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Are Cheaters Wired Differently

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Stinger posted 11/19/2020 09:46 AM

I try to wrap my brain around how my XW could do this with such aplomb, so adroitly for so long without a trace of it affecting her ability to function. She went to work each day, family functions, slept just fine etc. It was not eating at her as far as I could tell.

Me, I think it would be all over me. It would show on my face. I would be a wreck.

I read about people cheating for months, years etc. How do they do it? Are they dishonest in other areas of their lives? Have they just had a lot of practice lying throughout their lives?

It seems incomprehensible to me that one could do this, pull it off so long, if she was anything like me internally.

Rideitout posted 11/19/2020 10:03 AM

I hate to say it Stinger, but I think most of us are wired to be able to do what your W did. Take affairs totally out of the picture for a moment, every government in the world can take a gentle farm boy and turn him into a trained killer with very little effort. And once the killing is over, that same person can go back to holding his child with his wife and often, totally push out all the things he did in the heat of combat.

Our capacity for "splitting" is shocking in it's flexibility. I'm sure I could easily "justify" to myself both before her A and after, the reason why "I deserve this", it wouldn't have taken nearly the level of mental gymnastics that it does to pray to God for a "good day of killing" tomorrow on the battlefield.

It's shocking how easily many of us (myself included) can do this, which, for me personally, is why I avoid the situations where I know it could happen. I know I can "find a reason", so, instead of testing that, I just make sure that I'm not in a situation to "need a reason".

hikingout posted 11/19/2020 10:09 AM

I think just like everything else, there are different issues and components that make up every person who cheated.

Hearing the way you talk about your ex-wife I tend to think there was some sort of mental illness or personality disorder involved. I think that accounts for some of us, but not the majority.

If my husband and I had been spending any time together, he would have known something was up. I was paying close attention to him and didn't know something was up at all.

I think we could easily come up with a list of common traits among people who cheat, and each person would have a different configuration of that list. I think you also would be able to see many BS say they have traits on that list and didn't cheat.

I think cheating is a decision more than a condition, so in essence I don't think it has anything to do with wiring. There are things that might make one person more comfortable making that decision than others, but they typically are things that a lot of people have in their make up.

[This message edited by hikingout at 10:10 AM, November 19th (Thursday)]

Stinger posted 11/19/2020 10:16 AM

I have heard that Rideitout, that we are all wired to be able to cheat. But, I question it. I could not imagine someone like my mother ever doing it.

The killing in combat seems distinguishable. My dad told me that when he was in battles, the new kids would melt down, freeze, cry etc. After a few, however, they became hardened. So, it took some time and experience before they could function in that setting. And, they had training and were being encouraged by others to kill.

My XW may have had experience in this, I guess. She had been an OW before I met her. She was so comfortable with it. To this day, it does not seem to bother her.

Butforthegrace posted 11/19/2020 10:17 AM

I think there are a million versions, all the way from BPD unabashed serial adulterers, on the one hand, to burned-out conflict avoidant spouses trying to exit an unhappy marriage, on the other. From opportunists availing themselves to a bit of meaningless extracurricular fun to people who have lost their way in terms of sense of self, finding ersatz fulfillment in a hopelessly fucked up fantasy bubble.

I came close to cheating once. The context was what mattered. My wife and I engaged in swinging with another couple a few times. Always in the context of all four of us participating. Then, once, I came home after work and the other wife was in my home, drinking a glass of wine and suggesting that we hook up privately. My own wife was working late that day and for some reason the other wife knew that. I can't recall exactly what she said, but it implied that she felt my wife would be okay with this.

It was tempting. The other wife was hot. But my logical mind was: I made marriage vows with my wife; I've not discussed this one-on-one with my wife; I don't have my wife's express consent; therefore, even if she would be okay with it, it's contrary to my marriage vows. I declined.

I'm pointing this out because it was a close call. I almost went for it. If I'd had a few to drink, I probably would have. I'm a BS (from my prior relationship), yet I almost became a WS.

