Do you have a partner that falls into patterns of infidelity time-and-time again? Why do they always cheat on you? Why can’t they hold fast to the commitment that you’ve built together? Although we allow ourselves to internalize a lot of the guilt, we shouldn’t. Their reasons for cheating are their own, and they can be as complex and varied as the act of cheating itself. While understanding the reasons won’t heal the pain they’ve caused you, the truth will enable you to stand up for yourself in powerful ways.
Why some people struggle with faithfulness.
Why is it so hard for your partner to be faithful to you? It depends on the partner and the life and experiences they’ve had. For some, it’s simply a bad habit. They get addicted to the thrill and then spin down the rabbit hole. For others, though, it’s a lot more multi-layered. Perhaps they have low self-esteem, or a child plagued with terrible examples. Either way, understanding can help us on a path to closer and bigger decisions.
Not all partners cheat from a malicious place. While it seems impossible, some people don’t realize that infidelity isn’t a natural part of a relationship. They may have a toxic history with parents who regularly cheated on one another. Or, they may come from a culture or a religious background where infidelities aren’t frowned upon in certain dynamics. If someone has never been taught to see commitment as a totally monogamous affair, how can they be expected to act that role out?
Defining social norms
Like it or not, some archaic thinkers believe that infidelity is a right in their relationships. They don’t respect their partners as people, so they don’t respect their feelings or the commitments that they’ve made. If they find someone else they deem attractive, they leap at the opportunity to have their needs satiated. It’s all about them. This type of partner cares little about anyone else. So infidelity becomes a frequent part of the routine.
Does your partner have low self-esteem? Perhaps they have a history of childhood trauma, or just bad relationship experiences of their own. Either way, they can wind up in a pattern of infidelity as a result of trying to make themselves feel (and look) better. It’s true. Many partners who cheat do so because they have low self-esteem. Finding comfort in the arms of another partner makes them feel as though they are still desirable. And that’s a considerable boost.
A natural inclination
Some people are just naturally inclined to cheat. When they commit to you, they may be doing so in good faith. But after that, it all goes downhill. They find themselves cornered with temptation and they simply give in. These are very often people with poor self-control and worse self-regulation. They give into their based instincts, not for any malicious reason. They do it because they are mentally, physically, and emotionally weak.
Lacking in major empathy
Frankly, some people lack empathy. When you fall in love with that person and convince them to settle down, you can wind up with a series of infidelities — both physical and “emotional”. Does your partner care how you feel? Have they demonstrated a lot of compassion for you in other parts of your lives? A partner who doesn’t really care about how you feel is a partner who is not above breaking your heart over-and-over again.
Addicted to the thrill
New relationships are thrilling. Falling for someone new excites you and draws you with an almost magnetic pull. There are those out there who thrive on this thrill. They feed on it over-and-over again. It stirs their passions and allows them to tap into those animalistic parts of themselves. Your partner may have become addicted to the thrill of sneaking around and pursuing new relationships that don’t have any responsibilities or ties to them yet. (It’s all fantasy and no reality).
Total lack of commitment
Some people just aren’t cut out for commitment. They thrive on the thrill of new partners, but also a variety of connections and partners along the way. They don’t want to be tied down to one person. These individuals want to be free to pursue any new love interest that strikes them at the moment. And that’s okay. What’s not okay is lying about this and committing to someone who wants something entirely different from their relationships.
How to address infidelity in your relationship.
So your partner cheats on you all the time. What can you do to fix it? In short — nothing. You can’t change anyone else, or the behaviors they choose to engage in. All you can do is figure out what this relationship is really worth to you. Then you can mindfully detach and focus on rebuilding a life that’s entirely your own. Will you stay together? Will you break up? That’s a decision that only you (and your self-respect) can make.
1. Weigh what it's really worth
Why are you holding on to a relationship that hurts you? To a partner who values the passion of others over their commitment to you? Asking yourself this question naturally leads you down the path to considering the worth of the life you’re building with this person. What are you getting out of this relationship? Do you feel honored? Valued? Respected? You need to figure out what your relationship is costing you and what it really brings to the table.
