How To Stop Yourself From Cheating When You're Feeling VERY Tempted

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how to resist temptation stop having an affair

The affair ends here.

Love is a powerful force.

Throughout our entire lives, we're told that romance is so powerful that it can overtake our sense of reason and change who we are from the outside in. Love can make a weak man strong, an anxious woman brave, and it can inspire us to do things we never believed were possible. 

The most potent example of how we internalize this is in our obsession with "impossible" love stories.

Think of the way we've romanticized the story of Romeo and Juliet. To many, it is the ultimate love story.

What these two people give up in order to be together, against all odds, is the highest form of love. But Shakespeare didn't write a love story. He wrote a cautionary story about hatred, division, pride, and war. The romance was only used as a tool to teach us how tragic stupid prejudices can be. 

But we eat it up — as if love that hurts, that feels like it's against all odds, is the most important kind of love.

Of course, that's bullsh*t. 

These two myths — that love is so powerful it can drive you to become someone you're not, and the obsession with "impossible" love stories — contribute to a society where even the best people find themselves tempted to cheat. 

The truth is, it's easy to cheat. Especially when we think our feelings always have to mean something. 

It's easy to let those feelings become a little too strong. And it's easy to give in to them, little by little, until you find yourself in an affair, either physical or emotional. 

And you may not be the type of person who ever believed you would cheat on someone you love. But here you are. 

So why DO people cheat on people they love? And how can you stop having an affair (or stop the temptation), even when your feelings for someone else are powerful?

As someone who has cheated, and done a lot of work to figure out how and why I had an affair, I have some advice for how to resist temptation.

It's going to take some work and commitment on your end to figure out how not to cheat. But trust me, it is possible if you try these ten things:

1. Recognize that you do have a choice.

No matter what happens in movies and fairy tales, no matter how much people get swept away by romance, you DO have a choice. Always. 

Even if you can't choose how you feel, you can choose how you behave.  

Learning not to give in to that passion, to those oh-so-tempting interactions with the other person, is going to take practice. It's like a muscle you have to grow. Imagine that you get stronger every time you choose not to engage, more powerful. Like a bicep lifting a weight, over and over again, every single day, you will grow stronger and it will get easier.

2. Remember that what you feed will grow.

You don't have to be into woo-woo spiritual "law of attraction" stuff to believe that the things you put your attention, efforts, and energy into are the things that become bigger and more powerful. 

Your temptation, as well as your passion for that other person, is no exception. You feed it, it will grow.

RELATED: Do Men Cheat As Often As We Think They Do? Dr. John Gray Weighs In

3. Treat your temptation like a real addiction. 

There are a lot of debates over whether sex addiction or love addiction are "real" addictions, and I'm not going to get into that here. 

But we certainly can treat our relationship with the temptation like an addict would, if it helps us to do better.

Dr. Lucy Brown (research partner of Dr. Helen Fisher, featured in the video in point #9, below) has even found in her research that falling in love is a high akin to using cocaine

We can understand that every time we interact with the object of our temptation, we get a "high" — a blast of all those happy brain chemicals, and understand that there is going to be a biological drive to have more and more of that happy brain feeling. 

Over time, with less and less interaction and less of those happiness "hits", we will crave it less. But it's going to hurt at first.

You may want to seek support for it, especially if you have other addictions that might tempt you when you go through the "withdrawal" — even if it's just on an emotional level — of pulling away from the person.

4. Cut off ties with the other person (as hard as it may be).

If you can't just be friends, you can't be anything at all. 

If you absolutely have to see each other, keep it as casual as possible, and interact as little as you can. Even if you think it's rude, remember that cheating on your partner is significantly MORE rude. 

RELATED: 4 Harsh Reasons (Even Good) Men Cheat (According To His Escort)

5. Do the work to figure out the deeper root causes of why you want to cheat.

Most people immediately turn to problems in their home relationship to figure out why they cheated, but most of the time that's total BS. Every marriage or long-term relationship has problems, but not everyone cheats. 

You cheated because you chose to, not because your relationship was lacking. 

via GIPHY

So you are going to need to go deeper. What inside of you needed that "high" the other person delivered? Was it affirmation? Sexual release? Companionship? Selfishness?

Do the deep work on YOU to figure it out. Once you have done your part, you can do the deep work needed in your relationship, if you discover that's a part of it. But most likely the problem starts with you. 

That doesn't make you a bad person (necessarily). We're all messed up. But you start to become a bad person when you refuse to do the hard work of doing better when you know you should. 

6. Tell your partner that you're tempted. 

I know, this is the worst.

You run the risk that you're going to hurt them, they're going to be mad, they're going to feel bad about themselves, or that they may want to leave you. I don't know. 

But if nothing else is working to manage your temptation, you need to be honest.

And, hey, your partner might surprise you and say, "Temptation is normal. How can I help?" You never know. 

You may also need to tell your partner that you cheated, or that you're having an affair. If you're having sex with both your partner and the other person, you have an ethical and possibly even a legal responsibility to share that information. 

