4 Stages of Cheating & When It’s Warranted.

Via on Mar 16, 2014


I’ve been on all sides of this fence (for the purposes of this post, it’s a three sided fence).

Admittedly, only once per side, nonetheless, I’ve deduced from these experiences that cheating doesn’t feel good and since my motto is: If it feels good, do it and if it doesn’t feel good, knock it off already, cheating is a ‘don’t do it’ activity.

Scenario 1: I was with someone who cheated on his partner with me (I was single).

The short story: I was in my early 20s, and although his girlfriend was a b*tch not fond of me, I didn’t do it because of her. I liked the guy. Note to the ladies: Don’t burn bridges. I didn’t muck around with her man because she was a Nasty Nelly, but it sure as heck didn’t stop me (then). Other gals will flat out go out of their way to bed a man if we get on their wrong side. I’ve also experienced mutual attraction with other “taken” men who I did not do anything with because I did like their woman.

Scenario 2: I was cheated on by my man.

I’m not sure if this is a true story, as I don’t have proof, and it’s actually happened to me twice (that I’m aware of) that I had a suspicion but will never really know. Both times, I was in mutually committed, monogamous relationships. Admittedly, the second time we were on one of our many break ups, and it could very well be that no physical lines were crossed while we were together, but I know that emotional lines were and inappropriate activity occurred during the time we were together. Thus, in my book, it was a Stage 1 cheat at minimum (Stages of Cheating to follow). Nonetheless, it crushed me. I also don’t know if I was more bitter about the cheating or the lying. Lying makes me pretty bitter.

Scenario 3: I cheated on my man.

We were together for too long and we weren’t meant to be forever. I became a Nasty Nelly, probably trying to give him a reason to punt me (he didn’t). The only thing left for me to do was the ultimate deal-breaker. I didn’t know this at the time. Hell no, it took me years of emotional self-torture, self-sabotaging, and painful guilt to figure that out. I can tell you unequivocally that being the cheater was by far more painful than being cheated on (maybe if he’d been a jerk I’d feel differently). Live and learn and heal.

Having gone through all of these experiences, I understand the weakness of the (my) heart (and loins). I have some pretty strict rules about what is appropriate now. I’m okay with that.

It’s not that I can’t trust myself, but why lead thee into temptation? I was always one of those self-righteous, disdainful, superior-attitude, judgmental I’ll never do that kind of critics. I only cheated once, but it only took once for me to say, “Hey, let’s not let that happen ever again.” And really, if we look at the stats, I’m not in the minority here. Judge not.

When Cheating is Warranted

It’s not. Cheating is never the answer; if only because it ultimately won’t make us feel good. We’re far better off to figure it out or part ways peacefully. Of course, that’s way easier said than done sometimes and all my experience and those of others will never replace your own experience. That’s how life works.

The Blame Game: We Lose

Also, never blame the cheater. Or the other person. No blame, or blame both parties in the primary relationship. No matter how perfect one partner may seem to be, it’s a two way street. Ladies, if we hold out on giving our man the cookie, we’re asking him to cheat (eventually). Men have very few needs (primarily freedom, respect, appreciation, food, sex) to be content, but they will even put up with a lack of most of those to a large degree if they’re getting sex gratefully. Put out (happily) or put up with a cheater. I’m aware this will ruffle some feathers. I’m not saying we can never say no, but I am saying we’d be best off to not use sex as a weapon or bargaining chip. As a bonus, working out differences between the sheets is a lot more fun for both team mates.

Ladies Doing Double Time

Now, as for the lady cheaters out there, of whom I know a few, they cheat (if it’s an ongoing thing) because their men don’t treat them right. This has nothing to do with sex because their dudes are probably still getting some from them. It’s usually more about emotional intimacy. There is too much to cover here, so my advice: Get a book, give a crap, and figure it out. One time lady cheaters: Either a cry for attention or a way out.

The Stages of Cheating

Stage 1 Cheating: Mutual attraction via eye contact, text, email, social media etc. (acknowledged or not, though at minimum, there is an awareness of it) combined with communication or activities we know damn well in our hearts we wouldn’t want our partner to know about or that we consciously justify to ourselves because it’s “innocent.” But we do know better. No physical lines have been crossed in Stage 1 Cheating.

