Once a cheater, always a cheater! We have all heard this one, haven’t we? But is cheating all that simple? Does thinking about your ex all the time count as deceiving your better half? Did Ross from Friends cheat on Rachel, or were they on a break? To figure out how to stop cheating, it is important to understand the nuances of cheating and why it happens in the first place.
Infidelity is not as black and white a concept as it is often made out to be. To begin with, it’s far more common than we assume. Studies have shown that 70% of all Americans have cheated at least once in their marital life. However, as common as it is, when it happens to your relationship, it feels very personal and like the end of the world.
We consulted relationship counselor, Ruchi Ruuh, (Postgraduate Diploma in counseling psychology) who specializes in compatibility, boundary, self-love, and acceptance counseling, to help us understand why humans who willingly vow to be committed to one partner, resort to infidelity. She also gave us 15 tips on how to stop cheating on your partner.
Why We Cheat – The Psychology Behind Cheating
Adultery is the ultimate deal breaker for most people. Yet people risk it all and give in when they have a chance. Why so? Cheating is far more complex than common stereotypes make it out to be. We are not trying to imply that two-timing your partner is alright – there are no good reasons to cheat. However, to understand the mindset of a cheating man or woman, Ruchi shares with us broad reasons why people seek comfort outside their primary relationship.
- To seek sexual satisfaction: Due to sexual incompatibility with primary partner, dissatisfaction with sexual frequency, or for sexual variety
- To seek emotional satisfaction: Lack of contentment, excitement, or joy in primary relationship, neglect or emotional abuse by primary partner
- Situational factors: Distance from partner, availability of an opportunity, nostalgia and comfort with an ex
- Rules/attitude toward social norms: To satisfy taboos of kinks and fetishes or due to having to marry against your natural sexual orientation
- Revenge or hostility: Anger at the primary partner and a desire to hurt them in retaliation
“Why do I cheat even though I love my boyfriend?”- Compulsive cheating
But what about the case of chronic cheating? Can sex addiction be an excuse? Serial philanderers often find themselves in a fix, unable to explain their motivations. “Why do I cheat even though I love my boyfriend/girlfriend?” they ask. Ruchi helps us make sense of it, “We all have the ability to love more than one person at a time, but the degree and dynamics of each relationship can differ. Problems arise when we cannot communicate these feelings to our primary partner and resort to lying.”
While Compulsive Cheating Disorder is not recognized by Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, sex addiction can be rooted in other compulsive behaviors. In that case, what helps a compulsive cheater is professional guidance. If you find yourself addicted to sex, like in a case of substance abuse, with poor impulse control and inability to exercise your emotional skills to reason with yourself, you must consult a mental health professional.
How To Stop Cheating In A Relationship – 15 Expert Tips
Now that we can be certain of a few psychological facts about cheating a) that it is common, b) that it can be rooted in desires you find hard to communicate to your partner which is why you lie, and c) that it is more complex than you can imagine, let us look at our expert’s advice in how to stop cheating in a relationship and betraying your significant other.
1. Take accountability of your actions
If you are in an affair, and want to end it once and for all, you must begin by ensuring you take accountability for your own actions. “Your partner’s neglect or betrayal could be a trigger but you still broke the vows and the sanctity of your relationship,” says Ruchi.
Take responsibility in your relationship for the part you play, instead of blaming your partner as being the catalyst for your actions. Taking accountability of the choices you make lets you have more empathy for your partner and might lead to you not cheat on them again. It also gives you a sense of ownership of your fate, builds confidence, motivates you to keep your word and keeps you from falling off the wagon.
But if you’re trapped in an abusive relationship and cheated on your partner, your actions are understandable. Seek professional help through support groups and counselors, or opt for a legal recourse, to find a healthy resolution to the issues you are facing at home.
Related Reading: Is Your Marriage Making You Depressed? 5 Reasons And 6 Helping Tips
2. Work on your traumas
“In relationships, even the slightest emotional/sexual neglect can open some childhood wounds,” says Ruchi. “One of the top reasons people cheat (according to a survey) is feeling neglected, manipulated, or betrayed in a relationship. Sometimes these are actual events but many times they are just perceived.”
To stop cheating on your husband or wife, or your significant other(s), it’s extremely important that one addresses these traumas. Work with a therapist to recognize and heal old wounds.
