The word cheater alone causes a visceral response in those of us who have been cheated on, or have cheated with one, and we all know the reason for this. It’s because the act of cheating, or being unfaithful in a marriage or supposedly monogamous relationship, causes so much pain to everyone involved. 

We think we know the cheater, but in truth, we actually know the stereotype (that is, unless you are a cheater). We think of him as a mindless, heartless sex machine with no emotions or concern for anyone else. A walking, talking bag of testosterone (the sex drive hormone–also in females) in search of a hook-up. There are some people who might almost fit that description… or so it seems.
The truth is that there are many reasons why people cheat. The ‘serial cheaters,’ who sometimes don’t even pretend to be in a monogamous relationship, are commitment-phobics. This usually comes from experiences of being ‘stuck’ in unhappy relationships or being hurt in them. Sometimes it is instilled in them as children, seeing adults in their lives go through spouse after spouse, cheating, leaving, starting over, and cheating again. They are taught to cheat and almost see it as the norm. They know it’s not right, but it still seems acceptable to them. They are addicted to the rush they get when cheating–the adrenaline rush resulting from the fear of getting caught. 

There are others who  love their partners but are  weak when faced with temptation. They might be happy in their relationships. Or they might be bored, but still content. They do not want out of their relationships, but they feel entitled to have something exciting on the side. These are people I consider to have serious character flaws. They need to consider the consequences of their desire for fun and stop thinking that they are too smart to get caught. The ‘entitled cheaters‘ almost always get caught, then cry and beg to hold onto their partners because, “It didn’t mean anything, I swear! It was just sex!” Hello! It was sex with someone other than your partner! How did you think she would feel? Right… she wasn’t supposed to know. Well, you’re never as smart as you think you are, so avoid the temptation!
Other cheaters are normally good people with good morals, who would never have imagined they would commit adultery, or even cheat on a girlfriend. The ‘accidental cheaters‘ have every intention of avoiding temptation, but it sneaks up on them. They try to resist, and might succeed for a while, but then the circumstances are such that the temptation is overwhelming. He seems to think there is no way out (but there ALWAYS IS–the Bible promises us that), so he gives in. Immediately, he is overwhelmed with guilt and feels horrible about himself and about what he did. These people usually only have one-nighters, but they can also fall into the trap of having an affair. If so, they’re racked with guilt and are miserable, because they know the damage that infidelity can cause.
Still others are in relationships in which their partners have changed so much that they feel they are justified in cheating. “This is not the person I married,” is the excuse they use. Okay, it’s lame, I know, but you have to admit that there is some validity there. I mean, we all change as we grow and age. We gain weight, we lose hair, some gain hair, etc. We aren’t the same that we were in the beginning of the relationship, which is why it is important that we try to hold onto the love we once had by reconnecting and rekindling it if it has waned. Though there is some validity to the excuse of change in a partner, that is not a license to cheat. So what if she gained weight, and he thinks that made him more vulnerable to temptation? The’whining cheater‘ probably isn’t as hot as he once was, either. Stop whining and get some therapy, or if you no longer want to be in the relationship, get out!
Then there is the person who has been in a crippled and/or dying relationship for a long time, maybe many years, and is still trying to accept it, rather than to leave. There is no real relationship, because there is no intimacy. No caring, no affection, and no sex. Okay, there might be some sex, but it’s cold and mechanical and completely unfulfilling–disappointing. He might even suggest that they seek counseling, to no avail. The relationship has damaged his self-esteem so much that he feels like he doesn’t deserve anything better. He tells himself he’s staying for the benefit of his children, but instead of seeing a loving, healthy marriage, they see bitterness and arguments, without any affection. He’s teaching his children that this is what a marriage looks like. The ‘good guy  cheater‘ is on the floor emotionally… then he meets someone. She’s interested in him. She cares for him. She wants him. He can’t resist the promise of something better. He agonizes over his decision, but then he leaves. Granted, he should’ve left before he entered into a relationship with another woman, but he never intended to leave. 

There are another couple of reasons why a person would cheat. One is sex addiction. Another is bipolar disorder. Sometimes, during the manic phase of the illness, patients make poor choices, one of which is having multiple sexual partners. Both of these conditions should be monitored by a psychiatrist and/or licensed therapist.
Cheaters are not all the same, and of course, this article doesn’t list every type of cheater. There are combinations of reasons and personalities. We might feel like they are all monsters if we’ve been hurt by them, but they are people, too (even if we might not think of them that way). Most cheaters are not the mindless, heartless people we imagine them to be. Most of them do care about the pain they cause and hate that their actions have caused others to suffer.
If you’ve cheated on your partner, please take a look at yourself and your actions. I say this not in judgment, but in love. I know that you have a heart and that you care about the feelings of those you love. If this is true, you have to stop this behavior, so you don’t continue to hurt others, as well as yourself. Please consider speaking with a licensed therapist. There are reasons why we do things, and sometimes we’re unaware of them. Speaking to a therapist could help you find a way to change your life for the better, not to mention the lives of those close to you. Wouldn’t it be great if you never broke another heart?
If you are involved with a cheater, and you’ve decided to stay with him, it’s a good idea to take a look at the cheater and the relationship. (See “Can We  Prevent Infidelity?”  and “Why Did He Cheat?”)
No one deserves to be hurt, and that includes you!