Are you trying to remain in your relationship after an affair but fear that it’s going to happen again?
Whether it was you who cheated on your partner or vice versa, you need to understand the reasons behind it. Otherwise, the relationship will never heal, the trust will remain eroded, and you might just find yourself back in the same situation.
So in this episode of The Loving Truth podcast, you’ll learn about the possible motivating factors behind infidelity. I’ll also reveal how you can best prevent it from happening again.
Listen to the Full Episode:
What You’ll Learn In This Episode:
2:30 – Three general reasons why people cheat on their partner
6:56 – Two other reasons why people in a bad marriage may have an affair
9:30 – Why you need to get introspective about your cheating and write it down
11:18 – Three journaling prompts to help you understand what’s going on inside of you
15:23 – An example showing why getting to the bottom of the cheating is important for you and your spouse
Featured On Understanding the Reasons Why You Cheated (or Got Cheated On)
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Welcome to The Loving Truth Podcast where it's all about finding clarity, confidence, and peace in the face of marriage challenges. Now your host, relationship expert, and certified master life coach, Sharon Pope.
Sharon Pope: Hello, loves. This is Sharon Pope. This is The Loving Truth. I want to explore today an understanding of why you cheated. Now this is super important. If there's been infidelity in your relationship and you're trying to heal it and remain together somehow, whether it was you that cheated or your partner that cheated, this is really important work so I want to dive into it in detail today.
If you're the one that cheated, understanding why you cheated is really important so that you understand yourself, and so you understand your own motivations so that you can make more conscious choices in the future and you can trust yourself. That's really important.
It's also important to understand if your partner has cheated, you need to understand why they cheated and what the motivating factors were because above all else, you want to make sure it's not going to happen again. I mean, understanding that your partner has cheated is just debilitating. It's so, so hurtful. We don't want to keep walking through that over and over and over again.
That's always the question is that once that trust has been eroded, how can I trust that it's not going to happen again? That is the big looming question whenever there's infidelity, and a marriage is trying to heal after that infidelity.
Now, I want to share with you the story, it's not really a story, it's just a few sentences from a member inside my membership The Decision and this person said, I'll call her Julie, her name is not Julie, but here's what she said, “My husband keeps asking for a reason why I had the affair. Every time he asks me, I have a slightly different answer because I don't know exactly what happened or why I had that affair. Do I have to have a reason? Or will I ever really know why I did that?”
Here's what I want you to realize. There are essentially three different big buckets of reasons why people will have affairs, why they'll cheat. As I go through these, I want you to try them on for size a little bit. As long as you're being honest with yourself, you'll know if that rings true for you or not. But these are the general big three.
The first one is there is a percentage of people that will never be monogamous. Research says it's around 12% of people that are serial cheaters. There doesn't have to be anything wrong in the marriage for them to cheat. They're just going to cheat because they want different types of experiences and they want different partners. They might claim that they're going to be monogamous, but they're not really. That's the 12%.
Maybe that is your story. Maybe that is your spouse's story, I don't know. But for the most part, people who find their way to me fall into one of these other two buckets or a little bit of both of these other two buckets.
Another bucket to consider is there's something missing in the marriage, and you're able to find that or create that with a new partner somewhere else. For instance, if you're lacking affection and connection or being understood and really seen in your marriage, then inevitably, there is someone that is going to be able to press that button or check that box for you and then it becomes an affair, because that's what's missing.
I don't want you to ignore that. Because what that tells you is that that's what your heart longs to feel and experience inside your most intimate relationship. That's really important.
Now, it doesn't mean that affair partner meets all the other needs. He may be able to help you feel understood and really seen but he can't hold down a job to save his life. He doesn't provide any of the stability that maybe your husband does, but there's something missing, it's important, so don't overlook it.
Now if you're going to heal the relationship, it now needs to be a part of the new version of your marriage. I know that that's going to feel like a stretch but I always say to pay attention to those things that are missing that you feel like you got from your affair partner because that knowledge, that awareness is a real gift to you because it helps you understand what your heart really longs for. That means it's got to become a part of any intimate relationship that you're having.
