Both Jax Taylor and Brittany Cartwright admitted they had confusing feelings when it came to Jax’s cheating ways. And while Brittany screamed her head off and threatened to leave her straying boyfriend, they both admitted separately they were having more sex than ever after Jax’s confession — and that it was better than ever.
So what gives?
New York City based therapist Liz Lasky explains to Personal Space that cheating can cause conflicting feelings, and that while rightfully hurt and angry, some people can also be turned on.
"While not incredibly common, cheating can be a turn on to some people,” Lasky says. “Some enjoy the art of secrecy and there can be something exciting about hiding things [which results] in feeling a thrill, living out a fantasy, or the novelty of it all.”
And returning to someone after a breakup doesn’t always mean you are weak — in fact it means there is really some love there and that maybe the two people in the broken relationship can work it out.
“There are many reasons leading to why people stay together after cheating,” Lasky says. “First and foremost, there is love in relationships. Even if someone cheats, there is still love. People want to do whatever they can to reconnect and getting back together can lead to feelings of comfort and familiarity.”
It’s also possible to feel angry and turned on simultaneously.
“It's entirely possible to be angry with a partner and still be turned on by the act of cheating … It makes sense for someone to be turned on thinking of their partner having sex or imagining a scenario that may include them too. People are turned on by sex and fantasies of sex. This scenario would be no different,” says Lasky.
These conflicting feelings can also work out but it will take a lot of work. Hear that, Jax?
“These relationships often become a challenge for both parties and are ultimately not sustainable," Lasky says. “The biggest challenge is overcoming the trust violation that cheating brings to the table." “The ultimate scenario would be for the couple to talk about it and create an arrangement where both parties can make sure their needs are being met. Having this situation, almost like an 'open secret,' would allow for personal and sexual excitement without the trust violation. There are other ways to add excitement to relationships and achieve sex and relationship goals without cheating as a component.”
There are entire chat rooms dedicated to people secretly turned on by a partner straying.
In fact, one man writes that while deeply angered he’s embarrassed that he also likes the thought of it in a way.
“My wife had an affair. Please don't get me wrong, I am deeply angered by what she did and will not tolerate that behavior in my marriage ever again. I am embarrassed to say ... in some twisted way, I have felt turned on by the thoughts of my wife having sex with the other man. I don't feel like this all of the time but when I do, it is very confusing to say the least. I feel ashamed to admit this but there have been a couple of times, during our recent recovery, while having sex, that I actually caught myself fantasizing that I was the other man with my own wife. Of course I would never, ever, tell her that.”
Another even asked his wife if she would cheat again — like, as a favor to him.
“My wife cheated on me years ago. At first, I gave her hell, then I got over it by enjoying the fact that she liked sex so much, she did it with someone else while I was away. For the last three years, I've been asking her to do it again. She hasn’t yet. Is this absolutely crazy? I can’t stop thinking about it and how I would love to make love to her afterwards and tell her how much I love her.”
Experts say it’s the intertwining of a difficult emotion (jealousy) and an exciting one (sex), which aren’t that far apart to being with. They are subconsciously trying to twist the unfortunate situation to suit their best interests. But, be aware, it can lead to dark places and infidelity you can never take back.
Therapist Camilla E. Mager tells Personal Space that in her opinion, affairs can actually rekindle a relationship. Not long ago, divorce was considered to be incredibly shameful, but that in current culture it is not divorce that carries the shame, but staying in a relationship after one’s partner has had an affair.
"This is particularly ironic since the vast majority of married couples who experience an affair do, actually, end up staying together," she says. "Some just survive the affair and find a way to carry on, but others manage to reignite their relationships."
Esther Perel, a well known Belgian therapist who works with couples and speaks quite a bit on infidelity, says that affairs are not merely an act of betrayal but also an expression of longing and loss.
"[Perel] explains that affairs are often less about sexual passion and more about an attempt to recapture lost parts of ourselves and that it is sometimes less about turning away from one's partner and more about turning away from the person we have become - someone who has lost a sense of novelty, freedom and sexual connection," Mager says. "In the discovery of the betrayal, the victim of the affair also has an opportunity to be revitalized - the hurt party has an opportunity to say that he/she also wanted more - and with this conscious awareness both parties in the couple can go out and get it. So yes, couples can not only survive an affair, but can actually thrive in response."
Mager says that affairs perpetually leave you wanting more of what you are not supposed to want — that which is forbidden.
"In this sense, while the affair certainly reignites excitement, desire and sexual connection for the one having the affair, it can also do so for the betrayed party in the relationship. How? First, partners who may have been sexually indifferent before may find their desire rekindled by the fear of loss — and this awakening may even make way for a new kind of truth in the relationship. In addition, the degree of societal disapproval and derision that is placed on staying with someone who has cheated, sets up the original relationship itself — and accompanying sexual intimacy — as precisely that which is forbidden and thus incredibly attractive, exciting and novel."
If looking to fix the relationship, most therapists advise being completely honest with your partner about your thoughts and feelings and trying to work through it in a healthy way, which likely doesn't involve a third party after everything has been put on the table.
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