By the way, when I told my wife about it, she made it clear that she would have been hurt had I done it, she didn't consent to it and wouldn't, and she was pissed at the other wife for making the attempt. The other wife, as it turned out, was unhappy with her marriage and seeking an exit. That couple divorced within a year.


[This message edited by Butforthegrace at 5:56 AM, November 20th (Friday)]

Stinger posted 11/19/2020 10:21 AM

I guess, HO. But, for so long with no visible signs of stress or guilt? I am far from perfect. If I bought a new driver or something and did not disclose it or lied about it, I think it would show.

The sheer exhaustion, keeping all the lies straight would get to me. Plus, I wonder if the guilt would impair the ability tomfunction sexually with an AP.

JanaGreen posted 11/19/2020 10:21 AM

I agree that it's something most of us are capable of.

I'm not proud of it, but I emotionally cheated on my college boyfriend, who was as good a person as I've met in my life. I was depressed and anxious over school and overwhelmed by what would happen with us after graduation. I lacked the emotional maturity and language to talk to him about how I was feeling and instead decided that if I was unhappy, it was because something was wrong with our relationship. I started spending more and more time with a male coworker (we were servers) who was fun and cute and flirty, and told myself it was ok because he had a girlfriend and we were just friends

The slope from, he's cute and I'm attracted to him, but it's ok, I can control this, to actively comparing him to my poor boyfriend who had no idea he was in a contest, to snuggling in "friend's" bed while he rubbed my back . . . Lord it's slippery. After I broke up with college ex and had a short, predictably disastrous relationship with this cute charming alcoholic bartender, I really reflected on how EASY it was to get to a point that I never thought I'd be at.

I'm not vulnerable to the type of cheating where you go out to a bar, drink too many and hook up with a stranger. Thats my WXH. No, I'm vulnerable to letting a friendship go too far. I know that about myself now and so I actively, consciously avoid those situations, because I care anout my relationship.

I'm fully capable of cheating. Not proud, but it's just a fact.

EmbraceTheChange posted 11/19/2020 10:27 AM

I think, in my ex husband family, they are definitely wired differently and so is he. To be able to flip any serious consequences just like that because it will be "okay". My ex mother in law parents were ill. The grandad was losing his memory and doing dangerous things, like putting the gas cooker on, unplugging the phone etc. The grandma was still right in her mind, but was in a wheelchair. Seriously, NOTHING HAPPENED after my ex mother in law came in her parents house and had to open all the windows, because gas was all over the house (and the grandad smoked). The entire house could have blown up along with their neighbors, her parent could have died beczuse of the gas, and it was just a joke to them. Literally something funny. Same shit happened when my ex husband got told by OW that somebody had seen them hugging and was going to report them to h.r. He was fine with it, just found some memes on google about why hugs are beneficial for somebody's well being (????). No worries about losing his job, health insurance. Nothing. Just carried on hugging the OW, but further down in the car park.

I seriously thing that my ex husband and his family have a screw loose. They are a bunch of narcissists - bad stuff happens only to minions, not to them. They are protected by their amazing amazingness, I suppose.

hikingout posted 11/19/2020 10:30 AM


I guess, HO. But, for so long with no visible signs of stress or guilt? I am far from perfect. If I bought a new driver or something and did not disclose it or lied about it, I think it would show.

And, it seems like she was abusive in other ways too, that's why I think personality disorder or mental illness. Some people are great compartmentalizers, and they also can justify for longer periods of time without guilt.


I couldn't get away with it long term like that, it's a big reason why I confessed. I couldn't live with it.


The sheer exhaustion, keeping all the lies straight would get to me. Plus, I wonder if the guilt would impair the ability tomfunction sexually with an AP.

Maybe. Many WS here report that their AP had ED a few times. Certainly, my husband and his AP say he had it several times. For women that part is much easier to deal with.

crazyblindsided posted 11/19/2020 13:14 PM

that's why I think personality disorder or mental illness. Some people are great compartmentalizers, and they also can justify for longer periods of time without guilt.