Figure out what this relationship is really worth to you — and be honest. Brutally, radically honest. What are you actually getting out of this relationship? What benefits you in holding on to someone who doesn’t care about your feelings or the pain they cause you?
Really break it down. Get out a blank sheet of paper and write it down. List all the positive things you get, then try to put a weekly time on it. How many hours do you and your partner spend doing positive things together? How many hours a week do you spend feeling secure and happy in the life you’re building together? Now do the same for the negative. How many hours per week do you spend worried? Upset? Angry? Doubtful? Anxious? Break it all the way down to the hours you spend venting to family and friends. When you’re done compare the two. What are you really getting out of this?
2. Create a mental and emotional detachment
You cannot afford to cling to someone who has proven themselves unreliable. By investing more and more into them mentally and emotionally, you will only find yourself hurt time-and-time again. That’s why it’s wise to begin the process of mentally and emotionally detaching. From this removed place, you are better angled to see your partner in their true form. And you’ll be able to see what you’re not willing to settle for anymore.
Detach yourself mentally and emotionally from your partner so that you can see things clearly. This will take time, and it will be painful. All the same, you need to get yourself to a detached place so that you can see your partner’s behaviors truly and without the rose-tinted glasses of your commitment to them.
For many, this is known as mindful decoupling. Remaining civil, you pull away from your partner by leaning more fully into your own life. You may take on a new project at work, or even sign up for a passion-project class after work. Do whatever you need to do in order to fill up the space in-between you. This is an active way to give yourself time and space to process. That doesn’t have to be done in wallowing. It only has to be done honestly and aligned with your empowerment.
3. Pursue more of your own passions
When we move away from partners who hurt us, we can find ourselves with a lot of extra space in this life. Misinterpreting this space as loneliness, we often panic and go running back toward the known instability of our partners. But that’s the worst choice we can make. The best thing to do is embracing this space. The best way to do that? By filling it up with your passions and interests, the things you love to do and the people you love to be around. Surrounded by this light in our lives, this new found loneliness doesn’t feel so lonely. (And it gives us a taste of the life that’s still possible.)
As you move away from your partner, fall in love with your passions. Chase the things that fill you up and make you whole without them. These can be your friends or the relationships you have with your family. It could be pottery classes, solo traveling, or creating new opportunities of your own.
This is the time to be a little selfish in the name of your own needs. You’ve undoubtedly made a lot of concessions in the name of the partner who hurt you. No more. Take away some of that space you’ve saved in your life for them. Fill it up with the things that make your spirit hum with excitement and joy. Go out on your own. Venture more into the unknown. Little-by-little you will be recalled into yourself. Allow your passions to soak up some of that pain your partner handed. This is one of the greatest balms you can make yourself. And it will transform your perspective, too.
Putting it all together…
Fidelity is important in the committed, monogamous relationship. We want to know that our partners are faithful, and that they are giving us their all mentally, physically, and emotionally. Not every person can give us that fidelity, though. Some partners cheat because they enjoy cheating. Others learn the habit and become addicted to the thrill. Is your partner a chronic cheater? Understanding the reason behind their actions won’t heal the pain, but it will enable you to change your perspective and act.
Figure out what this relationship is really worth to you. Lay it all out on the table and think about the negative hours you spend vs. the positive moments you find in-between the infidelities. Detach yourself mentally and emotionally from your partner and the toxic decisions you continue to make. Refuse to internalize or take any of the blame for the heartbreaking behaviors they continue to pursue. Instead of chasing your love for this person who hurts you, chase your passions and chosen relationships instead. Have a hard conversation with your partner and give them one last chance to set things right. If they can’t, do what needs to be done. You have a right to be loved, and you will be. Make room for that person to come into your life and give you that spark you deserve.
- SILVA, A., SARAIVA, M., ALBUQUERQUE, P., & ARANTES, J. (2017). Relationship quality influences attitudes toward and perceptions of infidelity. Personal Relationships, 24(4), 718-728. doi: 10.1111/pere.12205