Why did he step out on you and choose her? Is he not attracted to you anymore? Could you have done something differently? Did you do something wrong? Or is he just an un-moralistic, asshole cheater?
Regardless of why it happened, being cheated on can wreak havoc on your self-esteem, making you question everything from your body to your sexual ability, your brains to your capacity to maintain someone’s interest. I see this all the time, unfortunately, as a dating coach. And in no way is his cheating acceptable or understandable. It’s my feeling that if you are so unhappy that you feel the need to step out, so unhappy that it’s worth risking your relationship, then break up first!
And while it’s neither OK nor your fault, there are a few things you could have done to contribute to his desire to step out.
I was cheated on by a boyfriend who I was obsessed with! He somehow made me feel so completely insecure and not good enough that I packed on major pounds, hid my body under a sheet after having sex, constantly asked him if he liked my body, cried at the drop of a hat if I felt emotionally ignored, babied him and did absolutely everything for him, including paying for meals and running errands for him in order to prove my worth and compared myself to every other woman deeming them more attractive than me. I was desperate to keep him and so afraid that if I lost him, I myself would be lost. After several months, he told me that I was pushing him away by being so insecure, and that it wasn’t sexy when I hid or bad-talked my body. He missed the confident, strong, sexual Laurel who he had initially fallen for. But I didn’t know how to get her back. Well, after a year of being together, he cheated, broke up with me over the phone at 4 a.m., and is now married with a kid. Don’t do what I did!
Here are seven things you may have done to contribute to his cheating ways:
1. You’re so insecure!
Unless you truly do want him to see you through your tainted glasses, don’t point out your expanding butt, sagging breasts, dimpled thighs, muffin stomach or any other physical flaws. Let him love your body! Just because you don’t love it, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t. He won’t see your flaws unless you force him to.
- Hide your body.
- Bad talk yourself in front of him.
- Point out your physical flaws.
- Tell him that he deserves someone better than you, or that “she” would be better for him than you are.
- Cry all the time because you think you aren’t good enough.
2. You deny intimacy
Intimacy, both physical and emotional, is an essential component to a healthy relationship. Don’t deny intimacy as a way of punishment, or withhold it only to occasionally gift him with some sensual touch because he was good and deserves it. That’s called playing games. Intimacy should be a connector, bringing you two closer as you allow yourselves to be vulnerable and completely release together, for and with each other.
- Use sex as a gift only for special occasions.
- Withhold sex because he was “bad” or didn’t give you what you wanted. That doesn’t mean that you should always give it up either. If you feel like he is withholding emotionally and you begin to feel sexually used, that’s a different story.
3. You don’t trust him and always ask, “are you cheating on me?”
Incessantly questioning him, asking him what he did last night, checking his phone and showing blatant distrust is a total turn-off. Unless he has proven untrustworthy in the past. Which is another issue that you need to work through, but also can’t hold against him in the future (as difficult as I know that is). But if you are always blaming him, being cold to him, or accusing him of something he didn’t do, he very well will do it. The mentality is, “well, I’m already getting in trouble for it, so I may as well do it!” It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- Constantly question if he is cheating on you.
- Make statements that you think or you “know” he has cheated.
- Ask him if he thinks “she” is hotter than you and if he would ever cheat on you with her… what you very well may be doing is injecting that bug in him, making him actually look at her as someone who has sexual potential. Even though he may never have seen her in that way before. Until you forced it on him.
4. You emotionally shut down
By emotionally freezing him out, you are showing him that you are no longer an environment of safety and trust for him. He can no longer feel comfortable letting his guard down around you. He feels that he now has to tiptoe around you, careful not to say or do the wrong thing. You have taken away emotional intimacy and he may want to go out and find that safe haven somewhere else.
- Always be cold. If you are upset, communicate.
- Disconnect. Making him feel unwanted, unloved, not needed will make him feel the need to go to someone else who does want, love and need him.
5. You stop putting effort into yourself
Just because you two are in a solid, long-term, committed relationship doesn’t mean that he is no longer a sexual being who gets turned on by a hot body, flirty personality and lingerie. Don’t drop the person who you once were, the woman who attracted him in the first place. Yes, he loves you; but he is still a man and men are visual creatures.
Stop trying to put effort into your looks. This includes shaving, wearing sexy lingerie on occasion, putting on your makeup and working out. Yes, it’s great that you are comfortable enough to wear sweats and be “seen” for who you truly are. But sometimes you still have to pull out that that sexy beast of a woman! Believe me, the effort will pay off. And not just for him. Putting effort into yourself will make you feel sexy too.
- Stop flirting. When you go out to dinner, don’t just talk about your daily minutia, chores, the kids or annoyances. Flirt with him! Go on dates with him again.
- Stop being sexy. Lingerie, attitude, body language, the works! Bring your sexy self back to the relationship.
6. You’re squeezing too hard
Yes it’s great that you see each other all the time. And you love that your worlds revolve around each other. But if you get to a point where he feels like he isn’t allowed to have a life outside of the one you two share, he might seek a secret life. Same goes with you. If you start to be lifeless aside from him, what makes you interesting? What do you bring to the table? Where did you go? You can’t be a partnership without being an individual first.
- Squeeze too hard; like Jello, he will slip through your fingers.
- Suffocate him.
- Lose yourself.
7. You don’t make him feel appreciated
Just like you, a man wants to feel wanted, needed, loved and appreciated. If he feels like an afterthought, like an assistant, like a wet towel, like what he does for you is ignored or underappreciated, why would he do it anymore? Like a dog, good behavior has to be recognized and praised. I’m not saying to go over the top, but do truly acknowledge it. Would you continue to work hard and try your best at something if you never got any words or acts of appreciation in return? That being said, make sure that they way you show appreciation is the way he feels appreciation. You may tell him in words, but he feels appreciation by receiving time or touch. Communication! It’s an essential.
- Harbor and hold onto resentment. It’s a toxin that will eat away at your relationship’s foundation.
- Let him feel taken for granted, ignored, or like his efforts are expected but not appreciated.
Those are the many don’ts. So what do you do?
- Put effort into the relationship
- Have confidence
- Make him feel important
- Maintain intimacy, physical and emotional.
- Have “monthly check-ins” where you set a date once a month to “check in” with each other and be honest about how you are feeling, what is working, what’s not working, how’s your sex life, how is your communication? This isn’t a fight. It’s a way to openly, honestly and unapologetically express how you feel in an emotional and simultaneously pragmatic way. The goal is not to tear each other down, but to help strengthen the relationship even more and address little holes that could, if unattended, could become wedges that break you up.
- Do nightly “thank yous.” Each night before you go to bed, acknowledge something that you did for each other that made you feel good, special, appreciated, loved, supported. It could be as small as “thank you for texting me before my meeting to tell me that I would do great! It gave me that little injection of confidence that I needed,” to “thank you for picking up dinner on the way home. I was so tired and it was nice to not have to worry about cooking.” Appreciate each other. Soon you will start to notice more and more things that you do for each other, and you will also make a point to do things for each other, not just because you want a “thank you,” but because it feels good to make him feel good. And of course, to be acknowledged for it.
- Be open and emotionally available. Communicate.
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Laurel House is an international dating coach, TV expert on Good Morning America, Today Show, E! News, and 5x published author of Screwing The Rules: The No-Games Guide to Love.