By: Elle Alexander
Many people define cheating very differently. Some might say it could be as simple as having an emotional involvement with another person while others say it has to be sex. Of course there is all the gray space between those very black and white definitions. However, it doesn’t matter what the actual definition is to anyone else’s relationship. What matters is what’s considered cheating in yours. This isn’t something that a lot of people talk about in the beginning but they probably should. Let’s take a look at why boundaries are good.
In society, we all have boundaries and laws based on moral norms and obligations. These are in place to let people know that if they don’t follow these “rules” that there will be consequences for their actions. This is good in a way because it lets people know what is expected of them and gives them initiative to do the “right” thing to avoid the negative repercussions. Relationships should be no different. If you see that the speed is 35 mph but you choose to risk it and go 50, don’t be mad when you get pulled over and get a ticket for breaking the rules.
A lot of people don’t understand cheating or why it happens. I spent a lot of time analyzing it because I’ve been in situations where I’ve been cheated on and situations where I felt so miserable and alone that I wanted to cheat, and they can boil down to four different explanations, with one underlying denominator (the self):
1. Because we can.
2. Our physical needs are not being met.
3. Our emotional needs or wants are not being met.
4. Low Self Esteem
Firstly, BECAUSE WE CAN…?!?!?
Well, we all can cheat…but not all of us do so “What the hell is that supposed to mean?!” right?
Well, it’s pretty simple if you think about it. As much as we hate to admit it, people are inherently selfish individuals. It takes more than a little opportunity to act on something, though. Why is it that if all people are inherently selfish that some people cheat and others do not? Well think about it.
You not only need a motive, you need the opportunity. When motive meets opportunity, it creates the perfect set up for temptation. Is that within itself enough to act, though? Sometimes. Some people are incredibly egocentric and it isn’t about someone actually lacking anything in a relationship, they just feel like they’re entitled to do whatever they want, whenever they want. This alone, without any other missing pieces are stand alone reasons for any human behavior. (There are instances that something is missing as a motivator, but this one mostly has to do with fulfilling the need for self-esteem.) [See the pyramid above]
Generally people can take others’ feelings into consideration and have some sort of moral code to follow that urges us not to hurt other people. Then there’s the view that humanity would be a wreck less free-for-all given the notion that there weren’t laws or consequences for their behaviors. That’s pretty much the foundation for having boundaries and rules, so people know what’s expected of them and what they ought do or not do.
I remember taking an Ethics class in college that asked us something such as “If you could be invisible for a day and commit one crime without being caught, what would you do?” Most every single student had some brilliant idea for something they’d like to get away with without facing consequences. I don’t think one single person said “I wouldn’t do anything because it’s wrong.” We had people talking about robbing banks, hurting people that made them mad, stealing big screen TVs, pretty much anything you could think of which basically says that people feel like they’re required to follow rules because they know they’re going to be held accountable. Why should relationships be any different? If you and your partner aren’t clear with your communication and expectations, you can’t be mad if the other person “screws up.” Because your idea of screwing up might not be the same as their idea. This sort of thing should be discussed in the beginning and also throughout the relationship. Just as things change in time, people’s needs/wants do, as well.
Maybe you did discuss it. But it happened anyway and you can’t figure out why. The last thing you want to start doing is blaming yourself. Why? Because if you follow rule #1, people are inherently selfish and will do whatever they can get away with, it doesn’t mean the other person has something “better” than you. In most cases, that’s not even it at all. Have you seen some of these celebrity cheating incidents? That right there is front and center in the media as a perfect example that you don’t have to be ugly to get cheated on. There doesn’t have to be anything wrong with you at all. For example, remember when Arnold Schwarzenegger cheated on Maria Shriver with the housekeeper, Mildred Baena? Or when Jude Law cheated on Sienna Miller with the nanny? I’m not saying the other women are terrible looking, but I’m saying that looks alone won’t keep your partner happy. There’s got to be more than that, which brings us to the second and third reasons: emotional needs or physical needs not being met.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1943), here’s a quick run down. Our needs and wants are our driving forces and motivations for our choices and behaviors. At the bottom of the pyramid, you’ll find the very basic needs and then at the top, you’ll find the more sophisticated/advanced needs. The idea is that over time, a person will move from the basic needs being met up to the very top of the pyramid until those needs are met. Take a look at how this is set up.
