If you’ve been cheated on, your friends and therapist have probably assured you that you’re not responsible for your partner’s behavior. While it’s not always easy to believe, it is true. Here’s what’s really behind your boyfriend’s infidelity.
Men cheat when they feel insecure. Whether he recently lost his job or put on 30 pounds, he may start to secretly blame you for his own failings. Relationships are emotional mirrors and we often resent the people who show us as we really are rather than how we’d like to be. If his life is on a downward spiral while you’re thriving, he might seek to belittle and humiliate you through an affair as a way of getting revenge or gaining the upper hand. Of course, most guys aren’t actively plotting your downfall—these decisions happen on a subconscious level.
He has a poor relationship with his masculinity.
We’ve all seen those sad older men who hit middle age, buy a fancy car, then have an affair with a much younger woman. The midlife crisis affair is only one variation on the cheater who’s feeling insecure in his role as a man. Rather than addressing his issues with his masculinity or accepting the inevitable process of aging, this man will seek external validation through money, status symbols, and of course, sex. He’ll usually choose to cheat with a younger, financially unstable woman so he can feel powerful in the relationship.
He’s afraid of a breakup.
This guy, like so many men, was taught to suppress his emotions. He was told having feelings is girly so he locked his emotions, i.e. the most human parts of himself, away where they could never bother him. Now he acts out and doesn’t understand why. Never is this more clear than when a guy wants out of a relationship but is unwilling to voice his desires. Doing so would force him to face his own emotions as well as yours. That would be sensory overload for him. Instead, he’ll sabotage the relationship until you break up with him, then numb the pain with sex, alcohol, and video games.
Expectations rarely live up to reality.
Plenty of men, especially those who didn’t grow up with sisters, have seriously unrealistic expectations of women and relationships. He might expect you to be willing and able to meet his every sexual need whenever he beckons. He might say you catfished him once he sees you without a full contour and pushup bra. Maybe he expects you to be his only source of emotional support without considering that you have other relationships and responsibilities that also need your attention. The dangerous thing about this kind of guy is that he’ll actually blame you for not meeting his idealized standards. Hello, gaslighting! Then, when he cheats, he’ll basically argue that he’s entitled to do so because you aren’t meeting your end of the bargain in the relationship.
He has abandonment issues.
Chronic cheaters often have wounds of abandonment left behind by their mothers. In this case, your partner may be expecting you to meet his emotional needs as a girlfriend, a lover, and a mother. The gap left behind from his mother can’t possibly be filled by one woman and his need for attention will start to look like an addict craving his fix. If you aren’t around to handle the Sisyphean task of making him feel validated and cared for, he’ll have his needs satisfied through any means necessary. This is the kind of guy who will begin digital cheating, turn to cam girls, or develop emotional affairs with other women. Often times he’ll never meet the women in real life and claim it was all just harmless sexting. Similar to men with unrealistic expectations, cheaters with abandonment issues will try to argue that his cheating is your fault because you weren’t there for him when he needed you.
He has the Madonna-Whore Complex.
Have you ever felt like your only options are to be a saintly virgin-mother or a total whore? Well according to Freud (and plenty of feminist literary criticism) some men place women in one of two categories: Madonnas (pure virginal women worthy of love and worship) or whores (debased women useful only for sex). The issue is that these men only want to be romantically involved with Madonnas but don’t want to have sex with them. Basically, they can’t be sexually attracted to women they respect and are unable to respect women they have sex with. So what do they do? Put their partner on pedestal verging on idol worship, all while having affairs on the side, often with sex workers or much younger women.
He’s a narcissist.
If you’re dating someone who makes everything about him, skillfully weaves tapestries of lies, and somehow makes everything your fault, you might be dating a narcissist. Yes, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a real thing and one of its trademark signs is chronic cheating in romantic relationships. Why do narcissists cheat? They’re fundamentally incapable of considering anybody else’s needs. A narcissistic cheater will swoop into your life with a dozen roses. His goal is to convince you that he’s the Prince Charming you always dreamed of but never believed in. Then he’ll pull the rug out from under you by cheating and make you think it was all your fault. If you got caught in a narcissist’s net, don’t blame yourself. They are very, very good at what they do. But do go directly to therapy because unraveling narcissistic abuse can take years, if not decades.
He has Peter Pan Syndrome.
If your partner is cheating, he might just be a spoiled brat who never had discipline or accountability as a child. Now, as an adult, he doesn’t know how to handle responsibility or impulses control and acts out like a child. Plus, if a guy is desperately clinging to his youth as he ages, chronic cheating could be his way of proving that he’s “still got it.” Most men leave that behavior behind in their fraternity days, but some guys never do grow up. Sigh.
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