3. Become aware of your triggers to cheat
“Why am I cheating?” That’s always a key question to stop adultery in marriage. See if you are reflecting any of the characteristics of a cheating woman or man in your behavior. You must do some inner work to understand your triggers for cheating. Ruchi advises asking yourself the following questions:
- Am I seeking excitement or variety?
- Am I feeling emotionally empty?
- Is the sexual relationship with my partner not fulfilling?
- I love my partner but am I bored?
- Am I escaping my partner?
- Am I doing this for revenge?
“Once you are able to recognize your personal reasons or triggers, working on them becomes easier,” says Ruchi. One can simply become more mindful or avoid situations that trigger serial cheating.
4. Communicate your concerns
Cheating is not limited to sexual intercourse with another person. Emotional infidelity and financial infidelity are equally impactful precedents to marital crisis. Most people agree that it is the lying or keeping your partner in the dark that makes cheating feel hurtful and humiliating. This means lack of communication is the key culprit in cases of infidelity.
The solution is clear. Having a clear talk with your partner about the changing needs in a relationship is crucial. Do you fear it will cause them hurt? Ruchi puts things in perspective for you. “As much as it might hurt your partner to know that the relationship is somehow unsatisfactory, infidelity will always hurt more.”
Find a day when you both can sit down together for a relaxed conversation. Set the ground rules of being respectful, open-minded, and present during this conversation. Talk about the problems you are facing, and work on resolving the conflict. “This is something couples can do in a couple’s therapy session too,” says Ruchi.
5. Introduce excitement in your primary relationship
If boredom in your relationship or excitement-seeking is one of your main concerns, talk to your SO about mutually building a space to introduce excitement. Ruchi suggests ways to enhance the relationship sexually:
- Talk to your partner about your fantasies, kinks, and fetishes
- With respect and consent, introduce them to your world of pleasure
- Be open to their world of pleasure
“Sometimes, this basic exercise can open possibilities of exploration that you never imagined before, ultimately keeping you away from cheating on your spouse,” says Ruchi.
6. Eliminate opportunities to cheat
“Cheating has two parts, desire and opportunity,” says Ruchi. If you are serious about keeping yourself on the faithful path with your partner, you need to eliminate the opportunities to cheat. Ruchi shares a few examples that may help you catch our drift.
- If you feel that downloading a dating app will lead to sexting, don’t download it
- If you feel that getting drunk at an office party could lead to you sleeping with someone else, minimize the alcohol
- If you feel you cheat when you feel neglected in your relationship, communicate it to your partner when it happens. Work on yourself and your expectations
7. Understand the meaning of cheating in your relationship
Between you and your partner, what counts as cheating? Most people will be okay with certain behaviors of their partners if they were aware of it or consented to it. Cheating is when one person lies and another feels betrayed. “I wish more people sat down with each other and defined their relationship and its boundaries,” says Ruchi. She shares a case from her practice as a relationship counselor.
“I once counseled a person who had cheated on multiple occasions. In our session, they realized that they were just looking for validation from new people for attractiveness. It wasn’t so much about sex, just some healthy flirting and compliments.
“They communicated this desire to their partner and something in the relationship fell into place. Their partner understood their needs and started paying more attention to verbally complimenting them. But most importantly, they realized that neither of them actually had a problem with light flirtation.”
Related Reading: 15 Signs Of Attention-Seeking Women In Relationships
8. Prioritize your current relationship
As the honeymoon period in a relationship becomes a thing of the past, we start taking our partners for granted and stop prioritizing them. The less attention you pay to them, the more the rift deepens. “Becoming more mindful of the importance of your relationship can be the radical shift in mindset you need in order to stop betraying your partner,” says Ruchi.
A conscious awareness of what your relationship needs and actively providing it with just that can sometimes be enough to distract your attention from going elsewhere.
9. Be spontaneous in your current relationship
Every relationship has the potential of becoming stale or boring after a while. And cheating at times is a manifestation of you begging for attention in a relationship. Invest in still surprising each other with little things that make you are your partner feel special.
“Book vacations, overnighters, and surprise dates,” Ruchi advises. “Couples that never stop dating usually have higher satisfaction levels from the relationship and fewer chances of straying.”
10. A deep dive into the understanding of monogamy
Did you know, before Western imperialism, more than 85% of indigenous societies around the world were polygamous? Monogamy is a result of social evolution and not our primary instinct. “It is possible monogamy is not what suits you best,” says Ruchi. “Understanding if your relationship needs a radical transformation like ‘ethical non-monogamy’ or an ‘open relationship’ is something you need to figure out.”
