If your relationship is such that it has led to cheating, then guess what? That ignorance ain’t all that blissful. You didn’t ruin a perfect relationship with your cheating. Your relationship was far from perfect if it led to cheating. Remember the cheating is a symptom, not the underlying disease. The fact that you think your relationship was perfect is a sign that you’re in denial. Perfect relationships don’t lead to explosive band aid moments. There’s a lot that the two of you (yes, the two of you, no one is in a relationship alone) weren’t addressing.
If you keep silent about this event, you are just continuing the energy that caused it. In other words, your refusal to address what’s wrong got you into this mess. It will not get you out. If you and your partner want to have any hope at all of having a truly authentic relationship, then you’re going to have to start talking about shit, including the cheating. And you have to be honest. If you don’t do this, if you don’t address the underlying issue, you’re going to cheat again. And again. And again. You may even begin to think of yourself as a cheater, incapable of being in a real relationship. All you’ll be doing is distracting yourself from the pain of not being Who You Really Are.
Here are a few more tips in how to break this to your partner:
- While it does take two to be in a relationship, and the situation that led to the cheating was a co-creation, DO NOT blame your partner. Do not make them responsible for your actions. You cheated because you kept yourself in a vibration that felt awful. That’s on you. They got cheated on because they did the same. So, do not lay blame at their feet. That would be the cowardly, avoiding thing to do. Own your shit.
- Do not ask for their forgiveness. They may eventually give it to you, but not at first. Let them digest the news. They may leave for a while. They may leave forever. But if it’s possible for you to have the kind of relationship you want with this person, then a dialogue will eventually be possible. If not, then part of the reason you cheated may have been because your relationship was long past its due date. But don’t ask them to forgive you so that you can feel better. This is placing the responsibility for how you feel on their shoulders. Don’t do that. Remember: own your shit.
- Do not accept the premise that you have singlehandedly ruined a perfect relationship. I explained this above. Don’t take responsibility for how they feel. You have to own your shit, but they have to own theirs. You’re in this together. You’re both being given an opportunity to work through something here. Neither one of you can do this work for the other. You each manifested your experience – that of cheating and that of being cheated on. Your manifestation is on you. Theirs is on them. Don’t try to take on their shit out of guilt.
- Remember that you’re not a bad person. You had a valid reason for doing what you did. It may not seem so valid anymore, and it may have been unwanted, but that’s not the same thing as saying you’re bad. Read this post: How To Forgive Yourself.
- Be patient and work slowly. Give your partner and yourself time to work through this. Cheating is a BIG manifestation. This means that you’ll be working through something you’ve been ignoring for a long time. The issues you’re shifting will almost certainly predate your relationship and may have been with you all of your lives. Your relationship didn’t cause them, but it is giving you the opportunity to work through them.
- Get help. If at all possible, make use of a therapist, counselor, or coach to help guide you through the minefield of emotions and beliefs you’ll need to address in this process. If your partner isn’t willing to participate, go alone. You don’t need them to join you in order to manifest the relationship of your dreams (and yes, that dream relationship could even be with them!). I’ve personally been able to “save” several relationships that seemed doomed, while working only with one partner. Keep in mind that staying together isn’t always the best option, but it’s often more viable than you might think. If you’d like to take a look at my coaching packages, you can do so here: Energy Coaching Packages.
The bottom line is this: Cheating is not bad. It’s not even really an issue. It’s a symptom of a much greater disease. If you focus on how bad and horrible of an action it was, you may well gloss right over what’s really going on and miss a massive opportunity for growth.
Believe it or not, your denial fueled relationship can end up being better than ever after cheating has occurred. If you take advantage of the opportunity presented to you, if you look for the message or gift the experience contains, the catalyst of cheating and the resulting work can end up bringing you closer together, fostering much deeper and more authentic communication. You can actually end up with the relationship you’ve always wanted. Will it be easy? Oh hell no. But is it doable? Yes. If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t have manifested this scenario. So, take a deep breath, stand up straight, shoulders back, chin out, eyes forward, and make the commitment to own your shit, to no longer accept denial and avoidance, and to actively work towards what you want. You CAN do it. You CAN have what you want. And really, since anything less will eventually turn you into a feral, flailing, wounded animal, reaching for anything to relieve the pressure, no matter how destructive, do you really have a choice?