I have a friend whose husband cheated, and they broke up. He was the only man she'd had sex with in her life, they were married for twenty years and had three kids. But they both knew their marriage was over. The divorce would've been simple, except she discovered that he had given her a sexually-transmitted infection that caused her to need surgery and left her unable to get pregnant and with years of health problems.

The divorce and affair made him feel bad, but they were both able to heal from it. But physically harming his ex, whom he cared for deeply and is the mother of his kids, was the worst.

7. Tell a friend or family member about your temptation — someone you trust will hold you to high standards.

You are going to need support. 

Separate from the people who enable the temptation by saying stuff like, "You're only human!" or "Your husband is always working, who can blame you for having feelings for someone else?" 

We do, naturally, start to assimilate some of the beliefs of the people around us, and you need to be around people who will call you out and help you live to your own standards and ethics. Some researchers even believe that divorce can be "contagious".

If you feel like you can't trust friends or a family member, seek out a therapist or religious leader, who, as mental health professionals, are bound to confidentiality by law.

Also, maybe find new friends. 

RELATED: 11 Little Things Men Secretly ADORE About The Women They Love

8. Examine what it means to fall in love (vs lust).

Remember, lust is not the same thing as love. Even when it feels deep and emotional, lust is something distinct from love

You can't be immediately in love with someone you don't know well, or someone you haven't had an intimate relationship with. I just don't buy it. 

Your lust may be powerful, your connection with the other person may be deep, but it's not love

What you have with your partner is probably love. It's probably deep. It's probably rooted in something that grew over the course of years, over experiences you could never duplicate with this other person. 

Stop thinking your home relationship isn't love if it isn't as passionate as your lustful temptation. 

9. De-mystify love and take the "magic" out of your feelings.

No matter what fairy tales and movies told you, love isn't magical — and neither is lust.

Brain scientist and researcher, Dr. Helen Fisher, in her world-famous viral TED talk about the reasons why people love, put people who were in different stages of love into fMRIs (machines that study the way the brain behaves while the brain is doing something — here, feeling emotions associated with love).

The whole talk is fascinating and profound, but you might find a lot of comfort in understanding how biological your drive is. 

I know it feels that way, but the truth is that your feelings hold NO power over you. They are NOT stronger than you. Our feelings don't have to always mean something or develop into something. 

The universe isn't conspiring to send you this temptation in order to finally give you the love you deserve. That would mean the universe was conspiring to end your marriage, hurt your spouse, and possibly break up a family.

Does that make sense? Does that sound magical and mystical? Is that romance written in the stars? No. 

If you believe everything happens for a reason, then be smart about it. Maybe the reason this temptation has happened to you is because you need to get your act together, do some soul-searching, strengthen your marriage or long-term relationship, and stop looking for affirmation and ego-boosts from outside yourself and the relationship you once valued so much, you committed to it. 

10. Understand how confirmation bias affects how we feel about our partners and the other person. 

This one is a little tricky, but was meaningful to me as I recovered from my life as a cheater.

Confirmation bias is something we all have to varying levels and degrees. Wikipedia defines it as, "the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one's preexisting beliefs or hypotheses."

It just means that we see what we expect to see. Not because we're bad or stupid or anything. It's human nature — but that doesn't make it accurate.

So we may look around us and think that basically everyone cheats. But that's not true at all. Dr. Justin Lehmiller reports that in any given year, only 2-4% of married people have affairs.

And only 20-25% of marriages will experience infidelity over a lifetime. And remember, some marriages last 60 years. It's actually way less cheating than we may expect — especially when we're unconsciously looking for confirmation that most people cheat, and we aren't alone. 

Also, if you find yourself connecting emotionally with this other person, you may start to notice more and more things you have in common, and those things might start to become more meaningful than they would be otherwise.

It's like that joke about the two people who like each other trying to find a reason why. One says, "Well, I like pizza. Do you like pizza?" 

The other person, being a human being with taste buds, says "OMG I love pizza! We have so much in common!" 

And then they jump in a cab together and speed off into the sunset.

But that same exchange with someone you don't really like might elicit a response of "Well, duh, everyone likes pizza. It doesn't mean anything."

Obviously, this is an over-simplification, but it's a good example. 

When I fell for someone who wasn't my partner, we kept thinking we had the number "3" in common. We both had three brothers. We'd both lived with three partners in our lives. We both wanted three kids. This number three became a big deal, and I kept seeing "3" everywhere.

After the sparks faded, I realized that a lot of people want three kids and have three brothers. The number three is everywhere, but it always had been. We got confirmation on what we were looking for, but it turned out to not be meaningful at all. With someone else, it would've been something else.

All of these ten points have one thing in common: They require you to shine a light on your feelings and be objective. That's not easy when you're feeling tempted or even like you're falling in love. 

But if you want to know how to stop an affair, or how to resist temptation, you're going to need to turn on all the lights and look at all your feelings in the daylight. See all their sharp corners, call out all their faults. 

It hurts, and it's not as much fun as hearing that other person's voice or getting a text from them. 

But if what you want is to NOT cheat, then you're going to have to do it. Be brave, ask for help, but get it done. You're better than this.