Beliefnet
Doing Life Together

relationship-2418155_1920“I love my partner. We are happy, but I am cheating on him.” This statement makes no sense to most of us. People who cheat are in bad marriages, right? Well, not necessarily. Yes, a bad marriage can be incentive to cheat, but people in happy marriages cheat too. And the reasons for this might surprise you.

Some affairs are all about the self-seeking actions of one person. The person is lost in his or her identity and tries to reconnect with a part of self that was never developed or feels gone. The thinking is that he or she is entitled to love and passion. When marriage doesn’t exactly deliver what the person thinks they need, they begin to think someone else can meet that missing magical feeling.

Then, caring and dedicated partners can find themselves crossing a line they never thought they would cross–all to find the missing part of themselves they desperately want or need. So, they turn outside the relationship rather than to their partner.

Our culture tells people an affair can be empowering or liberating, yet the pain and agony it causes to the other person is nothing less than a tsunami. But people buy the lie of empowerment because they feel alive again due to ignited passion. This is not empowerment, but a basic reaction of the brain to novelty. In healthy relationships, passion is not an ever flowing emotion. It needs novelty to reignite the embers of love. Someone who finds passion from an affair finds novelty at a high cost of losing everything.

Yet, some people say an affair is a form of self-discovery. Cheating is a crisis of identity with a bad solution. It’s deceptive–sneaking around, doing things that are hidden –all of which create a sense of excitement and rebellion, not typical of a committed relationship. This self-discovery process is less about sex and more about desire, It is a desire for attention, to feel special and a desire to be desired. It’s fills a temporary void in a destructive way. The person feels alive and feels as if they are reinventing him or herself. They see forbidden fruit and want what is unattainable.

Does that sound familiar? It is the original temptation of Eve. She desired what was good and pleasing to the eye. She was happy in the garden but was tempted by desire and the belief that there was something more for her to attain. The one thing she couldn’t have she wanted. And this is the lure of affairs. The promise is to get something you don’t have that you think will make you better or happier. The problem is it involves betrayal of those you love and can destroy relationships.

So if you struggle to find yourself, get a therapist to help you find that missing part of yourself. Whatever feels missing is important to figure out but it doesn’t have to be at the expense of another. It can be discovered within the context of those you love. You don’t have to cheat to feel empowered and alive again. A good couple therapist can help you feel that in your current relationship.