5 Reasons You May Feel Compelled To Cheat, According To A Sex Therapist
On the one hand, it's easy to understand why people cheat. Sex and romance are fun and validating, and if you're attracted to someone, it makes sense that you'd want to engage in these activities with them. On the other hand, when people get into monogamous relationships, they usually intend to resist this temptation and enjoy sex and romance within their relationship. Then, something goes awry. What exactly that thing is will be different for everyone.
"There's as many reasons people cheat as there are people," sex therapist Dr. Tammy Nelson, author of When You're the One Who Cheats, tells Bustle. Her main advice to people struggling with infidelity is to be honest — with themselves, with their affair partners, and if the situation calls for it (it doesn't always), with their partners.
"I think we're in a crisis of integrity," she explains. "We're challenged around what's fake and what's the truth, and it starts in relationships — being able to trust what's the truth — and infidelity personifies this idea of dishonesty."
If you've been cheating on your partner, don't beat yourself up over it. "It's not like people cheated on are good people and people cheating are bad people," Nelson says. However, she adds, "I think people who want to stop cheating need to take responsibility for their affair." You don't need to understand why you cheated in order to do that, but it could help. Here are some common reasons Nelson sees people cheat that may apply to you.
1. You Want To End Your Relationship
Some of Nelson's clients cheat because they want a way to end their relationships without having the difficult conversation necessary to do so. The irony is, cheating usually leads to a difficult conversation of its own.
Sometimes, the person cheating isn't able to articulate why they want out of their relationship because they don't know why they want out — or even that they want out. If you have a pattern of cheating, ask yourself whether you truly want to remain in your relationship, and if you don't, end it.
2. You Want To Stay In Your Relationship
On the flip side, some people cheat because they're not getting everything they need from their relationships, but they don't want to end things. So, they make their relationships tolerable to stay in by getting those needs met on the side.
If you're in this situation and you want to stop cheating, Nelson recommends talking to your partner, potentially in couples' therapy, about how you can either get your needs met within the relationship or open it.
3. You're A Thrill-Seeker
Some people cheat because they like the adventure of it. They may even enjoy the thrill of doing something forbidden. "I think people are attracted to the illicitness, the forbiddenness of the affair," Nelson says. "It's very erotic to have this naughty, forbidden, illicit experience."
If this is you, you can talk to your partner about how to create more excitement in your sex life or establish new terms that allow you to get that elsewhere.
4. The Other Person Lets You Be Yourself
"People aren't necessarily looking for another person," Nelson says. "They're looking to be another person, so being in an affair brings out a part of them that they feel like they can't be with the partner they currently have."
Nelson often sees this with mothers, who feel like they have to play the role of "the mom" and can't be wild or sexy in their relationships, but they can with their cheating partners.
Once again, rectifying this situation means asking your partner to create space for you to be yourself in your current relationship.
5. You Like The Companionship
Sometimes, people end up cheating with their "work spouses" or others they see regularly because they like having an intimate connection in a place where they spend a lot of time.
"It starts with these micro-cheating behaviors that people justify: 'we're just going out for drinks, out for lunch, having dinners,'" Nelson explains. "Before you know it, you're telling them everything abut your life."
If you want to stop cheating with your "work spouse" or someone else you see often, you'll have to have a talk with them where you set clear boundaries. "If you don't end the relationship with integrity, you can't expect your partner to trust you," Nelson says.
Regardless of the reason you're cheating, Nelson recommends treating it as a way to either deepen your relationship or find a better one. "Is it possible that despite the incredible pain the affair has created in your relationship, that the affair was just a wake-up call?" her book asks. "Could you imagine a new type of relationship that might work better for the both of you? It is possible to create a 'new monogamy,' a new relationship with your [partner] in which both your needs and desires are explicitly stated and validated."