You discover your man is cheating, and you know he’s bad for you. Your friends tell you to dump him, but the truth is, you still want him.
If the pull is unbearably strong, maybe it’s not love that you feel, but addiction. Do you do any of the following?
- You confront him about the calls in his phone from other women. He comes up excuses, and you know they’re lame, but you accept them anyway.
- He says it’s your fault that he cheated on you, and you agree with him.
- You keep telling yourself that if you could just be more loving, patient, sexy, etc., he would make you his one-and-only.
- You apologize to him for things you didn’t do or say.
- You tell him it’s over and storm out, only to call or text him, begging to get back together. This happens time and time again.
- You keep trying to prove that you’re better than the other woman (or women).
- You go overboard trying to help him, even though he treats you badly.
- When your friends and family question his behavior, you make excuses for him.
- You stalk him — in real life and online.
- He promises that this time will be different and he really will end it with her. You make yourself believe him. Again.
How does this happen? First of all, understand this: All romantic love is addictive.
Anyone who falls madly in love behaves just like an addict, says Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University. In her scientific articles, she explains the similarities between lovers and addicts:
- You’re both intensely focused on your reward — either your lover or the drug.
- You both feel mood swings, craving, obsession, and compulsion.
- You both experience distortion of reality, emotional dependence, personality changes, risk-taking, and loss of self-control.
Romantic love can be a constructive addiction when your love is returned, Dr. Fisher says. But if your love isn’t returned, the addiction can be highly destructive.
Dr. Fisher explains your first reaction to rejected love is “protest” — you obsessively try to win back your partner. You may even feel more passionately in love than when you were together. Why? Because you’ve bonded to your lover.
All love is about bonding — the psychological and emotional attachment that you feel towards him. The psychological bond forms in the beginning of the relationship, when you feel the giddy pleasure of a new romance.
But what happens when you discover your man is cheating on you? You may be angry, but you may also feel fear and anxiety about possibly losing your relationship. And surprisingly, this doesn’t drive you away from your lover.
According to Dr. Liane Leedom, associate professor of counseling and psychology at the University of Bridgeport, fear and anxiety actually strengthen the psychological bond that you feel for him.
When the guy is a cheater, this becomes a vicious cycle:
- In the beginning, before you knew of his deception, the pleasure of your new romance created the psychological bond.
- He cheats and you feel fear and anxiety, which strengthens the bond.
- You kiss and make up, which strengthens the bond again.
- He takes you on a rollercoaster of cheating and reuniting. With each go-round, the psychological bond you feel gets stronger and stronger.
The vicious cycle of cheating and reuniting could lead to a “trauma bond.” Some cheaters aren’t just guys who can’t make up their minds; some cheaters are exploiters.
“Exploitative relationships create betrayal bonds,” says Dr. Patrick J. Carnes in his book calledThe Betrayal Bond. Also described as a trauma bond, this occurs when you bond with someone who’s destructive to you.
Trauma bonds, Dr. Carnes explains, are addictive. You feel a compulsion to continue the relationship, despite the adverse consequences. You’re obsessed with the relationship.
If you recognize yourself in this article, you’re probably already aware that your involvement with this man isn’t healthy. So, what do you do? You treat it like an addiction. You “go on the wagon” by breaking off the relationship and having no contact with this man.
This may seem daunting. How can you possibly cut him out of your life? The answer is to take it one day at a time, just like in a 12-step program. And if you need support, seek competent help.