Stage 2 Cheating: Mutually acknowledged attraction combined with inappropriate activities we damn well hide from our partner because our faces would say, “I want to have sex with this other person.” We’re floating a balloon, laying groundwork (pun intended), testing the waters, and maybe even lying outright to our mate. No major physical lines have been crossed.

Stage 3 Cheating: Any of the above plus a physical line of any kind has been crossed: Kissing, cuddling, hand holding, couch wrestling, straight up sex. We’ve got some serious sh*t to deal with. Hopefully we get forgiveness (from ourselves), fix it or move on ASAP.

Stage 4 Cheating: All of the above on an ongoing basis. We are having an affair. Bad dog! We will hate ourselves and eventually become ill. We are best off to seek a shrink, repent, or leave our partner because he/she deserves better, and really, so do we.

Any questions? Legs up!

P.S. There are complete books written on this subject, so to cover every aspect and nuance in a short piece herein will leave out many circumstances of infidelity, so to reiterate: This is based on my own personal experience, knowledge of others’ experiences, and the research I’ve done. Comments and alternative viewpoints are welcome!


Relephant reads:

The Infidelity Preventative.

The Best Marriage Advice from a Divorced Man.

Oxytocin: why Women can’t have Affairs.


Love elephant and want to go steady?

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Editor: Jenna Penielle Lyons

Photo: elephant archives

About Anna Jorgensen

Anna Jorgensen  I'm a logging truck driver's daughter and an ex-realtor-turned-redneck-roots-love-is-the-answer-female-empowerment woman. My blog is unfiltered, uncut, politically incorrect, sardonic, sometimes swear-containing, often offensive, off-side, funny as hell and always real. (Warning: Blog/memoir contain inappropriate TMI.) I'm making a new career out of a mid life crisis living part time on Vancouver Island, Canada and wintering in California and Gypsyland. My purpose: Entertain! Inspire! Be happy, damn it... Free hugs! Find my blog and memoir, Me: A Rewrite, here: link to laughs.

Connect with Anna's real, unfiltered Facebook page here and find her on Twitter.(Save the bees!)


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33 Responses to “4 Stages of Cheating & When It’s Warranted.”

  1. Sabina says:

    People cheat for a variety of reasons, not just because of a lack of sex. I also think your comments on what men 'need' are not quite so accurate. Men are complex human beings, not monolithic creatures who only need the things you listed.

    • Thanks for commenting and contributing to the conversation, Sabina :) I completely agree, men are complex creatures! Certainly more than we often give them credit for. I think most of what all of us (men and women) need can be diffused down to the broad categories of: freedom, respect, appreciation, food and sex (/intimacy). Hot topic, for sure! xo Anna

  2. Amilla says:

    I completely disagree – for me, I'm happily married to my best friend, partner in crime, sex is fantastic; I met a man while I was cross country on business and there was this electric connection the moment we came into contact – I'm a believer that there is more than one person in this world for each of us (for one reason or another) and I didnt want to live with a "what if" in my rear view; passing up a moment to feel that connection that is so very rare. Fling was awesome and I don't feel badly about it of myself. It's my secret…and I like that.

    • My motto remains: "If it feels good, do it. If it doesn't feel good, knock it off already!" We all have out own gauge and that's perfectly OK. Thank you for sharing your secret, Amilla!! :)

    • Flyingkiwi says:

      Sorry but that is morally reprehensible in my view, but probably not for the reason you think. Physical attraction to more than one person is natural in my view, but good relationships are built on trust. The issue with "cheating" is not the physical act, its the lying. The fact you were prepared to betray the trust of you best friend is the issue. If your "best friend" can't trust you, then no one can, and I suspect the majority of people have issue with untrustworthy people.

    • Clara says:

      Sure, we can all love other people (time and energy permitting) – no issue with mutually-agreed upon polyamory. wWe can also be attracted to numerous people, and find different things attractive in different people, even when we're in love. But it sounds to me like you broke a vow of monogamy (?) Let's not beat around the bush – you did something that you promised (explicitly or otherwise) to your partner that you would not. You acted on your own impulses rather than upholding a commitment you made to the person you love. Now that, lady, *is* an issue. It's not about the sex – my question is, why have you invested so little honesty and respect within your relationship?

  3. Amy E says:

    I am extremely opposed to cheating. It's been done to me way too many times. I am an extremely loyal person who prefers to greet issues head on. If one person feels the need to cheat, they have an obligation to discuss their feelings with their partner. Seek professional help if the two of you can't work it out together. Also, do you homework beforehand. Never marry a serial cheater, narcissist, or sociopath. I did. If you know you can't be faithful, don't have serious relationships. Be forthcoming about your views.

