Boredom, the need to seduce, the desire to assert themselves – there are many reasons for infidelity. Cheating never goes away for a couple, but it does not always indicate a lack of love, experts say.
Why do we feel guilty?
Thirty-year-old Ina is happily married, but one day at a retreat conference she could not resist the charms of her colleague. Ina has been tormented ever since, trying to justify her fleeting infidelity. “I was young, shy and melted when a confident man older than me started courting me,” says Inna. – However, I feel very bad after this story, I feel terribly guilty.”
Serious word – “guilty” . So we are not so relaxed? It’s not so easy to cheat on your spouse or partner? Gestalt therapist Maria Baskakova believes that guilt is just a sign of the value of a relationship: we value it and fear that we may have damaged it.
“If we say ” infidelity “, then we are talking about an established couple. While the choice of a partner has not yet been made and we are comparing possibilities, including sexual ones, we don’t call it cheating and we don’t feel guilty.”
Deciding to commit adultery is not easy, it does not go without consequences and always requires some kind of justification
Providing an unfaithful spouse a convincing alibi even created a special kind of business – there are agencies that offer such services. And this despite the fact that the law no longer considers adultery a crime. Divorce has become so commonplace that no one is surprised or even outraged, and there are many men and women on dating sites who do not hide their married status.
Isn’t infidelity a kind of fashion to be followed, with morality aside and guilt suppressed? But sociologist Charlotte Le Van interviewed dozens of unfaithful spouses and now argues just the opposite: “It struck me that today, except for those whom I called ‘principled cheaters,’ that is, hedonists who have made the search for pleasure a life principle, no one enters into extramarital relations for nothing. The decision to commit adultery is not easy, it does not go without consequences and always requires some kind of justification.
What Pushes Us to Cheat
Psychologists seek to explore the root causes of infidelity. “Behavior is influenced by many ulterior motives,” notes psychologist Marise Vaillant, “and sometimes the true essence is far from what is on the surface. Maybe a lover of women seduces them because he is driven by a desperate desire to return maternal love, not just because of the sexual dissatisfaction he says he feels in his relationship with his wife.”
According to Maria Baskakova, infidelity sometimes turns out to be a way … to keep the couple together! “In family therapy, the concept of the ‘invited third person’ is used,” she says. – This secret partner of family life helps defuse tension that builds up in a pair, and thus maintains the existence of the union. And this tension is not always sexual in nature. “Cheater” can make up for the lack of interest in his affairs, care, recognition.
For someone who chronically cheats for the sake of new experiences, I would first of all ask how creatively fulfilled he is: in this way he often compensates for the lack of creativity in life. And for women who have sacrificed their careers or personal development for the sake of their families, for example, adultery can be a way to free themselves from the role of the keeper of the hearth, a return to their own essence.
Why does cheating make us feel guilty?
Secret and overt
As long as we don’t want to change our relationship as a couple and avoid hurting our partner, we are able to hide our affairs on the side. “If there are “clues”: traces of lipstick on the collar, un-erased sms in the phone – this is not at all an accidental oversight, – sure Maria Baskakova. – This is a kind of a message to the partner: “Something went wrong! Pay attention to me!”
Treason often becomes an occasion to discuss the relationship, to reassess their importance to each other. “Feelings of guilt – a difficult experience,” says Gestalt therapist. – If we analyze it, we find that it is a lot of excitement, excitement, even joy. To better understand this, you can imagine a child who ate candy without asking, or went for a walk without their elders. And the reaction of the one who is cheated is also a strong feeling. The power of these emotions gives the couple a new burst of energy that can move a frozen relationship forward.”
Open discussion can lead to different results. Perhaps partners recognize that their union is no longer satisfying and come to the point of breaking up. But the opposite happens: feelings for each other come back to life. “If a couple manages to resolve conflict, the bond between partners becomes stronger,” says Maria Baskakova.
I know that you know that i am cheating
Ilona, 47, tells how she discovered her love diary had disappeared. “It was all written in the form of references to a man whose affair had lasted about a year. Even when we broke up, I kept it for a while. There were also some very eloquent photographs pasted in there – pictures of us looking at each other with amorous eyes. The notebook was hidden under my underwear in my dresser drawer.
One day I wanted to reread the diary, and it turned out that it wasn’t there! I had no doubt my husband had found it. There was just no one else. I can’t tell you how I felt. Anger and guilt, shame and fear… I was getting ready for a strong explanation, a frank confession, and the possibility that it might lead to a breakup. However, time passed, nothing happened, my husband was silent.
One partner’s guilt can turn him into an object of manipulation by the other
After about a month, I guessed to look in his desk – and sure enough, the diary was found in one of the drawers. I picked it up and took it to my parents. My husband and I never said a word about it. But I realized how much he cared about me. It was very important to me to see that our relationship meant so much to him that he was willing to sacrifice his pride to keep it.
Cheating is not something one partner commits outside of any connection with the other, it is something that happens to a couple.
“Not ‘with him’ or ‘with her,’ but ‘with us,'” Marina Baskakova emphasizes. – Therefore, accusations and self-accusations are meaningless. The feeling of guilt of one partner can turn him into an object of manipulation of the other: cheated – make a gift, fulfill a request.
But only by asking ourselves: what was the purpose of this betrayal, what I am trying to find, what need I want to satisfy, we get a chance to understand the meaning of what is happening to us as a couple.
New definition of love
Like all primates, we are naturally polygamous, but morally and socially we function as monogamous beings. It turns out that we live in a state of constant conflict: our biological nature clashes with our value system. And we need an explanation to calm our conscience.
“When desire clashes with our social and moral self, we are forced to rationalize everything, to look for explanations,” says Mariz Wayan. – We accuse our partners of imperfection based on the false assumption that if they had satisfied us, it would never have occurred to us to seek sexual pleasures on the side.
There is a process of consuming love and turning it into a tool to serve our needs. We are supposed to be fully satisfied with love. And if we don’t, we try to make up for it, sometimes by cheating. But the way to a real relationship is only through the unconscious contact of two people. This is what we should strive for, this is what, if not protects us from cheating, helps us to experience our relationship with the other person in all its depth and complexity.
And maybe this will lead us to a more “human” form of love: one that is faithful, but also aware of our inner structure, that does not deceive us about the person we should care about first… about ourselves.
Why does infidelity make us feel guilty?
Arguments for infidelity
Kiren, 58, TV host
“I was faithful to my wife for twenty years, although after we had a daughter, Maria began to pay me less time. It’s hard for a man to accept that. One day I met a younger woman, and we began a stormy affair. I told Maria about it. I hoped to awaken something in her that way. But it led to a terrible crisis.
We broke up and then we got back together. So did my relationship with my mistress. Seizures of jealousy, breaking up, returning … Within a year I was tossing between two women, then turned to a therapist. Little by little I understood what was really going on with me.
When I was four years old, my mother, who was too busy with her work, entrusted my aunt to raise me. The apparent lack of love from my wife revived in me the memory of the same lack of love from my mother. In addition, I felt the passing of time, afraid of growing old. A new novel is a rebirth, albeit an illusory one. You feel young and beautiful.
I broke up with my girlfriend. I realized that Maria loves me. She could have left me, but she did not. Besides, I couldn’t leave her and my daughter. This story, among other things, taught me how to grow old. That, however, doesn’t stop me from looking at girls all the time. But just looking!”