(Phatforums News / Relationship-Love.com) — There are many excuses for cheating. But what’s the real reason behind it? And what should we do when it happens?
Throughout my day I will see couples in disarray because one partner has started mis-behaving. This may take the form of sleeping with someone else, having emotional flings with work colleagues or getting on the internet for some computer flirting. I have heard all the rationalizations for this type of behavior and it is time to put these to rest. Cheating in the new millennium can be addressed if we stop pretending we don’t understand what’s going on.
I often sit around in the weekends and banter with my mates about all sorts of topics – particularly relationships and sex. Invariably the issue of cheating comes up and confessions are made about indiscretions. I hear both sides, from men and women and there’s one thing that everyone agrees on – it’s a major problem that destroys partnerships.
The types of cheating are many and varied it can be tricky to identify where to draw the line. Kissing someone else, fantasizing about another person while you’re having sex with your partner, flirting via email or constantly text messaging that attractive salesperson. The rule of thumb that I tell people is that if the behavior pushes your partner away, don’t do it.
I had a client once who told me that he was in love with his partner. However, he was having difficulties with her over-sensitivity. Specifically, he said that she had a problem with him meeting up with ex-girlfriends for coffee, engaging in “harmless” flirting at office parties and showing a general lack of interest in her. I asked him, “Does this ‘harmless’ behavior of yours bring her closer to you or push her away?” After being confronted with this he began to reveal the things he didn’t like about his partner and about his unhappy relationship. This example highlights the main drive behind infidelity – being unhappy with your partner but not having the courage to admit it.
Infidelity is relationship sabotage. That’s the bottom line. When we enter a relationship we do things that draw the other person closer to us (meet their parents, socialist with their friends). We do this because we want them in our lives and we want them to commit to us exclusively. When problems start to arise between each other and communication is poor, behaviors will emerge that will sabotage the partnership (cheating, arguments, criticism). If nothing is done to address the issues, then these behaviors will continue and eventually end the relationship.
Now, I realize that this theory is not going to be well received by those who engage in cheating – particularly my fellow males. They are going to throw around all the various excuses for infidelity. We have a number of classics such as instinct, alcohol or drugs, being seduced, having a problem with commitment or just needing ‘a physical release’. You name it, I’ve heard it. The common denominator with all these excuses is that they aim to absolve the cheater of any responsibility and they allow them the luxury of doing it again. Well, I don’t subscribe to any of these excuses and instead would prefer people to front up and take responsibility for their behavior.
The difficulty with people accepting this approach is that they have to face the fallout that can come with honesty. Take the guy who cheats on his girlfriend of 8 years and treats her in a manner that pushes her away (going out late with mates, withdrawing from communication, no sex). When you speak to him about his relationship he tells you that he’s unhappy but not sure what to do, because he’s wealthy and doesn’t want to lose 50 percent of his assets in a messy break-up.Then there’s the family man who has three children and lives happily in a nice part of town, old-style villa, kids in good schools and a lovely wife who has a huge network of friends. Unfortunately he is deeply bored and unhappy about having to play the role of decision-maker with his wife who is overly eager to please him. He has been having an affair for three years yet doesn’t want to come clean for fear of losing his family unit. What about the woman whose boyfriend of two years becomes depressed following a death in the family and being made redundant? He starts to spiral downwards and becomes unmotivated and withdrawn. She tries to help but finds him increasingly resistant and exhausting. She then meets a guy at work who pays her attention and they begin a relationship. Her concern is that if she leaves her current partner, he will be too fragile to cope.
To all those in situations like these, it is time to accept the fact that fallout is inevitable but not unbearable. Two key points are worth remembering: you can only be responsible for your own wellbeing and taking an honest approach strengthens your ability to cope with all sorts of consequences. In short, it’s time to front up; you will deal with the outcomes.
Now, some might be motivated to repair the relationship following an affair. For these people the process is straightforward: talk is cheap, so if you’ve had an affair, then to rebuild trust you have to do it through action. Your partner has to see change to believe that you are committed. This is not an easy process, but I have seen numerous couples overcome infidelity and grow closer over time.
To rebuild trust following your infidelity you must answer these questions:
Who was responsible for cheating?
How did you sabotage your relationship?
What behavior would you need to change for your partner to stay with you?
What behavior can you initiate that will bring your partner closer to you and increase trust?
What was happening in the relationship before the affair that you didn’t like? (Spending less time together, no sex, arguments, criticism.)
What roles did you play in the relationship that made you unhappy? (Decision-maker, compromiser, nurturer, problem-solver.)
What behavior of your partner’s made you unhappy?
Following this you need to sit down with your partner and talk openly about change. It’s vital that you are aware of resistance. If either he or you starts coming up with obstacles to change, forget it. As for the cheater (be it he or you), you don’t have any more chances. If you are resisting change you need to do yourself a favor, show some courage and get out now. Give your partner the opportunity to let go and move on. Both of you need to take responsibility for making your relationship work or leaving it behind if it is dead.