The assumption is that a person can have many flaws and make several relationship mistakes — he or she can lie to you, say mean things in anger or even squander money without telling you about it — but if adultery is committed, forget about it. You might as well find yourself a new partner or embrace being single because a tiger who cheats doesn’t change its stripes.
But why is cheating treated like the relationship blunder from which there is no return? Understandably, many people feel like it’s the ultimate betrayal of their trust and a complete slap in the face. The feeling may be that one person was in it whole hog, resisting temptation in an effort to focus on the relationship and keep it strong, while for the other, their whole time together was treated like his or her personal free for all.
The problem with this way of thinking is that it makes the assumption that cheating is only about sex — in reality, experts say, sex may be the least important aspect of an adulterous relationship. Another error we might be making is believing someone has cheated on us to “get to us” and ruin our lives.
“Often people think about cheating as an offense to another,” says certified relationship coach Nwasha Edu, the bestselling author of You Are What You Cheat: A Guidebook into Understanding and Overcoming Infidelity. “But the true core of cheating is not honoring a promise you’ve made to yourself. The purpose of all relationships is to perfect your character, but many of us satisfy our personal needs through our relationships. We also use affairs/infidelity to also satisfy our core needs of certainty, variety, significance, love, growth, and contribution.”
Edu says that, stereotypically, men cheat to feel more significant or for variety and women cheat for love, attention and to emotionally connect with someone else. She balks at this idea and that there is always one cheater and one victim. Instead she calls on couples to both assume responsibility in whatever part they played to weaken their relationship. Because, yes, at the end of the day, most people who cheat were not in perfect unions.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow, but if you’ve been cheated on, you have to admit you didn’t satisfy your partner’s needs,” Edu says. “You also didn’t develop the skills to be in a successful relationship (whatever your definition of success may be). You didn’t notice your partner was unsatisfied and chances are you weren’t satisfied either. A person’s core needs are normally fair and basic (certainty, variety, significance, love and growth).”