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EP #38: Why We Cheat And What To Do When It Happens

At one point or another, we’ve all known what it’s like to feel cheated on and that sucks. With the advent of mobile dating putting thousands of choices into everybody’s hands, cheating is more prevalent than ever. But why do we cheat? What could make someone say they love their partner and go sleep with someone else? Stick around as we answer the question of why we cheat and give you strategies to make sure it never happens to you and show you what to do if it does. Learn how you could handle infidelity, how to heal from it, and know the root causes of this contemptible act.

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Why We Cheat And What To Do When It Happens

It is going to be an interesting episode as we are diving deep into understanding infidelity. If you’ve been with us more recently, you’ll know that we’ve been in the midst of a total series around relationships, understanding relationships, understanding how to create wonderful relationships, and challenges in relationships. We wanted to dedicate an entire episode to this challenge specifically, how to handle infidelity? How to heal from fidelity and understand what are the root causes of infidelity? We’re going to be covering all of this in this episode to really help you give an insight into, “Is this the end of your relationship or is this the beginning?”

I don’t know if you have experienced this. I know what it’s like to feel cheated on and that sucks. It’s really easy to go into blaming, attacking, or self-attacking at that point and all of that does not help. If you get into that, the relationship at that point might be doomed. You’re actually avoiding one of the biggest and most important questions, “What was not there that was causing this?” Usually when people cheat, it’s because they are not having their needs met within the relationship. This can happen from a couple of different places. If you aren’t familiar with what I mean when I say needs, please go back into the toolkit and find the episode where we do talk about needs, The Six Basic Human Needs, what they mean, and how to provide them for yourself, how to provide them for each other. There are three main ways in which a relationship cannot fulfill and not provide for a need. The first is that the individual is not providing it for themselves. They are not coming into the relationship whole. They are seeking the need to be fulfilled from someone else.

[Tweet “When people cheat, it’s because they are not having their needs met within the relationship.”]

The second one is that the partner is not doing their part of providing for that need. They’re not showing the love that the other person needs or the significance or certainty or variety or whatever the other person needs. The last one is that the person who is doing the needing, who is not getting the need met, is currently incapable of allowing themselves to feel the satisfaction of that need. We’ve gone over the other two in many other episodes, but this one is new. For example, a partner goes into the relationship and needs love, wants love and intimacy, but at the same time does not allow themselves to feel it. They either feel like they are not worthy of love or they feel like they’re not good enough for their partner or they feel like intimacy is scary. They can’t open up because they’ll be judged or rejected or they have a block on intimacy with other people because of something that happened in their childhood, probably from their parents. In each one of these cases, the person may start looking outside of the relationship for satisfaction of these needs. We have to first start there and understand, “Where is it that the partnership here has failed to provide for something critically important?”

Most people’s immediate response when they find out or they discover or they’ve been told that their partner has cheated is anger and resentment and judgment and frustration. You have to understand that if you are approaching this very delicate situation from those emotional states, it is not going to be the ground for healing and for understanding and for compassion. When you are in this situation or you know of somebody that is in this situation or maybe you are the person creating the situation, it’s having compassion. It’s coming from a place of compassion and curiosity where judgment does not exist. This is so crucial especially if your goal is to come from a place where you can love and heal the relationship. If you don’t want anything to do with this person and you never want anything to do with them ever again, then you want to judge and be angry and frustrated and be bitter, go for it. That’s a great way to end the relationship.

If you are wanting to heal yourself, heal the relationship, and help this person heal themselves, then compassion is going to be key here. Become curious. Become observant around yourself and how you’ve been showing up, and around your partner, how they’ve been showing up and really allowing you and them to discover what may be at the root cause. Infidelity is the result of something much deeper. It’s not the actual problem itself. What we want to do for you and for your partner is to really get down to what is the root cause, whether it’s something unconscious or whether it’s something that maybe is occurring more recently.

It’s also really important to note a few different things here. First of all, it is possible to cheat on someone you love. Possible, but it doesn’t necessarily mean, “Just because they cheated on me means they don’t love me.” Not always true, sometimes true. I’m not going to say that it’s not. Some people do need to be kicked to the curb. We have an entire episode coming up about how to end relationships, but for the meantime, it is possible to cheat on someone you love. What’s really interesting is a lot of the time that I’ve spoken to people who have cheated on their partners, they didn’t know why they did it. That is so important. They’ll say, “I don’t know. Something came over me. I was drunk,” or “I was really emotional.” They’re not even conscious of this thing. It’s possible that maybe both partners don’t know what went wrong. They don’t know what was missing. That’s why it’s so important when you’re cultivating a relationship to really talk about your needs. Talk about your values up front. This is what’s important to me. “This is what I need. Here are my love languages. This is how I like to be treated.”

