Programmed to Cheat: Musings of a Third Generation Adulteress

Did I inherit adultery?

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TL;DR — Programmed to Cheat explores my family’s history of adultery, starting with my grandmother, who reunited with my grandpa at his new military duty station in Germany after six months of separation — four months pregnant. It discusses my mother’s liaisons and then, of course, my spotty history. Through our stories, I explore the roles of genetics, dopamine production, and ADHD in cheating, not as excuses, but as factors.


Where It Began

My pregnant grandmother knew she had a problem stepping off the ocean liner in northern Germany, with two kids in tow. It was the mid-fifties, and she was finally joining my grandfather there. A soldier, my grandfather, had been transferred to Germany six months earlier.

I can only imagine how my grandfather felt when he discovered his wife was only four months along. Whatever happened in the days following her arrival in Germany, they stayed together for 15 more years.

They had more children too, as good Catholics did in those days, but finally divorced in the early seventies. I guess the extra kid wasn’t a deal-breaker, as much as my grandmother’s infidelity was.

My grandmother was a cheater.

My grandmother left for another man. She had worked on bases in military kitchens for most of their marriage, so I’m sure she’d had many opportunities to choose from among the fine young men the Army attracts.

To her credit, she stayed with her new man for over forty years after leaving my grandfather. I’m not sure, but maybe she finally found the true love she’d looked for so hard among the men she’d been with.

My mother was a cheater.

In the early 1990s, my younger sister walked in on our mother at home, sitting on a neighbor’s lap, making out with him. They never spoke of it, and she didn’t see them together again. It upset my sister, but as we talked, we realized the signs had been there all along.

Twenty years before the day my sister found them together, a man my father worked with was between apartments, so he ended up living in our travel trailer for a couple of months. He was young, fun with us kids, and even at seven or eight, I knew he was charming and handsome.

One summer day, while dad was away, we all went to a local park for a picnic. The man peddled us around a pond on one of those blue paddleboats, and we had a ball. We ate on a blanket, and they drank wine.

It was one of the few times I recall seeing my mother genuinely relaxed. It was a perfect day, and looking back, I’m not sure I could have resisted him after a few sips, had he given me a gentle nudge. I’m not sure my mother did. We didn’t see much of him after he moved out.

In the eighties, now living on the west coast, my father continued to travel for work. He would be gone for weeks at a time, travelling the country. They were tough times, if only because my mother’s emotional instability began manifesting itself as anger and verbal abuse toward us.

One fall, an older couple began looking after us after school when my mother worked late. They made my sister and I supper when our older brother wasn’t around to look after us.

I’m not sure how she met them, but I think she worked with the husband. A good-looking man in his late forties, he was what my mother would have called distinguished, with his salt and pepper hair and neat clothes.

My mother often phoned the man when dad was away that fall, and he came by to help around the house a few times. I was 13 by then and stayed away from my mother as much as I could because of how vicious she’d become. Because of that I don’t know what he did for her and didn’t put much thought into it.

I know my dad thought they’d had an affair because when he came home there were muffled arguments in their bedroom and some angry talk of divorce.

“Who would you live with?”

Dad asked one night when we were alone in the car. Even at 13, I sensed the trap. He was trying to recruit me to his side and maybe use me as a bargaining tool. He was my step-father, so of course, I would live with my mother, despite hating her, but I didn’t want to say that.

“I don’t want to live with either of you.”

I said quietly, looking out the window. I’m not sure why, but I knew not to take sides, even though I felt his suffering.

Arriving home that night, dad put the car in neutral, shut the ignition and lights off, and coasted silently into the driveway. He opened the front door slowly and slipped into the house like a ghost. I knew he was trying to catch her talking to her lover. Thankfully she wasn’t because I don’t know what would have happened.

We never saw the man or his wife again.

I’m a cheater.

This isn’t a confessional, so I’ll get to the point. I’m a cheater and wrote a book about it.