  4. shadowofeve says:

    I completely disagree. I do not believe women and men can be so black and white. We are all humans and there are different reasons why we might cheat. Women can be sexual creatures and even men can be emotional. Men are as complex and the little list you made to specify what you need to give your man is ridiculous. The statement "put out (happily) or put up with a cheater" is, in my opinion, absolutely false. Loved ones do not make their partner's cheat. People cheat because there is a problem in the relationship caused by BOTH individuals.

    • Thank you for commenting, Shadowofeve, I agree and did state that if there is blame, blame both partners. Also, refer to my reply to Sabrina above re: complex creatures. And, yes, at the same time, we are all responsible for our own actions. :)

      • rose says:

        and that's where i disagree=having spent 10 years on and off with someone cheating and lying to me while i was giving him all the sex he wanted and he seemed to crave from me even on our off time, i don't agree with blame all because i did nothing to be blamed for except believe it could work and that it was a phase and that i could love him enough and second that if you are having sex good sex basically they won't need/want to look elsewhere. because he did.. and with many people on line and after a while i couldn't do it anymore when they started contacting me or i happened to see him walk at 2 am in the morning right past me with someone he picked up and was bringing home. yet a year after i said no the last time he still tries to get some. so sometimes its just that person is a narcissist or serial cheater and unable to be true, honest, intimate or what have you.

  5. Jennifer says:

    I think Ms. Jorgensen is very young. These are the musings of a 20 something. I suggest she re-write this article when she's 40. I'm guessing she'll have vastly different opinions.

    • Hi Jennifer, I'm the author. I'm 43. I've cheated (once), been cheated on (I suspect), gone through sexual abuse, the death of a parent, the attempted suicide of another, divorce, rape, and miscarriage. I've done a lot of research and soul searching and I still believe that "hurt people" hurt people and love is the answer. My opinion on this topic, at this point, stands. Please see reply to Sabina re: complex creatures. I appreciate your contribution to this discussion. :)

      • rose says:

        you just said it (what i thought you didn't get and i posted about 5 minutes ago) hurt peopele hurt people. sometimes cheating is one sided blame free because of that..

  6. SweetC says:

    I kind of like how you put it into such a short article. It's true that it necessarily means oversimplifying things, but sometimes when you oversimplify you are able to see some things more clearly. I also am 43. I've never been cheated on. I've never cheated. I have been with men who were married. I met them on dating sites. Sometimes I knew they were married and sometimes I didn't.

    I think that you are right about not using sex as a tool for getting what you want. There was one man that I met that wasn't interested in cheating, he was only interested in having human connection with someone who actually saw him as having some value. His wife used sex as a way of putting him down just like she did in every other way. She made him feel like there was something wrong with him for even wanting sex, let alone for wanting to add variety. It is just plain wrong to use sex like this whether you are a man or a woman. If you are in a relationship that was understood to include sex from the beginning then it should continue to do so. This doesn't mean that either partner can't say that they aren't in the mood. It just means that it is reasonable to expect it to be ongoing. And when the woman (I have to speak from my own experience here) withholds sex without any reasonable justifying circumstance then she is going to drive him to look for it elsewhere. I believe that I would react in the same manner. So I assume that if a man withholds sex then it would probably drive a woman to look for it elsewhere too. Withholding sex is a form of rejection. If you don't feel like you want to be having sex anymore then you'd better be talking about it with your partner and with a professional if the relationship is something you want to hold onto because he needs to know why and work out if it's something he can live with if you aren't going to work to change it. I have concluded, too, that lots of times men cheat because they think it would be wrong to ask their wives to do certain things to add variety. Because they think of their wives as being "good" or "innocent" (yes, even after 20 years of marriage), maybe because they grew up together and they don't realize their wives tastes may have changed too. The funny part is that I'm not talking about outrageous sexual acts. Sometimes they just want to do it somewhere other than the bedroom. I don't get this because I think if he's bored she probably is too. In the end, people cheat because there is something wrong in the relationship. But we need to recognize that withholding sex is also a reflection of something wrong in the relationship. It reflects and imbalance of power and ya, I think you are probably asking for it.

