According to infidelity stats from a 2013 study, 33 percent of men and 19 percent of women admitted to having cheated on their partner at some point. Depending on your feelings about being unfaithful, those numbers can either be terrifying reminders that you can never really truly trust a person or make you feel relaxed that they’re not closer to 50 percent. Phew! But no matter where you fall on the spectrum, most of the time when we talk about cheating, the blame is far too often put on the cheater. They are always the ones who are at fault.
The thing about cheating is that it’s usually a sign that something is wrong in the marriage. While there are people out there who cheat for the sake of cheating, to assume that every cheater is compelled to do so for that reason is wrong. We need to consider other reasons for the behavior.
We talked to five women about their experiences with cheating on their husbands. Completely anonymous and totally candid, these women just might change the way you look at cheaters.
1. “I married the wrong man.”
For starters, I married the wrong man. My ex (and true love) and I had broken up; he moved to California and I decided to move on. I started dating John shortly there after and we ended up getting married. Despite my reservations about my decision to marry him, I went through with it, the whole time telling myself that it was love.
A week after the wedding my ex moved back to town. After we ran into each other one night (read: I just “happened “to be in his neighborhood), we started spending time together again. It wasn’t physical, aside from kissing, but it was definitely an emotional affair. He was my best friend and we’d go for drives and just talk for hours and hours. I never once felt guilty about it; it was the best time of my life, to be honest.
When I told my husband I was leaving him, he asked why. I told him there was something wrong with the marriage, and, to just give you an idea of how clueless he was, he said he thought our marriage was perfect. He did mention that he thought there was someone else, but blamed that on me and not that there was something wrong.
The day the divorce was finalized, I married that ex of mine. We celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary last week. So, as I said, I married the wrong man so that’s why I cheated.
2. “I was miserable.”
I cheated on him once. We were talking about divorce and I already had a trip scheduled. I knew before the trip I wanted a divorce, but I didn’t want to tell him and then leave him for a week with all of my stuff and pets. So I decided to do it when I got home.
I had a one-night stand with a friend of my sister’s the last night I was on the trip then went home the next day and told my husband I wanted a divorce. I didn’t tell him about the one-night stand and never will.”
Truthfully, I felt fine about it. I think I knew I was in for a few months of hell, but the one-night stand was a nice release. It was nice to be wanted by someone that I was actually sexually interested in, since I hadn’t been interested in my husband in that way for several years. That was the first time I’d cheated on anyone since I was 21.
We legally separated this past October. I told him I wanted the divorce in the middle of August. I’m happy about it. I was f*cking miserable; it just took me years to admit it. The 30-plus pounds of weight gain should have been a red flag and the fact I had no interest in sex when I have previously had A LOT. We cut ties as much as possible. We work at the same company but not together, so I see him occasionally at work but not often. I want nothing to do with him. I mean, he’s not a bad person; he was just a dick to me. [I’m] not interested in him being in my life.”
3. “I felt guilty for sleeping with my own husband.”
I was feeling trapped by my husband at the time, who was far more concerned about me being at home if I wasn’t at work than being OK with me having any time of my own to move about independently.
We had three young kids and his expectation was that I would walk through the door of our house exactly 30 minutes after my shift was over ― no five-minute chat with a friend on the way out the door, no stop at the mall or salon to get my hair cut, no quick drink after work with the girls. If I called to run it by him that I was going to do something after work, all I got was, “Get home. Now.” I needed an escape.
The guy I cheated with was fun and part of the process of me spreading my wings. Did I feel guilty? Not exactly. I’m happiest with one partner but with my husband I was unhappy, irritated, and not having sex. The one time I did agree to have sex with him, I cried. I felt guilty for sleeping with my own husband.
I didn’t tell him I cheated. It wasn’t the root of the problem, and we discovered that the root of the problem couldn’t be fixed. I wasn’t going to put up with being locked up for the rest of my life.
I’m no longer with the guy I cheated with. Turns out he wasn’t able to be in a committed relationship, to anyone, not his wife ― and certainly not to me.”
4. “It was a weird form of revenge.”
It stemmed from an argument about the holidays. We were arguing about where to go on Christmas day and neither one of us was going to budge. We’d only been married for two years at that point and this had never been an issue in the past, even while we were dating. I think it was just indicative of other issues.
With the heated argument having just been the day before, I went to my holiday party without him because he didn’t want to go to that either. We all got fairly intoxicated and a coworker and I ended up going at it in the bathroom. If you consider kissing, groping, and ‘just the tip’ cheating, then I cheated. I consider it cheating and so would my husband.
It was a one-time thing and it scared me how much I didn’t feel guilty about it. Even now over a year later, I shrug it off. I never told him, but I can’t guarantee that I never will. It was a weird form of revenge for me. I can’t explain it.
5. “It was the best thing that happened to us.”
He had been flirting with a coworker, which I was fine with at first. We’re both flirtatious people and him texting some starry-eyed woman in his office didn’t seem like a big deal. We even joked about it.
But it eventually evolved from flirting to sex and when he told me I did the only thing that I thought was fair: I slept with an ex-boyfriend who had been emailing me about getting a drink. Being distraught at his actions, I couldn’t wait to tell him.
The funny thing is that it helped us. It was the best thing that happened to us, like we needed to get that behavior out of our system one last time in order to move on to the next step in our marriage. That was a few years ago, and now two kids later, we can look back at our infidelities and know in some strange way it was necessary. I still feel sad about it when I force myself to go back that place in our history, but I think I feel sad because it was a rough time for us and even then I knew we could do better.”