My husband has a medical condition, and we haven’t had sex for over a decade. I eventually found someone in a similar situation, and now we are in a loving, long-term adulterous relationship.

But this isn’t the first time I’ve cheated, though. Before we were engaged, I had what I’d call goodbye sex with an old boyfriend. I knew it would be the last time we’d ever be together, and I really couldn’t resist him.

I had first met Mr. Goodbye Sex while with another boyfriend. I eventually cheated on Mr. Goodbye Sex too, but not with hubby. I wasn’t in a relationship when we met.

Before them all, I had three or four one-night stands and a week-long fling during the two years I went out with the man who took my virginity. He was 24, and I was 18 the first time. Even then, being hopelessly in love with him as I was, I knew he wouldn’t be my last.

I have never been faithful.

I’ve never been 100% faithful in any relationship I’ve had. Most of my cheating was situational and involved drinking, if that matters. In all but my current affair, I was driven by impulse.

My current affair started differently. It was deliberate. You can read why I chose to have an affair here, but in a nutshell, it was because I’d gone without sex for a decade and was slowly dying inside:When I Knew
Everyone cheats for a reason.medium.com

So how can three generations of women in the same family be cheaters?

It can’t be that we all lack morals or coincidently decided to cheat, could it? The three of us have lived dramatically different lives, so that can’t account for it either.

My grandmother was unmarried and pregnant at 14, my mother was unmarried and pregnant at 15, and I was married at 24 and pregnant at 26. My grandmother was 36 when she became “grandma” to my brother. When I was 36, my youngest was still in pull-ups and as I near 50, I’m still not a grandmother.

Neither my mother nor grandmother finished high school, and I have two degrees. Neither had meaningful employment, and I’ve had a long professional career. My grandmother grew up poor in a coal mining town, and my mother grew up on military bases as one of seven kids. I grew up in a modest lower-class home and am now firmly in the middle class.

So why were we cheaters?

I asked Google, and it led me to the Dopamine receptor D4 gene (DRD4). DRD4 has been linked to risk-taking in people with the 7R+ variant of the gene. All 7R+ means is a section of the gene repeats itself seven times in a row. If you have the sequence, you’re a “+”; if you don’t, you’re a 7R-.

The risk-taking behavior includes noticeably higher rates of infidelity and one-night stands, which sounds familiar.

Am I 7R+? I’m not sure, but three generations of cheaters would suggest we had some help making our poor life choices.

Dopamine deficiency is a key feature of ADHD.

One of the things we may have had in common was ADHD. I have it, I am certain my mother did, and wouldn’t be surprised if gran did either.

So what is dopamine?

Dopamine is a naturally produced chemical in the brain. It does a lot of things, but it mainly helps neurons pass messages between different parts of your brain. Dopamine also rewards you when you do good things by making you feel good — things like winning a race or receiving special prize for instance.

Unfortunately, the dopamine reward system can be short-circuited. Cocaine, illicit sex or other thrill-seeking behaviors can flood your brain with dopamine.

Dopamine and ADHD.

People with ADHD are dopamine deficient in the parts of their brain that control decision making and emotional responses. In ADHD, the Dopamine receptor D2 (DRD2) A1 gene variant causes this. Having both DRD2 and DRD4 defects happens as well.

In people without the 7R+ or A1 variants, dopamine stops them from saying or doing what they’re thinking, if it could be harmful. Dopamine helps them process the negative consequences of things, before they say or do them.

“No thanks, I don’t need a ride home,” in your van with six of your drunk friends, “I’ve got one coming.”

Without enough dopamine , ADHD people are more likely to say or do what they are thinking — without considering the negative consequences first.

“Hey, I love your van! Are you sure it isn’t much trouble?”

Why do ADHD people seek out risky things?

The brain is a magical organ, and if it craves something, it will work to get it. In addition to drugs, sex and skydiving, sadly, bickering and arguing, like my mother did, releases dopamine too.

