It can be difficult to understand why people get the urge to cheat on their significant other. Even if you find yourself in this situation, you might not really know why you feel the need to cheat — especially when you love your partner. So, why do people want to cheat? Is there a psychological explanation for infidelity? Elite Daily spoke to Dr. Susan Edelman, board-certified psychiatrist and author of Be Your Own Brand of Sexy: A New Sexual Revolution for Women, to get the lowdown on cheating.
"There are many psychological reasons why a person has the urge to cheat, but the best explanation is one that Bill Clinton used in explaining his affair with Monica Lewinsky. He said he did it 'because [he] could,'" Edelman says.
She explains that some people who cheat have childhood issues that cause them to feel unworthy of love and afraid of intimacy, so they tend to avoid being truly intimate with their partner. Another possible explanation is that they might have issues with sexual addiction or have narcissistic or sociopathic personality problems, according to Edelman.
If you feel the urge to cheat on someone you love, there are many ways to decrease the temptation. "Recognize that you have the power to resist the urge," says Edelman.
The first step is to consider the very real consequences of cheating. You should be fully aware of what could happen if you act on your desires. "Cheating is very likely to damage your relationship with your partner, your children, and your image of yourself," says Edelman. "Once you cross the line, it might be easier for you to cross it again and create a pattern."
If you can, completely avoid seeing the person you're attracted to. Or, at the very least, try not to find yourself alone with them. Telling yourself you can be friends will only prolong your temptation, according to Edelman.
It can also help to talk to an understanding friend or family member who wants to help keep you from cheating. Telling your partner about your urge to cheat can be surprisingly helpful, and is much better than actually cheating. "Although it can be very hard to do, it will hurt your partner less if it's only an idea rather than dealing with the actual act," says Edelman.
It is possible for a couple to rebuild their relationship after infidelity, but it can take a very long time. "It may take years for the betrayed partner to even consider the idea of forgiveness," says Edelman. "Recovery requires a stage of grieving and the partners trying to understand the factors that led to cheating. One of the best strategies is to get a good couples therapist to help you through the process."
If you have a problem with serial cheating, it's important to get the help you need to eventually have an intimate relationship. Begin by being honest with yourself and admitting that you have a problem. "Otherwise, you are likely to hurt a lot of people in the process and damage your confidence as well," says Edelman.
It's OK to experience temptation. If you act on your urges and betray your partner, however, that's when the problems really start. In the event that you do cheat, knowing whether or not to tell your partner can be complicated. "If you don't plan to make it a habit, sparing your partner the pain might be the best course of action if you truly want to stay with them," says Edelman. "But if they suspect and ask you about cheating, don't compound your problems by lying. You don't want more than one reason for them to have difficulty trusting you."
If your partner is likely to find out about your affair or if you feel like your relationship with them is over, telling them is the best course of action, according to Edelman.
There are a number of reasons why people get the urge to cheat, from the simple fact of convenience, to more serious issues with intimacy, sex addiction, or personality problems that should be worked through with a mental health professional. If reminding yourself of the importance of your relationship and the consequences of cheating doesn't help, try talking to someone you can trust about the temptation you're experiencing.
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