8 Min Read
- What Cheating Says To Others About You
- What Cheating Says To Your Family About You
- Does Cheating Say Something Different About Men vs. Women?
- How Cheating Affects Your Self-Image
- Is Judging A Person Because Of Cheating Fair?
We’d all like to be considered good person. Someone who’s well thought of, trusted, respected, and hopefully loved. But if you’ve had (or are having) an affair all of that can be called into question. So, what does cheating really say about a person?
Does cheating make you bad? Hated? Unworthy of friendship or love? Well, some of those may be a bit extreme, but these are the kind of questions someone who has cheated will often ponder after the fact.
Cheating does say something about the person you are - and not just to others, cheating can change the way you see yourself as well.
What Cheating Says To Others About You
Cheating on someone you love is a huge violation of trust. Even if the love is fading, making the choice to cheat isn’t like forgetting a birthday, it causes lasting pain and betrayal that’s difficult to get past.
This isn’t news. It would be hard to find anyone who supports cheating. Even someone who has cheated knows that it’s fundamentally wrong. So, if you are cheating, you should understand that you’re sending a message to those around you about the kind of person you are and how they should view you.
What cheating says about you is not likely the message you want people to hear either. The sad thing is that even if the opinions formed when your cheating is exposed are unfair and somewhat untrue, there are very few circumstances where perception becomes reality more firmly that when someone cheats.
So, just what does cheating say about you as a person? Here are just a few things that people come away with when cheating is exposed. Yes WHEN – not IF.
- You can’t be trusted. This should be clear. If you’ve cheated, you’ve broken a commitment to someone else. And you’ve likely lied, been deceptive in your behavior, and deliberately sneaky. It should be no surprise that you’ve destroyed your ability to be trusted. People who know about your cheating will recognize that your trustworthiness is now limited.
- You lack self-control. Temptation exists all around us. And no matter how outstanding your partner is, other attractive and intriguing people will enter your life and can give rise to feelings of desire that are outside your relationship. That doesn’t change your responsibility to your partner, however. Self-control is a trait that requires constant practice in many areas of life. Giving in to temptation is a clear indication that you need much more practice.
- You’re impulsive. “It just happened.” That’s the mantra of many who have betrayed their relationship. That, however, is a fairly lame excuse for acting on impulse and also speaks to your need for better self-control.
- You’re self-centered. A man once explained to me with quite a bit of seriousness that he’d given it a lot of thought and determined that, “Cheating has nothing to do with my wife. I love her, but I need to allow myself to enjoy life too. I’m a better husband because I make sure I stay happy and that lets me focus on her when we’re together.” I’m rather certain that his wife would see things differently. This self-centered approach to gratification isn’t uncommon in those who have had affairs. And by cheating you’re showing everyone around you that your primary concern is yourself and your pleasure.
- You’re immature. It takes a high level of commitment, respect, and empathy to remain faithful to someone you love. Cheating is inherently an immature behavior that puts a lack of self-control and impulsivity on display. Both hallmarks of immaturity.
- You can justify hurting someone. Much like the gentleman who feels cheating makes him a better husband, most people who have had affairs are masters at justifying their behavior. Even if they know they’re wrong and their behavior is hurtful, they almost always have a reason it happened. And that reason is generally aimed at somehow alleviating their guilt and placing blame somewhere else.
None of us likes to admit we did something wrong. It's one of the reasons there's such a stigma about going to counseling. Too many people think counseling says something bad about them. As a result, they can be very secretive about the reasons why they go. And, unfortunately, cheating (in one form or another) is a common one. The hurt, embarrassment, and shame can be huge - for both the partner who cheated and the one betrayed. Very often when I work with partners who are dealing with infidelity they haven't told anyone about it. The above list of negative conclusions people can make about a person who cheats are a big reason why. Not wanting to be judged or viewed as a bad person is one of the biggest reasons people run from owning their behavior and getting help - and this just makes everything worse. Cheating is wrong. It's a mistake, a big one, but still just a mistake. It doesn't define you (despite what others may think) unless you let it."
So, if you cheat and think that opinions of you may have changed, well, they very likely have.
What Cheating Says To Your Family About You
Cheating can definitely alter the way people see you and some of you may say, “Who cares? I’m not worried about the opinions of people who don’t know the whole story.” Okay, fair enough. But there is a group of people whose opinions should matter very much to you. Your family.
Once you’ve stepped outside your relationship and cheated on someone you’re committed to, your relationship with your family will be forever altered. No, that’s not an exaggeration. Even if you manage to get through the infidelity things will never be exactly the same again.
