Why peo­ple re­ally cheat

It’s time for us to re-eval­u­ate in­fi­delity

Cosmopolitan (Australia) - - Contents -

Even if you’ve never cheated or been cheated on, it’s likely you’ve been af­fected by in­fi­delity at some point. And yet it re­mains so poorly un­der­stood and is still shrouded in se­crecy and shame. Cheat­ing is the ele­phant in the room. This makes it dif­fi­cult to have open con­ver­sa­tions with our part­ners about our re­la­tion­ships. And that’s why it’s time to re­think it. While writ­ing my new book, The State of Af­fairs, I dis­cov­ered sur­pris­ing things about cheat­ing that can help get these dis­cus­sions started. Here are just a few of the re­al­i­ties I un­earthed.

A PRE-CHEAT TALK IS A MUST

Dis­cuss your def­i­ni­tion of monogamy with your part­ner be­fore sh*t hits the fan. Ev­ery­one has a def­i­ni­tion of cheat­ing

– a strip­club visit can dev­as­tate one per­son as much as a 10­month af­fair hurts another. Get to know each other’s opin­ions now to avoid be­ing blind­sided later. It’s also vi­tal to talk about how you’ll han­dle it when you’re at­tracted to another per­son. Usu­ally, cou­ples don’t ad­dress this when the tide is low – they only do once they’re in cri­sis.

YOU CAN’T TELL WHO WILL STRAY

So many young women tell me, ‘I picked this guy be­cause he’d never cheat.’ But you can’t al­ways tell that in ad­vance. In­stead of try­ing to avoid in­fi­delity by guess­ing who will be faith­ful, talk to your part­ner, ac­knowl­edge that sex­ual de­sire ex­ists and com­mit to monogamy for the sake of the re­la­tion­ship.

WE WANT IN­STANT GRAT­I­FI­CA­TION

These days, we’re used to get­ting any­thing we want right away, so we think it should be easy to tran­si­tion from hook­ing up with dif­fer­ent peo­ple to only one per­son. It isn’t. We have to nav­i­gate lots of temp­ta­tion.

‘ONCE A CHEATER, AL­WAYS A CHEATER’ IS NOT THE RULE

There are some re­peat of­fend­ers. And their ac­tions are more than just cheat­ing – they have a lack of re­spect for you and the re­la­tion­ship. But in gen­eral, just be­cause some­one’s been un­faith­ful once doesn’t mean they’ll do it again. In fact, if your part­ner does show gen­uine re­morse for hurt­ing you the first time, they’re more likely to own their mis­takes and re­main ded­i­cated to earn­ing back your trust.

BE­TRAYAL HAS MANY FORMS

We’re taught that the one who strayed is al­ways at fault. That’s be­cause we look at these sit­u­a­tions ac­cord­ing to the cheat­ing bias – the idea that go­ing out­side the re­la­tion­ship is the worst thing a per­son can do – not ac­cord­ing to what ac­tu­ally hap­pened. When some­one’s re­peat­edly mis­treated or ne­glected in a re­la­tion­ship, an af­fair is less about in­fi­delity and more an attempt to re­claim re­spect and self­es­teem. Some­times, the per­son who has been cheated on doesn’t ac­tu­ally have the moral up­per hand.

EVEN PEO­PLE IN LOVE CAN CHEAT

In our so­ci­ety, the ideal re­la­tion­ship is one in which our mate is The One. We think if we have ev­ery­thing we need at home, we have no rea­son to look elsewhere. So when our part­ner steps out on us, it’s easy to feel that we’re not enough… But an af­fair isn’t al­ways a symp­tom of some­thing missing in your re­la­tion­ship or in you. And it doesn’t al­ways mean that your mate doesn’t love you.

AN AF­FAIR ISN’T AL­WAYS THE END

There are a few fac­tors that de­ter­mine if in­fi­delity will be a nail in the cof­fin. First, is the per­son who cheated able to ac­knowl­edge what they did with­out jus­ti­fy­ing or blam­ing it on some­one else? Sec­ond, are they able to ac­knowl­edge that cheat­ing hurts, and can they re­sist the urge to rush past the pain they’ve caused? Third, are they able to say ‘What can we learn from this?’ While one per­son was re­spon­si­ble for the af­fair, the cou­ple is re­spon­si­ble for the re­la­tion­ship. Two­somes who learn from this cri­sis to­gether can use it for good.

Es­ther Perel is a sex and re­la­tion­ships ther­a­pist, au­thor of

Mat­ing in Cap­tiv­ity and

The State of Af­fairs, and host of the au­dio se­ries Where Should We Be­gin? Her TED talks have been viewed more than 17 mil­lion times. Visit es­ther­perel.com or @es­ther­perelof­fi­cial for more from Es­ther.

The State of Af­fairs: Re­think­ing In­fi­delity by Es­ther Perel ($29.99, Ha­chette), is out in book­stores now.

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