My xWS was able to compartmentalize and lead a double life for years one LTA (that I suspect as I received an anonymous email from OW) this was after my daughter was born and the other LTA was my D-Day in 2012-2014 False R. I believe he had many flings with many women. There are just too many red flags in our history.

What bothers me even more are the WS's that never end the A after seeing the destruction. The False R killed me but it opened my eyes to how sick my xWS really was. He had not even an ounce of empathy for me.

I don't know how a person carries this on for years. Which leads me to my own RA experience and can relate to HO's post...

I couldn't get away with it long term like that, it's a big reason why I confessed. I couldn't live with it.

While I enjoyed the attention I received after being cheated on I did not enjoy the sneaking around, the lying or the sexual aspect of being with someone new. It felt very uncomfortable to me. I ended the A after 6 weeks and confessed to my xWS who throws it in my face to this day saying I'm just like him

[This message edited by crazyblindsided at 1:14 PM, November 19th (Thursday)]

siracha posted 11/19/2020 18:24 PM

I think most people have faulty wiring in some way , so id vote for no - not that innately different - just making worse decisions
1. Many people with foo issues are prone to using fantasy worlds and thrill seeking as a coping mechanism. Sex is often the drug of choice. Who cant relate to that ? I think the underlying pathway of adultery certainly makes sense to many people who just dont act on it
2. During active cheating there is an exaggeration of either contempt or low impulse control behavior , non cheaters can certainly display those traits too they just dont lead to sex.

Justsomeguy posted 11/19/2020 20:26 PM

I'm going to disrespectfully disagree with Rideitout, but I can see the point. Yes, many people can be conditioned to be soldiers, but not all. I've seen many recruits collapse from stress or have psychotic episodes because they could not take the pressure of training. Some human brains are not wired for combat. That's why there are three options, fight, flight, or freeze. There is a difference between possibility and probability. Yeah, it possible I could have an affair, but that possibility is as close to zero as to be effectively zero.

Sure, everyone lies at some point, but does that really translate into the truism that all of us have the potential to become pathological liars? So why aren't there more then? I do think that cheaters, on the whole, are wired differently. As far as I can tell, their behavior is a package deal with other personality disorders or issues. Not a hard and fast rule, but averages being what they are...

I'm of the camp, once a chaeater, always a cheater...most often than not. You can be reformed, but things cannot be undone and I think most cheaters really don't want to do the heavy lifting to change. I applaud those that do and they are a beacon of hope for us, but a let's face it, we aren't exactly swimming in tales of WSs who totally get it here at SI.

The1stWife posted 11/19/2020 21:02 PM

She had been an OW before I met her. She was so comfortable with it. To this day, it does not seem to bother her.

Stinger — Did you know this before you married her?

RealityBlows posted 11/19/2020 21:13 PM

Colonel – Marine! What is that button on your body armor?
Marine – A Peace Symbol Sir!
Colonel – What is that you’ve got written on your helmet?
Marine – Born To Kill, Sir!
Colonel – You write “Born to Kill” on your helmet and you wear a Peace Button? What’s that supposed to be? Some kind of sick joke?
Marine – No Sir!
Colonel – What is it supposed to mean?
Marine – I think I was suggesting about the duality of “Man”, Sir!
Colonel – Do what?
Marine – The duality of man. The Jungian thing Sir!

To Stingers point. Mankind has evolved or adapted to compartmentalize EXTREMELY WELL.

Stinger posted 11/19/2020 22:15 PM

Yes, I knew.

Anna123 posted 11/19/2020 22:56 PM

We are all human. That's why we have universal morals. The more people who follow them the better off society is. Some of us would never cheat or lie because it's against the rules first, and we would be too uncomfortable lying, but secondly, there is that level of empathy. Cheaters from what I can see, lack it compared to non-cheaters, but that is a generalization.

