Ask Alisson: How do I stop cheating on my partner?
Our resident therapist answers your queries about sex and relationships
Q I'm in a long-term relationship, but every now and then I get to impulse to text other women. Mostly, this is just flirty messaging, but sometimes, I meet up with them for more. I've always had this impulse to cheat on partners - even when I really like them. Why am I like this? I am ready to change - can you offer any advice?
Alisson replies: The definition of an impulse is 'a sudden strong and unreflective urge or desire to act.' This makes my ears prick up, as that itch or desire to act upon a strong urge can feel irresistible and as if, it is outside your control backed by an affirmative, but unhelpful thought such as 'that is just the way I am' and so the cycle continues.
It can feel like you are doomed to keep repeating the same patterns of behaviour even if they threaten a relationship that means something to you.
I would say especially, if the relationship means something. The next word I will throw out there is 'sabotage' more specifically self-sabotage.
Ever wonder when everything is going along swimmingly why you pull the pin and throw a grenade over your shoulder? As you walk towards risk, impulsivity and self-sabotage?
The question is 'why' this happens, the answer is, a fear of intimacy and its many scary friends.
If you are calling a sex line or using Tinder or something similar, it makes sense in terms of having sex without any emotional connection.
As intimacy and connection ask a lot. It specifically asks us to be vulnerable and to trust, and that can be an intensely scary prospect.
When intimacy is in a relationship it allows you to be your real self and to share your authentic self with another person.
This can be through something that may seem silly, like having the same sense of humour, but this is such a connector, as you feel the other person just 'gets you'. Intimacy is built through conversations about ideas, thoughts, dreams, fears, hopes, vulnerabilities and sharing the side of you that don't share with others. All of these intimacies lead into the physical expression of that connection by being sexually present and connected with your partner.
If you want to take a risk, being intimate is one worth taking.
It will bring up a lot of fear and the desire to hit the escape/self-sabotage button.
But, you have taken this step, you want to change, and you can. The repair begins with you, as you learn to trust in your ability to choose not to act upon the impulse and to reflect on what is really going on for you in that moment.
Well done on wanting to make a change as it's a courageous step.
Are there any major life events going on for you that has triggered this desire to change?
Sometimes it can be triggered by a partner who wants to become more serious or committed through, living together, getting married or having a baby?
Do you trust yourself? Do you trust your partner? Were you able to trust your parents?
When a parent(s) lets you down and breaks trust it causes major issues in the foundations of what you expect of others and of yourself.
This is not a blame game like in the definition of an impulse, let's do the opposite and sit with the answers of the three questions above and see if it brings up anything for you?
It can be confusing for an adult to understand why they are self-sabotaging or acting in a way that they know rationally is dangerous to the health of a relationship. But if we go back to the original blueprint of your family it can help identify when your core needs may not have been met and trust was broken. This could be through a parent who was not emotionally present, if there was neglect, abuse, or trauma. Trauma doesn't forget, we can, and do though at a conscious level. It can be useful to understand why we act in ways we wish we didn't by recognising some of the drives are coming from very old wounds. If this is the case then maintaining long-term healthy relationships can prove not only difficult, but very painful.
It would be really helpful to explore this yourself or with a therapist.
Here are some questions to get you started: Do you:
⬤ Sometimes pursue then retreat in relationships?
⬤ Expect people to let you down?
⬤ Trust people?
⬤ Feel comfortable with intimacy,
self-disclosure or letting people in?
⬤ Feel comfortable or uncomfortable
sharing your vulnerabilities?
⬤ Feel loved?
⬤ Feel worthy of love?
Checking in with your attachment style and seeing how it may be playing out for you now in your current relationship, may help you identify any specific fears such as the contradictory, but frequent dual fear of abandonment and feeling trapped, like you will lose 'you' in the relationship.
These are the starter questions to help you heal old wounds with the intent of helping foster healthy relationships with yourself and others.
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