I know it seems counterintuitive, right? I mean, if someone cheats on someone, why would they want to stay in a relationship with them?
After all, they cheated. They can’t possibly still love their person and be happy in a relationship if they cheated. Right?
Actually, it’s more complicated than that. People cheat for many reasons and not only because they are no longer in love with the person they are with.
They cheat because they might struggle with love self-esteem or they have a hard time with commitment or they don’t feel loved or they need variety or they feel neglected or because the opportunity arises and, of course, sexual desire.
It is very rare (although it does happen) that someone cheats because they want to get out of a relationship.
So, why do cheaters want to stay in relationships after they have cheated?
The answers might surprise you!
#1 – They still love you.
You might be thinking “how can people cheat on someone they love?” It just doesn’t make any sense. After all, you would never do that, correct?
But, unfortunately, it happens all the time.
Just being in love isn’t enough to help someone heal their wounds. Yes, love is wonderful and it makes us feel better in the world but love doesn’t fix everything.
Someone who is well loved, and in love, might still suffer from low self esteem or depression and that might lead them to cheat. Or they might feel neglected by the person they love and so they turn to another to make themselves feel better.
What they don’t want, at all, is to let go of the person they love. They love that person and want to be with them and they see the cheating as something that is totally outside of their love story with their person.
I know it seems weird but the number one reason why cheaters want to stay in relationships is because they still love their person.
#2 – They feel guilty.
Imagine you are someone who just cheated on someone you love.
Perhaps it’s your spouse or your partner or even a friend.
Can you imagine the guilt that you must feel? It must be pretty overwhelming, no?
So, what might be your instinct when you are feeling guilty about cheating?
To stay, perhaps, and try to fix things? Yes, probably.
Ironically, staying in a relationship because you feel guilty isn’t a good reason to do so. If you don’t feel genuine remorse about the affair and are willing to address the root cause of it, staying will only make things worse.
I always encourage cheaters who want to stay because they feel guilty to ask themselves if staying is really the best thing for their partners or are they staying for themselves and their guilt?
#3 – They are scared.
Cheaters who want to stay in relationships often do so because they are scared.
They are scared of letting go of someone they still love. They are scared to be out there in the world, on their own. They are scared that they will never find someone else to love and that their reputation will be forever tarnished as a cheater.
Fear is a very powerful emotion, something that keeps us from putting ourselves in harm’s way and it’s something that it’s hard to overcome. When people cheat on someone they still love, the idea of losing them is almost more that they can bear.
But, again, it’s important that, if a cheater wants to stay in a relationship, that they do so because they want to make things work, not because they are scared about what is on the other side of a break up or divorce.
#4 – They don’t have other options.
This is a big one. People often want to stay in a relationship after they cheated because they have no other option than to do so.
I can’t tell you how many of my clients whose partner cheated and whom they want to leave are still in a relationship with them because there are no other options.
Perhaps it’s the finances that makes someone stay or have no place to go. Or, if they leave, there will be no one to provide childcare or take care of the home.
Perhaps it’s the fact that they believe that, if they go, they won’t have any other options to find love. That the love they have, even if it’s damaged, is better than no love at all.
Having options is one of the most important things to have in one’s life and not having them can paralyze someone when it comes to making a move.
#5 – They fear change.
According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter, writing for the Harvard Business Review, people hate change for a multitude of reasons. Change means a loss of control, uncertainty, loss of face and concern about whether they can handle it. Fear that changing one thing might change other things. Worry that the change will backfire and that things will get worse.
A person who has cheated, especially if they have been found out, will already be dealing with a world that feels pretty wobbly.
Cheating, while it sounds sexy, will rock someone’s world, shaking the foundation of everything that they assumed about themselves.
The last thing that they want is for things to change ever further, to have to leave the family or the house that gives them the stability that they need.
And so, they want to stay!
#6 – They don’t feel good about themselves.
One of the number one reasons why people cheat, in my opinion, is because they have a low opinion of themselves.
They don’t like who they are in the world and they haven’t learned how to manage or change and so they have had to create coping mechanisms to live with themselves.
One of those coping mechanisms might be cheating. By focusing on their infidelity and their affair partner, they don’t have to think about how much they hate themselves. They are also spending time with someone who thinks they are wonderful and tells them that regularly.
When a person is no longer cheating, they need to revert to other coping mechanisms, ones that may or may not work. And the idea of leaving their partner, especially if they still love them, might be just thing that pushes them over the edge.
They might not think that they deserve their partner, because they cheated, but leaving them will only make them feel worse about themselves.
A scary thing indeed.
#7 – They are worried about finances.
Money, money, money. It makes the world go ‘round.
For many people, they stay in their relationship after cheating because they worry about finances. Because they are anxious that, if they leave, their long-term financial health might be damaged.
And, of course, many people stay because they just can’t afford to do it, right now.
Unfortunately, staying in a relationship because of money will, most likely, just lead to a life time of misery. If we don’t stay in a relationship because we truly want to make the relationship work, then we won’t ever be happy.
That being said, staying might be the only option if finances are in issue in which case, working together to try to figure out how to make co-habitation work would be wise.
#8 – They still want sex.
Sex, sex, sex – the other thing that makes the world go ‘round.
For many men, having sex is a driving factor in their life. They think about it every day and would love nothing more than to have a partner who wants as much sex as they do.
And they know that, if they leave, the chances that they have have sex anytime soon are slim. Furthermore, for someone who might have been recently having sex with more than one person, the prospect of the absence of sex might feel overwhelming.
So, yes, cheaters who want to stay in relationships are often cheaters who want sex and hope that, if they stay, they will still be able to get the sex that they desire.
#9 – They have hope.
Many, many people who cheat regret that they did so. They know that the affair didn’t fix their lives the way that they had hoped it would. They know that they only caused other people pain. They know that they let themselves down. They promise themselves that they will do better.
And, with these thoughts in mind, they want to stay.
They want to stay so that they can work on things – both personally and as couple – hoping that things will still be okay.
They believe that, if they leave, that will mean the end of the relationship and that they will never have the chance to make things right, something that they want to do.
I hope that you now see that cheaters want to stay in relationships for a variety of reasons.
Some of them, like hope and love, are excellent reasons to stay. They signal that the cheater wants to work to make amends and to make change and to get the relationship back on track.
Some of them are selfish, like the fear of being alone and not getting laid. Many cheaters are selfish so these reasons, while not being okay, are on brand.
And some reasons are purely practical, like not having options or having financial anxiety.
Whatever the reasons, the fact that a cheater wants to stay in a relationship is not unusual.
If your person has cheated and wants to stay, find out why. That will help your decision about whether they should stay or should go easier.
You can do it!