This article originally appeared on Broadly.
I have cheated on people and been cheated on by people. In fact, I have cheated on every single boyfriend I have had, except my husband. I am a horrible person. Or maybe I am not. Maybe I'm just like the rest of you.
The thing with cheating is that it would not exist without the threat of being caught. If a tree falls in the forest while you were fucking your neighbor, did your girlfriend really see it? Seeing the harm done to a person you care for because of your own selfish, pathetic needs is what makes cheaters feel like garbage. Getting caught is when you really get to understand how bad you messed up. There are numerous sex therapists and polyamorists who will tell you that monogamy is invasive and bullshit—as evidenced by the number of people who cheat. But if it's so ridiculous, then why are we still drawn to it? Why do ducks mate up and hang for life?
My pattern was recycling. I always cheated on my current boyfriend with his predecessor, usually just to prove to myself that my ex was still attracted to me or some other completely insecure reason. I remember getting caught when my boyfriend read a text message from my ex while I was asleep. Nothing like being woken up at 5 AM by a hurt, raging mad lover who just found out you slept with your ex.
I knew another boyfriend had cheated on me. (To be fair, I had cheated on him with my professor, but trust me, she was worth it.) Regardless of my own infidelity, after I found out I lured my boyfriend into sex and straddled him. In the middle of it, I pinned my arms to his shoulders and let him have it: "I know you fucked that girl." Boner killed.
Pretty much everyone has cheated, seriously considered it, or been cheated on. I know why I did it, but I wanted to know why everyone else felt the need, too.
Marriage is naturally a long story. Twenty-five-year relationship. She stayed at home, while I hit the grind. We had long, deep dysfunctional patterns: guilt trips, self-medicating, self-loathing, and retreating into work to distance ourselves from the problems. Just years of build up and unresolved issues. After our second kid leaves the house, I snap and want out, but I feel trapped when she says things like, "I will die if you leave me." I detonate, hit the Internet, which results in several months of five overlapping affairs. It was crazy. One [mistress] was in her 40s. We instantly fall into an intense dominant–submissive relationship, which she continually escalates. Then, there was the tattooed 20-something obsessed with French literature and James Joyce whose student loans I paid off and erased. (She'll later freak out when I try to break up with her, saying if she's lost everything she might as well send all correspondence to my wife.)
After six months of marital trauma, we finally do therapy. My wife demands to know the identities of women [I cheated on her with]. I have heavy sleep deprivation for months as she stays up hunting social media details. I self-loathe, deteriorate, medicate, gun shop, attend sex addict meetings, and take polygraph tests. Ultimately, I hit a point of exhaustion with the toxic cycles and ask to separate. We have been split up for almost six months now.
Sadly, yes, I have cheated in a relationship, and more than once, too. Each time I cheat with the same guy because I'm convinced he'll suddenly want to be with me again. He was my first serious relationship and definitely the first person I fell in love with. Honestly, I think I've just never gotten over him.
I was dating this guy for about two years. Towards the end of our relationship he started to become very possessive, manipulative, and quite abusive. He had a few fetishes that he often would try force me to play into. For example, he was into obese women and the idea of feeding someone until they became obese. When I said no [to that], he refused to sleep with me. It was pretty fucked up and really messed with me.
I was really wasted at a party, and I was talking to one of my male friends about it. One thing led to another, and I slept with my friend. When I went home the next day, I packed my shit from our apartment, told my boyfriend what happened, and then went back to my parents' house. Things got worse from there. He ended up stalking me and my family for roughly six months. He would send my parents letters telling them that I just needed to realize that I still loved him, and he would send me letters saying that if I didn't get back with him he would kill himself. I found him asleep on my porch more than once. He would often park his car at the gas station opposite my house and just watch. Cheating was a shitty move. It's a horrible thing to do to someone, but I think it's safe to say it got me out of a really fucked-up relationship.
At one point we were at the top of some mountain watching a convocation of eagles soar above us in an infinity pattern, and I was like, if I kiss this guy, my relationship is over.
I was in love with a guy for several years who wouldn't accept things about me I couldn't change—well, I could, but only temporarily, with a Valtrex prescription. By the end of our four years together, he'd make me feel bad about myself and my past choices on a daily basis. When he'd get drunk, which was often, my stomach would lurch. It was mostly an awful time.
Luckily, he was traveling a lot for work—he was away about 80 percent of the time. While away, he was always accusing me of cheating on him, even though he knew I was the type of person who doesn't do well with heavy secrets.
Eventually I reached a point where I had to do something that would force a shift in my life. I started spending time with someone I was really drawn to. First it was friendly and with purpose—he helped me with my taxes—then we started going on nature hikes to secret, beautiful places. We'd drive there in the car I shared with my boyfriend. I felt defiant. At one point we were at the top of some mountain watching a convocation of eagles soar above us in an infinity pattern, and I was like, if I kiss this guy, my relationship is over. I said it to myself in my head again, and I kissed him. I wouldn't let myself sleep with him (only head) until I'd broken up with my boyfriend, so it was good incentive [to dump him]. But part of me felt vengeful and resentful, since my boyfriend was constantly accusing me of cheating on him, so I felt like I'd served it to him.
At first, I promised myself I'd never tell anyone. I taped the pages of my diary shut and tried to act like I wasn't miserable and confused and excited. That lasted a day. I started opening up to pals and realized I had to end things. So I did, like, that week. I found out years after I'd cleared that boyfriend from my system that he got really drunk head from some chick in Australia at the height of our relationship and kept that a secret from me the entire time.
I am currently in the middle of full-blown affair. My girlfriend and I have been together for four years. We live together, have a dog, and pretty much the white-picket-fence life. I love her very much, but she is very vanilla and I am not at all. She is not willing to indulge in any kink that I want to. We have not had sex at all in two months.
Two weeks ago a coworker asked me if I want to go back to her place and drink some beers. I was stoked but thought it was just going to be a hangout—nothing more. Well, we had sex. It was amazing. She was happy to indulge me in my kinks and she really enjoyed doing the stuff I was into. I have her on Snapchat, so now we snap each other all the time. I'm starting to have feelings for this coworker, but I do still love my current girlfriend. The coworker lives across town and tells me she barely ever leaves the area—I know my girlfriend never goes to her side of town. I feel really bad, but at the same time, why can I not have it all?
I know I'm a selfish pig. This is going to end badly for me. I know it.
*All names have been changed. The interviews have been edited for content and clarity.