I love him, but I can’t stop cheating
Dear Dr. Pam,
My boyfriend and I have been together for almost four years now and everything is going really well, I love him and over the years we’ve grown closer and closer. The only problem is I can’t help but cheat on him, so far I’ve only slept with one other person but I kissed quite a few boys over the past two years, he doesn’t know.
I’ve never had a boyfriend that I haven’t cheated on and usually there’s quite a big overlap while I finish with one boyfriend and get serious with the next – anything up to a year.
With most of the other guys I have been out with I don’t feel that guilty about what I’ve done, but I’m starting to see my current boyfriend is worth more than this, there’s nothing lacking in our relationship and he really is the best thing that ever happened to me. But I don’t seem to be able to stop.
We’ve talked about getting married but I can’t get married if my behaviour continues.
Dear 'cheating heart',
You've got one thing right - you can't consider getting married while this behaviour threatens to tear apart you, him and your relationship. Unfortunately while things seem good on the surface - you say how you've grown closer and closer and there's nothing lacking in your relationship - under the surface there's so much going on. It's like emotional iceberg territory!
Manyusers reading your e-mail will think how difficult it must be for you to conduct two separate lives and ways of thinking about relationships but I know from my work how often people can run two different parts of their emotional life side-by-side like train tracks. One of your tracks seems like a great girlfriend and the other track is about secret choices full of conflicting emotions.
I recommend you consider face-to-face sessions with a counsellor specialising in sex and relationship issues - even Relate will see individuals - you don't have to go as a couple. While you consider that here are some steps:
- Ask yourself what you get from these affairs and that includes when you kiss another man behind your boyfriend’s back? Do you love the risk? Do you like having a secret life? Does it give you a sense of power? Do you feel neglected by him so you try and get your own back this way? Understanding answers to questions like these will start pointing you in the right direction.
- When you're considering cheating what specifically runs through your mind? Are you thinking you shouldn't do this? Are you thinking screw it I'll do what I want? Or are you thinking this is out of your control?
- Going by your answers you might want to address a need for risk - some people need a sense of risk in their life where they feel a bit dead inside. There's nothing wrong with being a risk taker as long as it doesn't involve messing with your relationships! Some people end up doing action sports, open mic nights, amateur dramatics, etc. to get that sense of risk.
- Are these flings about buffering you from complete emotional intimacy with your boyfriend? Some people with intimacy issues keep a person at emotional-arm's-length by cheating. It gives them a sense that they're not being sucked into the thing they fear - a true, genuine, loving relationship.
- Think long and hard about whether you want to stay with him and how you can change this behaviour. You might need to check out an organisation like sex addicts anonymous or sex and love addicts anonymous and get regular help through meetings.
- In the meantime resist impulses to cheat behind his back. Be on your guard for the impulses you feel when you're about to make a bad decision. Fight these feelings, telling yourself you need to sort this out.
- Don't put yourself in temptation’s path by going to bars or clubs on your own, flirting with colleagues, etc.
Final tip: If it's about an unsatisfying sex life with him then learn to ask for the sexual pleasure you want. You can turn this into a sexy game where you have some fantasy chat and you're a fantasy character who can take control. Try playing the company boss who is going to tell her junior exactly how to pleasure her on her desk… or whatever does it for you!
Good luck, Dr Pam x