This article originally appeared on YourTango, by Elizabeth Ayers-Callahan.
This is the REAL reason relationships end.
There have been a million articles written about why people cheat, but they're never written by the right people.
Sure, there are some written by people who've been cheated on.
And there are a bunch written by people who continue to cheat, excusing their behavior.
But I don't think I've ever read an article about why cheaters cheat written by someone like me — someone who was a cheater most of her life, but has finally broken the cycle for good.
So yeah, I get it better than most.
Just so you know, I haven't cheated in years, and I'm still with my husband.
I don't believe I will EVER cheat again, and that's something I've never been able to say.
And yes, my husband knows everything ... or at least anything he wanted to know, and everything that mattered.
So as a person who has done the hard work — and believe me, it was hard — to heal from a life of infidelity and come out the other side with a deeply happy marriage, I want to bust five popular myths about cheating.
Because if we keep believing these lies, we will just keep cheating.
1. Cheaters don't really love their partners.
Cheating has nothing to do with love. At least not in most cases.
I loved the people I cheated on more than I could explain, particularly my husband, and I still cheated.
Why? Because cheating and love are totally unrelated.
So, what's the reality? Most chronic cheaters I know are actually more likely to cheat when they care a lot for someone.
Because loving someone that much is actually terrifying. Cheating is a way of establishing a self-sabotaging boundary around their hearts, or setting up a backup plan in case the person they love dumps them.
2. Cheaters are all narcissists.
The "all cheaters are narcissists" theory is based in the lie that you have to have little to no conscience to cheat.
If you could empathize with the hurt you'd cause your partner, you wouldn't cheat, right?
So, what's the reality? We all do things that hurt our partners, even knowingly. For instance, we might spend money on things that don't matter, knowing it takes money away from important family expenses.
We may say something cruel in the heat of the moment, something we know will hurt the person we love.
We might tell a lie to get something we want or conceal bad news, only to be found out later.
You don't have to be a sociopath to do those things. Just like you don't have to lack a conscience to cheat.
They're bad choices you knowingly make, not because you are cruel, but because you are human and probably have some issues you need to work out.
3. Cheaters are sex addicts.
Again, possibly. Some people don't believe sex addiction is real, and that's fine.
Personally, I think that sex addiction is real, if perhaps a different type of addiction like other process addictions. Shopping addicts, gambling addicts, and even plastic surgery addicts have a compulsive need to perform a behavior.
But are all cheaters sex or love addicts? No way.
So, what's the reality? Cheating is a bad choice most likely rooted in a deeper issue, just like every other bad choice we make.
We can figure out how to stop cheating if we get to the root of why we keep making the same bad choice over and over again. It requires BRUTAL honesty with yourself, and a willingness to accept that you are broken, in some part of yourself.
Your cheating is not the boss of you. You just need to grow up and realize it.
4. People cheat because they aren't getting what they need from their partners.
This is victim-blaming BS.
Yes, it's likely that cheaters are in imperfect relationships. But get this — everyone is in an imperfect relationship.
I used the excuse of my husband's sometimes cruel behavior for why I cheated on him. But the truth is, it was always me who chose to cheat. I never needed to.
So, what's the reality? We've been told this lie for so long, now we use it as an excuse to cheat, even if subconsciously.
The brutal truth? I cheated because I was afraid to truly love my husband without a backup plan.
I also sought out the "high" of having someone care about me and lust after me. That gave me a sense of worth, long after I was grown enough to know better.
A guy who cheated on me explained (many years later) that he used cheating to "treat" his Depression.
Keeping his life in chaos by juggling four or five partners at once, trying to keep track of all the lies, and having so many women feed his ego kept him from having to truly feel his dispair.
Sure, I was an imperfect partner to him, but he cheated because he chose to.
5. Cheaters will always be cheaters, it's simply their nature.
There may be cheaters who always cheat, but that's not because it's in their DNA (though there is evidence a gene may influence who is most likely to cheat) or because cheaters can never change.
It's because they didn't get the help they needed, couldn't muster the strength to do better, or because they are simply assh*les who don't care about their relationships.
"Cheetahs never change their spots"? Tell that to the millions of cheaters who stopped cheating, and to the millions of families over the course of modernity who managed to stay together after infidelity.
So, what's the reality? Trust needs to be rebuilt, and that takes time. A lot of time. And a lot of work.
Both partners need to figure out how they contributed to making a cruddy marriage, but the cheater needs to figure out how NOT to cheat, and for every cheater, that answer is going to be different.
Setting aside the controversies around the legitimacy of sex addiction, lots of people find help in sex addiction therapy or love addiction groups.
Therapy, counseling, a healthier lifestyle, or something along the lines of finding meaning in religion are all options.
Some couples even open up their relationships or become polyamorous as a solution.
That does NOT mean a cheater should make sex with outside partners a condition of staying together.
It is rare that marriages are happier when open, but it happens. I'm just saying that the possibility may exist for you, if you both feel that polyamory is more natural for you.
Believing these cheating myths only serves to keep us in unhealthy relationships.
Worse, they prevent us from fighting for relationships that are worth saving.
So let's all grow up and leave these lies behind.