Why We Cheat
From a recovering cheater
Cheaters gonna cheat. In life, love, and business. When I think of cheating in a relationship, I also think of cheating on a test. Why would someone cheat in either scenario?
In 8th grade, a friend got her hands on the Science final test. She was going on vacation and took the test early. In the office. Next to the copy machine. So she did what a lot of teenagers would do. She made three copies. Part of my brain recalls the answers also being available, but that was a long time ago.
I was failing Science class. Acing the test would give me a passing grade. It never occurred to me that the teacher would know something was up when a floundering student aced a test that her best friend had seen a week before.
When my friend returned from vacation with her family, she was called to the principal’s office. Her conscience got the best of her and she sang like a songbird. She’d given the test to two other students and me. Of course, we were all called to the office and given in-school suspension. A new test was created and we had to take it. With 20% of the points already gone as a penalty for cheating. I aced that test as well.
Memorizing the first test caused me to actually learn the material. They thought I cheated again. Because, once a cheater, always a cheater. So I was given an oral test. I aced that as well. The teacher was confused, assuming I knew the material before I cheated on the first test. Why would I cheat if I already knew it? I explained that the cheating caused me to learn it. It was easier than trying to decipher the lessons and text.
So how does cheating on a test relate to cheating in a relationship? For starters, both are risky. But with that risk, you get a sort of intrinsic high from the near-misses of getting caught, the idea of having a secret, and the relief every time you get away with it. Cheating, whether on your partner or on a test, is exciting. At least for a while.
When we cheat, we are trying to gain something we don’t already have. But rather than work for it, we take a big shortcut to get results we didn’t earn. I cheated on an ex to feel wanted. Rather than communicate with him and go through that process, I took an “easier” route.
I cheated on an ex to have a Plan B. An escape plan. I was severely codependent and had to find someone else to latch onto before I let go of my current partner. Just like cheating on that test was an alternate plan of passing a class, rather than actually studying and putting in the time. But when you get caught, it just compounds the issue.
I cheated on an ex because I wanted better. I wanted to better my situation. Just like in Science class, I wanted a better position, a better grade. In my relationship, I wanted someone with a better job, bigger life goals, and who appreciated me. But then, as a coworker I had would say, it’s the devil you know versus the devil you don’t know.
That person I was cheating with was also cheating. He had no intention of giving up his life, no matter what he said to me. And he treated his wife as if she was a burden. If we’d ended up together, that pattern would repeat. I would be the burden and he would cheat on me. And I would on him as well.
Cheaters don’t take into account the people around them. In junior high, it never occurred to me how unfair it was to those students that actually took the time to study and learn. In my past relationships, it didn’t occur to me how much it would hurt my partner to find out I had been stepping out on them. That is, until I was cheated on.
I found a text and then a risqué picture and then a whole bunch of other private messages. He said the same things to her that he did to me when he was trying to be sexy. He lied about being single and raising his son by himself. He lied about having a job. In his story, I was erased. All my hard work and support was invisible in his version of his life.
My heart hurt, my mind raced, and I was angry! He lied about it. They were “just friends.” He told me she was dying. When I confronted her, she blamed me! Until I told her who he really was. But, the damage was done. And I had to face the damage I’d left in my wake with past relationships.
I had made other people feel that way. The way I felt when I was cheated on. I realized I’d been making excuses for my past behaviors. I texted my ex-husband and tried to make amends. To let him know that karma had come back around and now I knew how he’d felt. I also vowed to never cheat in my future relationships.
When we cheat in a relationship, there is something wrong already. As I’ve said, nobody leaves for someone else and nobody cheats when they are in a good, healthy relationship. Whether emotionally, online, or in the flesh.
Cheaters are looking for something they aren’t getting. That doesn’t mean it’s the right way to go about things. It’s just the way it is. School, relationships, jobs, all take work. Communication, studying up on things, putting the time in. Cheaters forget that the time they use for the preparation and act of cheating, is time taken away from actually putting in the fair effort. It’s pretty selfish when you think about it.
Another end of the cheating spectrum is, it invites unknowns into your life, your family, your home. Had I simply studied for that final, I would have taken the test, earned whatever grade I got, and moved on. Instead, by cheating, I affected the school staff, my friends, trust, and my parents.
When I cheated in my past relationships, I didn’t take into account the person I was inviting into my life and my family. As an avid true crime buff, I’ve heard plenty of stories about families being killed and torn apart by a jilted lover or spouse who’s been cheated on. While that does seem extreme, it can and does happen.
Cheaters cheat because they want something, but they want it the easy way. Rather than work for the desired results, cheaters look for the quickest way to the prize, just hoping no one gets hurt. But someone always does. Even the cheater.