Home Love & Relationships Rethinking Infidelity: When Your Partner Cheats Is Because They Love You

Rethinking Infidelity: When Your Partner Cheats Is Because They Love You


Why do people cheat? And most importantly, why do people in happy relationships cheat? Why do we assume that men cheat out of their fear of intimacy and boredom, and women cheat out of their hunger for intimacy and loneliness?

Is an affair the end of the relationship? And what do we exactly mean when we say ‘infidelity’?

The definition of what is considered to be infidelity keeps on expanding from sexting and watching porn to remaining secretly active on dating apps. And because there is no universal definition of what constitutes cheating, the percentage of people who are unfaithful varies from 26 to 75%.

According to Esther Perel, a famous psychiatrist, infidelity is a secretive relationship with an emotional connection to one degree or another, and a sexual alchemy. With alchemy being the core word because the erotic excitement that you will feel just by imagining you are kissing someone is more enchanting and powerful than hours long of lovemaking.

Because it is our imagination that is responsible for our love and not the other person.

Adultery has existed since forever, and so has the taboo against it. And yet, this very common act is little understood even today. So, how can we come to terms with something that is universally forbidden but still universally practiced?  

When we look back in history, men were practically allowed to cheat with the excuse of various evolutionary and biological theories that justified their need to wander. And when it comes to sex, men tend to boast and exaggerate, while women tend to deny, minimize, and hide.

And the definition of monogamy has changed today. In the past monogamy meant one person for a lifetime, and now monogamy means one person at a time.

Yet, monogamy has nothing to do with love.

The truth is, we have a romantic ideal in which we expect one person to fulfill an endless list of needs: to be our best friend, our greatest lover, our trusted confidant, our intellectual equal, and the best parent to our children.

And that they chose us because we are special, we are irreplaceable, we are the one. And an affair tells us that we are not. We are not irreplaceable, we are not indispensable, we are not the only one.

It is the ultimate betrayal. It shatters our beliefs in pure love and it threatens our self-worth.

Now, the typical belief is that someone who has everything they need in a relationship has no reason to cheat, and if they cheat it is because something is wrong in the relationship or with their partner.

But, what if passion has an expiration date? What if there are certain things that even a great relationship cannot provide?

Because many people who have cheated are people who deeply believe in monogamy and who said that they are truly happy in their relationship. However, they found themselves struggling with their behavior and their values.

Affairs are the ultimate act of betrayal, but they are also an expression of longing and loss.

At the very heart of an affair, there is an immense longing and yearning for emotional connection, for freedom, for excitement, for novelty, for sexual intensity… A wish for recapturing the lost part of oneself or an attempt to bring back the lost vitality in the face of tragedy and loss.

When a person starts looking for someone else, it is not that they want to turn away from their partner, but they are turning away from the person they themselves have become. They are not looking for another person, they are looking for another self.

Also, mortality and death live in the shadow of an affair because they raise many questions such as: “Is this it? Am I going to live the rest of my life like this? Is there more?”

Almost every person who cheated will tell you that they felt alive during the affair, and the affair usually happened after they experienced a loss – of a friend they have lost, a parent who died, bad news at the doctor…

So, sometimes people cheat as an attempt to beat back deadness.

And contrary to what many people believe, affairs are not much about sex as they are about desire – desire to feel special, desire for attention, desire to feel important and loved.

The positive thing is that in the aftermath of an affair, lots of couples will have deep conversations with openness and honesty that they never had in years. And sexually indifferent partners will suddenly find themselves inexplicably attracted to each other. It has something to do with the fear of loss that rekindles the lost desire.

So, how can we heal from an affair?

The healing process begins when the partner who had an affair acknowledges their wrongdoings, and expresses true remorse and guilt for hurting their partner.

The perpetrator has to become the protector of the boundaries for a while. It is their responsibility to relieve their partner from the obsession and make sure that their partner knows that the affair is not forgotten, and start rebuilding the lost trust step by step.

And the deceived partners must do things that would bring their self-worth back. They should surround themselves with friends and family, and do activities that bring back their happiness and their sense of self.

But the most important thing is to stop yourself from digging into the details of the affair and asking questions like: Where did you do it? How often? Is he/she better than me?

Instead, switch to questions that will give you answers of the meaning and the motives of the affair. Questions like: What did the affair mean to you? What did you experience that you could no longer experience with me? What did you feel when you came home? Are you relieved that this is over?

Finally, things are not just black or white. And betrayal can come in many different forms – as neglect, as contempt, as indifference, or as a violent act. Sexual betrayal is only one way of betrayal.

Thus, the victim of an affair is not always the victim of the relationship.

Betrayals should always be seen from a dual perspective. On one side we have hurt and betrayal, and on the other side we have a chance for growth and self-discovery.

Think of it in this way: Your first relationship between you and your partner is over. Would you want to create a second one together?