Then the last bucket, and stay here with me because this one is not as obvious, this is when we're not necessarily running from our marriage or our spouse, we're more running from who we've become. This happens a lot for women, but it's not exclusive to women.
Think about it like this. In your marriage, you're a wife and a mother. You probably do great at being a mother and maybe you're somewhere on that continuum of greatness in terms of being a wife, but there's a whole nother part of you that sometimes gets abandoned and that's you as a woman. That woman has passions, dreams, and desires for herself and her life.
Sometimes that gets shut down. Particularly once you start having kids because our lives as women, nurturers, and caretakers is to take care of everyone else. Then we neglect and abandon that part of ourselves and that part of ourselves doesn't just go away. It wants to be expressed.
At some time it's going to have its day, it's going to have a voice, and sometimes that gets expressed inside of an affair. What we're drawn to is who we get to be with that other person, with that other relationship. Let's just say I get to be a woman who enjoys intimacy, who enjoys sex, but in my marriage, I have to be the caretaker and the nurturer and make sure everyone else's needs are met, the bills are paid, and all those things, those are very different pieces of me.
They're all important. But I haven't fully expressed this other part of me inside my marriage. That's what's wanting to be expressed and it gets expressed sometimes through an affair. Those are the big three buckets, but I also genuinely appreciate what Esther Perel says where she basically says, “Look, people are going to cheat for one of two reasons if it's a bad marriage. If they're not serial cheaters and something is broken in the marriage, they're going to cheat so that they can remain in the marriage or they're going to cheat to blow up the marriage in sort of a passive-aggressive way.”
Let's talk about those two things because that might not be obvious to make sense of. Cheat to remain in a bad marriage. What do you mean, Sharon? If it's a bad marriage, why would you cheat to remain in it? Well, if I'm not fulfilled in my marriage, but I've got a little side fling, well, that meets some needs for me that allows me to endure the emptiness of what is inside my marriage. It's how I can get my needs met across two different people.
This is not exclusive to men, but this is more likely the reason for men to cheat than for women to cheat. Now women, where we cheat, we are more likely to cheat in order to blow up a bad marriage because we're so afraid of having the direct conversations of “This is not working. I'm really scared. I don't know what this means. What if this doesn't last? What if I never get my needs met?”
We're so afraid to express any of that and give that life that it's just easier to find ourselves, which we don't really find ourselves, but somewhere along the way, we had to make that decision to not step away when we started to have feelings, to not question it, and then get involved in a relationship with someone.
We're using it as a way to blow up the marriage essentially but without actually doing it, without actually just having the conversation and saying, “This is not working for me.”
I want you to think about on which end of that scale, if you had to choose, if it had to tip one way or the other, even if it's only by 1%, was it more because you needed to remain in a bad marriage, you didn't have any intention of leaving or fixing it, or did you cheat so that you could kind of blow up the marriage, but indirectly, in a sort of sly, subtle way? Think about that.
Now, understanding why you cheated is going to require you to get introspective. This is not like just ask the question and it will come, this is like you're going to have to sit with this a little bit. I want you to consider doing a few journaling prompts. I want you to write it down and here's the reason why.
When you write something down, you're making sense of your inner world and putting it into the outer world. If you just think about something, we all have those things that we ruminate on over and over and over again. Maybe it's like, “This is never going to work. I can't believe he did that. I’m never going to be able to trust him again,” whatever, there's something that you're ruminating on.
When you just leave it up in your brain, you can spin around in that same sentence like some version of that same sentence 300 times without even realizing that it's happening. For some reason, it happens at two o'clock in the morning for me. That's when I ruminate on things.
But when you get it out on paper, it's like you give it somewhere to land. You're not going to write the same sentence 300 times. I promise you, you're not going to do that because you're having to make sense of it and you're giving it a place to go.
Once it gets expressed, you don't feel the need to keep expressing it over and over and over again. Whereas when you leave it just up in your mind, and it never gets expressed, or even if it gets expressed, let's say you're talking to your girlfriend, you sort of keep saying the same story over and over, whether it's with your sister and then your best friend and telling the story over and over, but when you have to write it, when you have to journal about it, you're going to be much more succinct and you're going to be able to understand what's going on inside of you a little bit better.
