Love Triangles : The Truth Behind Cheating Part I

Okay, picture this:

A popular couple named Mary and John are in a long-term, committed relationship. To onlookers, it seems that Mary and John are happy. Friends and associates often witness public displays of affection from each partner, banter, and innocent flirting. Occasionally, Mary and John will even declare their love for one another on social media for the world to bear witness. So needless to say, it is obvious that these two individuals are in a monogamous relationship. In fact, those friends within the social circle idealize their union. That said, the fact remains that what is shown publicly is not always a true representation of what happens behind closed doors. What if I told you that despite the illusion of this great relationship, that a number of problems occur in Mary and John’s relationship? What if the reality was that John has been cheating with a woman we will call Jessica–a sexual relationship that predates Mary and John as a couple?And not surprisingly, Mary is unaware of Jessica’s identity….but oddly enough, she knows that her boo is unfaithful and may have had several affairs outside the relationship. To make matters more interesting, Jessica is very much aware that John is in a relationship, but continues on as his secret lover. Well John, Mary, and Jessica are members in love triangle.

Now, if you had a reaction of disgust towards Jessica in her role within this affair, you more than likely share the reaction of mainstream society. After all, the mistress, for one reason or another, is typically the one deemed most accountable in situations like the one described above. And more often than not, we relate with Mary, label John a “2 timing jerk,” and refer to Jessica as a “home wrecker,” or a “hoe.” And let’s face it, John is usually forgiven and given a clean slate, even after repeated offenses. Meanwhile, the”other girl’s” image is tarnished and she is devalued by both men and women alike. Being that this is a controversial topic, the voice of the “side chick” often goes unheard, in fear that she will be shamed and judged for her lack of self control. An experience far too taboo to address, leaving the mistress silenced from expressing her viewpoints and conveniently protecting the cheater’s reputation.

Love triangles are known as interactions between three individuals within a relationship system, by which each member carries out a pattern of behaviors that create an unhealthy relationship cycle. Love triangles can serve a few functions. In most systems, it is used to alleviate stress within a primary love relationship. The 3rd person in this case is used as a distraction to provide temporary relief from relationship conflicts. In other cases, the unfaithful partner may pull in a 3rd person when feeling insecure in the primary relationship (i.e.: suspicions that their partner may be cheating and therefore he or she must beat partner to the punch). The security provided by the 3rd person may also compensate for some voids within the primary love relationship. In this dynamic, the unfaithful partner may place the 3rd person on reserve as an alternate love interest (just in case the main partner breaks up with him/her). Some cheaters tend to also gain a sense of power and control through cheating. Cheating, for these people, provides a feeling of empowerment– it allows the cheater to make up for relationship failures by feeling successful in other areas of his/her life. However, simply put, cheating can be viewed as a red flag for low self esteem; a need to be desired by others as a means of gaining approval. Those individuals who cheat, even in secure relationships, utilize cheating as a way to build self-confidence. The acceptance provided by the 3rd person tells the cheater that he/she is wanted. In all, for the cheater, admiration seeking becomes addictive; a hunger that is never fully satisfied.

Now given the details of this “love” pattern, we can now ask the obvious question. Why, would a “side piece”, continue “creeping?” Here are some answers. Jessica similarly to Mary, has a co-dependent personality. A co-dependent in any unhealthy relationship, will place lower priority on his/her personal needs, while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of the dependent. In fact, co-dependents indirectly encourage cheaters to continue cheating! Prioritizing the needs of others and neglecting the self is not at all uncommon in co-dependent individuals. But what the co-dependent may not be aware of is how his/her “selfless” acts empower a person who may likely crave control, and who has become masterful at the art of manipulation. Other factors to consider are what makes the co-dependent more prone to this personality trait. Arguably, one may consider nature vs nurture; the idea that personality is formed by environmental or biological causes. In short, one develops co-dependency via their social environment (home, school, media, etc). Those individuals who have been exposed to domestic abuse, not exclusive to physical abuse, but also including mental and emotional abuse, are most vulnerable. Although, some may say that co-dependence is just natural in some personalities. Co-dependency also plays a major role in self-esteem and self-worth, as the overly selfless often learn from their environments that they are undeserving, and therefore unworthy of healthy love relationships. This trait is found at the root of all obsessive lovers and explains why co-dependents stay in love triangles. So basically, co-dependents remain as a side piece because their main objective is to keep their ‘lover’ happy by any means, perhaps in hopes that they will at some point become the main lover. This thinking is sometimes driven by manipulations of the cheater, who may give the co-dependent false hope for a future. In terms of morality however, the co-dependent becomes  ‘numb’ after having been involved in cheating cycles for so long.

To conclude, love triangles are clearly very unhealthy. They hinder growth in love relationships and cause considerable emotional damage. And cheating problems seen in love triangles are far more complicated than uncontrollable lust–they are driven by complex emotional, behavioral, and social issues.

 In the follow-up blogs, we will take a further look at the profiles of the cheater and the main partner.

Disclaimer: The statements outlined in this blog do not define all situations seen in cheating dynamics, but rather discusses a basic overview on the principles of infidelity, and factors that may contribute to such relationship systems. Furthermore, the character names used in this blog are fictional. Any connection to real life events or actual persons is purely coincidental.

By: Saylor C Brook

Disclaimer: The statements outlined in this blog do not define all situations seen in cheating dynamics, but rather discusses a basic overview on the principles of infidelity, and factors that may contribute to such relationship systems. Furthermore, the character names used in this blog are fictional. Any connection to real life events or actual persons is purely coincidental. 


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