Relationship Advice From Your “Big Sister” Part Two: Cheating

woman and man sitting on brown wooden bench

The Cheating Game-How Did I Ever Get Myself Into This?

Have you ever just stopped to try to answer this question for yourself?  Can you even remember your reasoning?  How long has this relationship been a part of your life?  A month?  Six months? A year?  Five years?  More? At some point, you have to agree with Dr. Phil McGraw when he asks “How is this working for you?”

I know that I was very young when this happened to me. I was nineteen years old, naïve, and not very worldly.  I had just graduated high school and had taken a job in a place where my co-workers were mostly older and male. 

At nineteen-years-old, my brain was not yet completely formed.  I was not able to see around corners, let alone see the “big picture” where dating or relationships were concerned.  At the time, I had an on-again, off-again boyfriend that I thought I loved very much. I was claiming my first independence with my own apartment, and my own income.  As most teen-agers, I thought I was “invincible”.

Then, one evening, there was a knock on my door and it turned out to be a very handsome, very sweet man, eight years my senior, who just happened to work at the same agency.  How did he even know where I lived?  (Duh, he was a police detective).  I had not ever spoken to him prior to his arrival on my doorstep. What does a silly, young, inexperienced woman do when the unexpected happens?  I allowed him to come in to talk, and found that I liked him.

I knew that he was married, and it bothered me-enough that I spoke to others at work about my concerns.  There is a reason that you have heard to not get involved with someone from your place of employment.  Heed that warning!

It was a long time before a sexual relationship between myself and that man happened.  To this day, I have never had as many meaningful conversations with anyone or learned so much as I did from this man.  He gave me the nickname “Kitten”. I loved it.  Now, I look back at the name as being so appropriate.  A kitten is young and vulnerable, needing guidance.  I was all of those things.

Perhaps your story starts something like mine did.  Or perhaps you are a bit older and your marriage is failing or has broken apart.  Perhaps you are a lot older and “wiser”, and still find yourself in this mess. It can happen to anyone-or perhaps I should say that it can happen to anyone with a lowered sense of self-esteem.

Admit it.  Self-esteem is a factor in this.  My on-again, off-again boyfriend at age nineteen was actually seeing someone besides me at the same time.  Perhaps I was not quite “good enough”.  Later in life, I had a cheating husband.  I must not have been “good enough”.  Much later, I found myself alone after a divorce, having trouble finding someone that I wanted to date.  Must be because I was still “not good enough”.

For me, the “not good enough” game started with some harsh words from my mother as a very young girl.  She told me that I was “ugly”, “stupid”, and would “never have a man who would want to marry me”.  A young mind under attack begins to believe words from a person who is supposed to love her unconditionally.  Being “not good enough” was cause to start me out in life willing to settle.

It took me almost an entire lifetime to be able to rid myself of my mother’s voice in my head.  Now, am that voice, and I am a much kinder judge of my own beauty and worth.  I know what “I bring to the table” in my own powerful and unique way.  Settling is no longer negotiable. 

Whatever has led you here, I want to start by telling you that you ARE good enough.  We are all a work in process.  We are all on a journey.  The journey is much, much easier if you treat yourself gently.  Talk to yourself the way you would want your lover to talk to you. Look in the mirror and tell that woman how special that she is.  List her good qualities.  Take a sharpie and write positive affirmations on your bathroom mirror so that every time you look at yourself, you see your own brand of special.

As if it is not difficult enough to see the reality of your situation, let’s also see the reality that statistics show us about cheating. Current statistics show that 33-60% of men and women cheat on their significant other.  Yes, that includes women!  As women in the work force become more and more financially independent, they are beginning to act more like men with regard to infidelity.  It remains that men are slightly more likely to cheat, but women are catching up.  The same studies show that people who have cheated before are 350% more likely to cheat again!  Read that last sentence again!

 Both sexes are more likely to have an affair with a co-worker, and some studies show that 17% admit to having an affair with a sister-in-law or brother-in-law.  (That was even surprising to me.)  Business trip affairs are also increasingly common.

In the United States, close to half of all marriages end in divorce.  2-3% of all children are now the product of infidelity and most of them are being raised by a parent who is not their biological parent.  We are not only messing up our own lives, but we are also messing up the lives of the next generation.

So why do people cheat?  We are all quick to assume that the reason for cheating is that the person is not happy sexually with their current partner, or that they are not feeling “understood” or are being “neglected” in some way.  They feel that something is lacking in their life, and that particular something has nothing to do with themselves.  It is so much easier to blame someone else than it is to take ownership and make changes.  Change is difficult, and most people do not have the stamina to stick it out and do the work.

Humans tend to take the “easy way out”.  For some, this easy way is cheating.  I would again like to quote Dr. Phil McGraw when he says that “You never fix a marriage or a relationship by going outside of it”. The real work needs to come from within. Heal the relationship or get out before beginning a new relationship.  It is that simple.  If you choose to get out, then do yourself and everyone else a favor by working on your own issues before getting romantically involved again.

Sometimes we get into relationships too young and we grow apart.  A relationship takes a lot of work.  It takes commitment and compromise.  It takes putting the other person first and working through the everyday problems and stresses that we encounter.  The cheater that you are, or have been involved with, has either not been capable of putting the other person first, or has put the other person first for far too long. The red flags that are present when a relationship begins, are the same red flags that usually cause it to come to an end.