Rideitout posted 11/20/2020 06:40 AM

To Stingers point. Mankind has evolved or adapted to compartmentalize EXTREMELY WELL.

Likely evolved, IMHO. We need to be able to do this, and do it well, to function in the society that we have today, but, more importantly, in history/pre-history. Imagine if you were unable to do it back when the world was a wildly violent place; you'd be unable to function at all. Or imagine if you're one of the violent men who rules that world, how do square that with the love for your children? Our brains, IMHO, are far to complex for the reality of the world that we live in; we're self-aware but we're going to die, just that knowledge takes shocking levels of compartmentalization to deal with (and is likely the reason that religion came to exist, trying to deal with that obvious scism).

We're certainly not alone in our ability to do this in the animal kingdom, but we are, IMHO, alone in the complexity of our compartments. My cat (and just about all of them, for cat people out there) goes from the calmest, most lovable, stuffed animal level of compliance to a straight killing machine in <1sec if something catches his attention. And then right back to sleep once the threat or play opportunity passes. Now, in his instance, he's not doing it intentionally, but, the result is similar, a vicious hunter becomes a loving/wouldn't hurt a fly lap cat. I use this example because it describes my former cohort of cheaters well; doting fathers to their children, conscientious employees who would work 80 hours a week for as long as it took to get it done, "in love" with their wives from every outward appearance except.. Well, except that when you put them in certain situations, they would become vicious hunters. No lie was too low, no secret was safe from examination the next day.. Were they "better at" compartmentalizing than me? I don't really think so, I think they just used that ability to do bad things rather than not using it at all or using it for good.

That's why we have universal morals.

Beyond "don't kill people in your clan", I'm not sure I see much "universal moral" in human kind. You don't need to look too far back, even in just American history, before you see things that make your jaw drop viewed from where we are today. The "Mad Men" era with blatant cheating, discrimination against women, etc. And that wasn't that long ago, and we all thought that was "fine". Or go further back, when we all thought it was "fine" to enslave other people. Or go to other countries today, where millions of people think it's "fine" to sleep with children, have mistresses, or not let women show their faces in public.

Cheaters from what I can see, lack it compared to non-cheaters, but that is a generalization.

They have to, because, even for me who, given discussions on here with lots of people, might glean more pleasure out of sex than anyone else alive, AND have an admitted enjoyment of sex with new people, it's blatantly obvious to me, no matter how good the sex was with my AP, it would hurt my wife more than it would make me happy. The only way to make that a "good trade" is to say to yourself "My happiness matters more than her's" which, of course, is the antithesis of empathy. But I don't think that cheaters are all "broken" they are just doing what we humans excel at, compartmentalizing the way they feel about their spouse from the way they feel about their penis (or kibbles, or whatever it is they are getting from the A).

There's no way cheating gets to the prevalence level that it has if it requires two socio/psychopaths coming together to cheat. There's not enough of them to get to some high percentage of the population having either cheated or been cheated on. So, something else is going on here, people are "acting like" a sociopath without actually being a sociopath. How? Because many people, IMHO, most of us, have that innate capacity, we can "turn off" our empathy (granted, much easier for some than others).

Yes, many people can be conditioned to be soldiers, but not all. I've seen many recruits collapse from stress or have psychotic episodes because they could not take the pressure of training. Some human brains are not wired for combat.

And I think that the same could be said for cheaters. Sadly, I think that much like being a good soldier, it's something that takes "practice" to get really good at. How many stories do we see here of male cheats that can't perform with their AP? Now, of course, some of those are yarns being told to "protect" the BH, but, I am sure that some of them are true; and I think the analogy is "freezing on the battlefield". Most people can be "trained" out of it, some cannot. And some people never freeze at all and go right to "fight" (f**k).


TwoDozen posted 11/20/2020 07:01 AM

I think we are all capable of cheating - but not all of us are capable of keeping it a secret or living with it.

I have been tempted after a few drinks, when it was put on a plate for me, thousands of miles away from home in situations there would be simply no way of being caught but....

