There are lots of excuses but none that sound convincing when it comes to an affair. ‘It just happened’, ‘I had a weak moment’, ‘I was feeling unloved’ are just some from a long list of reasons.

When Shannon’s boyfriend cheated on her, and later begged her to take him back, her friends unanimously advised her to stay away from him. ‘Once a cheater, always a cheater’ is a familiar phrase thrown around—but is it actually true?

What goes through the mind of a cheater? Is there no hope for fidelity in their future relations? According to psychologist Dr Jeanette Raymond, people who cheat are not cheaters due to a personality trait or a biological function. “They are highly insecure, wanting comfort and acceptance in another relationship when there is trouble in the main one. People may also use an affair to call attention to the fact that they need to grow as personalities and that their current relationship is stifling them,” she says.

When a relationship is stagnant and one partner wants time to stand still, the other one wants to flow. Cheating is often the most powerful way of bursting open that mummified shell. Partners can either use this opportunity as a way of reconfiguring and flowing or strangling one.

What Leads To Infidelity?
While cheaters who get caught out may regret their actions, guilt alone doesn’t determine if he/she is likely to be a repeat offender. A person who has cheated must accept the outcome of his/her actions and ask themselves what motivated them to take this step. Herein lies the clincher.

In my experience with clients, Raymond explains, the partner who cheats moves on with life, while the other writhes in anger and bitterness, refusing to budge. The problem stems from a lack of self-awareness. While cheaters may cite willpower, emotions, and temptation as reasons, their failure can be attributed to the fact they don’t think about the other person who will get hurt. If this lack of empathy is dealt with, there is a chance for a person to get over their cheating ways.

Through years of counseling couples, Raymond has learned that most men cheat because they want to be adored and cherished. Women, on the other hand, want control. When their needs aren’t met in a relationship, an affair gives them a sense of ultimate control. They meet the other man on their schedule, for their needs (to feel desired and special), but have the upper hand to walk out at any time, and not give anything emotionally to the relationship.

Does History Play A Role?
It’s also important to look at the family history of those who cheat and those who get cheated on. A cheater usually comes from a family where cheating was a form of protest, and a way to reinvigorate masculine identity. Those who get cheated on, especially women, have fathers who cheated and pick men who will do the same in an effort to control the errant males in their worlds.

Beware Of The Charmer
Dr Tina B Tessina aka ‘Dr Romance’ and author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage warns against the charmer—a man who says exactly what you want to hear is more likely to cheat because that is how he is wired, to be narcissistic. These are sexual risk-takers who usually have a lot of experience. His endearing personality may be concealing a very wounded soul, along with an alcohol, drug or gambling problem, she says. The solution to all these problems are likely interlinked.

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An alumnus of Asian College of Journalism, and Cardiff University, Wales, Yoshita Sengupta has more than five years of experience in writing for various news outlets. As Founder and Director of Underscore, a content solutions agency, she writes for multiple digital and print news outlets and consults brands. When not working for Underscore, she works with social entrepreneurs and homeless communities, which includes running a library for street children.