Have you ever cheated? I did. No, it’s not my usual m.o., but I did in the past. The experience was a huge eye-opener for me because it helped me understand what I was looking for from cheating was actually an escape from myself. No, I was not looking to escape from my existing relationship, nor my man. In fact, most cheaters are not looking to exit a marriage at all. I was not happy with who I was as a person and blamed my inability to get in touch with the true me, my inability to be the person I want to be, on my ex and the marriage.
Outwardly, I was looking for awesome sex, fun, and excitement, a remedy to a 15 year relationship that just felt stale. But in hindsight, it really wasn’t about that at all. What I was truly looking for is for a man to perceive me as I wish to be. I was excited by the fact that this guy I was fooling around with could see in me what I wished I could see in myself. And for a while, that worked. The experience gave a huge boost to my self-esteem, and actually improved my marriage (I’ll explain how in another post).
For years after, the fling kept me on an emotional high simply because I knew that if I had to, I could get in touch with that version of myself again. A decade later I learned to create that connection with my own inner being through self-improvement and personal growth. I learned that cheating was just compensating for my own insecurities and dissatisfaction with myself, and I never did it again. I really don’t need to. Today, when I don’t feel good about my life, I know that any dissatisfaction I feel is with myself. When I find myself in relationships that aren’t healthy, or aren’t the best that I can give to myself I leave. I know that my relationship with myself will always be better than any relationship with another person. But that lesson took years to learn and put into practice.
Cheating was that quick fix, a boost to my morale, something I was starving for at the time. I have a lot of male friends and always speak with them frankly. Why do they cheat? It is rarely because they want to end their marriages or escape a woman they don’t love. Unless the relationship is toxic, most men love their wives and girlfriends and aren’t looking to replace them at all. Cheating, or desire for another which often manifests in flirting, making advances or an actual fling, is just an emotional insecurity. It is an inner emptiness we seek to fill with another person.
Men and women who are not self-aware will explain cheating as a physical need, a hunger for another or a different human. But self-aware people know there is usually nothing wrong with their spouse, they recognize there is something dissatisfying about themselves. Having cheated, I see that what I was seeking from the experience was Me. Today, I don’t need to cheat, I have myself and we are tightly bound to each other. In fact, we are married for life. But, if a guy is telling you he needs you, how bad his existing relationship is, please understand he may not actually be looking for You, and he will rarely leave his wife or girlfriend unless a relationship with you is more beneficial. Instead, he is flirting with the idea of You, because you reflect back to him who he wishes he could be.
A person who is truly looking to improve his/her life and being, will embark on a project to change their entire existence. A person who finds himself in a truly unhappy marriage or relationship will free themselves from it. If it was truly a bad relationship, they would not be able to tolerate it a minute longer. They would not linger in something toxic, in fact they would exit no matter what. Then they will take some time to heal, reconnect, get in touch with their true self. That is the sign of a human truly doing the work to create a better reality. A person looking for a bit of medicine, or love therapy will seek a new and improved partner without having done the work on themselves, and they are usually unwilling to let go of a good thing, for someone who is not guaranteed to be better. Why divorce or break up with a stable partner, to be with someone shinier? There is no reason for that. Cheating is an unwillingness to let go of a good thing, just a superficial desire to know I am capable of having better.
Cheaters look at the other man or woman as a mirror that reflects back the version of themselves that they wish they could be. We all wish we could be better, more successful, sexier, more fit, have drastically more glamorous lifestyles than we actually do. We want to feel younger, desired, wanted, needed, we long for missed opportunities, the one who got away, we wish we made better choices in life. Most people settle too soon for a sure thing, a safety net, a stable partner and home, and then embark on a search for their true selves when they feel secure. I am not judging anyone, we all have our journey.
Do we have to accept the hand we were dealt? I don’t think so. We came into this world to create the best version of ourselves, and the best possible lives we can. And if that means leaving an old lifestyle behind for a new one, that is a life experience in itself. Breaking past cycles, moving on from situations and people who do not serve us, constantly striving for better versions of ourselves are all genuine human needs, and we shouldn’t feel ashamed for pursuing them. Those experiences will grow us.
But keeping one foot in a marriage or a relationship, while testing the waters with the other, is cheating. Right or wrong, it demonstrates an unwillingness to give up what we already have got. It also demonstrates our fear, reluctance, risk, and lack of conviction that the other is truly better. Cheaters just want a quick fix, a temporary high, a person or an experience to fill an emotional gap, but are not willing to pay a price, nor reconstruct entire lives to get it.
Though personally I don’t cheat, I hardly ever judge others for it. We are all on a search for ourselves. We all are on a search for a remedy for what truly ails us. It is only through heavy emotional, spiritual, physical and financial loss that we realize that a new person or situation will not fix us. We are the ailment and we are the remedy, and anything we desire outside ourselves is just a temporary crutch.