Cheating - Sharing a romantic or intimate relationship with somebody when you are already committed to a monogamous relationship with someone else.
According to researchers, as many as one in five married people will commit adultery at some stage, and the odds are the same for both men and women (Source: WebMD). This research also suggests that many extra-marital relationships are motivated as much by dissatisfaction with unfulfilled emotional needs as they are motivated by attraction.
This helps to explain why cheating is so common among both partners in a PD-Non relationship, because often both partners have, or feel they have, emotional needs that aren’t being met.
The Personality-Disordered partner may feel they have an inner void, no matter how hard their spouse tries to meet their needs. They may fear abandonment, and so feel motivated to make a “pre-emptive” strike, such as stepping outside of the relationship commitment before their partner “inevitably” cheats on them. They may flirt or become intimate with others in an attempt to arouse jealousy or to test the love of their committed partner.
Nons often feel unfulfilled because of a pattern of verbal or physical abuse, accusations, withdrawal of affection, push-pull behavior, and a general lack of attention to their emotional needs. Stripped of their self-esteem and starved of healthy, loving contact, they may begin to crave intimacy, and may become extremely vulnerable to displays of affection, attention or admiration they receive from others. An emotionally famished Non may not be too discerning if someone appears to want to nourish them – even if it’s superficial.
What it feels like:
Contributed by OOTF Member "S"
Before I found out:
- He told me things he thought I wanted to hear so I wouldn't be suspicious. He talked a lot about his ‘friend’ at work, I think more just in case he slipped so he could cover his tracks. But he was overly sympathetic to his friend’s needs, (i.e., her dogs died so she needed a shoulder to cry on, she needed someone to talk to because her husband was abusive, she needed help moving, she needed help shopping, etc.) But he would never contribute in the same way at home.
- He attended happy hour after happy hour because someone got laid off & needed “one more beer”, he “couldn't leave now because someone just bought him a drink & he couldn't be rude” to them – but then he could be rude to his wife & children & not come home until 11pm/midnight. One time when I got angry & told him that I didn't want him to go to any more happy hours, he didn't come home at all.
- He often said things like “I always said…” or “I already told you…”, although he hadn't said them to me.
- He asked me to do sexual things he had never asked before.
- He gave me enough of the truth to make me give him the benefit of the doubt. He even used my kindness and my generosity to get me to do things for her.
When it hit me:
- I felt electrocuted. I felt like all the life had been sucked out of me in an instant.
- It felt like looking through a window of my life in disbelief; thinking that this must be someone else’s life & not mine; this happens to other people.
- I remember trying to find something, anything, to prove that I was wrong for thinking that he was cheating. I didn't want to not believe him. What did I do wrong? What didn't I do right?
- I felt disgusted & sick with the thoughts of someone else making love to my husband. I felt humiliated and embarrassed that his family and friends at work knew, and I did not.
- I felt my life fold like a house of cards. All happy memories were erased in an instant on that day when I learned of the affair.
- I felt the loss of a dream popped like a lofting balloon.
- I felt conned, set-up, ambushed, like the “rug was pulled out from under me”, like I suddenly lost my breath from a bucket of cold water being thrown in my face.
- I thought about roses he gave me for Valentine’s Day, how he said he was going to stay, and then the next day how he was “in love with someone else”.
After he was gone:
- I felt hollow.
- I felt limp as a rag doll from crying so hard.
- Every day began to look the same. It was easier not to think. I didn't want to eat; I wasn't hungry and I didn't notice I hadn't eaten meals.
- At night I couldn't sleep; in the morning I couldn't wake up.
- I felt rage: “How could you!” I wanted to hit something. I broke/smashed/shattered the gifts around the house that had come from his “friend” and the gifts from him that I realized had been given out of guilt.
- I felt expendable. I felt pushed overboard while he watched me go under.
- I took off my wedding ring in slow motion and disbelief.
- I couldn't think. Noises were too loud, but silence was even louder. I needed life to become muffled for me to keep going.
When I went out in public:
- I struggled to maintain my dignity. I thought people must think I must be pretty horrible to live with. I felt as though people were staring at me & whispering about me; I had made the community gossip – I didn't want my children to find out from strangers what their dad had done.
- Some friends felt sorry for me. Some wanted to know ‘the dirt’. Others withdrew from me; as if they were afraid they would catch “divorce cooties” and infect their own marriage.
- I hated hearing, “it happens to the best of us”. It wasn't supposed to happen to me! I hated other people making excuses for him. I hated other people telling me that he was still a good man. I hated other people telling me that I was a good catch and would find someone else.
- I felt as if others were looking at me if a cheating song came on the radio.
- I didn't want to talk about it because I didn't want to cry anymore. I was emotionally & physically spent. I didn't want other people to start telling me their “hate all men” story.
- I didn't want to be left out, but I didn't want to be around people.
- I felt on sympathy display when I was the only single person at a couple’s event.
- I went to functions as if nothing was wrong because I didn't want to explain myself.
- I hated people telling me I'll get over it & this was the "first day of the rest of my life".
- I was embarrassed to be a statistic.
When I looked back:
- I felt like I was being prepared to be a single parent long before I found out because he was slowly dissolving his participation in our lives.
- I hated it when other people acted like they knew all along after they put the pieces together.
- I had a haunting visual echo of a discovered plane ticket and a hotel receipt for 2 I had found.
- I began to recognize previous times when he had cheated on me. When he had decided that he “needed a break” he spent the time with his girlfriend instead of with me & our children.
What NOT to do:
- Don't blame yourself or take responsibility for your partner's actions.
- Don't act impulsively, fly into a rage or lose your composure. This will only put a cheater on the defensive and provide them with excuses.
- Don't treat being cheated on as license to do the same - two wrongs won't make it right.
- Don't keep it a secret or try to deal with it on your own.
- Don't blindly trust the promises of someone who has already cheated on you.
What TO do:
- Act rationally and reasonably. Try to get as much information as you can to establish the facts.
- Decide if the relationship is worth saving, if it is, find a good marriage counselor to help you both through it.
- Pay attention to your instincts. Actively seek the facts to either prove or disprove your suspicions.
- Discuss with a trusted friend or therapist the safest way to speak to your partner about their cheating.
- Check out our sections on Staying Committed and Leaving an Abusive Partner.