Cheating causes some of the worst pain this world has ever known. People describe it as feeling like they’ve been punched in the stomach and had their hearts ripped out. Some cheaters get it. They realize what they’ve done and feel their partner’s pain. But, those with empathy like this seem to be in the minority; most cheaters say they feel really terrible over what they’ve done but it’s somehow less than totally believable. And you’ve got to seriously question the extent to which a chronic cheater feels for his/her partner.
It’s possible to have a mismatch in a couple: one is monogamous and the other is poly amorous. Often enough, the poly amorous one doesn’t want to admit it and pretends to be monogamous. This could be due to shame or guilt over not having the strict moral code of his/her partner. But more likely, it’s because he/she is afraid of the partner’s reaction: suspicion, rejection or argument. Some poly amorous individuals like to operate under the radar because they’re OK with cheating themselves but they’re horrified at the thought that their partners might want equal rights.
Both people in a couple could be essentially monogamous, but the cheater might be very insecure, entitled or angry. Cheating may provide a sense of security or insurance to someone who is feeling threatened, albeit a poor sense of security. An individual who cheats because he/she is entitled probably realizes it’s possible to get away with it and asks him/herself why not. The general idea is that what the partner doesn’t know won’t hurt him/her. Angry or indignant cheaters may be the most common. These people have a feeling of having been betrayed by life or by their partners in one or more ways: feeling dismissed, unappreciated, unloved or unwanted. In their minds, this gives them permission to cheat.
Chronic cheaters have usually settled into a pattern of behavior that includes their partners and their extracurricular activities. They have long since gotten past any negative thoughts or feelings about themselves and the potential or actual impact of their behavior. For them, the emotional contract with their partners now includes their cheating.
Often enough, their partners have some inkling about what’s going on, but don’t really want to know for sure. Occasionally partners are totally blindsided when they learn about chronic cheating.
At the end of the day, there’s an irony in cheating. The partner who is cheated upon generally takes it like a ton of bricks and questions everything: What does it mean? How could you? Did you even think of me? Are we done? The cheater, especially the chronic cheater, may have no answers to these questions. Or, the true answers might be ones the questioner would really rather not hear.
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