Why Cheating Hurts

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We are all susceptible to acting selfishly at times, which can cause direct or indirect pain to the people we love. But, infidelity is not your run-of-the-mill, selfish type of behavior most of us engage in throughout our relationships. It might be motivated by similar forces such as the real or imagined feeling of unfulfilled needs, but the impact that it causes is far more devastating than ordinary acts of selfishness, because it damages the most important pillar that is needed to sustain a strong foundation to a healthy and happy relationship: the sense of security in ourselves and our relationships. When infidelity happens, it shakes this foundation of security by challenging our feelings of trust and adequacy.

Feelings of Trust

Infidelity, by definition, cannot occur without the element of deceit. Deceit is the conscious act of dishonesty and comes in many shapes and flavors ranging from the seemingly harmless omission of truth (“I didn’t know that you wanted to know that sometimes I flirt with my co-workers”) to the flat out lie (you say, “I am going on a business trip,” when in fact you are spending the night somewhere else). Deceit and trust are like the opposite ends of a magnet; they can never be aligned in the same field, no matter how hard you try to make those ends meet.

Marriages in particular and relationships in general are different types of partnerships that are formed for the purpose of fulfilling emotional and physical needs that we all have in order to live a happy existence. In order for any partnership to succeed, there has to be a level of trust between partners to allow the two to work together to achieve the main goals of the partnership. The act of infidelity requires deceit, deceit equals dishonesty, and dishonesty leads to mistrust. Without trust you cannot have a successful partnership.

Feelings of Adequacy

We are all born with the natural need and desire to feel adequate or good enough. Some of us even strive for going above and beyond good enough to achieve the status of great, amazing, or extraordinary.

What makes the act of infidelity stand out from other selfish behaviors is the fact that it requires the involvement of a third party, someone other than our partner to accomplish the goals of the selfish behaviors. This automatically sets the stage for a comparison between the partner who was betrayed and the person, or persons, who the unfaithful involved in the affair. This comparison almost always leads the partner who was betrayed to question their adequacy and self-worth, which is by far one of the worst feelings one can experience in a relationship. Think of it this way, nobody likes to hear that they are not good enough, regardless of the truth of such a statement. It’s even worse to hear someone say, “You are not good enough and that’s why I went behind your back to get my needs met by someone else, who I believe is better than you in that department.”

Interestingly enough, in the majority of cases of infidelity the unfaithful is not cheating because their partner is not good enough. Infidelity is caused by a more complicated set of circumstances related to the unfaithful’s ability to identify unfulfilled needs and the ability to communicate to their partner about those needs, a topic we will discuss in details in future posts.

Published in Personal, Relationship, Sex Therapy
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