At the beginning of a union between two people, before we know that other person more closely, we have only an idea of them. It is exciting.
It is our instinct to want more so we seek to be closer still to this wonderful person that enlightens our life. We want to completely ‘possess’ them. When I say ‘possess’, I don’t necessarily mean that both people want to be in a relationship with each other; it’s a state of mind. We want to be on their mind.
Both people push towards this point of complete familiarity/ownership, and as soon as they near their destination, the illusion breaks. We see the real person.
Sometimes people say that their partner stopped making an effort after the relationship became more committed. They feel deceived, as if they hadn’t previously been shown the real/complete person.
They might say that seeing their partner for who he/she really was’ ‘killed’ the passion. Most of the time, gender stereotyping is to blame here i.e. the feeling in a man that he wants a nice, sweet girl who he can care for; or the idea in a woman that she wants a man to be in control, woo her and protect her.
What happens in those opening few months?
Have you ever listened to someone describe how different and special their new partner is?
How magical it all is? The newness?
The type of attraction felt at the start of a rendezvous does not tell us anything about that particular partner. It tells us about a standard mental process; our desire to ‘possess’ the other. All ‘healthy’ relationships are heading to the same end-point.
The power at the beginning is intense, but we should not idealise it. For every bit of excitement there was equal measure of worry and self-doubt; a state of hoping. A certainty and uncertainty in equal measures.
When we think back to before we ‘owned’ our partner, we must not overlook the entirety of the experience. Insecurity, separateness and unfamiliarity are what fuel attraction. They are closely bound to it – inseparable, like two sides of the same stamp.
And so, once we have reached a point of personal intimacy and trust with someone (anyone!), we forfeit that initial passion. We also should not expect our partner to enact our idealised version of masculinity/femininity; their true value can be found in their individuality, not their conformity.
The law of familiarity
Where does it all go wrong? When do we stop making the effort? The same way the excitement of a new job soon becomes a chore. We stop to appreciating our partners. Things become same-y. We start to take them for granted. The “magic” starts to wane. But does it always go like this?
There are some partners that are able to capture that initial “excitement” of the honeymoon period of a new relationship. They grow together. They communicate effectively. They’re open about their needs.
So why do we cheat?
Well from the research I conducted, there’s seven main reasons why we cheat. And I’m not judging. I’m talking from personal experience.
I have ashamedly cheated on every partner I’ve had since I was cheated on back in the early 2000’s. I’ve justified it as being a hopeless romantic who falls for people. Falls for people without remembering to tell the last person I fell for I no longer feel the same.
I often wonder would I have become a cheat if I hadn’t been cheated on? Was that painful experience that changed me forever and will I ever find a way back?
I certainly hope so.
My love life has been one meshed mess of a time warp of one relationship becoming another, with no definitive beginning or end. Constantly flitting between one or the other, building futures in my head of how and why it could/won’t work. I literally can convince myself that they are the best thing since sliced bread and oversee all red flags. I often want to save them in some fucked up pursuit of captain save-a-cunt.
Now I recognise this to be the lack of self worth and seeking security and being needed rather than love. A fear I’ve had since growing up. I’ve always felt comfortable being in a relationship. It gave me comfort. It defined me. It was a vital part of my identity. I didn’t know who I was without one. It was always a priority in my life often at my own detriment. I’ve always been emotionally needy and kind caring girls with a lot of affection we’re my kryptonite. Were they going to be the one to save me perhaps?
I’ve identified I have a lot of childhood trauma. From my Father leaving my Mum when I was 6 and then the many men that I was exposed to throughout my childhood my life. Usually troublesome Irish alcoholic type that enjoyed kicking the door in/or stealing from us. I spent most of my childhood being petrified of alcohol and it’s effects on people as it seemed to be a pretty big factor in my Mum’s life and relationships. My Dad also drank heavily and according to her was abusive to my Mum. My Mum used to overlook this as she just wanted to be happy or like me, looking back, just didn’t want to be alone. Otherwise god knows why she’d allow me to be exposed to such behaviour.
A fear that it perpetuated for my children as I’m no longer the man in their life nor do I have any control of who’s allowed into their life as I’m regularly told.
So relationships for me were a way of feeling safe. That I wouldn’t feel alone. Probably explain why I’ve plonked myself in back to back long term relationships since I was 11. Yes 11! Even then I displayed over generous courtsmanship of treating them to claddagh rings and football shirts to their favourite football team. Was I being generous or was I overcompensating to ensure they’d never leave me?
