I’d like to start off by saying that I do not condone cheating as a general practice but too many couples react far too cut and dry when they find out their partner has cheated, rather than sit back and analyse the actual root cause of the infidelity. My personal definition of cheating is quite concise so I already know how I am going to react if I am ever faced with the scenario… Rationally and within the context of the specific situation!
The fact of the matter is that if someone wants to cheat on you, although what I outlined in the popular article The ONLY way to prevent your partner cheating is a great ideal to pursue, there’s no one instantaneous thing you can do to passively stop them. You can however deal with it in a multitude of different ways.
In this article I will start by giving some definitions of what constitutes as cheating and then explain why if these are dishonoured there are far bigger issues at work than the actual act of cheating itself…
Traditional definition of cheating:
Traditional values teach us that cheating is “physically engaging with someone who is not your partner”. The problem with this definition is that there is such a vast range of physical interaction that can take place between two people that it is hard to universally define where platonic affection ends and sexual intimacy begins. Second to this, it’s often the emotional aspects of cheating that really do the damage, such as disliking that your partner is sexually attracted to someone else, before any physical activity has even occurred.
The boundaries of every relationship can and should be different depending on how it is mutually set up and the explicit understanding of how monogamous it is going to be. With this in mind, here is my improved definition of cheating…
My definition of cheating:
Doing something that contradicts assumed values.
Relationships are built on trust and mutual respect of each other’s values. The problem is that most of these values are often assumed rather than unequivocally laid out. All healthy relationships grow organically and no one wants to start a new one by producing an in-depth catalogue of what is and what is not acceptable in the relationship from the off. There is definitely a subtle benefit in making your values clear as the early stages of a relationship develop though and I talk about how to do this respectfully in the article Starting a relationship in the best possible way.
Everyone is brought up with slightly different values regarding romantic relationships. The result is that a couple might have conflicting views on what is and what is not acceptable regarding cheating without even knowing it!
I know of several men who use this relationship naivety to their advantage in getting away with all sorts of adulterous behaviour. They will treat a woman they are casually seeing as their girlfriend (it’s instinctual and validating) but they feel that as long as they don’t explicitly tell this particular woman that they are “exclusive” with them, it justifies being able to see other women secretly because they haven’t “lied” about anything. Alluding is the same as lying in this instance so if you’re leading someone to believe they are exclusive with you when they are not, then you are lying!
Further instances of infidelity:
Further on from abusing values in a relationship is the act of doing something that you KNOW your partner would not like and then actively trying to cover up the fact.
This is where cheating really becomes messy and is a sign that things aren’t going to work out long-term. The saying “the truth always prospers” fits so succinctly to every long-term happy relationship that it is baffling why so many people think not only that they can get away with cheating but that it is actually conducive to their overall happiness in life.
Being honest about infidelity as well as any adulterous desires is always the best course of action because as I will explain, it’s not the act of cheating that really matters…
Why cheating on a partner does not matter:
Cheating is a symptom of other problems in a relationship, not the problem itself.
There are several causes of infidelity but lack of will-power is not one, although it is often used as a tame excuse. Monotony or boredom, contempt for trust or respect, or just generally not being satisfied enough are the primary reasons that someone would be unfaithful to their partner.
Note that these are all examples of something MISSING in the relationship, be it excitement, respect or fulfilment respectively. Infidelity is basically the climax of one or more of these characteristics being missing.
With this information one might ask, well why don’t they simply leave the relationship if they really aren’t happy? There are two psychological reasons for that and they are:
- The ego-validation and convenience of staying in a relationship.
- Subconsciously, they don’t actually love or cherish their other half any less.
When cheating can be good for a relationship:
Obviously the pinnacle of relationship mastery is to always be happy and fulfilled with your partner and vice versa. However, a relationship that has hit an incessant bad patch that is beyond simple reconciliation, can often require something more drastic to make that change. I never recommend infidelity as an act but I have known of specific cases where unfaithfulness has actually been the catalyst for a couple sitting down and working out what is wrong in their relationship. It takes a very mature and conscious person to be able to do this and not react with the instinctual feelings regarding cheating: rage, embarrassment and despair.
How to deal with your partner cheating:
First and foremost is to try and deal with any personal negative emotions surrounding infidelity if it happens to you, so you can make rational decisions. Although there will be many unique factors in each situation, the overall choice is whether to stay with your partner and work on the problems in the relationship, or to move on both physically and mentally.
Whatever the outcome is, you must promise the events will not have an emotional hold over you because that is the part that is really detrimental. If you stay with your partner after they have been unfaithful but still hold it against them, it will inevitably resurface during arguments and will generally play havoc on your relationship fulfilment, especially regarding trust issues. If you leave your partner but never let go of the emotional trauma, it will actually carry on into future relationships, once again regarding trust issues.
Cheating, just like any other past event does not matter NOW! It also does not change you as a person in any way. In many cases, it doesn’t even change the relationship in any way (hence why a lot of men and women can get away with affairs for so long before being found out), so remember to treat infidelity for what it is, make your decision on how to deal with it and then graciously move on in your mind. 🙂