I think we can all agree that being cheated on or hearing of a friend being cheated on is probably up there with one of the worst betrayals that can happen in a relationship.
You thought you knew that person, you were in love and you had no secrets to hide from each other when suddenly your whole world falls apart and you’re left questioning everything.
When many people look back, there were probably some warning signs they may have chosen to ignore or were too deeply in the throes of love that they didn’t even notice.
We spoke to the experts to find out why people cheat, how to spot a cheater and how to get over being cheated on.
Why do people cheat?
Psychotherapist, Julie Sweet, told Yahoo Lifestyle that people can cheat for a numerous of reasons, ranging from not loving their partner anymore to seeking out something different to what they’ve grown accustomed, not feeling seen, impulsivity, lacking and low self esteem and self worth, misdirected anger and sexual incompatibility.
“Humans have a truth bias, particularly when we are in a loving relationship,” human behaviour expert Elly Johnson told Yahoo Lifestyle.
“That bias serves us well in general, but can leave us vulnerable to dishonesty and deception.
“We need to believe most of what people in the community are telling us to function socially and we certainly believe we should be able to trust our partner. Sometimes we don’t see what is right in front of our eyes.”
How to spot a cheater
If you suspect your partner is up to something dodgy, there are a number of warning signs you should keep an eye out for.
First off, Elly recommends not jumping to conclusions if something doesn’t feel right in your relationship.
“Accusing someone of cheating when they are not could be very harmful to your relationship,” she said.
“Nurturing open communication and making the relationship a safe place for honesty is the first step to strengthening your relationship, thereby reducing the likelihood that your partner will cheat.”
According to Julie, the biggest sign a partner may be cheating is change.
“Sudden change, or progressive change. Change in behaviour, appearance, availability, intimacy, defensiveness, hostility, deflection and other varied emotional responses that feel unlike anything experienced within the partnership,” she said.
This could include your partner becoming distant when usually they're commutative, pulling away when usually they’re affectionate or withdrawing and shutting down, which doesn’t resemble their general demeanour.
“Any changes that feel unfamiliar or that cause an individual to feel triggered are worth identifying and exploring,” Julie said.
“It’s imperative that people trust themselves. That ‘gut feeling’ is not to be ignored or dismissed. If there’s an internal charge, or anxiety is being experienced, or a sudden surge of adrenal is being encountered, it’s important to get curious.”
Elly Johnson agrees, adding that things people should look out for are altered time schedules, their partner not answering questions directly when they ask where the’ve been and changes in sex or intimacy.
She also said to look out for the potential cheater making excuses that don’t make sense and being secretive with their computer or phone.
Elly pointed out that a cheater has to make everything look normal and remove any suspicion around their movements, which can mean they have to have a great memory and don’t contradict themselves.
“Spotting when your partner is cheating can be tough as most cheaters will work hard to cover their tracks,” she said.
How true is the saying 'Once a cheater, always a cheater'?
While understanding why people who have suffered a betrayal can feel the person who caused the damage is never going to change, in Julie’s opinion, people can fundamentally change, if they so choose.
“The statement ‘once a cheater, always a cheater' quite frankly may not hold true for everyone,” she said.
How do you get over being cheated on?
If you’ve been cheated on, it’s likely you feel like you’ll never get over it, however there are some pathways to take to deal with the pain.
“It’s not something people simply ‘get over’,” Julie said.
“It’s a process and a subjective one. So it can impact people in a way that is not the same as another.”
Julie explained how similar to grief, there are a number of stages a person goes through after they’ve been cheated on.
“These stages can range from and not be limited to denial, bargaining, depression, anger and acceptance (and not in that order),” she said.
“No matter how an individual tries to come to terms with betrayal and a breach of trust, accessing professional services by way of therapy and widening the net of support by leaning on friends can be in their best interest. People fair better with help and resources, so the more these can utilised the lighter the load can become.”
While time is sometimes thought of as a healer, Julie said it’s actually about moving through the trauma, not going around it.
“Time may provide distance from the incident yet it doesn’t heal all,” she said.
“Experiencing the pain, the deception, the hurt, the despair, the anguish, the shock, the relief of the disclose, the emotions and sitting in it, acknowledging what’s before them, with the support of a trauma informed therapist is more often than not the healthiest pathway to take.”
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