Why does cheating hurt us so much


The betrayal of a loved one is like a stab in the heart. Cheating can be different: this is a one-time relationship against the background of alcohol intoxication, and real romances lasting months or years – with correspondence, calls, romantic dinners and regular sex. Irrelevant.

Whatever the betrayal, when we find out about what happened, in addition to mental pain we are tormented by the questions: “How could he do this?”, “When did it start?”, And just “Why?” You can answer them only if you know the situation and the person. But there is something in common that makes cheating so painful for any of us.

Attachment mechanisms

Our brains are designed in such a way that we are always looking for meaningful connections with others.

“In childhood, we become attached first of all to our parents (or those who replace them). Many psychologists believe that in romantic relationships, we are trying to relive the unconditional love that we (ideally) felt as a child. If our parents took good care of us, they were always ready to console us when we felt bad, and did not forget to repeat how much they love us and what wonderful children we are. By calling each other with affectionate nicknames, the partners seem to try to bring back that feeling of unconditional love and care, ”explains Tim Martin, a psychotherapist, an addiction and trauma treatment specialist.

“When important social connections are destroyed or threatened, our brains react in much the same way as physical pain,” writes neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman in his book The Social Species: Why We Need Each Other.

The pain of betrayal is indeed felt almost physically. And this pain is truly monstrous. It leaves deep spiritual wounds, and we cannot feel safe for a long time.

Violation of an unwritten contract

Yes, some partners maintain an open relationship, but this is not about them now. In a normal, monogamous couple, the two make a commitment to being physically loyal to each other. Many unfaithful partners look for excuses: “I had no other choice. My wife stopped having sex with me “,” I had the right to have an affair because I hate my husband. ” But all of these excuses don’t take into account those commitments made.

By changing, we betray the trust of the partner. We are being openly dishonest. We are lying. If we were unhappy with this person, we had other options – we could leave, divorce, sign up for psychotherapy for couples.

“If you cheated and hurt your partner, it’s important to realize that it was a real betrayal and your only chance to prove the sincerity of remorse is to honestly admit that you betrayed the trust of a loved one, thereby causing him deep trauma,” says Tim Martin.

“It seems to me that I no longer know this person.”

Many victims of betrayal of a partner begin to think: “It seemed to me that I know this person very well and that everything is serious with us. But now I’m not sure anymore. What else is he hiding from me? “

“The cheater often resorts to gaslighting, trying to make the partner doubt himself. When a partner directly tells him about his suspicions, in response he hears something like: “Are you crazy, or what? What happened to you? Stop inventing things, ”emphasizes Tim Martin.

Trauma will not go unnoticed

Alas, as much as we want quick fixes, healing from trauma is usually slow and difficult. Your unfaithful partner will most likely want to “leave everything behind” as soon as possible, but you will probably need time.

No matter how many times he apologizes, it is unlikely to save you from suffering. After the betrayal of a partner, some begin to torment nightmares, anxiety, irritability increases, painful memories periodically emerge, mental performance deteriorates, depression occurs.

In this case, specialized psychotherapy can help, such as eye movement desensitization and processing (EMDR), which allows you to release and rethink stuck painful memories and sensations.

“The pain of betrayal is very real. You are not crazy. Yes, it is very unfair that you have to go to a therapist. You haven’t done anything wrong. Only you can decide what to do with your pain. But the support of a competent, listening and empathetic person can be very helpful, ”says Tim Martin.

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