When cheaters approach: does this sound familiar?

Has someone in a relationship tried to hit on you for sexy chats, sexting or more? In the process, have they spun you a story about how unhappy they are in their current relationship? Maybe a girlfriend won’t give blowjobs or try anal. Maybe she won’t touch her partner at all any more.

Man cheating on his wife

Over the years, I have been approached by several guys in relationships, and so have many of my female friends (sometimes by the same guys). Some cheaters were looking for a ‘bit on the side’; others wanted nothing more than sexy chats behind their partner’s back. In each case, the cheaters spent a good portion of their pursuit bemoaning their current partner. What struck me (and my friends when we compared notes) is that each of them felt the need to badmouth their relationship yet they had no intention of leaving or doing anything to change.

In some instances these advances probably work. Maybe the target feels sorry for the cheater. Maybe he or she gets an ego stroke imagining they can provide something another lover can’t (or won’t). However, as a mating strategy, bitching about your current relationship seems flawed.

In the former case, the outcome seems tantamount to a pity fuck, and in the latter, the ego stroke is going to evaporate when despite how much ‘better’ than the ‘rubbish’ partner you are, the cheater still won’t leave. It also doesn’t say much about the quality of the cheater as a partner or lover.

Research on ‘mate poaching’ shows we are more attracted to quality partners who have good relationships and great sex than those who are miserable, who can’t meet each other’s needs, or who are too frightened to be on their own. A friend of mine described it perfectly: ‘I don’t want to shag the guy whose wife won’t touch him anymore; I want to shag the guy whose wife can’t get enough of him.’

Given the cheater won’t leave or change the situation, how unhappy can they really be? Perhaps they have a family, perhaps they don’t want to hurt their partner, or perhaps they feel ‘needed’. Whatever the excuses, in reality part (maybe all) of the cheater must be content with their partner and their relationship. So why go to such lengths and lie to both parties? There must be something in it for them to make playing out a double-ruse worth the extra effort and risk.

1. They need to justify their behaviour

This person wants to have their cake and eat it too, but feels guilty. They are not telling the stories about how miserable they are for your benefit, but for theirs. This cheater knows how much their behaviour will hurt their partner, so they find a way to dress it up so that it appears more palatable. If they can convince you (and themselves) that their behaviour is justified (after all, their partner can’t or won’t give them what they need), they can alleviate some of those negative feelings.

2. They enjoy the secrecy

For this person, it’s all about going behind a partner’s back and leading a double-life. This cheater isn’t trying to justify their actions; they spin the story because it’s part of the game, the chase. They could be upfront with their target (if not their partner), but where’s the fun in that? Telling lies on both sides provides twice the thrill: this person can cheat on their partner and manipulate you.

3. It’s an ego-boost

When this cheater approaches you, they are not truly interested in sex or an emotional connection; they just want their ego stroked. By tapping you, they feel reassured they have options. They view the ‘unhappy relationship’ story as a way to get you involved in their life. When you respond, it’s a form of external validation that they are still desirable and worthwhile. If he or she doesn’t get a response from you, they will move on to someone else.

4. They suffer from the Madonna/Whore Complex

Men in this category tend to go after women they see as overtly sexual (the ‘Whore’), while their partner is the ‘Madonna’, your typical ‘girl-next-door’. He suffers shame around his sexual desires, and possibly harbours misogynist and patriarchal attitudes to women (consciously or not).

He will complain that his Madonna partner won’t satisfy his sexual needs, but he doesn’t really want her to. That’s what you are for. By enacting his deepest fantasies with someone other than his partner, she can remain ‘virginal’ and never see the side he wants to hide. Meanwhile, he gets his sexual needs met with someone ‘less worthy’, the ‘Whore’, who he is likely to slut-shame afterwards.

Women in this group have internalised the same dichotomy. Having something on the side allows them to keep their Madonna and Whore sides separate. They can act out the part of them they reject, or that they fear their partner will reject if they reveal it at home, in safety. The ‘unhappy relationship’ story serves to bolster the division.

5. Being honest has failed

This person has tried to do the right thing; they have been upfront that they intend to stay happily coupled, but they have had the door slammed in their face. Maybe prospective partners have been reluctant to enter a relationship where they will remain a lesser priority, or fear others labelling them a home-wrecker. This cheater has struggled to convince someone to have an affair with them, and so have presented themselves as unhappily partnered to indicate there is a chance a ‘bit-on-the-side’ can progress to something more.

Cheaters have a choice

Consensual non-monogamy might be getting more airplay these days, but it is still a long way off mainstream acceptance. In the meantime, there will be people who want to play on the side, for whatever reason, and don’t want to tell their partners.

Those people still have a choice about how they present themselves to prospective lovers. They can spin a clichéd tale of marital misery, but once that story inevitably loses credibility, they will leave their suitors feeling manipulated and resentful. As in all forms of dating dishonesty, the more lies you tell the less likely you are to get what you want, and the more likely people are to get hurt.

People ultimately have more respect for someone who is honest about a dishonest situation, particularly one in which they are being asked to engage. No one likes to feel manipulated and lied to. Some people tell lies to protect others, but some tell lies to protect themselves. If you have been lied to, you know how it feels. Do you know what lies you are telling and why?

Have you lied to prospective partner or been lied to? Share your story in the comments below.

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