By Marina Pearson
“How could you have done this to me, to us? Who are you and who did I marry?” With tears in his eyes, my ex-husband shouted and screamed these questions at me on the day he found out that I’d had an affair. All the while, I stood there shaking, in shock, not knowing what to say that would make what I had done right.
I was a cheater.
Looking back, I realize that nothing in that moment would have given him the solace and comfort that he was looking for — or that I was looking for. His love and care for me transformed into pure disdain and hate for the monster I had become in his eyes.
The question that came up repeatedly after our marriage dissolved was: Why? Why did I cheat on him? Why would I do such a thing to a man who was caring, funny and generous? It wasn’t like he beat me up or anything like that.
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If you are reading this and judging me, I understand — that’s human nature. And believe me, no one has judged me more harshly than I have, even now. Although it all turned out for the best, I wouldn’t go down that road again — although, at the same time, I now completely understand why women cheat. Unfortunately, my (ex)-husband now understands this, too.
According to the UK Adultery Survey 2012, cheating women are more likely to stray in order to seek emotional fulfillment, enhanced self-esteem and romance. When women cheat will depend on how fulfilled they feel in their marriages. But according to the survey, wives who cheat will do so five years into their marriages whereas men will do so seven years in.
After much soul-searching, I finally began to understand the factors that drove me to cheat:
Chasing false happiness.
Back then, I was still living with the illusive notion that happiness is something I could acquire from an external source, so I bought into the fantasy (one that I also see many of my clients buy into) that somewhere in the world a magical one-dimensional man exists for no other purpose than to bring ME happiness. I believed that because I wasn’t happy in my marriage with my ex-husband, that someone else could dish happiness up on a silver platter for me. Surely someone else could, right? But, of course, this is simply not true, and never will be. In fact, the whole ordeal of the affair stressed me out and exposed me to more confusion and unhappiness.
Lesson learned: Being part of the cheating wives’ club, I understand now that running away from myself was not the answer and that I am responsible for my own happiness and fulfillment. My happiness is no one else’s responsibility — not my spouse’s, not some lover’s–but mine!
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Sneaking around instead of speaking up.
I honestly believed that I was a bad person for no longer feeling attracted to my ex-husband. So as not to hurt him, I kept quiet as that waning desire continued to fizzle away. I just couldn’t find the words to tell him that I no longer found him sexually attractive. Instead of communicating honestly with him about my feelings, I ended up truly being a “bad person” when I cheated (while I also hoped he wouldn’t find out about either). Deep underneath this pattern of guilt-leading-to-silence was a belief that I was not worthy of someone loving me as much as my ex husband did.
Lesson learned: What I now realize is that our beliefs and how we see ourselves can lead us to do some very crazy things. Belief systems are a powerful catalysts for behavior. By working on myself, I was able to finally overcome this pattern and now find myself in a new, truly loving relationship.
Remaining stuck in an immature mindset.
I realize now that I lacked the maturity and the life skills needed to properly face the problems my ex-husband and I were experiencing at the time. We would argue, get upset and as a result, our communication would break down and, as a result, so did our intimacy. I didn’t know how to change that dynamic or manage my thoughts about those conflicts either. Any time we argued, I honestly believed that he didn’t love me. So, I “acted out” to have my own back.
Lesson learned: Keeping communication channels open is vitally important because by the time you sense communication has shut down, intimacy has usually already slid away from you. Before you know it, you are yearning for intimacy and connection deeply just no longer with your mate. I often hear that wives who cheat do so because of this very same communication breakdown in their existing relationship. They feel frustrated, no longer heard or misunderstood and they seek comfort, connection, and refuge in the arms of someone else.
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My need wasn’t wrong, but my actions were.
At the time I had my affair, passion in my relationship felt dead. I wanted my ex-husband to long for me, want me and care enough about me to woo me. But our relationship fell into a day-to-day routine, taking all the excitement out of it, and the passion died. I wanted to break free from that and thought the best way to do so was through a selfish act (having an affair).
I now realize that looking for passion outside of my established relationship was a short-lived solution, and that’s all it ever could be. Working on rekindling what my ex and I once had — which was a lot — would have probably been the better option.
All of my reasons may sound like excuses and, you know what — my affair was a selfish act. I will be the first to admit it. I had options, choices, but when I put myself in the shoes of that young girl I was at that time, I really felt then that an affair was the solution.
My overall feeling now is that if you are a woman who is contemplating becoming part of the cheating wives club (or you are a woman who already has cheated), then I ask you to seriously contemplate what you hope to get out of it and what has turned you toward such an action. If you’re chasing happiness, I’m here to tell you that happiness comes from within. No one else can create that happiness for you.
Ultimately, I don’t regret what I did, though I do deeply regret the hurt I caused. As a result of the affair, and then later, our divorce, my ex gave me the best gift you can give anyone — the opportunity, finally, to find my happiness within myself.
This article originally appeared at YourTango.