Whether you often find yourself being cheated on or you are just discovering an affair for the first time you might wonder, “Why do people cheat?” It might be difficult to wrap your mind around why someone would cheat rather than end their relationship first.
In my work with affair couples, I have noted two “kinds” of cheaters. (Of course, there are more than two “kinds” of things in any complex relationship problem, such as infidelity); but the two “kinds” I refer to give insight as to the personality types prone to cheating, which explains a bit about “why” they do it.
The Avoidant Type
Partners who tend to avoid communicating their true feelings in their relationship can be prone to cheating. In particular, they may start an affair by emotionally cheating before it becomes physical. Rather than express their needs assertively, they grow resentful that their partner is unaware of or unable to meet their needs.
These are the ones who may say, “My partner makes me unhappy;” “My partner drove me away;” and “I wasn’t able to tell my partner how I was really feeling.” Notice that these types of statements place the blame on the partner, as if the partner was supposed to be able to mind-read the needs of the unhappy spouse before they cheated. Of course, certain situations, such as being overly critical of one’s partner can certainly “drive” them away; however, it is the responsibility of the unhappy partner to communicate that he or she feels driven away rather than go outside of the relationship.
The Narcissistic Type
Partners who tend to feel entitled to cheating are definitely more prone to it. These partners tend to have personality types that, no matter how wonderful their husband or wife might be, could still cheat based on their beliefs and justifications about cheating. For example, they might believe that they “deserve” to have a little “fun on the side” or that the rules of commitment don’t apply to them.
Such partners might rationalize, “It was just one time and it didn’t mean anything;” “My spouse will never find out, so it’s okay.” They may even minimize it by saying, “I said I was sorry, I don’t know why my spouse just can’t move past it.” Notice that these types of statements are dismissive of the hurt partner’s feelings and make light of infidelity. Although it’s rare to receive such honesty, it is the responsibility of the narcissistic partner to communicate their beliefs about feeling “allowed” to cheat so that their partner may make an informed decision about whether or not they agree with those beliefs.
If you’ve been noticing some red flags about your partner that seem to fit either of these two types, or if you know your partner has cheated, there is definitely hope if you are both committed to staying together. Receiving couples therapy with a clinician who specializes in infidelity can be the most important first step.
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