Why People Cheat

A couple of nights ago, David and I were sitting in an ice cream shop enjoying a quiet end to a beautiful evening when I noticed the song playing in the background. It was Johnny Cash singing, “Because you’re mine, I walk the line.” It’s been two and half years since D-day. Still, as I listened to the lyrics there it was again, that nagging question with no good answers. “So, why didn’t you?” I asked for what was probably the ten thousandth time. He didn’t have to ask me what I was talking about. Why didn’t he walk the line and remain faithful to me? And, like ten thousand times before he shook his head sadly and said, “I don’t know. I wish I did.” Whether you’re the betrayer or the hurt spouse, trying to understand why people cheat can be an infinity loop trapping you in an endless cycle of pain and frustration.

In the face of wrong, people want to know who to blame, but when you’ve been betrayed by someone that you chose, you trusted, you believed in, blame becomes a lot more complicated. After I learned of David’s infidelity, I wondered what I had done to cause it. “Did he cheat because I wasn’t enough?” The pain of that thought was almost as bad as the pain of thinking his cheating was because something was wrong with him. If he was a loser, what did it say about me that I picked him? And that infinity loop wrapped my head in knots more nights than I care to remember. Eventually, I had to let it go and face the reality that there are no good answers to why people cheat.

I’m not saying that there are no answers, just no good answers. Over time my husband began to understand how his own sense of failure and disappointment had played into his progressive sexual acting out and we both began to understand the situations that could lead him to relapse. These understandings have played an important role in our recovery; and for many couples in the midst of the trauma that an affair creates, knowing why people cheat can help them chart a path through recovery. Still, the answers uncovered won’t address the underlying pain and you can drive yourself crazy asking. That’s what I mean when I say there are no good answers.

Eventually, I decided to let it go. It was like that scene in A Beautiful Mind when the schizophrenic mathematician John Nash, played by Russell Crowe, explains to a friend that he chooses to ignore the people that he continues to imagine. He says, “Like a diet of the mind, I choose not to indulge certain appetites.” That scene became a touch point for me. It didn’t happen all at once, but gradually I was able to see the question “Why did David cheat?” as an appetite that I cannot afford to indulge. It is like choosing not to eat a dish that makes me break out in hives – after feeling the pain once too often, it’s just not that hard to pass up.

Still, sometimes if the right country song comes on, I find myself asking again. And sometimes it’s useful. Part of the trust that is growing between David and me is based on his promise to never tell me to “get over it.” He has promised to answer my questions about his infidelity for the rest of our marriage if I want. Sometimes I think I just need to make sure that promise is still true. When he answers me with authentic compassion and sorrow, I take a deep breath and relax. After all, the ice cream was great and I love Johnny Cash.

Add New Comment:

Comments

I loved this post.I

I loved this post. I relate to it so much! It's been 18 months since I discovered my husband's affair. Since then we have been in couples therapy, he has been on antidepressants and frankly he's been doing everything in his power to make things work. Seven months after d-day I got pregnant with our third baby and everything is going well but I am SO HURT. I understand I need to concentrate on today and the future without dwelling on the past and I do mosto of the time. But IT IS ALWAYS THERE, IN THE BACK OF MY MIND... the hurt, the anger, the thirst for revenge, the saddness, the questions, the shame, the guilt... I have discovered that the worse part of the affair scar is the endless mind torture. Will I have to live with this forever? I HATE the feelings that linger in otherwise perfect days. I fight them with all my heart but they are still there. Just like you say, like John Nash ignoring his visions. Sheer torture.

