This guest article from Psych Central was written by Nathan Feiles, LMSW
Relationships all have their share of trying times. It’s unrealistic that a relationship will always be happy and smooth. Even the best of relationships experience rough patches. But how we respond to these difficult moments is what determines the direction a relationship will take from there.
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When relationships go through instability, we are more vulnerable to subconsciously turning away from the relationship. This can happen in different ways. Some may end up focusing on work, or channeling attention into other activities, being with friends more often, and so on. But when a person is feeling neglected, resentful, or rejected by their partner, it can be tempting to start noticing other people who provide the type of craved attention that isn’t happening in the relationship. If we are not aware when we get caught up in this type of craved validation with an outside person, it can end up leading to emotional and behavioral (sexual) infidelity.
Where Cheating Begins
When people cheat on their partners, it’s a form of emotional acting out. It’s an indication that their feelings of oppression (whether perceived or actual), neglect (or abuse), rejection, or resentment overwhelm the ability to make balanced decisions. When feeling oppressed, we may look to regain a sense of emotional and physical freedom. The oppressed emotion may not always be triggered by the partner — for some it’s merely feeling tied down by a relationship that triggers feelings of oppression. The mindset becomes something akin to, “It’s my turn, I need something for myself. I’m not getting it at home, so I can do it here.” This can turn into a one-night stand, a series of one-night stands, or longer-term emotional and sexual affairs.
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When making the decision to cheat, it’s common that people compartmentalize it. The mind wants to put the incident in a box as something that’s done “outside” of the relationship, in its own private cubby hole that no one will know about. However, it’s rare for cheating to be so simple. This kind of mindset is similar to feeling that we’re invisible if we close our eyes.
Where Getting Caught Begins
One of the beautiful elements of being in a relationship is that both people become aware over time of each other’s tendencies, idiosyncrasies, and other qualities that makes the person unique. This includes becoming accustomed to each other’s routines and patterns of emotion. Therefore, when we do something out of the ordinary, it creates an emotional disruption that can be quite visible to our partners, even if we are able to internally compartmentalize it.
Basically, if we’re going to cheat, it’s likely we’ll end up getting caught at some point. I’ve seen couples where a person cheated one time, and ended up being caught anywhere from right away to many years later (there are countless ways that people get caught cheating).