The real answer to why someone cheats is:  because they feel that they can!  And somehow they justify it in their own minds.  Have you ever asked him “What makes it OK for you to cheat?”  And before you start to feel smug, ask yourself the same question.  What do you have to tell yourself that makes it OK to allow yourself to be involved with a man who already has another partner and possibly a family?

Today’s technology makes it so much easier.  All you need is a computer or a smartphone and you have access to photos and contact possibilities that are endless. Some apps make it possible to send “undetectable” messages to anyone at any time.  Websites abound for everything from finding a “Sugar Daddy” to finding a one-night hookup.  Video cams and swinging groups are real.  The excitement of escape from the mundane world sometimes becomes very intoxicating.

Think online conversations are harmless flirtations? Some statistics show that 40% of online affairs turn into the real thing.

Infidelity is considered to be one of the most emotionally stressful situations that a person can experience.  It takes a lot of work to rid yourself of the emotional baggage resulting from being involved with a cheater.  It also takes a lot of energy.  Aren’t you getting tired?  It is one thing to be tired from a lack of sleep, and another thing altogether to be tired from carrying a burden like this.

Most people are surprised by their own behavior. Most never planned for something like this to happen.  One bad decision leads to another and pretty soon, there you are….somewhere you never intended to be.

Does this make you a bad person?  No, it makes you a person who made a bad decision.  Don’t keep making that same mistake.  You can break free.  It might not be easy, but it can be done.  In fact, it MUST be done.  Unburden yourself.

Now I can hear some of you thinking, “maybe I should just make sure that his wife or girlfriend finds out”.  Somehow you think that if she knew it would clear the way for you and “Mr. Charming” to move forward with a real relationship.  This is what is called “stinking thinking”. It has been my observation that most significant others are not ignorant to the fact that the man that you are with is cheating on them.  You all know that there is no better detective than a suspicious woman!  Why would you begin to think that she does not know, when she has just not played her cards…….yet.

She either knows, and has decided to “ignore” it, or she suspects and is looking for as much information to confirm her suspicions as possible.  Why would she stay with him, if she knows?  There are as many answers to that question, as there were to the question about why someone would cheat. 

She may not be financially independent and is scared that she will not be able to support herself.  She may be afraid of being alone.  She may not want to admit that she is not the one in control.  She may treasure the status of being married to this man.  She may have his children and think that they are better off with both a mother and father together.  She may have such low self-esteem that she does not think she will ever be able to do any better.  She may think you are just a temporary fling that will go away.  She may blame this all on you, thinking that her man would never have strayed if you were not in the picture.  She may want revenge.  She may be planning to take everything away from him when she finally leaves.  She may be carefully plotting her escape. Or, maybe she truly loves him and never saw this coming.

Here is a fact that may shock you.  Most people think that someone cheats because they have “fallen out of love” with their partner.  The reality is that statistics show only a handful of cheaters have actually “fallen out of love”. 

My own husband left on a business trip one morning after making love to me, only for me to find out later that he met another woman at the airport and took her on that trip and then on a vacation for several days afterward.  Did he love me?  I can’t answer that.  I thought he did.  I can only confirm that the whole affair was shocking to me because I had no idea that anything was wrong.  After finding out what had happened, it then took me exactly an hour to find out who the woman was, where she lived, where she worked, where they were staying, and to call and confront the issue.  Detectives? We women are all amazing detectives!

Don’t even begin to think that people stray because their current sex life lacks excitement.  Your man may, in fact, be very happy with his other sex life.  Spicing things up on either end will not change the outcome.  Thinking that you have not been “spicy enough” only batters away at your own already low self-esteem.  The same is true for her.

After all of this, I want you to know that there are people who do not cheat in this world.  People who would never think of cheating.  People of integrity.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking things like “all men cheat”.  It is simply not true.  Don’t bring that into new, potentially great relationships.

In the next few blog posts, I want to introduce you to some of the different types of toxic relationship personalities that you might encounter. I want you to be able to see and recognize the patterns of their behaviors.  Red flags abound if you are strong enough to see and respond appropriately to them.  You will see commonalities among the different personality types, and this is because all of these types share the trait of narcissism.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

The narcissist likes to be the center of attention.  He will often give unsolicited advice.  He is all about instant gratification regarding any of his whims.  He has grandiose ideas about himself and his circle of influence.  He is charismatic and charming.  He can be very competitive.  Things that turn out badly are “never his fault”.  He probably has an addictive personality.  He thinks of himself as the “center of the Universe”. Does any of this sound familiar? Surely, these traits are not what you are looking for in a relationship?

When you learn to see what it is that you don’t want, I will then start to show you how to identify what it is that you do want to look for.  I will also show you how to heal and strengthen yourself, and how to truly believe that you ARE enough, in fact, you are MORE THAN enough!

It is going to take soul searching, list-making, changes in behavior, doing the hard work, and a lot of growth.  If you are willing to go on the journey, I can promise that you will come out better, stronger, smarter and self-empowered.  You are so worth it!

So, let’s get on with describing some of the “typical” toxic personality types, and their M.O.s.  It is important to be able to spot them, and just as important to see what it is in ourselves that responds to their behaviors.  Being forewarned and prepared will be a big help to avoiding toxic relationships in the future.  Follow my blog for the next installment!

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