I’ve since learned the right person prefers presence over presents.
However when it comes to relationships, I noticed that I’d usually have 2. One for the commitment, the cuddles, the takeaways on a Saturday night on the sofa and trips to see family.
Then I’d have another for all of the naughtiness, the excitement, the exhilaration, the passion. The trying to lose a remote control up them.
It became a running joke. Funny to everyone apart from those involved.
I’d never met anyone that seemed capable of the both. Until recently…
I was selfish, careless, my actions were often unconscious and not really realising the full extent of the consequences. That was my super power – refusing to take responsibility for my actions. Like Peter Pan that never grew up! Instead blaming everyone else or convincing myself I have done nothing wrong.
Since that heartbreak I’d stopped taking myself seriously in my lack of self worth and that carried out in my behaviour. Because as the old cliche says… hurt people hurt people.
And nothing could be more true.
I never took the time to heal from that first heart break. Instead of inflicted my hurt on the world by soothing my soul by finding solace in others. The good old saying to get over someone we need to get under someone. I thought that momentary fulfilment would be enough. Boy was I wrong. So I increased my effort. Perpetually collecting notches on bedposts as broken hearts and putting them in a jar as I went, thinking they would somehow mend mine and they didn’t. And that wasn’t fair on anyone.
When we’re broken you see, we will attract other people who are broken and that is a recipe for disaster. We forge relationships for the wrong reasons; insecurity and the fear of being alone.
Hence why it is so necessary to take the time to heal. Take the time to be alone. Live alone. Find out who I am outside anyone else.
Otherwise we become perpetual liars and cheaters and our needs are never met because we don’t know what they are or what we actually need.
We end up thriving on attention rather than affection and that leads to a whole lot of cheating.
That’s how I’ve cheated over the years but why do we cheat?
So those seven reasons are:
1. An ex came back into your life
2. You wanted out (relationship sabotage)
3. Poor judgement/willpower
4. Needs are being met (sexually/emotionally)
5. Young and stupid
6. Male conquest
7. Sex addiction
We all have exes, they’re familiar, they’re comfortable, we trust them to a certain extent with our emotions and that’s one of the biggest parts of moving on is allowing someone new to see the darker of us parts that we fear may scare someone new away.
After some time apart you can look back fondly, romanticise the parts you loved and completely forget about the parts you didn’t. The effort they make for everyone else and you wonder if only we could apply that effort. But you go back hoping that to be true but soon it becomes the nightmare you left originally.
Sometimes we end up making that mistake a few times until we realise there is nothing new to learn. In that process we can cheat and hurt potential new partners. They can get used and cast away like old chip paper.
Now I’ve as I’ve mentioned never been very good at beginning and ends so I’m probably not the best person to give advice on that so I won’t. I know what we should do, but actually doing it isn’t something is another story altogether.
That’s where I get myself into trouble. The space, the fondness of memory, the cherished illusions, the history, the new effort made, maybe it could work this time? But you have to remember why it didn’t. A friend recently reminded me: “J, we didn’t come this far just to come this far!” I felt that.
Relationship sabotage – it’s easier to be dumped than it is doing the dumping right? We tend to do this when we’re in the young and stupid phase. Which we can warrant such behaviour. But I’m 37 now (I think, don’t quote me). Older, wiser.. allegedly. Our relationships then are usually within our peer group and are disposable as our Friday night kebab.
Poor judgement/willpower has played a big part in my betrayal of others. I have noticed I am a big escapist. Drink, drugs, sex, and cheating was a by product of all the aforementioned extracurricular activities. “I WAS DRUNK!” That’s not an excuse. Well at least from me. I’ve never been the kiss a random on a night out kinda guy. I did the whole one night stand thing when I initially got my heart broken and my “body count” quadruped in the 2wks my then girlfriend was on holiday. I slept with 3 girls in the space of 24hrs. I soon had a girl for every day of the week. Literally maintaining a harem of 7 girls. I became a terrible human being, going for girls that we’re into me but they were never someone I’d normally go for. Even sleeping with the next door neighbour… that was my lowest ebb. I absolutely hated myself. I remember scrubbing myself in the bath as sobbed my little heart out, wondering why I kept doing it to myself. You see I was never THAT person. I couldn’t separate my emotions from my actions so I lost part of me every time I flippantly gave myself a way. It was completely self destructive but to my friends I was “the man” whilst behind closed doors In Skepta’s immortal words “THATS NOT ME!”
