Relationships are unicorns and rainbows when they start. You see them and their smile melts you... and they're into you, too. A few months pass and you're in a committed relationship with "I love you's" and great times. Then... the unthinkable: They jump on Ashley Madison or meet someone behind your back... and they cheat. The emotional reaction is one we know well: "How could you DO THAT!??!" However, the act — while the ultimate expression of physical betrayal— is a symptom of the real issues. What really needs to be looked at and discussed is: What were the precursors to their infidelity? What were the challenges in the relationship? What was said and unsaid, and what were the warning signs?
Does that mean there's an excuse? Hardly. Despite recent articles and studies that suggest the existence of a cheating gene ingrained into the DNA of some people (nothing like being the victim of your own choices), there is no excuse for infidelity. There can be explanations , but there is no excuse. Ultimately, if you are unhappy in your relationship that you are looking externally to fulfill your emotional/physical needs, you need to leave... close one chapter before starting another, and allow every their dignity and honor as things end. Unfortunately, that's not necessarily the way things go sometimes.
FLINGS AND AFFAIRS
There are two types of extramarital relationships: Flings and affairs. Flings are the most common, most often involving opportunity, lust, and lack of self-control. Whether you are talking about a man or a woman, you can hear the excuses/justifications in your head: "Babe, I screwed up. I got drunk in Vegas with the [guys/girls] and ended up sleeping with this stripper I met at the club. It didn't mean anything, and I promise it won't happen again. Please forgive me."
Okay... people aren't perfect. They make mistakes. They make bad choices. And sometimes, opportunity can make good people do bad things. But Flings are really about no self-control, and they showcase how the cheater is willing to sacrifice their honor—and their partner's honor—for a one-night-stand. Choosing to forgive a Fling means you need to think long and hard about it. I'm not a believer in"Once a cheater, always a cheater," (because cheaters can choose to follow a faithful path with different partner with different relationship dynamics), but Flings are about selfishness... and that doesn't just go away.
Affairs are different, as they aren't fast hit-it-and-quit-it acts of misguided lust and sexual wanting. These are long-term relationships—sometimes involving sex, sometimes not—and they are trickier for someone to get over because there has been investment over time—and it's also an emotional investment, as well. People sharing the inner-workings of their personal lives, their activities, their kids—all while dropping back from their established relationship. All-in-all, forgiveness and moving past an Affair is wrought with challenges.
Which brings us to a different kind of cheating for the web-based era: Online Affairs. There are an endless number of websites that advocate and enable real-world affairs (whose highest spending advertisers are divorce attorneys). But meeting someone online and then quickly transferring the relationship to the real world is really just a fling. Online Affairs are different. With the use of social media and community-centric websites now ingrained into our everyday lives, connecting with others in remote locations isn't just the activity of a small subculture. Bottom line: Online cheating—without any physical contact—is the most damaging type of infidelity. The reason? The entire "connection" between the two parties is emotional.
BUT WHY DO THEY CHEAT?
In surveying 1,000 men and women (483 men, 543 women), two things became clear: 1) Women cheat just as much as men (dispelling the myth that men cheat more); and 2) The reasons the genders cheat are very different. 86% of the women polled reported that they cheat mostly for emotional reasons, stating the following top reasons for pursuing an extramarital affair:
- Lack of emotional intimacy
- Marital or relationship unhappiness
- Reaffirm her desirability
- To re-experience feelings of romance
Of the men polled, 82% openly admitted to cheating largely for physical or sexual gratification with no emotional tie. Rounding out the top reasons men cheat included:
- Just want to have sex or sexual variety
- Presented with an opportunity to have sex, without getting immediately caught
- Satisfy sexual curiosity about having sex with a particular person
- The “thrill of the chase”
- The desire to feel important or special (an ego boost)
However, in delving further into the mens’ reasons, I discovered that many of the men felt that they were “unable to get out of their relationship” prior to their infidelity, which translated into the simple fact that they lacked the skills/respect to maturely discuss their unhappiness with their significant other. In short, they acknowledged that they were unhappy and looking for a way out, but they couldn’t bring themselves to pull the trigger on the relationship. If they cheated and got caught (most long-term cheaters do end up getting caught), they were able to quickly turn the tables, telling their spouse how it was THEIR fault they cheated because [insert reason here: not enough sex, boredom, etc.].
Cheating is a symptom of an already failing/failed relationship. Communication has broken down and a disconnect already exists. The cheater is looking outside of the relationship to have their emotional/physical needs met because they are [usually] already mentally checked-out.
Monogamy and exclusive relationships aren't for everyone. But, if you’ve made promises, stick to them, or have the common courtesy to close one chapter before starting another. That way, everyone can keep their honor and integrity... and move on.
Choose your path...