I want to give you three journaling prompts that can help you to understand what's going on for you, so that you can answer the question for yourself and your partner why this happened. The first is what was I seeking? That's the first question to explore and journal about. Remember that writing it down is important.
You can burn it later if you don't want anyone to find it, whatever. But write it down. What was I seeking? To be desired? To feel desire in my own life? Affection? Maybe sex? Maybe validation? I don't know. What is it that I was seeking? Maybe a feeling of closeness or being seen and understood. What if it's validation, appreciation, or even, this is one that is common for men is admiration?
There's been a lot of studies on men cheating. I've been looking at a lot of these studies lately because of some teachings that I'm doing. But one of the things that was said over and over and over again by men was, “She admired me or she showed some appreciation for who I am as a person that I don't get at home.”
For instance, let's say that the woman might say to him, “Wow, you seem like just an amazing man. Your wife is really lucky. Your family is really lucky. You do a lot for your family, you work really hard,” but then he never hears that at home. That makes him lean into the admiration that he's feeling, the emotion that he's feeling on the receiving end of that sentiment. That's where we get vulnerable to an affair.
The next question is, “What am I running from?” There might be something you're running from. Sometimes you might even be running from closeness. I have a client where his wife was having sex with a lot of men, and that was pretty random. It wasn't like she was creating affair relationships. She wasn't creating relationships, but she was most certainly betraying the marriage over and over and over again.
That tells me that you're just running. You're running from yourself and you don't want to be seen. You don't want to have that closeness. Sometimes that's it. It's a matter of “I'm using it to hide or to run away from something that I don't want to feel in my experience.”
I might be running away from my life, the monotony of my life of working and paying bills and figuring out what's for dinner yet another night. I might be running from that. I might have a feeling of “Is this all there is?” I might be running from the stress of my life.
Sometimes people will say the reason that I cheated is because I was under a tremendous amount of stress, say at work, or with my kids, or something like that. You might be running from your spouse if your spouse is hurting you over and over and over again. One of the reasons you might find yourself in an affair is because you're running from that relationship. Look at what am I running from and explore that for yourself.
Then the last question I want to offer is, “What parts of me do I not show in my marriage that I showed in the relationship with the affair partner? What are those parts of me that are sort of hidden or tucked away that I never really let come out over here in my marriage? What are the desires that I buried and pretended that they didn't matter, that they weren't important when now I know that they are?”
I really want you to explore and journal about those three questions. I think that will help you understand yourself better. I started here, but I want to reiterate this, it's important for you so that you can trust yourself but it is also critical for your partner because their looming question is “What if it happens again? I can't let this happen again, how can I trust it won't happen again?”
If you're the one that cheated, your words like you just saying it will never happen again is not enough anymore because that trust was broken. When you're the one that breaks the trust, it is on you to rebuild that trust. They need to know it's not going to happen again.
Let's take the example of I cheated because I was super stressed at work. Well, if you're not doing any work around that or getting equipped with better ways to manage your stress, then why should they believe that next time you get stressed, you're not just going to cheat? If that was the cause, and this is the answer, then next time you get stressed, why would you do something else?
Or even if you don't cheat, if you don't know how to handle your stress and you don't know how to manage that in a productive way, then you might turn to gambling, you might turn to porn, you might turn to alcohol and over drinking. You'll turn to something else to run from the experience of your life that you're not equipped to face. That's what your partner needs to know. It's a valid question.
There are a lot of questions that we shouldn't ask when it comes to affairs, which we'll talk about on another episode, I'm sure. But the question of why is one that you both need to know so don't bypass that answer. You got to know why.
Seek to understand yourself, and then open that up, open your heart up to your partner, and that is the path through which a relationship can heal after an affair. Alright, I hope that was helpful. I hope it gave you something to think about. Until next time, take really good care.
If you're listening to this podcast because you're struggling to decide whether to stay or go in your marriage, and you're serious about finding that answer, it's time to book a Truth & Clarity Session with a member of my team. On the call, we'll discuss where you are in your marriage and explore if there's a fit for you and I to work together so you can make and execute the right decision for you and your marriage. Go to clarityformymarriage.com to fill out an application now.