Alexia, It has been 15 months

Alexia, It has been 15 months since my d-day. I think about it daily and at times ruminate about how badly I wish my husbands affair partner would suffer. She told him she was infertile and could not get pregnant- in reality her husband was infertile and she was trying to get my husband to impregnant her. He was stressed to the max in his job and by a close friends death- she worked with him and had been waiting for2 years to tell him " about her feelings for him" and found the opening then. He ended the affair when he realized he was destroying his family exactly the way his dad had done 30 years prior. I had every vision of revenge you could imagine- including having an affair to get back at him. Luckily I have the worlds best friend whom talked me down off the ledge and made me take the high road. I am so glad I did. We are doing well in recovery- he is doing the work he needs to and I learned to drive those thoughts out of my brain by getting physical on my own ( running.) you are stronger than him or his AP - he is with you, not her. Find new joy in your marriage and remember love is about compassion for the other person.

REVENGE

It has been 18 months since I discovered my husband's affair. Since then we have been in couple's therapy and each with individual therapy. My husband has gone on an anti depressant that has made him come back to life and see so many things clearly. He has put his heart and soul into getting better and making up for what he did. Seven months after d-day I got pregnant with our third baby and we had our a beautiful little girl three month ago. I wish I could only concentrate on today and the future and be overjoyed with all the blessings that we have now and only look ahead. BUT I AM SO HURT. I live with a constant lingering baggage of pain, anger, hurt, sorrow, guilt, shame, painful memories, regret, impotence... It is always there. I try to ignore it just like John Nash and his "friends". But its all there, all the time. Sometimes they are quiet just standing, staring in the distance. And sometimes I cant make them shut up. I need to ask, I need to know more, I need to cry, I need to vent, I need to rub his face in all of it, in my pain, i need to see him suffer at the thought of actually loosing everything HE jeopardized. I hate wishing she died. But I do. I wish he could feel the pain I feel. The frustration of not being able to go back in time and discover it sooner. For so long I stayed home being the stay at home mom, the maid, the cook, the bill payer, the nurse, the secretary, the every thing for everyone and I felt alone, lonely, abandoned. I wished I would have a boyfriend, romance, real sex, love... but I NEVER cheated. He ignored me, he lied to me, he worked all the time, he was getting all the recognition in his work and was the star at the office, traveled the world... while I kept all the rest together. Since I discovered the affair I started working again while the kids are in school and have done very well. I just got a SUPER position at a company and I am thrilled because my first business trip is coming up! Even though everything is the best it has ever been between us I still feel the need for revenge. Now I want to have all the fun he had playing the seduction game, having all the passionate sex, the adventure the romance, the laughs the intimacy... I hate thinking about this, I hate feeling this. BUT I DO.

A Dish Served Cold?

Alexia, I get what you posted, and what you are feeling is very normal, especially after having a baby recently. I, too, think that having a passionate affair and abandoning all responsibilities and family would be a great recipe to get him back. However, what makes me think differently is that I am not a whore. I have self-respect. I love my son too much to hurt him. And it is not pleasing to God. My husband was the fool for thinking he was getting what he deserved. He was the fool for thinking she "respected" him. He was the fool for believing he would never get caught! He is suffering from deep shame, but that is his responsibility to overcome. I don't know if he ever will, since he still blames me for not being the perfect wife. As if his ex-ap was a perfect wife to her husband? That didn't matter to him, because she fooled my spouse into believing she truly adored him. What delusions! So Alexia, I understand your vengeful thoughts, anger, pain, sorrow... It has been 14 months since dday for me, but don't stoop to his level. Besides, the man you might "meet" may end up hurting you, too, and you will be in worse shape than you are in now. It is not worth it. Keep praying, posting, getting the right information, and find a trustworthy confidante who will give you honest guidance. It really takes at least two years to heal after infidelity as long as you are working through the pain. Bless you during this difficult time and know God has plans for you and your family! Mel

