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Why I Cheated

My mother was a “loose” woman, which is the nicest way I can put it if I am forced to use a kind term to describe her adulterous ways. A year didn’t go by during my childhood where Mom didn’t have a new “boy-toy” who she snuck around with behind my stepfather’s back. Mom didn’t have a certain preference and looking back now, I think she just latched onto whatever man happened to give her attention during the day. There was the car salesman, the propane delivery man, the Schwan’s man, the construction worker, the car show guy… I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.

I was Mom’s alibi during her outing, because as long as I was with her, my stepdad wouldn’t suspect a thing. I mean, what kind of mother would drag her child along on a sordid affair outing? What kind of mother would leave her child in the car while she ran into a different man’s house to do things I would rather not think about?

My mother would, and did.

I spent years collecting “uncles” as Mom liked to call them; uncles who paid off my silence with toys, money, clothes, (one even gave me my first electric typewriter). “Uncles” who would be in my life for only a short amount of time and then disappear almost as quickly as they arrived. I watched my mother continuously throw herself at these random men every chance she could, and then go home that night to my stepdad and act as though she was Mary Poppins; practically perfect in every way.

I remember sitting in the front seat of Mom’s little car on more than one occasion, parked in some random parking lot and surfing through the radio channels waiting for Mom to finish doing whatever “uncle” she had brought into my life that week. I remember feeling disgusted with her when I would see her emerge from her boyfriend’s house or motel room, her hair all disheveled and a stupid grin plastered all over her face. I remember being ashamed that this woman was my mother and I swore on everything I had that I would never be like her. I would never cheat on my husband the way that my mother did, and I would never be that woman who snuck around and met her boyfriends in parking lots and cheap hotel rooms.

Never say never.

I married my now ex-husband when I was in my early 20’s. I met him when I was merely seventeen years old and brand new to the town I live in now. I had no friends, no family, absolutely no one and nothing on me but the clothes on my back. My ex-husband was the first person to help me, take me in, and make me feel as though I was wanted. He was much older than me, but at the time, I just didn’t care. He gave me kindness, shared his family with me, and gave me the “maturity” I desperately needed in my life to get on the right track and make good decisions.

Did I love him? I did, but not the way a wife should love a husband. I loved his family, I loved the stability he gave me, and I loved the idea of being married and taking care of my own family. I don’t think I ever really loved him in the way that a woman should love a man; because I didn’t love myself at the time and I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted out of life.

As I began to get older, my priorities began to change and what was important and necessary to me at seventeen was definitely not important at thirty. My ex-husband and I were at completely different stages in our lives, growing apart quicker than I could ever imagine. Before long, I felt as though I was living with a complete stranger who couldn’t accept the fact that I had grown up right in front of his eyes. Maybe I should have filed for divorce then, before I did what I did; but I was too scared of hurting his family, hurting him, and scared of making such a drastic life change.

I cheated on my ex-husband.

The details are not necessary – just admitting that out loud to strangers is hard enough. I’ve heard the terms, “Homewrecker, slut, skank…”, and I watched my mother act like an unpaid prostitute for half of my life. The last thing I wanted to ever do was cheat and lie the way she did; but there I was, for a year and a half, sneaking around in parking lots, taking country drives where no one could see us, and texting my “boyfriend” behind my ex-husband’s back. The last thing I ever wanted in my life was to be anything like my mother, but I was acting just like her.

So why in the hell did I do it? If I knew I was in an unhappy marriage that was only going straight downhill; why add to the drama and start an affair? Why not file for divorce or seek counseling before stepping outside the marriage with another person? Why have an affair instead of doing what is right; hard, but right? Why did I cheat?

I cheated because I was scared of change. I cheated because I wanted to have my cake (family) and eat it too. I cheated because I met someone who filled a void in my life that I never knew existed and I was too weak to wait until I was divorced to start a physical and emotional relationship with another man. I cheated because I was unhappy, looking for a way out and maybe I thought that if I had an affair, my ex-husband would finally understand that I didn’t love him. I cheated on my ex-husband because even though I had fallen in love with another man, I didn’t want to hurt him with a divorce.

Maybe the reasons I had an affair are the same reasons that Mom cheated on my stepfather so often during my childhood. Maybe each of those “uncles” filled a void in her life that she didn’t get from my stepfather. Maybe she cheated because it made her feel beautiful and wanted. Maybe she cheated because she felt trapped and knew she couldn’t make it on her own financially; so the affairs she had were her only means of escaping a life she detested.

None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes and we all have done things that are selfish and self-centered. My decision to cheat before divorcing my ex-husband was a completely selfish act and a decision I made out of fear. I was too scared to do the hard thing, the RIGHT thing; and instead, chose to live a double life of country rides and parking lots.

Do I regret my affair? No; I can’t regret feeling and falling in love for the first time in my life. But what I do regret is not getting divorced first, not being honest about my feelings, and lying for so long. I regret becoming the very person I swore I would never become.

Affairs are exciting and make you feel alive and wanted. An affair, the newness of a relationship, and the “honeymoon phase” of the affair awaken feelings in you that you either forgot about years ago or never knew you had in the first place. But the truth always comes out; someone always slips, and then all of those feelings of excitement and love are immediately replaced with guilt and shame. When you are finally honest with your spouse and you tell him or her the truth about what you have really been doing on Sunday afternoons, you can’t ever forget that look on their face or the hurt in their eyes.

I fell in love with another man while I was married and had an affair. I am not the first person that has ever done that and I definitely won’t be the last. I’m not proud of what I did, and I’ll be damned if I ever do anything like that again. Maybe karma will come around and bite me; maybe I’ll be the one in twenty years who is sitting there, shocked and hurt, when my new spouse tells me that he has fallen in love with another woman and that he was leaving me forever.

Maybe – and if it happens; maybe that is what I deserve.

Why I Cheated

Sarah Burleton NY Times bestselling author

Victoria Gigante Writes For Psych CentralSarah Burleton was born in a little town in Illinois to a very emotionally disturbed woman. Her first book, her child abuse memoir "Why Me," spent 26 weeks on the New York Times and the print version is endorsed by David Pelzer, author of "A Child Called It." Sarah is now realizing her goal in becoming an ambassador for abused children and adult survivors and is currently conducting workshops and seminars throughout the state. Her message of strength over adversity and her story will help counselors, teachers, and other professionals identify signs of abuse and learn ways to establish trust with an abused child.

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APA Reference
, . (2017). Why I Cheated. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 4 Jul 2017
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