If you’re thinking right now, “I shouldn’t have to say this,” then you are part of the problem, sorry. We’re not all mind readers. Why leave it up to chance? Just take the risk out of it. Talk about it. That way you can help each other feel fulfilled throughout the entire relationship because here we can see that sometimes until we have these conversations, we don’t even know what we need. Until you ask these questions of yourself and your partner, maybe it’s a complete mystery to everybody. That means that when something is missing, nobody knows. It’s not a conscious thing. It’s the feeling of something is wrong or “I’m unhappy. I’m missing something. I don’t know what. I haven’t been unhappy in a long time.” You’ve got to ask these questions because then you can really find what’s going on. See that maybe the infidelity was nothing personal, maybe it was really a cry for help. Maybe it was an acting out to get attention. Maybe it was a way to feel significant because they weren’t getting that in the relationship.

MMM 38 | Why We Cheat
Why We Cheat: Happiness comes from somewhere. It comes from some place, so really dig.

You’ve got to talk about this stuff. You’ve really got to dig and accept no shallow answers, “Because I was unhappy.” “Why? What have you not been getting?” “I haven’t been getting happiness.” “Nope. Not deep enough. That’s not good enough.” Happiness comes from somewhere. It comes from some place, so really dig. If you care about how you feel and how this person feels, and if you want a prayer of bringing this relationship back together after infidelity, then you’ve got to ask these questions and settle for nothing less than a complete, honest, and open answer and a complete understanding of what you need and what your partner needs. That way you can provide it for each other and that way you can heal from this.

This is definitely one that hits home for me especially, and here are few really big keys. Number one, it’s not to take anything personally. This is huge because these can the first step of going into that spiral of blame and frustration and anger. It’s not a very healthy way of dealing with this. Here’s what I’ll admit. More recently, my partner, who is an absolutely amazing man and I love him to death and we have a beautiful relationship, admitted to me one day that he had sex with somebody at one time and that it didn’t mean anything. When I heard that, it was first that disbelief. It was interesting because I could feel myself wanting to go to that place of judgment, anger, and frustration. I had to take a step back because from my perspective at that time it was, “Why would he feel the need to do that and what’s actually going on?” What was interesting is when I responded from a place of compassion and understanding, it completely changed the dynamic of that conversation. Where I could see in his eyes how angry and frustrated and irritated and mad at himself he was.

The way that I would look at it is, “This poor person had to feel so whatever that thing is to where they feel they needed to go do this and now they’re beating themselves up and they’re angry and they’re frustrated and whatever else is coming up.” If you are finding yourself in the situation on either end, it’s recognizing and acknowledging how you’re feeling with those emotions and instead of making yourself wrong for it, acknowledge that and be willing to have the conversation. If you are on the other end of that conversation receiving it, coming from a place of compassion and understanding, not judging and being angry and yelling and screaming, but coming from a place of, “Let’s understand this. Let’s figure out what’s really going on.”

I was dumbfounded. I was like, “Where did this come from? I thought everything was going great.” You’ll hear this a lot of times, especially in a lot of longer-term marriages where one person feels like everything is great and it’s Handy Dandy, and the other person for so long has been feeling so insignificant or feeling like they haven’t had their needs met. Ways to make sure that this doesn’t occur in your relationship is to have a space where you can have that open communication, where you can communicate openly.

In our specific scenario, I was so unpresent in the relationship and not being aware of my partner’s needs that I was completely oblivious to the fact that they were feeling insignificant in their own part of the relationship because I wasn’t providing that. In that, it snowballed into other areas of their life where they started to feel less confident. They started to seek significance outside of the relationship. I had to sit there and take responsibility for my own lack of action or actions thereof. Number two, for them to also recognize that what was showing up for them and how they were approaching that. When you start to look at it from a place of compassion rather than judgment, it allows you to get down to the real root of what’s actually going on. The next piece of that is understanding, “Where do we want to go from here?” I think this is a very powerful question. “Do we want to heal this relationship? Do we want to be together? Do we want to make this work? Do we want to reevaluate the situation and consider whether or not we really do want to be together?”

