Veronica Sawyer: Heather, why can’t you just be a friend? Why do you have to be such a mega-bitch?
Heather Duke: Because I can be.
From the movie “Heathers” (1988)
Why do cheaters cheat? Because they CAN. It’s that simple. Do you need more of an answer? Okay. Because of narcissism. Because of a lack of empathy. Because they value ego kibbles more than they value your well-being. They did the cost-benefit analysis on hurting you versus cheating, and indulgence won. Sorry you’re a little spot of collateral damage.
One very common mistake chumps make is believing it is all way more complicated than that. They will invest all their energy in a pointless exercise trying to figure out the cheater — their FOO issues, their astrological sign, their addiction issues, their birth order, their purported low self-esteem.
There’s also the entire Reconciliation Industrial Complex deeply invested in having you go down rabbit holes (for an hourly fee) on Why Your Cheater Cheated. (Spoiler alert: It’s very complicated how you weren’t “meeting their needs,” but for $399 they’ll affair proof your marriage.)
At Chump Lady, we just cut right to: Is this relationship acceptable to you?
Figuring out your cheater is energy directed at them, which is energy deflected away from yourself. You’re asking why they are this way, instead of asking yourself the harder question of — why am I hanging around this megabitch who’s not my friend?
I call this stage: “Untangling the Skein of Fuckupedness.”
The skein is impossible, but by God, you’re going to unknot it, piece by piece, make it linear and you WILL understand it.
Untangling the skein is a coping mechanism. You want to figure out what makes your cheater tick so you can ensure that they never do anything so devastatingly hurtful again. If it’s their FOO issues with their mom, well, you’ll call and make that counseling appointment for them. Not only will you make the counseling appointments, next you’ll get your magic marker and highlight all the relevant chapters in the affair books you bought for them on Amazon.
Stop it! Stop it right now! It’s not your job to figure them out! You only get to figure out YOU. What your values are, what you will tolerate, and what is acceptable and unacceptable to YOU. That’s it.
Most cheaters are very invested in you getting lost in their messy skeins. Heck, they don’t have to invent an excuse for their behavior, you’re doing all the work for them. There is nothing they can say by way of explanation that is not self serving and self pitying. The only thing a cheater can do is demonstrate remorse through their actions. Preferably a very generous divorce settlement. Failing that, a very generous postnup. (But don’t hold your breath. You can read why I think entitlement and reconciliation are at odds here.)
An explanation is not a balm. Getting lost in the skein prolongs your pain. Better to move toward acceptance. They did it because they COULD. So… now what? That’s on you.