You Can’t Escape Your Cheating Past
You can run from it temporarily, but you can’t outrun the past forever. Ever tried running from yourself? It’s impossible. Sometimes I feel a profound sense of grief when I come to terms with the reality of my past decisions. What made me decide to cheat on my girlfriend? What about the ones before her? Yes, plural. There are others out there; women who have loved me with the force of a thousand suns, but I could never muster the courage to tell them that I was unfaithful.
Pain begets pain, I tell myself, to offset the need to start a confessional with each and every one of them. Some days, the questions I pose eat at me until there’s nothing left but a big gaping hole. What drove me to make those terrible decisions? And would I still be where I am today had I not made those choices? Somewhere along the way I came to the conclusion that if I can’t escape my past I might as well embrace it head on.
That’s where I’m at today. I’ve created the climate my current emotional state is in. We all do it to ourselves. The negative aspects of such a climate is this; rather than accept that we have problems, we justify them. Rather than accept that we need to change, we justify why we can’t or shouldn’t. For some, it’s easier to just give up than to make progress. It’s easier to simply be, than it is to change for the better. This was a product of my mindset as it related to the cheating and infidelity that ruled my world 3+ years ago.
Cheating is so rampant nowadays that it’s becoming almost commonplace to have an affair. It’s almost like a rite of passage in some aspects. And still, at the heart of every affair lies a major problem. The affair is a symptom of the problem, and contrary to popular belief, even relationships that have strong foundations are crippled by affairs. The fix lies in recognizing the problem for what it is, and seeking the necessary help to prevent the symptoms of the problem from cropping up again.
You can’t have one without the other. What I mean is, you can’t fix the symptom (cheating), and leave the root of the problem untouched, thinking that everything is going to be okay because you stopped the symptom from reoccurring. Most cheaters try and fail multiple times because they can’t grasp that simple concept.
The affair is an escape from reality, or a way to cope with the reality you’ve resigned yourself to existing in. This, of course, in no way diminishes the fact that it’s still an affair. Trust has been broken, hearts have been crushed, and the damage is still done at the end of the day, and where are you? Gratified sexually, but in mental turmoil. It’s like getting off to a particularly raunchy piece of porn, but feeling filthy afterwards.
Affairs happen for a number of reasons, including not getting your needs met, sex addiction, or possessing self-destructive tendencies that aim to systematically destroy a relationship, or cause enough hurt so that the other person leaves, because at least you were in control of it instead of not knowing when their love would abandon you. The list goes on. In some select cases, it can be a result of childhood or early adolescent trauma or some other serious unresolved issue that began early in life and went on to affect personal and intimate relationships well into adulthood.
The bottom line is that you must get to the core of what motivated you to cheat in the first place. Once that issue is addressed, not necessarily resolved, but addressed to start, you can begin to make progress. The keyword here is progress. And that’s a serious word because most serial cheaters can and do move quickly between relationships, leaving a trail of empty hearts, broken promises, and a whole lot of hurt in their wake. For those individuals, the problem goes beyond the standard once in a lifetime cheating episode.
Self-reflection is absolutely necessary in the healing stages, and recovery process. It is vital every step you take out of the murky blackness that surrounds after the affair has been brought to light. It’s also a valuable and important part of the process of understanding why that particular behavior was chosen. It took years for me to understand why I behaved the way I did in relationships. Why it was crucial for me to have a woman on reserve… just in case things didn’t work or she stopped loving me. Believe it or not, it was all I knew.
I never recovered from my initial heartbreak. I didn’t realize then that I was a bonafide other woman. Lock, stock and barrel. I never healed, never got closure when the relationship went south, and I didn’t become stronger and better able to deal with the uncertainty in my next relationship. The next was just as messy as the first, with it’s rays of beauty shining through every now and then. I lived for those rays. I didn’t grow from the experience until I began to reflect on the experience. I hurt, and I allowed the hurt to carry me instead of healing and becoming stronger.
The only way to be absolutely happy in any relationship is to feel free. The only way to save your relationship after the affair is to commit yourself to going through the healing process all the way. If you do, your relationship will be stronger, better, and more open than it was before. If you can’t or won’t commit, don’t bother. Contrary to popular belief, affairs have little to do with having overwhelming sexual desire for another person, and everything to do with masking significant dysfunctional problems in a relationship by simply focusing on what your body and mind is telling you that you need… freedom. Affairs, oddly enough, can provide a constant dose of free feeling adrenaline. That rush will keep you coming back for more, even though it’s entirely self-destructive and unsustainable.
In the grand scheme, it must be noted, realized and accepted that there was something going on with you before the infidelity occurred. That thing must be prodded, poked, and analyzed before you can move forward. Since discovering an affair is an eye opening experience, once your loved ones eyes are open, they’re going to stay open. Can you blame them? You have unresolved issues, unmet needs, and unspoken words. You’re a hot mess even though you’ve convinced yourself otherwise. If there is any hope at saving the relationship, you must come to terms. Closure, regardless of what it consists of, is necessary, especially for the person you cheated on.
Cheating used to be the deal-breaker in the relationship. As it’s become more commonplace, so has forgiving a cheater. It’s up to the couple to decide if there exists any sustainable reason for them to give the relationship another chance.
The motivation to stay should be a realistic one. If you’re staying out of guilt, pride, or pity, it won’t last. It’s not the be all to end all, but a good therapist can work wonders. The hurt and pain you dished out while you were out cheating on your partner won’t just go away on its own.
If there’s no closure, the memory of the affair and everything surrounding it can be almost unbearable depending on how you left things in the end.