Cheater, Cheater: Why am I only attracted to married people?

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Q: Having traveled the marriage route, done the domestic partner thing and traveled down the breakup and divorce roads, I finally realize that the single life is for me.

So many times, I was hurt so deeply, two-timed so frequently and played so thoroughly that keeping relationships casual feels just right for me.

My trouble is that, despite their assurances of the opposite, most single people deep down want that one magical date that turns into their ever-after. It turns me off of being romantic or sexual with them, but I found a work-around, albeit one that kind of bothers me: Dating married people.

Profiles saying theyre looking to cheat on their partners guarantee my desire to remain uncommitted, and right or wrong, it actually turns me on. Just the thought of helping them cheat really gets me going.

On the one hand, the cheating is their problem and not mine, but having been the cheated-upon partner, I feel guilty as hell. What is wrong with me?

Dear Cheater:

Avoiding commitment lays the foundation for your fortress against vulnerability. That alone would not be simple to dismantle, but you have a whole building on top of it.

You internalized the pain of risking emotional intimacy so much, it releases the adrenaline of revenge. Then you taught yourself to release it as sexual energy. You felt powerless, but the power in that scenario wasn’t your ex’s either — it lies with the person with no strings attached.

Those people got the best parts of your exes — the sex, intimacy and romance. You got the dregs — lies, coverups and gaslighting. Now, the addition of some helpless person waiting at home makes you the person with all the power.

There’s also built-in intrigue and drama being “the other person.” Now you get to be the tempter, the forbidden one. You are the mysterious and alluring fantasy, and that feels pretty good in the moment.

After the moment passes, you feel guilty, and that’s good news: It means buried under your own baggage, you care. You feel bad because you are participating in hurting someone else, and that’s not who you want to be.

Your work to protect yourself almost worked too well. Now you may be ready to start disassembling the fortress. You don’t have to date for permanence, and you may never want to, but you can address your feelings around vulnerability and emotional safety.

Consider professional help to become more open with others, including potential dates who are available to you without cheating on someone. Consider fantasy roleplay for the excitement without the real-life fallout. Experiment with your concept of yourself and what you deserve.

Illustration by Brad Gibson

Q Advice is intended for entertainment, not counseling. Send your burning Qs to [email protected].

This column also appeared in Q ATLus magazine. Find past editions of Q Advice here, and read the latest issue online here:

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Cheater, Cheater: Why am I only attracted to married people?

I was hurt deeply and played thoroughly, so keeping relationships casual feels right for me, but most singles really want the ever-after. I don't.