Out Of Character?
Something smells fishy. Your spouse has been leaving home earlier than ever claiming that they have quote unquote “work meetings” – but they hate waking up in the morning. After they started smiling like they were relishing their first love, you finally asked to check their phone the other day. They said no. Something’s definitely wrong. And so, you jump to the most obvious conclusion (or so it seems): your SO is cheating!
The puzzle pieces seem to fall into place perfectly. Maybe he’s been lying to you, he’s hotter in bed now, trying new things you’ve never even heard of. Or maybe, she now avoids having sex with you, she’s starting to keep secrets when you used to share everything under the Sun with each other just a month ago.
But hey, hey, hey! This can’t be it right? After all, you guys had the perfect relationship, he was the man of your dreams, and she made you the happiest ever. There must be some misunderstanding – maybe you read the clues wrong. These may be thoughts running through your head at the moment, but give yourself some time to process the situation and take into account the situation as objectively as you can. It’s okay to admit that this situation has caused you hurt, and understand that this hurt may be here for a while. What do you do now then? “You know what, he wasn’t that good in the first place. I’ll do better without him.” “I’ll find a better woman than her and prove that I can live just fine without her.” Everyone grieves differently – while some may choose to explode with distress and confront their partners, others may choose to gather evidence before exposing their SO, or some may even choose to keep quiet and accept the situation they’ve found themselves in.
Why does cheater cheats?
No matter your coping mechanisms, you inevitably think about why your SO cheated at some point in time. Personal reasons? Maybe they started to lose their love for you. Existing problems? Maybe you weren’t good enough in bed for them. In fact, an investigation in the United States involving 495 people found that there were 8 key reasons why people cheat: anger, self-esteem (both too much, and too little), lack of love, low commitment, need for variety, neglect, sexual desire, and situation or circumstance.
Interestingly, 50% of female cheaters and 80% of male cheaters just wanted an affair, not another relationship.
If you’re up for it, you may wish to explore the reasons behind your partner’s infidelity, and work something out to push through the crisis together. Such stories do exist:
M, a successful woman with 2 adorable children and a husband who never missed family events found themselves in a flurry of distress when M’s husband admitted that he had been fulfilling his needs with paid sex. She was hurt. She couldn’t meet her husband’s demands in the bedroom, which finally led to things falling apart and her perfect world crashing down. With help, she decided to stay in the marriage and work things out with her husband to manage each other’s sexual expectations, embodying the power of love.
What can I do next?
Of course, not everyone decides to work things out with a partner that has cheated, and if you choose to end the relationship, that’s okay too.
The future may seem uncertain now, but here are steps (aptly, with the mnemonic CHEAT) that you can take:
Coach/Counsellor: If you experience any symptoms of depression, it may be hard to reach out to professional support, but it will definitely help
Hope: Find people that will support you and walk this journey with you patiently, bringing you hope when you need it
Experts: If your children have come under collateral damage, you can speak to a family counsellor to help support them
Anguish: If you’ve been deeply traumatised by this experience, speaking to a counsellor to work through those feelings may help to loosen you up a little
Tangibles: If you decide to get a divorce, speak to a lawyer to manage your finances, asset management, as well as child custody
Humans are naturally problem-solvers, and you may be wondering how to prevent such situations from reoccurring. Here’s where boundaries come into play. Seek open communication with your new partner, and decide for yourselves what constitutes “cheating”. Vaginal intercourse? Getting emotionally close? Going out as friends? Miscommunication kills relationships, so be open and let your partner know what you want and need in this new-found relationship.