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We all heard the story of Jesse James cheating on Sandra Bullock and asked the same question. “Why, how, was he nuts”? None of us know Sandra but she seems like the perfect package so why would any guy throw that away on a tattoo play girl? The other common comments were “Sandra is so beautiful, why would a guy cheat on her?” We cannot make sense of this, anymore then we can when we hear past stories of John Edwards or Tiger Woods and the list continues every day. Men don’t cheat because someone prettier comes along (although she may act sexier). They cheat because they can, and they aren’t thinking of the consequences. Women also cheat. They cheat because they become involved with someone emotionally. They rationalize to themselves that this person cares for them and is able to connect to them and their current partner cannot. Women will rarely cheat without having a relationship, but men don’t necessarily need a relationship to cheat. Women more commonly cheat upwards (economically and/or socially) whereas many men cheat downwards (the person they cheat with many times is not educated or at the level their wife is with years of school or income). Approximately fifty percent of my clients who come in for marital help have cheated. This makes infidelity a big part of my practice. I am going to explain to you what I see and back it up with what I know is true in the psychology literature as well as what I have learned from following these patients. As you read this, try not to get defensive (there is no honorable reason to cheat). When you are trying to save your marriage you must remain humble and open. Love and earning back one’s trust takes time and patience.
When you are evaluating someone in regards to whether they may cheat on you it is important to find out a little bit about their family of origin. Did their dad or mother ever cheat on each other? If so what was that like? How old was your partner when they found out, and how did the cheating affect the parent’s marriage? If your partner’s parents cheated there is a good chance that your partner may cheat. We all learn behaviors from our parents and whether or not your parents cheated will have an effect on you in regards to cheating. If you deny it you have more of a chance of cheating, so being honest and dealing with your feelings in regards to it will be helpful in preventing it in your own marriage.
If you do find out your partner has cheated there is no immediate cure. Divorce is not going to give you back your marriage, it is not going to even things out, and it is not going to help your children. Cheating on your partner so they know how it feels is not a wise decision either, both of you will lose with this decision. So STOP…BREATHE…and have the cheating partner agree to give you some time to think. Acting immediately at this time, will make everything worse.
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