    You''re right, though. Cheating doesn't feel good. When I knew I was with a married man I was always aware that this isn't the kind of man that I would want to be with. No matter how great they might seem otherwise. I'm not going to apologize for being with married men because I didn't set about to seduce them. They were looking, we found each other. It suited my purposes for a time because I spent the last year of my marriage in an open relationship and I needed to explore without entanglements and that is the kind of guy that was attracted to me on dating sites. It would be a much different thing if I sought to be with someone else's man and made it my goal to get him. I think I would feel a lot worse about that. The last married man I was with (knowingly) I felt kind of sick about it after. I know he's gonna keep cheating, but it just isn't going to be with me. So I'm done with that now that I am in a different place.

    Then there are the guys that just don't tell you they are married. It is a stinky position to put someone in. And in the end it is the lying that is the worst part. They don't understand why you are so mad at them because it's not like they cheated on you. But the thing is, I'm willing to bet, that the cheating isn't half the betrayal that the lying is from his wife's point of view either. You can forgive someone for cheating, you really can. But if you can't trust them again, forgiving them doesn't even matter.

    Now I have said more in a rambling comment on the thoughts this article put into my head than the author did in the article. I guess my point is that you made me think. And it was good.

    • Thank you SweetC for your thoughtful response and for sharing such intimate details of your life and relevant situations! I agree with everything you wrote, and would like to add that although I was with someone who had a partner (in my 20s) and didn't care at the time, I've had those opportunities many times thereafter and didn't engage in them, simply because it didn't feel good. We all learn and grow at our own pace and that's perfectly okay (as far as I'm concerned.) Everyone has crappy lessons to learn in life, whether it's the cheater, cheatee or the 3rd party. The trick is paying attention to the lessons we learn so we don't have to repeat them. And… accepting karma when due. xo

  7. Polly says:

    Notice how no one had anything more to say after that?

    Thank you for your blog Anna. I think it was very real in many ways. Also, it is a shame that some things that probably should have been taken more figuratively or general were so literal to others. Any time people apply blanket statements with the intent of inspiring others, the audience should know there will always be exceptions and/or variances. But, as you say, to each one's own. For example, the list of men's necessities…obviously some humour, yet some truth. Some groups of ppl have tendencies of being more content with certain things…obviously, there are variances and exceptions.

    My husband is very happy when he has those things. Is that the extent of his needs, no. But we got passed all the rest when we courted…personalities, mental stimulation…everything checked out. With those things in mind, of course, i try to maintain in those areas on the list of commonalities provided above. When i do, he's a happy camper. Doesn't mean he's simple. I totally get it.

    Don't let them Debbie Down you. I love it!

    • Hug to you, Polly, and thank you! My purpose in life is to entertain and inspire (love), but I used to be a "hurt people hurt people" myself so I understand how triggering some words can be. I can empathize with where others are at, maybe especially when they're angry. I used to have rage inside me, I get it. I hope that opening discussions (rather than simply becoming defensive–or offensive) will help some people consider another perspective. If anything, I feel mostly compassion for the pain they must feel inside. I believe when we boil with negative emotion, it's about us, only us. (Well, okay, aside from the innate need to champion for those who can't protect themselves: cruelty, abuse, poverty, war etc.) But I must admit, I certainly appreciate those who can read past the generalities and get the intended message I mean. So, again, thank you!!! xo

  8. Urs says:

    Great article. For myself I have been in an open relationship for years and happy. Sexually we experience things together and or separate. For me Love and sex can equal making love, … but doesn't have too. It would be different if I felt my partner is playing with his heart…
    However, having been a child of parents who went through all your stages and having been sexually abused my experience in life has shaped my opinion very much and I'm aware that most people don't agree with that. Important for me is that I can always stand up for my actions and know what I do is good for me.

    • Urs, good for you! Doing what makes you happy while in a mutually respectful relationship. It's not always so black and white. It's about self-love and loving (/respecting) others. :)

  9. ewa says:

    legs up!

  10. Kate says:

    This is a great article but I disagree with some key points. I am married to a great guy who treats me like a princess. I also have a long time boyfriend who is happily married. My relationship with him is passionate but in no way primarily about sex for either of us. He and I have loved each other for 30 years, my husband and I have been happily married for 12 years and he and his wife have been married for 20 years. We are both happy sexually at home and with each other. I know I have no guilt or regrets about our situation, nor does he. I think that human beings have the ability to love and connect with more than one person and just because we choose to build a life with one partner, it doesn’t mean that we can’t also share wonderful, physically and emotionally intimate love with someone else. I would not personally be comfortable with a casual fling, though I had a few of those when I was younger. But now I want my close relationships to be with people I truly love and who truly know my heart and soul. I fully anticipate both these men being in my life “til death do us part”.

