When you are faced with having a cheating spouse, there are many questions that go through your mind. Among those many questions are those dealing with understanding what they were thinking. You may ask “What were they thinking?” or “What was their reason for cheating?” When you use the words ‘reason’ and ‘cheating’ in the same sentence, you are likely looking for the motives behind the cheating. These terms are often seen in the question, “What is their reason for cheating?” or some variation of that. When the word ‘reason’ is used, it carries with it a reference to the thinking process behind cheating behavior. Although the person asking the question is looking for a reason, the reality is that they are looking for the ‘motivation’ behind the cheating behavior, not the thinking. It is easier to come up with a list of possible motivations like lust, opportunity, poor self control and then attach those labels on the cheater than it is to really consider the thinking of the cheater.
It is easy to generate a list of motives for cheating. You can quickly come up with a top ten list of motives for such behavior. Some of the common ones include, temptation, sexual addiction, wickedness, influence of drugs or alcohol, revenge, the thrill of doing something forbidden, and so on. They may even claim that cheating is just ‘human nature’. Such answers sound plausible, and have surface validity, yet they do not explain every case, nor do they give you insight as to what was going in with your partner. Such excuses may sound good in a discussion about affairs in a college class room, but do not provide realistic answers for your bedroom. Such lists often provide a laundry list of excuses for the cheater to excuse what they did.
Knowing what the motives are does not give you clues as to what the cheater was thinking and how their reasoning works. Nor do such motives explain how what happened with your cheater. They do not explain the ‘who, what and when’ of the affair that is now in your face. It takes time in actually discovering the thinking or reasoning the cheater used in having the affair. Since each persons thinking is unique, there will not be one answer that fits all cheaters.
You may have asked “What were they thinking?” in reference to the cheater and their behavior. Although you asked the question, you probably did not listen to the cheater beyond finding some point to argue with them about and prove them wrong. Once you proved them wrong on a minor detail, you likely dismissed all of what they said about what they were thinking. So in posing the question about their thinking or reasoning, you were not being intellectually and emotionally honest. You actually just wanted to listen to them enough until you could either find holes in their logic or defend your own thinking. It was more like you listened until you heard support for your position and quit listening after that. Although you said you wanted to know what they were thinking, the reality is more like “What were you thinking that lines up with my perspective about the affair?” The honest response would have been to listen to their reasoning and thinking BEFORE you jump in with disapproving comments and corrections.
So when you consider what is the reason for their cheating, you will need to avoid jumping to quick conclusions and consider the thinking process that is actually going on. The interruptions interfere with the flow of thought. By interrupting them, you are telling their brain to halt. With each halt, the brain reconsiders and readjusts their answer. You changed their perspective just by stopping them.
When the cheater tells you what they were thinking, you will need to remember that what they are telling you is often either their psychic or emotional reality, not a statement of facts. Many times the person who was cheated on blows any chance of reconciliation by dismissing what the cheater tells them because the story did not have all the factual pieces in place. Do you want to know what they did or are you really wanting to understand what their reasoning process was?
As humans, you use your reasoning to deal with the world around you and solve problems. Likewise the cheater uses their reasoning to solve problems. What happens with the cheater is that they often use their reasoning in ways that get them in trouble. They often know that cheating is wrong. The issue of cheating in most cases is not about ignorance. The cheater knows better. Knowing better does not keep them from infidelity. Some well known cheaters have been those with high morals, keen sense of social justice, and principle driven persons. There is often a big disconnect between knowing what is right and doing it.
Since the cheater knows that cheating is wrong, lecturing them on the evils of cheating or convincing them of the sinful nature of what they did is often unproductive. Bear in mind that you wanted to know what the reasoning was behind their cheating, not whether or not they considered it right or wrong.
When faced with the challenge of cheating, the mind of the cheater finds solutions to what they see as a problem or challenge. When the cheater either has a long history of cheating or sexual addiction, the faster their mind will work at coming up with solutions to the cheating situation. In some cases, they are actually lazy. It is often easier to cheat with someone than to go through all the formalities of ending a relationship and starting another one. Relationship building and ending are often messy affairs. Rather than go through the mess, the cheater often finds it easier to cheat.
In other cases, they shifted their values. The value of pleasure seeking was placed ahead of moral restraint. They used their reasoning and problem solving to get into the affair rather than using those skills in avoiding the affair. In such cases, they did not loose their mind. The cheater was not being unreasonable or crazy. They were just the opposite. They were being very reasonable and methodical in having the affair. Many cheaters actually do a lot of planning and plotting to have the affair. They select the lover, prepare them and then carry through with their plans.
Some cheaters actually believe that they are smarter than their partners. They use the cheating as a way to prove to themselves and others how smart they are. They entertain the notion that they can service two or more people sexually at the same time. The reasoning process of their mind is one of relationship multi-tasking. They often go through elaborate planning as to hide the evidence and signs of their cheating. The challenge of finding creative ways of enjoying the ‘forbidden fruit’ without getting caught is a challenge for them that their mind works on in terms of finding solutions. Since the mind loves to solve problems, when the cheater thinks this way, it often takes over their thinking. With each successful fling, they have more self-confidence, like an athlete that scored points in a major game.
So when you ask the cheater about their reasoning, listen to them and what they are telling you. Ask questions to clarify what they are telling you rather than finding factual holes in their story. When you stop putting them on the defensive, they often drop their defensiveness and let you into their mind. When you start finding fault with their recollection of factual incidents, the walls go up.
I am not advocating that you fall for their lies. You will need to know where they are distorting things and how the distortions are working before you begin confronting them. When you listen to them and hear them out, it sends a message that you want to understand rather than argue. You want to connect with them rather than dispute them. You want to obtain a clear picture of their ‘reasoning’ for what they were thinking before you dispute it. It will allow you to see how their reasoning works.
When you do, you can see what they perceived as their need, since many behaviors are about meeting perceived needs. You will gain a glimpse of what needs the affair satiated and what needs they are missing from you. Once you have that clear picture then you can do some soul searching as to whether they are accurate in their perceptions or whether it is ‘just another lie’ that they are telling themselves.