And so some people with ADHD subconsciously seek out risk to boost their low dopamine levels. That’s right. People with ADHD will do things without knowing it to boost their dopamine levels.

The thing to know about ADHD and dopamine is, it is a distribution problem, not a supply problem. The ADHD brain has enough dopamine, it just isn’t in the right place and doesn’t come at the right time to make the brain work properly.

By flooding the brain with dopamine, it gets pushed to the places it needs to be so the ADHD brain can function normally for a while. The cost of doing this is high though. It comes at the expense of things like unwanted pregnancies, strained or broken relationships, lost jobs, and addictions.

Were we programmed to cheat?

I’m not going to say yes, because while nature has a role to play in human behaviour, so does nurture. Untangling correlation from causation is also tricky.

My mother had many challenges. The loss of her virginity by rape, teen pregnancy, marriage at 16, divorce at 23, and an unfulfilling and volatile life with my stepdad. My grandmother wasn’t the nurturing type so didn’t help my mother there, and nature gave her an excess of bitterness and anger.

Was dopamine her problem? In reading the study, 7R+ people were more likely to cheat, but many had not. Some 7R- people had cheated too. So it’s hard to say, but there’s a good chance more dopamine might have helped her, but I couldn’t say if it would have changed her life.

In my case, while I’m sure nurture and nature worked to tip the balance in favor of infidelity and other risky things, I don’t think it did everything.

When I was young, I cheated impulsively while drinking. But I resisted those same impulses through 23 years of marriage, where ten were without sex.

Mr. Goodbye Sex was the last one and he came two years before my wedding, meaning I resisted my impulses for 25 years. I didn’t drink much during that time either, so that may have helped. But I was bitter for most of that time and thrived on conflict as well.

I chose to cheat.

I take responsibility for my cheating. As much as I would like to, I can’t blame my horny gran or angry cheating mother, 7R+, A1, or ADHD. I’m sure none of them helped, but I’m in control and know what I’m doing. I chose to cheat.

Despite writing about cheating and enjoying the sex, I’m not proud of adultery. I wish I could have survived without sex, and avoided the lying or deceit. I just couldn’t anymore.

I worked hard not to be my mother, but no matter what I tried, I failed in a lot of ways.

So why do I cheat?

Believe it or not, I started cheating again for an entirely different reason.

Skin Hunger.

My reason was more primal — I’ve come to learn what I was feeling at the tail end of those ten dry years is called skin hunger. Skin hunger happens when people go without physical human contact for long periods. When I said I went without sex for a decade, what I didn’t say was I went without intimacy and affection too.

We didn’t snuggle, hug, hold hands, or touch each other in any caring way. Once the kids grew up, I was alone. I had no one to snuggle, hold or tuck in. The loneliness withered my spirit.

This is why I cheat now. I cheat to fill the void where intimacy and affection used to be. Skin hunger led me back to my old habits. Habits that would feed my soul.

And can you blame me? I am my mother’s daughter, after all.


Are you interested in learning how to cheat without destroying your life? Start here:How to Cheat: 54 Acronyms and Jargon Every Cheater Should Know
“Hotwife looking for a dom Bull, BBC preferred, for ONS/FWB NSA fun times. Can host. No MM, please, not looking for…medium.com


Or read my book, available in paperback, on Kindle and through Kindle Unlimited:How to Cheat: Field Notes from an Adulteress
How to Cheat: Field Notes from an Adulteress – Kindle edition by Conway, TJ. Download it once and read it on your…www.amazon.com

Teresa J. Conway © 2020

By Teresa J Conway on .

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Exported from Medium on March 4, 2021.

Author of How to Cheat: Field Notes from an Adulteress, several short stories, I'm active on Medium @teresajconway where I sometimes share my blog posts, and I'm a fair-weather tweeter @tjconway69.

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