Cheating breaks trust and erases any sweetness and innocence that was once part of your relationship. Your partner now knows that you are capable of breaking their heart. And if children are part of the equation, they also now know that you’re capable creating pain and chaos in your family’s life and hurting their other parent.
Your choice to cheat has effectively shown your family that you at one point were able to put them out of your mind as a priority and allow someone else to occupy that space.
If you have cheated, take heart, it doesn’t have to mean the end of your relationship. There can be life after cheating for your relationship, but it will take work, and it will be different. Rebuilding your relationship after an affair can happen, but the knowledge of your cheating will always be there.
Does Cheating Say Something Different About Men vs. Women?
While cheating by either partner is poorly looked upon, there does tend to be a difference in the way men are perceived vs. the way women are perceived when they cheat. This is likely due in part to the years and years of gender stereotyping that has enveloped society and of the culturally accepted norms that still exist.
Opinions that others develop of a woman who has cheated vs. a man who has cheated can be different. Those opinions can also differ depending upon whether a person has had a sexual affair or an emotional one and who’s doing the judging.
A partner who has an emotional affair tends to be more offensive to women. Breaking the sanctity of emotional intimacy is a very personal betrayal. Not to say that physical affairs are easily accepted, but they can be depersonalized to a certain degree.
There is still an undercurrent of acceptance of the idea that men are more able to separate emotion from sex and therefore there is a perceived difference in what sex with a mistress means vs a spouse. This is one of the reasons when it comes to sexual cheating the often used “it meant nothing” excuse has been tolerated. Add to that the men “have needs” stereotype and it’s easy to see how men can be viewed less severely for their sexual cheating.
Men, however, when asked about a cheating partner are far more offended by the idea of physical cheating. The idea of their woman being physically intimate with someone else can inspire deep feelings of jealousy and anger in a man.
What’s unfortunate is that an affair had by one spouse can sometimes trigger an affair by the other. If one person cheats by sleeping with someone else, the other may then look for comfort and begin an emotional affair. All of this leads to sad and complicated relationships with generally poor outcomes.
What do these variations in cheating say about the partners involved? Overwhelmingly that there are massive problems in their relationships.
Cheating is typically a result of deeper problems rather than ground zero.
If the problems within the relationship they betrayed have caused someone to feel unloved, neglected, and alone, finding happiness with someone else can seem like a welcome change. It might even feel “right” in the moment.
The temporary happiness from feeling newly desired and loved, however, quickly combines with guilt and anxiety. Whether you’re a man or a woman, betraying someone you love (or are committed to) can cause deep, internal conflict which can eventually lead to bigger problems like depression.
How Cheating Affects Your Self-Image
What cheating says about a person to others can vary and is subject to interpretation. But it’s not only friends, family, and the hurt partner whose opinions have weight. What cheating says to the person who cheated about themselves should also be considered.
Despite the various justifications that are used and the blame someone who cheated may place on others – primarily the other partner - cheating can eat away at self-esteem and self-confidence.
For most people knowing that your actions are causing pain to others is difficult to take. Even if “it means nothing,” or “just happened,” betraying someone you care about feels wrong on some level. Facing the truth about your actions can be difficult though, and many people who have cheated will try to ignore the guilt they feel over their behavior.
Internalizing things won’t alleviate the guilt, however. In fact, it will often make it worse leading to repeated bad behavior like additional affairs, depressed mood, or displays of anger that are routinely disproportionate to the situation.
Here's what Dr. Kurt says,
Many people who have cheated are asking themselves what their actions say about them too. Their behavior and self-view don't align at the moment, and that causes an internal wrestling match about who they really are. The judging and questioning not only comes from the outside, but from inside as well. It's a tough spot to be in, even though it's a self imposed one."
Is Judging A Person Because Of Cheating Fair?
Judging a person for their behavior is a slippery slope, especially when it comes to behavior within an intimate relationship – we never really know all the facts. But a person’s behavior is generally a demonstration of their values and the best indication we have as observers as to who they are. So, when someone cheats it says something about them, there’s no getting around that.
But does cheating say about you that you’re a bad person and undeserving of forgiveness? No, of course not.
What it says is that you’re fallible and capable of making mistakes. We all are. And we’ve all made mistakes and hurt people we love in one way or another. Unfortunately, some mistakes are just much harder to fix - like hurting your partner by cheating.
The way others judge your behavior can’t be controlled. It’s only the behavior itself can be. So, if you have cheated and are concerned about what it says about you as a person, start making changes that show that’s not who you are. And the first place to start doing this is with your partner.
A person who cheats is not typically thinking about what his or her behavior says about them beforehand, but they should. Ultimately, however, the only opinions regarding what cheating says about a person that matter are those of the person they hurt and the person who cheated.
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