Why People Cheat

Hi Abbie, I ask myself and my husband so many times and yes, their are no answers. I will never understand WHY! I couldn't have loved him anymore on our 25th. Anniversary, than the day I married him. I thought he felt the same way, but obviously he wasn't in love with me as much as I was with him. I would never cheat on my husband, no matter what. I would be honest with him and get a divorce first, which is what we use to joke about. Their are no jokes now, as we hardly ever laugh together anymore. I found out right after our 25th. Anniversary that he didn't seem interested in when the OWH sent me a letter, along with the love letter's he had written to her on her birthday, telling me that my husband was having an affair with his wife. He tried to warn me 3 yrs. earlier, but my husband convinced me, while he was in the hotel with this man's wife, that he had fired his wife and he was trying to get even with him. Being the trusting wife that I was and he was always home, except when he had a business trip, which is where I thought he was. I had no reason to believe that he was lying to me. Boy was I fooled! I should have called the man that sent it and talk to him, but trust won out. It's now 25 yrs. later, after much counseling, mostly on my part and after 5 yrs. of it, I decided to forgive and decide to love him again. I wasn't getting any answer's and I just couldn't deal with it anymore, so I moved on. These past few years have been especially bad, stock market, lack of sexual interest, etc. made me stop and think that something was going on, but it wasn't. It did, however, bring all of it back to me, but this time it was worse. I think those first few years I was in such shock that I couldn't deal with the pain and pushed it in the back of my brain. Now it was coming out full force. I can't seem to stop it and he doesn't want to answer the same questions I asked him 25 yrs. ago. He get's just as mad and now we are both shutting down, sleeping in separate rooms as I don't want to be around him. Just looking at him reminds me of what he did. I went for 20 yrs. doing pretty good. Yes, their were a lot of triggers, he still drank to much sometimes and tried to control me. So, it wasn't all peaches and cream, but at least their were some laugh's and normal times. The trigger's are worse, the questions won't go away and he's tired of answering them and when he does he never talks enough about what I want to discuss. The man that I gave my life to I no longer feel much for anymore and It makes me sad to say that as we've been married 50 yrs. which we didn't spend together. I couldn't as I would have felt it was a lie. I sometimes wonder if when a couple marry that one spouse is the giver and the other the taker, I know I was the former. He just took and took, while I gave. I had him on such a pedestal he could have had a nose bleed. Did I ever get any compliments for what I accomplished No I didn't, so no emotional support was given. So what else can a person do to stop their spouse from cheating, I don't think their is an answer to that question. They do it because they are weak, insecure even though they might have a high-powered job, need the extra, extra attention from someone different and just because they think they can and no one will get hurt. He tells me that it wasn't that he lacked anything from home, I sure wasn't to blame as I did everything for him, but that she came on to him, he liked the new and extra attention and he went for it. So, nothing could have prevented it. Now he has to hope that we can save this 50 yr. marriage. Thanks for sharing your story.

Why???

Abbie,

 

Thanks for sharing your story because I find myself wrapped around the axle of that question...WHY? 

 

 

Same Conclusion

I have come to the same conclusion, I know the reasons and the way my wife's affair happened. But still the "why?" question never seems to go away. The conclusion I reached is that there will never be a good enough answer to why she cheated on me. She could give all the answers in the world, and none of them would ever be good enough to satisfy the why question, to override the reason she broke her vows to me, to undo the betrayal.

I guess that is just part of our lot as the betrayed spouses, to live with the ever lingering question of the why question that will never be satisfied good enough. Part of the consequences of the sin that has been committed.

So the choice is now ours, the betrayed spouse, to forgive and love despite the hurt. Just as Christ has forgiven us for our betrayal of him. Easier said than done, but still the right thing to do. Maryc said we might be stronger than the spouse or the AP, but I think most of us don't really care or want that, we want the affair to never have happened, the pain and the betrayal to have never have happened. But that's impossible.

As much as we, the betrayed spouses, want revenge, I know I wouldn't wish the pain I've experienced from this betrayal on anyone, especially my wife who I still love. Sure I think I do in my desperate moments, I want to rub it in my wife's face and make her feel my pain, feel what she did to me. But that is not true love. At the end of the day my choice to remain faithful despite her affair means she will never have to ask the why question, to which there is never a good enough answer. She may never fully realize or feel the love I have for her in my choice to remain faithful, but at least she won't have to experience the pain that would be a direct result of my actions should I choose unfaithful revenge.