Need not being met – now this was the most common answer to a recent poll. It’s also the easiest answer to make. It transfers blame to someone else not doing what they’re supposed to rather than us saying taking responsibility for our actions, that we’re in the wrong. I’m guilty of using it too. And it’s true. We stray because we’re not happy. Either with ourselves or with our partners or relationship, or usually both. We really should try and work those needs through with our partner by communicating how we’re feeling rather than just straying. Or have the courage to recognise the relationship isn’t right and having the courage to leave it. Again I’m guilty of this too. You see often we’re not even aware of our needs especially when we have low self worth. The fact that someone finds us attractive is like honey to a bee.
Male conquest – Male ego is a big problem in this world. It’s why men think they’re absolute champs for running up 100-1000’s of sexual partners. For me and how I felt about such behaviour when I displayed it, it signals emptiness and insecurity. But each to their own. Some men have identity issues without their sexual prowess. They need to tell their friends all about their sexual conquests. That men are to sow their seed in some weird fucked up archetypal stereotype that they’re waiting for the right girl to tame them and get them to settle down. Sounds like and felt like dysfunction to me.
Which bring me on to sex addiction. We can often find our self worth in sex. That if someone wants us in that way then we get fulfilment. Russell Brand famously talked about swapping one addiction for the other. Drugs for sex. That he infamously “earned” shagger of the year.
He said “Sex is recreational for me, as well as a way of accruing status and validation (even before I attained the unique accolade of “Shagger of the Year” from the Sun. We all need something to help us unwind at the end of the day. You might have a glass of wine, or a joint, or a big delicious blob of heroin to silence your silly brainbox of its witterings, but there has to be some form of punctuation, or life just seems utterly relentless. And this is what sex provides for me – a breathing space, when you’re outside of yourself and your own head. Especially in the actual moment of climax, where you literally go, “Ah, there’s that, then. I’ve unwound. I’ve let go.” Not without good reason do the French describe an orgasm as a “little death”. That’s exactly what it is for me (in a good way, obviously) – a little moment away, a holiday from my head.”
Maybe we’re not supposed to be with just one person. That society has created this monogamous relationship myth as someone else suggested whilst doing my research. “The rest of the other animals in this world don’t discriminate, they just mate don’t they?”. That’s food for thought with this ever changing world. I know more and more open relationships are being welcomed into the world. But the union of two people is as old as Adam & Eve. Then so is temptation and betrayal with the biting of the Apple. There’s something admirable about two people never giving up on each other and working through their differences.
Ultimately, I think it’s the betrayal of trust once you’ve reached the belonging stage of a relationship that hurts most. It hurts to think we may not be enough for our lover/partner. What do they have that we don’t? Even when the relationship is over it takes a while for the “belonging” to subside. Is it a case of needs not being met or is it that the person has no self worth/control? Quite often it’s an amalgamation of the two and no matter what the reasons we justify our bullshit actions with, we have to accept that it’s hurtful and harmful.
Once the trust has been broken is there a way back? I think it really depends if you’re able to understand why it happened and if you’re able to communicate with your partner to ensure if doesn’t happen again.
Personally I think everything is figureoutable if you really want it. It takes time, patience and understanding. The will never to give up on each other. But you must want it to work and being willing to put in the effort. Understanding each other’s needs. That gets tougher and tougher the longer relationship. Some find it easier to start the process with someone new rather than mend the relationship they have. However if we don’t take the time to heal and change the energy quite often we can continue to attract the same circumstances over and over. It can be Groundhog Day and quickly racking up a catalogue of failed relationships.
Having been both the cheater and the cheatee, I can honestly say it does affect us deeply emotionally and takes a lifetime to work through. Especially if we don’t take the time to heal and just begin a conveyor belt of hurt whilst we seek for our hurt to be soothed by others instead of by ourselves.
Working on our relationship with ourselves and why we do the things we do will allow us to stop such cycles. We have to become aware of why we continue to hurt ourselves and each other. Self love is everything.
No matter the reason we cheat, it’s the hurt we cause that we have to take responsibility for. Treat people as we’d like to be treated. Ultimately there is no valid excuse for cheating on or hurting someone we care about no matter what we tell ourselves.
We have to be good enough humans to admit to ourselves when something doesn’t serve us or we no longer want it. That doesn’t come easy especially when there’s so many other commitments surrounding a relationship. There’s so much to it than just the two people involved. Especially when there’s finance, marriage, assets and children involved.
But if it doesn’t feel good and it’s not fixable, then we have to stop the cycle, the buck stops with us and it stops here.