Knowing the outcome is very important in making decisions moving forward. This doesn’t mean you may need to make decisions right away. What I would encourage is actually taking some time and some space to really digest everything before making any rash decisions and reconsidering. “What is it we really want? Do we want to heal this relationship? Do we love each other? Do we want to make this work?” Make sure that both people are on the same page, that they both want to move forward. If one person doesn’t and one person does, then that’s going to be a different conversation. If you’re coming from a place of wanting to heal, then it’s coming from a place of, “Let’s understand this. Let’s figure out what needs are wanting to be met and what responsibility each person has in that.”

[Tweet “Anytime you make a decision from a powerless or negative state, you’re going to get unwanted consequences.”]

It’s really important to remember to make decisions from a powerful state. Anytime you make a decision from a powerless or negative state, you’re going to get unwanted consequences. It’s really easy, I know. It was a long time ago before I knew any of this, but I can still imagine what I’d felt like when I figured it out that I had been cheated on. I went right into rage. Making a decision from there, it’s terrible idea. Really bad. You’ve got to take some time. Cool down and do whatever you need in order to make sure you can get back into a powerful, self-loving, gracious, accepting, forgiving, and even compassionate state and then make your decisions. Then decide how you want to move forward. If you come from that state and you say, “I’m still out.” Good. Fine. By all means. The last thing you want to do is flip out and out of sadness or anger or feeling hurt, quit. Just leave. You might make a decision that you’ll regret. Even if you are going to break up, maybe you’ll say things or act in a certain way during that time that isn’t really you.

You might bring in even more negativity as a result of that. Here’s a really important thing here. I want to highlight from Sophie’s story. Thank you so much for sharing that. I know it’s personal. Had she reacted out of a powerless state when she was told that potentially heartbreaking news, then she could have gotten angry. She could have attacked him. She could have said some nasty things. She could have blown up. If his thing was that he wasn’t feeling significant enough in the relationship and that’s why he did that, then that response out of Sophie would have just pushed him into even more insignificance. It would’ve brought him down even further, making the problem even worse and then the relationship might have gone to an irreparable level of broken. When you find out that news, if you have to, just leave the room. You’re like, “No. I can’t respond right now. I’m emotionally compromised. I can’t think clearly,” and then leave. Return to this when you’re in a powerful position, where you can think clearly and instead of making the problem even worse, resolve it.

Once you are able to get down to really what is the root of the problem, what was really the cause, what was really the underlying reason for that behavior, then it’s coming from a place of, “Let’s start to figure out what needs to happen moving forward.” What does this person need? How do I need to show up differently? Make sure that you’re very clear about setting boundaries. This is very important because oftentimes you’ll hear, “How can I trust them that it’s never going to happen again?” Communication is absolutely crucial here. It’s making sure that you and your partner both understand, “What are the boundaries that we need to set so that we can set that standard so we can start to rebuild trust in the relationship?”

When we’re talking about that, remember that self-love is the most important thing and loving others does not always mean letting them get away with everything. It also means knowing exactly what you are prepared to experience, what you were prepared to feel, and then having your boundaries and having your limits. Allowing someone to hurt you is not always a sign of loving them. It’s not a sign of loving yourself. Allowing someone to get away with it just like, “Let’s forget it.” No. You’ve got to address it. Either heal it or break things off, but that in between thing, that’s not loving them, that’s not loving you, that’s not forgiveness, that is actually the exact opposite of all of it. Just remember that. Really take care of yourself. Take care of them. If it’s something that they’ve got to go through but they’re not able to process it because they’re in a relationship right now, because what they need is some healing on their own, then loving them also might be letting them go. Saying, “I love you but you’re not ready for this relationship. It’s obvious. I can’t provide what you’re looking for. You’re not accepting what I’m providing and it’s really time now for you to go and heal.”

MMM 38 | Why We Cheat
Why We Cheat: Self-love is the most important thing and loving others does not always mean letting them get away with everything.

