It’s easy to look at cheating as a black and white situation: Cheaters never have a good reason for straying from their relationships, and the other person is always in the right. In truth, there are more shades of gray than a certain immensely popular kinky franchise. As the following anecdotes show, women have a wealth of reasons for getting a little side action in a relationship. While everyone can agree it’s better if no one cheats in the first place, chances are you’ll find yourself empathizing with a few of these ladies.
“I was married to my ex-husband for 10 years, and I cheated with a childhood friend on and off for five of those. I wasn’t in love with my husband anymore, but I wanted to stay together for our children. This childhood friend and I had always wanted to be together, but the timing never seemed to be right because I was married and he was in a serious relationship. We tried several times to break it off, but the longest we stayed apart was eight months. We were in love but didn’t want to hurt our spouses, and of course we also had trust issues. Could we trust the other if we became exclusive? In the end, I confessed to my ex-husband during an argument. Before that, he’d suspected I was cheating but could never prove it. We decided that we wanted to work it out, and it lasted another year before I decided I could no longer put up with him. I dated the childhood friend for six months after my husband and I split up, but I decided I wanted to move away and start a new chapter. We stay in touch, but we’ve both moved on.” —Lauren C.
“I had been dating my boyfriend for about a year, and I was feeling neglected, unloved, and a bit unwanted. When I’m happy and in love, being faithful is easy. When I’m not, I start to consider alternative avenues. The guy I cheated with was an older man who lived and worked in my neighborhood. He’d been pursuing me for almost two years, and he was so sweet. He paid close attention to me. Maybe my cheating was a passive-aggressive way of retaliating and releasing the frustrations I had with my then-partner, but it definitely wasn’t worth it. The sex wasn’t even good. My partner never found out, and we eventually broke up because we always fought and weren’t happy. I can’t say that I won’t ever cheat again because I can’t predict the future. I didn’t feel guilty about it, and I still don’t.” —Aliya B.
“I met my boyfriend when I was 22, and we hit it off right away. We were young and always on the go, traveling, camping, and the like. We got married four years after we met. Four years after we got married, we were still the best of friends, but I was starting to wonder if he was the man that I could see myself sitting quietly on a porch with when we get old. I was afraid that, beyond all the outings and the activities, maybe my husband and I didn’t have all that much in common to connect us. I joined a photography group on Facebook, and a guy in the group sent me a quick hello to say he liked my picture. We started chatting, and it was just friendly; I would talk about my husband, and he would talk about his girlfriend. There was no flirting, just deep, interesting conversations. He was so intellectual and interesting and different compared to my husband, who was a wonderful man but didn’t have any big passion in life and never dug into his emotions. It wasn’t sexual then, but there was definitely chemistry. He lived two hours away from where I was, and my best friend happened to move about five minutes away from him. I was planning on visiting her one afternoon and asked the new guy if he wanted to go for brunch. When we met up, sparks flew. I knew I was in trouble. My marriage was still doing fine, except that I kept thinking about the new guy when I was home. We started seeing each other every few weeks, and the discussions were so profound, the passion was so strong. This lasted five months. Then, one morning, I was sitting in the living room with my husband and we were just having a discussion when it occurred to me to ask him, completely out of the blue, if he had met someone else. He said yes. He had been seeing her for two months, and he loved her. Our whole break-up discussion lasted 20 minutes. I asked if he had a place to say and if I could keep the house. He went to take a shower, I packed some clothes for him and made him a lunch, we shared a very long hug, and he left. And that was it—the end of our marriage. Seven years later, I am happily living with the new guy and my ex is still with the woman he met while we were together. To this day, I’ve never told my ex that I, too, was having an affair.” —Isabelle M.
“When my then-boyfriend and I got together, we had a very rocky relationship. Things could be really passionate because we were infatuated with each other, but when it was bad, it was really bad. We said mean things to one another and intentionally hurt each other’s feelings. I knew he had cheated on me and suspected that he continued to do so—I once found an earring in my room from a girl he had brought home the night before—so I started revenge-cheating back. He told me every time he kissed another girl at the club or something, and I pretended not to be bothered. Then I would cheat on him out of anger. I had zero qualms about kissing other boys or even seeing other guys. I liked the attention from men who actually made me feel good about myself, and I liked that the attention I got made my boyfriend jealous. The person I cheated with the most often was an ex-boyfriend who had actually asked me to marry him years before, but I had said no. I knew he adored me and would do anything for me, so I really exploited that. We went out for dinner, fooled around, and then I would ask him to drop me off at home…where my boyfriend also lived. So tacky, now that I think about it.” —Natalie P.
Related: 10 Weird Facts About Cheating
“I’ve basically cheated on every guy I’ve dated. I think it’s because my high school boyfriend, who I was completely in love with, cheated on me. He broke my heart, and it was awful. Now, when I’m dating a guy I like, if things start to get serious, I’ll flirt with another guy or make out with him or take things even further than that. They usually don’t find out, which is good. I’m not actually trying to hurt them. It’s just that if I start to get attached, I get scared of being hurt again. I screw it up first so they don’t have the chance. I know it’s not good. I’ve started therapy because of it.” —Kate N.
“I’ve been with my current boyfriend for almost 10 years, but I cheated on him when we’d been together for about four years. I didn’t feel like I was getting enough attention from him, and I’d met this other guy through work. He was willing to give me attention, and we had this deeply emotional attraction that went far beyond a physical connection. I stayed at his place one night, and we made out a lot but didn’t sleep together. He told me he loved me, and while being doted on is great, it was also a little too much too soon. I realized I would have been throwing away years in a solid relationship for this fast-moving thing that was a total crapshoot. And you know what? That guy got married about two years after professing his love for me. That fast-paced type of relationship is not me. Love is built over time, not in a one-night stand, no matter how deep the emotional connection. I realized that by jumping into something else, I wouldn’t be giving my long-term relationship a fair chance. After I told him, we decided we needed to try and figure out our problems. In the end, I don’t regret it because it was a wake-up call for my boyfriend and me to really figure out what we both needed from each other and how we could be better. Now, we’re both more secure with ourselves individually, which makes us more secure in our relationship. I’ve also realized that our relationship will never be perfect, and most aren’t, so instead of trying to be perfect, we just have to try to be the best we can for each other.” —Claire T.
By Zahra Barnes
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