Overcoming the Desire to Cheat

by Elise Wile

Approximately 23 percent of men and 19 percent of women indicated that they had cheated in a survey conducted as part of a study published in the October 2011"Archives of Sexual Behavior." It's not difficult to understand why you'd want to avoid joining those numbers. Sexual infidelity violates trust and strikes one of the worst blows possible to a relationship. Resist temptation by understanding what drives the desire to cheat in the first place.

Address Issues

If you're tempted to cheat, you may need to take a close look at the connection you have with your partner. People who have affairs are in relationships that have problems, according to Mira Kirshenbaum, author of "When Good People Have Affairs." To fix the problem, people need "information and change," says Kirshenbaum. An affair provides both of those, albeit in an unhealthy and hurtful way. Ask yourself why you're considering having an affair. Chances are, it's because you're not getting your needs met in your relationship. Being aware of this and taking steps to remedy it -- talking to your partner, or meeting with a relationship counselor -- can help you to resist temptation.

Limit Your Options

The more opportunities you have to cheat, the more likely you are to give in to the urge to do so, says cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman in a May 2011 article in "Psychology Today." A person's natural tendency is to act on impulse. The more often you are called upon to override those impulses, the more mental effort you expend. It's a bit like hanging out in a candy shop when you're on a diet. Eventually, you're likely to cave, rationalizing that just one chocolate-covered pretzel won't be so bad after all. If you're trying not to cheat, avoid the candy shop. Attending events solo where there will be plenty of opportunities for flirtation, such as weddings, conferences and the much-maligned bachelor (or bachelorette) party, is simply asking for trouble.


Draw upon your values. If you're trying to resist the urge to cheat, it's because you know it's wrong. Ask yourself why you believe it is wrong to do so, then make a list of the reasons. Whether you are writing down that it would violate the Bible's 7th Commandment (thou shalt not commit adultery), the 2nd ethical principal of Buddhism's Eightfold Path(asking what we really want) or the idea that you would simply be a jerk if you did so, this act is likely to crystallize your desire to honor your commitment to your partner.

Reduce Your Stress Levels

Your level of executive functioning helps to curb your impulses. When you're trying to resist the urge to give the cute guy you met on the jogging trail a call, if you're under too much stress, resisting the urge will be difficult, says Kaufman. If you're overloaded with work, take steps to get the situation under control, or you'll be at risk. Resist the urge to manage your stress with alcohol. Kaufman notes that a person who is stressed and inebriated at the same time will have a particularly difficult time maintaining self-control.

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About the Author

Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.

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