Infidelity hurts. The moment you find out your partner has cheated on you, something shifts.
You might feel betrayed and sickened by the thought that they went behind your back. You might be overwhelmed with questions: who, when, where, why? Your fight / flight response might be triggered. You might start to wonder if it’s your fault. You might just feel angry.
No matter how you feel initially,
there will come a time when you will
probably need to answer the question;
what is next?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to moving forward after infidelity. It could depend on a number of variables: whether you feel able to forgive the cheater, whether they apologize and show genuine remorse, the type of affair and the length it went on for, the reasons the affair occurred, or the way you found out.
According to Psychology Today, if a relationship is going to recover after infidelity, the cheater has to admit to feeling guilty and remorseful. Also, the reasons why the infidelity occurred need to be addressed and worked through (perhaps, with the assistance of a counsellor). It may also be important to know that if the people in the relationship choose to stay together because they love each other, they are more likely to be happier than if they stay together for other reasons, such as children or finances.
Basically, a relationship can be repaired after cheating occurred if the cheater is genuinely sorry and regrets the decision to cheat, if the issues which contributed to the cheating are properly addressed and if the people in the relationship still love each other and want to make it work.
However, you might be wondering about the likelihood of infidelity occurring again? Unfortunately, the phrase “once a cheater, always a cheater” can sometimes ring true.
Cheating behavior tends to be repetitive thanks to an experience called the “cheater’s high.” According to research, which was published in the scientific journal Nature Neuroscience, the “cheater’s high” occurs when a person cheats and feels more positive feelings than negative feelings. For example, they might feel thrilled by the fact they got away with cheating more than feeling guilty about it.
Further, the study showed that an “adaptation to dishonesty” can occur.
Each time a cheater lied, the emotion centre of the brain (called the amygdala) gave a weaker and weaker response. So, the more the cheater got away with cheating, the less they felt bad about it. According to the co-author of the study, Neil Garrett, “With serial cheaters, it could be the case that they initially felt bad about cheating, but have cheated so much they’ve adapted to their ways and simply don’t feel bad about cheating anymore.” However, he also noted that perhaps, the cheaters weren’t bothered by their cheating behavior in the first place and never actually felt bad about it.
Other reasons why a cheater
might keep cheating:
- A lack of sexual satisfaction and desire for additional sexual encounters. Someone who cheats may be looking for new sexual experiences or to improve their sex life in some way. However, this could also be attributed to a lack of communication – it can be difficult for some people to request more when it comes to sex in their relationships; more adventure, more spontaneity, more satisfaction. Or, even just more in general! They might feel unable to articulate their requests (or feel unheard when they try to communicate their wishes) and so decide to try to fulfill their desires outside the relationship.
- A lack of emotional satisfaction in the primary relationship. A study found that emotional intimacy was almost as compelling as physical intimacy when having an affair. People who felt disconnected from their primary partners wanted to find emotional closeness elsewhere. There are also people who engage in affairs because they don’t feel appreciated and they believe that they have grown apart from their primary partner.
- Falling out of love with their primary partner, or falling in love with someone new. While love is often found to be less of a motivating factor than physical and emotional reasons, it does still play a role for some people.
At the end of the day, if someone cheats on you it’s their responsibility to make a change. You may need to work together to repair the relationship and it can be important to address the reasons why the affair occurred in the first place.
You can work as a team to overcome the challenges in the relationship, and perhaps even grow closer together over time.
However, the decision to not engage in cheating behavior is one that needs to be made by the cheater themselves. Only then can you decide if you want to rebuild the relationship and move forward.
Articles written by our internal Daily Guru writers, who are certified & qualified growth & development professionals.