You could be in what you perceive to be a stable relationship but still end up cheating, says therapist Mira Kirshenbaum, author of When Good People Have Affairs. “Typically they are in a committed relationship, but they aren’t perfectly happy,” she explains. “No one who is perfectly happy in their primary relationship gets into a second.”
Kirshenbaum says the grievances might vary and you might not even be aware of them, but it’s when you have them that you start noticing someone else. He could be anyone—your crushable co-worker, your kabarkada, or even a total stranger. “It’s about how something that’s been missing in [your] primary relationship, something [you’ve] been hungry for, suddenly seems possible with this new person,” she posits.
According to Aileen Santos, a certified relationship coach with a master’s degree in counseling psychology, there are two underlying issues that could lead a woman to cheat: weakness of character and a need to look for happiness outside of themselves. “Cheating is like going for a so-called solution to make you happy while having a backup plan of going back to your old partner if things don’t pan out.”
Santos adds that girls who do find themselves cheating are dissatisfied with their current setup and cite outward circumstances to justify their misery. For example, a girl who feels the kilig factor in her long-term relationship fizzling might seek to find it in her hunky neighbor. But Santos says that someone more empowered wouldn’t look for an answer in another person.“Happiness is your choice,” she says, “and that’s something [you] create for [yourself] instead of thinking that it lies with being with someone.”
If you do find yourself tempted to go astray, Santos advises you to ask yourself why you feel this way, and why you think you have to turn to someone else to fill this need. Someone who lacks excitement in her relationship might find an affair thrilling, but in the end, it boils down to whether or not she finds herself and her own life exciting. “She’s looking at a situation outside herself when in fact the solution to the problem is actually within her,” says Santos.
If you've cheated, here are post-affair steps you can take to help you cope.
1. Make amends with yourself. Before you can figure out what to do next, evaluate your relationship with yourself. Santos says cheating on a partner can make you label yourself as a cheater and that you’ll need time to make amends with the person you are now.
2. Assess your current relationship. What was lacking in your relationship that made you turn to someone else? Santos says you also have to figure out if you want to take things further with the person you cheated with. If you do, you must end things with your current flame.
3. Figure out if you should tell your man the truth. In a Time article, Kirshenbaum says telling the truth will only put your partner “in a permanent state of hurt and grief and loss of trust.” But Santos says coming clean is not useless if you’re doing it because you want the relationship to heal and grow. Just be prepared for the consequences—including the possibility of your partner ending the relationship.
This story originally appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine, September 2012.
* Minor edits have been made by Cosmo.ph editors