Why do we cheat? A question I asked myself repeatedly as the daggers of infidelity punctured my chest and ripped my heart wide open. The skeletons of deceit chasing me throughout my life for years, its ghost lingering behind, even long after the fact. An experience that continued over and over- tearing me to pieces and bringing me to my knees, begging for mercy and full of desperation for the lesson to show its cowardly self to me… it took me years to peel back the layers that truly revealed the need for this to occur in my life and the growth that would come from it.
Infidelity can occur for many reasons; low self-worth and the need for validation, to fill the void of emptiness and self-hatred, because we saw it in our parents, to avoid getting “hurt”, because it’s easier to express ourselves to strangers than it is to be rejected by our loved ones, because we’re afraid of being our true self, because we’re not ready to settle down, because we fear the only other way out is to leave the person whom we love- and we are too wrapped up in that safety blanket to take the leap, or because someone did it to us and rather than express our painful emotions- we choose to make ourselves small and retaliate.
I remember the first time I cheated, I was overcome by the sensation of exhilaration and adrenaline- only having it end in an overwhelming, and almost unbearable, guilt, shame and paranoia. Cautiously looking behind my back every time I thought someone was watching me. The fear that wouldn’t leave my side that they would also cheat on me. The anger I unleashed on the people around me as I was threatened with the idea of exposure. “The truth always comes to light,” I thought to myself. I was trying to get the passion back into my life, that sense of freedom, and an outlet to the erupting emotions within that I frantically tried to smother. “I just don’t give a fuck” anymore I would think nonchalantly- even though the idea of being without my loved one shook me to my core. Even after I found the courage to stop and the strength to address what was imploding underneath, I was haunted by a ruthless guilt- how can I ever forgive myself for being so shitty? I didn’t love myself and although I wished for a sacred love experience- I was treating myself like someone who wasn’t worthy.
You would think I would’ve been the bigger person, but I cheated even after it had happened to me. I remember the heart wrenching pain it brought me to have been betrayed by my first love and my best friends. I felt like a fool, an idiot, undeserving of real friendship and honesty. For years I carried the burden of extreme anger inside my heart. I vowed to never treat anyone the same way I was treated. I damned all cheaters to hell- useless pieces of shit that should be removed from the face of the earth. I told myself and everyone who would listen, and even those who wouldn’t, my sob story, playing the victim and dragging that weight with me for a decade. Refusing to see the lesson, avoiding compassion like the plague and banishing the idea of forgiveness- no wonder it kept happening to me.
Cheating has been one of the most difficult experiences in my life and yet one that gave me the most rewarding shadow work to do. Digging deep into the darkness of my innermost being and after extreme pain, coming back into the light with diamonds. Infidelity forced me to look at myself and my idea of worthiness. I helped me to realize the type of love I deserved and needed to be expressed to me so that I could actually feel it. It led me to create boundaries for the first time in my life, making sure my needs were met and expressing what were my concrete non-negotiables so that I wasn’t setting unspoken and unattainable expectations. It helped me to bring my childish relationship into a healthy adult relationship. It allowed me to tackle the demons of codependency and the deeply rooted belief that I was nothing without another person. It helped me to learn to acknowledge, feel and express my emotions so that I could work through them in a safe and empowering way. It led me to finally learn how to forgive, not just others, but myself, reminding me of the radical idea of unconditional love.
Cheating is a different experience for everyone, but I can say that for myself it can be something to work through- something that saves a relationship. For all the work I have done in my life and the space that has been held for me to do so, I can only extend the same hand. As long as someone is willing to admit fault and do that healing work- I am inclined to forgive. I believe that theses experiences occur in our lives, shattering our foundations, because they are not stable to begin with. It allows us to pick up the pieces and put them back together in a way that will help them become strong and unshakeable. With the ebbs and flow of life, forgiveness is another process in itself. Both parties must accept that it takes a long time to trust again, and not just sweep things under the rug- for a wise woman told me that what is swept under is planted and grows roots. Forgiveness comes with many emotions and each one must be honored. There is no such thing as life going back to the way it was as soon as the word “forgiveness” is thrown out.
This in no way condones staying in an abusive relationship with a toxic person. I am not saying cheating is great and we all should do it because it’s not that big of a deal. I do believe it can be a gift that leads to breaking cycles, empowers and enlightens all involved and unleashes fierce and courageous people.
I wish you all a safe and healing journey.