“Sometimes people keep cheating on their partner who they love because they find it more natural to love more than one person. And it sets deep guilt in the relationship,” she adds. If you feel you are polyamorous, it’s great, but talk to a professional and your partner instead of opting for a hidden relationship outside. Allow your partner to decide what they want for themselves instead of inflicting on them the humiliation of having been cheated on.
11. Stay away from the exes you are attracted to
“No, I genuinely mean it!” Ruchi exclaims when talking about the probability of cheating on your partner with your exes. “Most of the cheating in relationships happens with people we have known in the past.” And why is that? “The past partners/friends provide familiarity, nostalgia, and comfort,” Ruchi responds.
The advice is simple. Stay clear of your exes, if you still feel attracted to them sexually or romantically.
12. Improve your self-esteem and overall satisfaction with life
So many people struggle with insecurities and deficits that have nothing to do with their partner. “If you are struggling with low self-esteem or insecurities around your own self-worth, you’ll feel inadequate and less satisfied with life, seeking validation wherever you can find it,” says Ruchi. You might also find yourself self-sabotaging your chances at happiness in your own relationship.
Ruchi advises work on your individual well-being. You could join the gym, spend quality time with friends, find work that you love, and give yourself ‘me time’ to relax and rejuvenate. “Spending time with yourself gives more satisfaction and translates the same energy to the relationship too,” she adds.
Related Reading: 13 Beautiful Ways To Date Yourself
13. Avoid the “grass is greener on the other side” trap
There will always be someone who appears to be a more suitable lover than your partner. Ruchi has clear advice to keep yourself out of the ‘grass always greener on the other side’ trap.
“Take a moment and tend your own garden, instead of comparing your partner to others. Appreciate what they bring to the table. Treat your relationship with respect and abide by the promises you made. Put effort into nurturing your relationship and take pride in it.”
14. Create relationship goals
Most people fail to see the larger picture and easily stray or get distracted with lesser pleasures. Ruchi says, “Having a larger goal of where you see your relationship in the future can be an important antidote to cheating.”
Keeping your mind off cheating shouldn’t feel like a task. Relationship goals do just that. They give you perspective on what matters in the long term. They help you focus on what is more important and, ultimately, more satisfying to you. It eventually becomes easier to follow through with the commitment you have made to your partner.
15. Seek professional help to resolve current relationship issues
“All the conflicts, disagreements, and betrayals that don’t get resolved make the relationship bitter with every passing day. Resentments collect over, emotional dissatisfaction sets in, and this negative outlook toward each other becomes the language of the relationship,” says Ruchi.
It is always advisable that you work with a therapist if you see this negative sentiment setting in. “The sooner couples learn about their patterns, and find effective coping skills and conflict resolution techniques, the sooner they feel better about each other.”
- Seeking sexual and emotional satisfaction; unmet needs; situational factors such as opportunity, comfort, and nostalgia with an ex; repressed desires, kinks, and fetishes; desire to seek revenge; compulsive tendencies – all sit on the spectrum of reasons that people resort to cheating
- Cheating is not limited to sexual intercourse with another person. Most people agree that it is the lying, or keeping your partner in the dark, that makes cheating feel hurtful and humiliating
- To stop cheating in a relationship, understand your triggers and work on your traumas. Doing so under the guidance of a professional therapist can be invaluable
- Eliminate opportunities to cheat, communicate your unmet needs to your partner, and prioritize your primary relationship
- Having an open conversation around what cheating means to you as a couple can also prove to be helpful
Infidelity is not a line set in stone. It is a breach of the line of trust you have consensually set with your partner. If you want to stop cheating on your better half, you must understand that communication is crucial. Half your battle is won when you take your partner in confidence. Talk to your partner about what you are seeking. It is advisable to do it under the guidance of a counselor. Should you need that help, Bonobology’s panel of professional counselors are here to help you.
You must do some inner work to understand your reasons. Do you suffer from low self-esteem and are seeking validation? Is this related to childhood trauma? Are you trying to get back at your partner? Are you happy in your relationship yet need a sense of thrill? Your answers to these questions may help you find healthy solutions instead of betraying the person you love. Exploring these under the guidance of a professional therapist can be helpful to stop adultery in marriage.
Habitual cheaters are often insecure and impulsive. They are regarded as selfish. They may be suffering from deep-seated issues leading to need for validation, attention-seeking, compulsive behavior, and narcissism. Consultation with a mental health professional is what helps a compulsive cheater.
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