When you do that, you actually allow the relationship to come back later. You’re doing this out of a powerful position where it’s like, “If this is what we need right now, great. Go do it. Go handle that,” or if you’re in a phase of your life where you need to get it out of your system, you feel like this crisis and you need to go and you hook up with a bunch of people and experience life, “Good. Fine.” Go with blessings, because that leaves the door open then if you want it to be open to reconnect later. I think that’s awesome. I used to burn bridges all the time in my relationships. It’s not cool. It’s not fun. It’s not great. There’s no satisfaction in it, even when someone cheated on me. Going out in fire and brimstone did not feel good and it sucked and it made sure that no matter what, we were done. That was sad.

I think the biggest thing in here that you guys are going to hear from me and Dan over and over and over is communicating, even when it’s really tough. It’s recognizing and acknowledging what’s showing up for you. Maybe you’re in a place where you don’t want to continue in the relationship and you want to go and explore other opportunities or you want to go and go on a self-healing journey. Please give your partner the courtesy and the respect of letting them know that that’s where you are and letting them know that, “This is what’s showing up for you,” and having that adult, honest, loving, and compassionate conversation so that you’re not burning bridges but you can continue to have a loving relationship in maybe a different way.

The last thing that we can bring for this episode is the question of, “Is monogamy really even for you?” There are a lot of different ways of living. I’ve had a lot of conversations with people arguing against monogamy. I’ve spoken about this with a number of folks saying, “Monogamy isn’t even natural.” I don’t know if that’s a real solid argument for any individual person. You could say like, “Maybe it is natural for your time of life, right now where you are and who you are. Maybe it’s natural for the culture that you’re living in right now. Maybe it’s natural or not natural for the belief system or view of life that you are in.” That’s really important if you start getting into this conversation. If you ever have one with someone who was cheated on, they’re saying, “Monogamy isn’t even natural.” Maybe not for you right now. Knowing that people change and that, yes, there are plenty of other ways to live. There’s polyamory. There are different communal styles of living. There is the sister-wives thing, the small community. All those things could work. It’s not to say that monogamy has to work either. You have to feel things out for yourself. Maybe you’re at a time in your life where monogamy isn’t for you and the moment that you can accept that is the moment that you can resolve all of this stuff.

Then you could be honest and open and like, “Not interested.” You get into relationships with people who are on the same page and then you eliminate the whole idea of infidelity because it’s part of the rules. There can’t be infidelity in that. I’ve met some people who are in open relationships, but they cannot have sex with anybody else unless they’re partner is there or unless they’ve asked for permission or whatever. There are rules and structures for these things. That’s also opening for you to explore these different ways of being and not to blindly accept that your relationships must be monogamous or not just because someone else has told you that this is how people in general are. You’ve got to feel things out for yourself and then once you find out what’s right for you, commit to that and let people know however way you’ve gone. That goes back to communication. Just let it be known early and clearly that this is how you expect this relationship to go then allow the other person to opt in or opt out, which could really nip the whole question in the bud before the relationship even happens.

[Tweet “Being a good partner starts off with being a great partner to yourself.”]

There is no right or wrong. It’s about what makes sense for you where you currently are. If monogamy isn’t the type of relationship that you want to sustain currently, then give yourself permission to step into your authentic self, whatever that currently is and being honest about that with whomever you come into possibility with so that they can fully understand. Nobody feels like they’ve been lied to, but everyone knows and understands what they’re getting into. On that note, we have a really cool exercise for you on this episode.

As we’ve been talking about this so many times, being a good partner starts off with being a great partner to yourself. When we talk about needs and satisfying and fulfilling, it starts off with you knowing what’s going on within you. As we’ve mentioned so many times, so many problems can be avoided if you know what you want, know what you need, and communicate it clearly to your partner. When both people can do it, you can resolve a lot of heartache and problem way before it even has a chance to start. Your task for this episode is to identify what you need in a relationship. What do you need from your partner? What do you need to feel, what’s important to you and how do you like hearing it, seeing it, feeling it, knowing it so that you can build a tight relationship, devoid of infidelity, or even the space for it to happen? If you’re in a relationship right now, part of your task for this is to have that conversation. Ask for your partner to do the same. Then you can have that open heart, “This is what I want, this is what I need. This is how I like to have it. Can you help me out with this?” When you really have that serious conversation and be open and accepting for whatever your partner may say, and for whatever you may say, then your relationship will improve that instant. You’ll have a breakthrough.

Take the time to really implement this exercise. Really give yourself permission to feel into it, figure out and discover what really are the truths for you.

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