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How To Stop Yourself From Cheating — No Matter How Tempting The Other Man or Woman May Be

Photo: Unsplash: Gregory Hayes
Why Do People Cheat? How To Fix Your Broken Relationship & Avoid Having An Affair
Love, Self

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.

We eat these myths about love 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 BS, and it's the kind of BS that leads to unrealistic expectations and a lifetime of trying to fix a broken relationship ... which may have never been broken to begin with.

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 cheating, wondering how they got there, and trying to figure out why people cheat in the first place.

RELATED: 8 Big Risk Factors That Cause Your Partner 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. 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 you on how to resist temptation.

If your marriage or long-term relationship is worth anything to you, you will have to stop cheating or you will never figure out how to fix your broken relationship. And without trying to fix what's broken, you simply cannot save your marriage.

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.

Your focus will go back to your partner, and away from that other person, a little bit more every day and that will make it easier to fix your relationship in the ways that are necessary to save your marriage.

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.

Feed your marriage instead. Feed your interest in your partner, feed your desire for them, and feed your connection.

RELATED: The Scientific Reason People Cheat On Those They Love

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.

Researchers Dr. Lucy Brown and Dr. Helen Fisher even found in their research that falling in love induces a reaction in the brain similar to that cause by a high from 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. You can't fix that broken relationship if you're still DMing the person who tempts you.

RELATED: 10 Types Of People Who Cheat The Most According To Science

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.

So sure, you may need to fix some issues in your marriage. Definitely see a couples counselor for help on that one.

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

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

Do the deep work on yourself 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.

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.

RELATED: 6 Honest Reasons Why People Cheat, As Told By A Woman Who Did — A Lot

7. Tell a friend or family member about your temptation.

Choose someone you trust who 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.

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. And, as I noted above, you can grow the lusty part of your marriage or relationship, but you have to pour your attention there instead of into your affair, or potential affair.

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

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 in different stages of love into fMRI machines to study the way their brain behaved when the feelings and emotions associated with their love were evoked.

The whole talk is fascinating and profound, and 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.

What is really magical is learning how to save your marriage and fix what's broken in your relationship. Staying with the person you're committed to is magical — and it's a magic you control.

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 experience to varying levels and degrees, and is defined as,"The tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one's preexisting beliefs or hypotheses."

In laypeople's terms, 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.

Statistics on how many people cheat vary widely, so it's hard to get a real handle on how common infidelity is.

Dr. Justin Lehmiller reports that in any given year, only 2-4 percent of married people have affairs, and only 20-25 percent 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.

RELATED: 'Why I Cheated' — 5 Brave People Reveal The Real Reason They Strayed

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 more like, "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 the ten points above have one thing in common: They require you to shine a light on your feelings and be objective in order to save your marriage or your relationship.

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 and you want to fix your broken relationship, 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.

RELATED: Why You Were Born To Cheat On The Person You Love (Yes, Really)

Elizabeth Ayers-Callahan is a writer focusing on sex and relationship issues whose mission is helping other women feel less alone in their marriages.