If you were to look at basic physical needs and wants, this is everything that is instinctive for survival of the species. Not just our species, but all species. If one of these items were missing, the need to find it becomes second nature. Take a look at where sex falls on that line up; Right at the base of the pyramid (with food, water, sleep, etc.)
If someone you are in a relationship isn’t meeting your very basic needs, you’re going to feel like something is missing and you’re going to try and find it. Most people will try to fix this within the relationship first.
Generally speaking though, not everyone is sexually compatible. My gynecologist had told me that a couple years ago because I had said that I really loved my boyfriend but it hurt like hell every time we had intercourse. I hated having sex with him because it felt like I was being stabbed in the cervix with a butcher knife and being raped. I dreaded it. “Not everyone is a good fit,” she said. I guess I never thought about it like that. We’re not one size fits all physically.
So the is issue is, you might love someone as a person but hate them in bed. Sex might not be comfortable, maybe it’s boring, maybe there’s not enough of it, maybe the other person doesn’t know what they’re doing. Some of that can be worked through if both partners are willing to put the other person’s needs/wants before their own and are on the same page. Some people aren’t willing to try the things the other person wants.
Maybe they have some weird fetish or position that’s an absolute deal breaker that you’re just not interested in at all. Guess what… that doesn’t make that want for it go away. They’re going to continue to think about it and it will always be an underlying conquest. You just have to hope that the opportunity doesn’t present itself to fill that void for that person. Because when you mix motive with opportunity, you have temptation. Combine that with basic human instincts/needs? Now you have a tough situation at your hands. Let’s just hope that the person you love or want isn’t putting themselves in a position where that’s an option. Because like it or not, if a person’s not satisfied sexually or feels inadequate, that hurts their self-esteem and they’re going to look for outside ways to validate that, often with a wandering eye because they need that attention to fill another void…an emotional one.
When emotional needs aren’t being met, it’s a very empty and sad situation for someone. It doesn’t matter how good looking the person is if their personality is shit or they can’t give you what you want/need.
I dated a guy for three years that girls drooled over everywhere we went. However, behind closed doors, he was self-absorbed, emotionally unstable, verbally abusive, and boring. Everything was always all about him. We were always watching what he wanted. Doing what he wanted. He never wanted to do anything I wanted to do. I loved kissing and he hated it. Granted nobody is perfect, and there were a lot of good qualities but a lot of the major ones were lacking. I felt like nothing I ever did was good enough, I couldn’t do anything right. I felt unappreciated, taken for granted, and worn down.
It’s not always women that feel this way, either. Men often say they feel the same way. And if we did have sex, it was usually straight to fucking, no foreplay from him, no kissing, and no real chemistry or connection. It was like I was just there to help clean the house, watch the kids, and help him get off and none of my needs/wants mattered. So of course I thought about other people. Sometimes even during sex. Yes, I did; because if I didn’t, I would have been even more miserable. Here I am dating one of the hottest men I’ve ever seen in my life…feeling like I wanted to escape or just be wanted again by someone else.
I started to question what was wrong with me, or why I wasn’t good enough. I found out later that he was on a dating website, too so obviously he must have felt unsatisfied to some extent, as well. Maybe the grass was greener on the other side, who knows. But I’ll tell you what, that relationship did a number on my self esteem and it took a good year of counseling to love myself again and grow a backbone back once I left him. Have we met up since then? Yeah… we did love each other. We still do to an extent. But sometimes, love isn’t enough. And you know what’s weird? You can totally hate a person and still have amazing sex together, but not want to be with them because sometimes, sex isn’t enough either. You have to have a balance.
The minute that someone feels like something is missing, there’s a problem. Not everyone is good at communicating, though.
I can’t say that cheating is always avoidable. I am also not condoning it by any means, because I don’t think it’s a good idea to do something that would hurt the person you’re with. Setting clear expectations and boundaries in the beginning is absolutely necessary. It’s also a good idea to get to know someone before you sleep with them, which is rare anymore. Whatever happened to the whole getting to know you process, where people would find out about the other person? Shouldn’t you at least like someone as a human being before you have sex with them? Because even if the sex is great, it’s not going to be enough in the end. You’ll end up thinking you’re happy, but it’ll always feel like something is missing if you can’t stand that person or they bother you.