    • I think that's cool, Kate, IF you aren't breaking any commitments with either partner or lying to them. However, that's my value system, yours may be different, and that's okay, too. :)

    • kelly says:

      kate, if you and your married boyfriend are lying to your spouses, what do you think it will do to them if they find out about your affair? if you really love your husband, do you want to see him go thru the anguish of finding you've loved another man since before you married him? it will make him feel worthless to you. make him wonder why you are with him at all. he will doubt everything you have ever shared between you. and your boyfriend's wife will go thru the same. it willl destroy everything you have. i see no excuse validating cheating. nothing. if this is how you feel about your boyfriend, you should not have married at all.

      • Kate says:

        Actually, no one is being lied to… my husband was aware of this other relationship from before we even started dating and has no issue with it. He is quite confident in my love for him and the value I place on our relationship. He has no doubts, certainly not about what we share. My bf and his wife have always had an open relationship and his wife has had relationships outside their marriage with both men and women. I think that we have relationships that fulfill our lives in a variety of ways. I don’t consider this an affair per se but just another place in which I can express and receive love and understanding. I imagine it wouldn’t work for everyone but it does question the points made in this article about the reasons people don’t remain faithful to one partner and the fact is that while there are certainly those that fit those motivations, there are many who don’t. This is not an excuse but merely a fact that not everyone feels the same way and situations some people might find impossible, others find perfect for them.

  11. Branden says:

    Thank you for your writings. I'm am so thankful for reading scenario 3. I've only been in two serious relationships, and was cheated on during both. I never received a logical answer that I could accept until I read Scenario 3 of this article. Maybe its your style of communicating that helps me accept your reasoning behind cheating then the lies I've lost sleep over in the past. I hope you forgave yourself for cheating. You're probably too sweet of a person, but I'd forgive you. I look forward to your book. Cannot wait til you're famous and I get in line like a dork to get your autograph. I'm telling all of my friends to "like" your FB page and preorder "Me, A Rewrite.

  12. Stephanie says:

    I think this is spot on! Everyone wants to quibble about there being gray areas, and I think this is a pretty black and white subject. And even if people choose to be in open relationships, those usually have “rules” too, so not so gray either.

    You’ve obviously lived and learned. I have been #1, and #2, but never #3, as I have an overwhelming guilt complex and I’m honest to a fault. I also believe that all of us are capable of all 3 in the right circumstances, so I never for anyone for #3. I even knew when my ex cheated on me, resulting in the end of our marriage, that I couldn’t lay blame just on him and I had played by own hand in the end of our card game.

    I know what my deal breakers in relationships are now, and cheating is at the top of my list. I guess my motto would be, that if you don’t feel comfortable doing something in front of your significant other, then maybe you shouldn’t be doing it. Great piece!!

  13. Jenn says:

    Plain and simple as having been cheated on for none of the reasons listed more then once I refuse to accept that I am in anyway to blame unless you think doing everything for someone, and never withholding sex is a valid reason to cheat.

    I have never cheated and never will for any reason. And if someone intentionally goes after a person they know is married then they are just as responsible as the cheated. I have no respect for either.

  14. Jenn says:

    Plain and simple as having been cheated on for none of the reasons listed more then once I refuse to accept that I am in anyway to blame unless you think doing everything for someone, and never withholding sex is a valid reason to cheat.

  15. Stephany says:

    What about a more desperate scenario. What if a woman who has been domestically abused, gradually, for 12 years suddenly realizes she has been abused and reaches out to an old friend that had always had feeling for her and she him? She has no income (stay at hime mom with a toddler) and is given a choice to go to a safe haven with someone she loves rather than try to heal with no income and no emotional support. She was never the cheating type either…and even though the “plan” fell through she has absolutely no regrets about the trauma induced “no cheating” barriers. I guess it is really just all shades of grey and you cannot cover every situation in one article. I mostly agree with you, but life can be unpredictable and sometimes you just have to go with our gut and take it wherever it leads you.

  16. Carmelene Siani Carmelene says:

    There is no better road to intimacy than complete honesty. Thanks for your article.

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