I have just done a check on the internet for the number of daily keyword searches using the word ‘cheating’ and come up with 111,000! Some of these may be other uses of the word but I suspect a large proportion are about cheating within a relationship. This shows just how big this issue is.
Cheating, affairs and infidelity cause more pain than perhaps any other relationship problem because of the loss of trust and betrayal that is involved. When somebody cheats on us they abuse us and disregard our feelings – it is as if they have thrown a bomb into the relationship. It can seem impossible to re-build a relationship after an affair, but I want to show you that this is possible, by explaining why affairs happen in the first place. I will describe how an affair is an echo of a similar pain-filled, heartbreak from much earlier in our lives. If an affair has ended your relationship already, I will explain how you can move forward in your life and make sure that this never happens to you again.
People cheat and have affairs when one or more of their needs has not been met in their current relationship. They are trying to use somebody else to heal them so that they do not have to face their own fears and insecurities. The need might be for sex but the chances are that this hides a much deeper need for love and acceptance. They may have felt that their relationship had become stale and boring and suddenly another person offers excitement, a new beginning and love. Of course, this is rather cowardly, but we must never forget the power of our needs. To feel adored and loved by somebody is a like a drug to somebody who does not love themselves fully.
At a deeper level affairs are about competition and inequality which is picked up when we are very young. To understand how this happens we can use Freud’s ideas about Oedipal relationships. He based his ideas on the Greek myth of Oedipus, the young prince who had been fostered as a child and did not know his parents. Later he killed his father in a fight then fell in love and married his mother. Eventually his mother discovered she had married her son and committed suicide. Oedipus then gouged his own eyes out and soon died full of guilt and remorse for having killed and caused the death of both his parents. Freud believed that this tragic story contains within it all the problems that crop up in relationships and that they originate in our first experience of falling in love with the opposite sex parent.
The Oedipus Complex is a triangular relationship, because a child comes between his or her parents. This normally means that there is a stronger connection between one parent than the other – the opposite sex parent. Early in life there is a genuine loving connection between the child and the parent but suddenly this is broken. This does include a subconscious sexual element, which is what begins to create problems. Romantic love between a child and a parent is taboo and the parent will often be the first to break the bond to avoid going out of integrity. Unfortunately this can come as a terrible shock to the child who then suffers massive confusion and heartbreak and believes that love has been taken away. It is around such experiences that a great many of us create, first a resentment about our parent or parents, and then feel guilty for being part of the broken relationship. Everybody in an Oedipal triangle feels huge guilt – understanding that it is this that maintains and replicates triangles in later life is the key to ending and escaping affairs.
If we experience an Oedipal heartbreak as a child it is likely that we continue this issue into our later life. We will probably have fused with the opposite sex parent (a false form of bonding that is based on fear and guilt rather than love) and may have rejected or tended to push away our other parent. It means we have not let the significant, opposite-sex parent go. In other words we have not recovered from the original heartbreak when our opposite-sex parent created separation in the relationship. If we have not let go, there is not enough room for a romantic partner in our life, and the relationship inevitably suffers. Worse still, we hanker after those original feelings of romantic love that we had with our parent (albeit subconsciously) and we want to replace them. A romantic partner may do this for a while but then our original guilt around our first loss of love begins to attack us. We assume that our partner is not good enough (they can never be our parent!) and search for somebody else. We may find such a person, but eventually the old guilt and sense of unmet needs will reappear and destroy that relationship.
Oedipal relationships therefore have a terrible habit of repeating themselves until they are healed at their core. This is always about healing the guilt of our original Oedipal separation. It is the guilt for believing that we were not good enough or that we did something wrong, such that our parent would reject us. It seems crazy, but we tend to blame ourselves when our relationships fail. This is never true and recognising this mistake is the way to heal our problems with cheating and affairs.
If our partner has strayed, we can understand what they must have been feeling to do that – they must have some Oedipal guilt and a parent that they are holding onto. Can you identify the parent and see the Oedipal problem? Understanding this will help with forgiveness. We can also look at our own Oedipal tendencies – have you ever had an affair or been attracted to another person? Have you got over an early heartbreak with an opposite-sex parent? You will know if you have, because you will have a completely equal relationship with both parents and love them unconditionally and without any feelings of sacrifice. If you have an Oeidpal issue you can visualise forgiving yourself and your parents and bringing them back together as partners, without you being in between them.
Cheating, affairs and infidelity are simply cries for help. We only stray when we are unhappy. An affair is a triangle as well, with us, our partner and the other person forming the three corners. We must heal our original Oedipal triangles and forgive them in our partners. Good communications about unmet needs in a relationship will always help. By letting go of our Oedipal guilt, not only will we be less prone to betrayal and betraying others, but many other areas of our life will move forward as we gain more self-esteem.