Knowing the goals and values of another person is a pretty big deal. It sets the tone for what to expect, where it is going. Don’t you want to know about their past, who they are, who they want to be? Their dreams? Is sex alone ever really enough… No. It’s not. It might be for now, but it’s not enough to make someone commit to you and expect it to work.
Just because the other person isn’t 100% satisfied doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. It just means their needs aren’t being met in some way or another, which they’re entitled to, as are you. Or they just are an asshole and need to validate their own self-worth and self-esteem, no matter what anyone else does. Perhaps they didn’t get enough attention as a child? I don’t know. Maybe they were ugly in high school? Who knows…
But even the people you think feel the most confident about themselves are often the ones who end up overcompensating to try and fill that void/pain because they don’t like who they are as a human being, or how they look. They seek outside validation…no matter how much you give to them. That’s honestly nothing you can fix. They probably need counseling, but who doesn’t these days?
You DESERVE to be happy. You DESERVE to feel wanted and you DESERVE to feel good about yourself. They deserve the same. If it’s not working, either figure out how to fix it or let it go. But don’t force it.
Can Cheating Be Fixed or Forgiven?
Maybe you’re going through cheating now. Maybe you have in the past. It hurts like hell. I couldn’t eat for almost a week and felt so sick to my stomach. My eyes were puffy and swollen from crying non-stop and I said things to the person that were completely abusive, calling them every name in the book. I felt so stupid, and embarassed. I felt taken advantage of. I felt ugly and not good enough. If this is you, don’t do this to yourself. It’s not YOU that’s the problem.
The idea is that you should try to work through your problems together and be open to trying new things or meeting the other person’s wants/needs. And maybe you’re just not compatible. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with YOU or them. Why try to force something if you’re unhappy? You can always try to repair it, but once it’s broken, it’ll never work at full capacity.
The attitude of being in a relationship where you’re not having your needs met, to me, is kind of like buying a refurbished phone… you know there’s issues but it’s acceptable. Is it the one you really wanted? Probably not. Is that going to stop you from thinking about the one you really want? Probably not… but it will do for now, right?
And honestly, I don’t believe once a cheater always a cheater. I think it could be true for certain individuals, but it doesn’t always hold suit. I’m not saying you should just let someone cheat on you and take them back immediately, but if you can figure out what happened and why, and if there’s a way to maybe fix it…I don’t think that there’s always a loss involved. Sometimes you can repair it but you’ll never fully trust the person and what does that do for your peace of mind?
How to try and get over the cheating
And the best thing I learned from all of this, being cheated on a few times and being in these miserable situations? To love myself. Because I never let myself down. All those times I wanted to cry because it hurt so bad, I did. But my general rule is give yourself a day or two then it’s time to pick yourself up and get moving. You have things to take care of still. You have bills to pay, right? Kids to feed? Work to do? If you’re not happy with your life or something about yourself, it’s never too late to change it. This is the perfect time to start setting goals because that can really change your whole perspective and confidence. It gives you something to wake up for everyday. And honestly, there’s nothing more attractive than a kind-heart person who has their shit together. People dig that.
When you realize that people are inherently selfish pricks, you’ll learn to not expect anything less out of people. Then you’ll be okay with being alone after awhile because you know that you won’t hurt yourself. Take that alone time to focus on you. I know this sounds so cliché, but it’s honestly so great. And if you want to have meaningless casual sex or dates, just be smart about it. Fill that void… but…Wait for the one who deserves you, who can treat you like you deserve to be treated, and appreciates you before jumping into a commitment. If you can connect on that level and you also love yourself, your tolerance for bullshit will be a lot lower and you’ll be okay with walking away from disrespect or anything you’re not happy with. It’s really empowering. People love that about others and they are attracted to it. And honestly, the “need” to be with someone else really gets put on the back burner when you give yourself things that other people aren’t willing or able to. So go do that.
Validate your own damn self and quit worrying about these idiots that don’t appreciate you. Sometimes, it’s just not meant to be.