And I have written about this before. I could not live with it and I know that In advance so I keep myself out of harms way.

I think that is the major difference.

steadychevy posted 11/20/2020 07:26 AM

I think cheaters are wired differently. I also think that most of us are capable of cheating but some will have a much higher propensity to do so.

I go back to the Myers-Briggs character assessment tool. Different character types have stronger or weaker commitment levels. Those with stronger (plus other characteristics) are less likely to cheat than those with a weaker level.

There apparently is research now in neuroscience (I think) that shows there is evidence that DNA can play a role. It has to do with the feel good hormone (oxytocin, etc) receptors and how that affects behaviour. It's probably thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Perhaps that might explain a higher propensity to cheat from parents who cheated. Higher doesn't mean 100% or even 50%, just higher than those who didn't have such a parent.

The brain gets re-wired by many environmental factors, too. As neuroscience progresses that is becoming more and more evident. Things like CSA, abandonment, etc. wire the brain in a certain way which would be mostly negative and areas of the brain don't develop fully.

ETA: I just read TwoDozen just above and agree completely. Don't play with fire.

[This message edited by steadychevy at 7:29 AM, November 20th (Friday)]

DevastatedDee posted 11/20/2020 09:11 AM

My thoughts on this have evolved somewhat. I don't know if "wired differently" is the answer. Sometimes it is, when you're dealing with serial cheaters/sex addicts. Compartmentalization is not a superpower, though. As RIO says, we manage to not think about how mortal and insignificant we are every moment of the day. Otherwise no accomplishment would matter much and we'd likely go off the rails just doing what feels good from morning to night until we died. We can all compartmentalize, so that excuse for cheating doesn't hold.

We'd all like great sex, right? Affairs tend to deliver really exciting sex. It has all the elements. Risky, sneaky, feeling like a "bad girl/boy", even the Romeo and Juliet romanticism for some. Why don't we all cheat? There's the pesky empathy getting in the way. It's not worth hurting the one you love to get the hot sex or losing the ability to be there for your children 24/7. Selfishness can prevent it too, if you think far enough ahead to not want to lose half of what you own and the love of your spouse.

Circumstances affect our empathy levels. I could not have cheated on my XWH pre-DDay because of that empathy thing. On DDay, I did cheat on him. Now mine was a very weird mentally unstable thing and it's hard for even me to categorize it in any rational sense, so I'm not going to be helpful using it as an example. It does seem to fall under "fight" instead of flight or freeze, so maybe there's that.

RIO is onto something with his cat comparison. I have only once been confronted with how I would react in a situation where I felt my life was threatened. A guy hid in a store I worked in and came out after closing and threatened me and another teenaged girl with the obvious things. I looked for any weapon and found a pair of scissors and I told him to come on then. I don't know that I would have been able to successfully fight this man, but I do remember being stone cold positive that I would try, even remember thinking of the best place to stab him to kill. I wasn't even afraid until after he left. I went from fairly typical young college student laughing with her coworker to a cornered animal ready to fight for it's life in seconds. My poor sweet coworker fell apart and cried on the floor the whole time, so maybe there is some different wiring there. Maybe that different wiring is what sent me to have an RA when confronted with DDay instead of curled up on the floor crying. I don't know.

I don't know what I would have predicted I'd do in that situation beforehand. We can't always predict what we'll do. I wouldn't have predicted that I'd cheat back within hours on DDay. What I think I can predict is that my empathy levels toward someone determines a lot. I didn't even care about my own life on DDay and he had become some sort of strange monster in my eyes. I had zero recognition of the dude in the bookstore as a human being. Turning off our empathy allows us to do pretty much anything. That's why sociopaths are so damaging and frightening.

Those of us who were cheated on were with people who didn't respect us or hold much empathy for us at the time. We had become some sort of enemy in their heads. That's hard to come to terms with afterwards, but I think that's the answer. It's not compartmentalism so much as it's how much empathy someone has for us or us for them.

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