Lets skip the intro paragraph of fluff and get right into the mix, shall we?
1. YOU HAVE A HISTORY OF CHEATING
The best way to predict future behavior is by examining past behaviors. If you’ve developed a pattern of infidelity in past relationships and you haven’t engaged in at least two basic explorations to disrupt your cycle of cheating, you’re probably going to cheat again.
What might those two basic explorations be?
First, you have to do the work to gain insight into the motivation behind your prior decisions to cheat.
Are you self-sabotaging because deep down you don’t feel you deserve a healthy relationship? Are you expecting your partner to fulfill needs that you’re neglecting yourself? Are you committing to people who you’re not really into because you don’t want to disappoint them or others? Are you indirectly trying to end the relationship because saying that you want out feels impossible?…The list goes on.
Secondly, you have to explore ways to manage your impulse control over the behavioral choices you’re making.
This involves getting more serious about your self-care regimen, because people often cheat when they need an escape, and people need an escape when their lives are too overwhelming to handle, and our lives are too overwhelming to handle when we haven’t prioritized our own basic needs for rest, meaningful social connections and some kind of creative or joyful outlet. The less responsibility you take for living a balanced, conscious life and taking care of yourself, the less you’re able to offer balance and conscious love to whomever you’ve committed to.
Bottom line: Cheating has very little to do with the person being cheated on, so no matter how wonderful that person is, you’re likely going to cheat on them if you don’t do the work to disrupt your pattern.
2. YOU’RE ENGAGING IN A SECRETIVE EMOTIONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH SOMEONE OTHER THAN YOUR PARTNER
Intimacy doesn’t just happen, it’s built. If you’re sharing your emotional wins or woes with another person at the exclusion of your partner, that’s something to take note of. If you deliberately keep your partner in the dark about the frequency, intensity and especially the mere existence of the emotional connection you’re building with another, STOP, DO NOT PASS GO, WHATEVER THE REST OF THAT SAYING IS.
3. YOU’VE STOPPED HAVING SEX WITH YOUR PARTNER
As Deepak Chopra says, sex is always about emotions. Good sex is about free emotions, bad sex is about blocked emotions.
While date nights (i.e. attempts at planned sex) and putting in the effort to look hot definitely don’t hurt your odds at upping the sexual chemistry, it’s still not gonna happen if one person or both people in the relationship feel limited, blocked, or otherwise neglected in the non-physical realms of intimacy.
Not having sex is a tough one because most relationships go through natural highs and lows, so access your instincts and ask yourself if this is just a little dip, or if your sex life has taken a real dive.
If it’s the latter, it’s probably a good call to start a dialogue with your partner about what’s happening. “Sexless marriage” is, after all, the most Googled phrase about sex and marriage, so you certainly wouldn’t be alone if this is an issue for you.
Need an opening line? Don’t emphasize the lack of sex, a la, “We never have sex anymore.” That sentence is the definition of what’s defeatist to both hear and to say.
Instead, try starting with something that emphasizes intimacy more broadly, “I want to feel more connected to you, and I haven’t lately, I miss you.” Then simply ask about what the person has been feeling in the past week or so. Get into their head and heart, “How have you been feeling when you wake up? What’s your favorite part of the day? Play the song you love the most right now, I want to hear it…(etc.)”
4. YOU BELIEVE THE GREATEST MYTH THERE IS ABOUT PEOPLE WHO CHEAT
My mother in law, who is wonderful and charming (and who sometimes reads my posts, so, hi! And sorry again that I drink a little too much on fam vacays!) has some really choice sound bites that I like to steal. My current favorite is, “In my humble opinion…” It’s the manner of her genuinely diplomatic delivery that carries a very subtle but powerful message which is, “Because I care about you and I want things to be as easy as possible for you, I’m about to tell you the exact right thing to do, without any demands or expectations that you’ll do it. But just so we’re clear, it’s right.”
I steal that great line of hers when I pretty much know something is right but I don’t necessarily want to instruct someone on how to behave or think. So here we go — in my humble opinion, believing that your relationship is somehow inoculated from infidelity because you and your partner are in love is the greatest myth about people who cheat.
It’s easy to demonize someone who cheats as someone who doesn’t love or appreciate their partner, but it’s not that simple. Affairs in committed relationships are more often representative of poor self-awareness, bad boundaries, lack of impulse control, loss of perspective from the cheater and/or desperation for attention.
In fact, those who engage in an aberrant episode of cheating are typically riddled with feelings of immense shame, their self-esteem often plummets, and they ultimately end up feeling isolated.
In a sad and predictable twist of irony, their misguided search for deeper connection actually leaves them feeling deeply alone.
I know, I know, get out the teeny tiny violin…I’m not justifying the behaviors, I’m just saying that the behaviors are not as one dimensional as they may appear to be. (Except when they are, as is the case if you happen to be with an unremorseful sexual narcissist — and that’s when you need to get out of the relationship, in my humble opinion, immediately.)
If you recognize any of these signs in yourself or your partner, it’s not too late to hit the brakes and turn the relationship around.
Proactively engage the issue in a way you can feel proud of. Start the tough conversation, share your feelings of personal malaise, work to reconnect with parts of yourself you may have lost touch with.
There are a myriad of other ways to channel the kind of energy that propels infidelity, and if you’re sensing that your relationship is at risk, I just can’t emphasize enough how important it is to explore said other ways. Why?
In my professional experience, someone who cheats rarely has any idea of the full extent of damage they’re about to cause by seeking sexual gratification outside of the relationship. Their decision utterly devastates the ones closest to them, it causes an elective traumatic event.
You can’t avoid most traumas in life, affairs are an exception to that rule.
Let me say it again, affairs are traumatic, and the very nature of trauma is that it impacts and infiltrates every aspect of a person’s life. This include’s a person’s physical health, emotional safety, job performance, sense of confidence, traumatic events impact everything. This is tragically what many people don’t understand before engaging in what might appear to be ‘harmless’ behaviors, like flirting with a work colleague, reconnecting with an ex, etc.
Infidelities don’t just happen, they’re a series of small but powerful choices that cumulatively result in deeply destructive betrayals. While it is possible to heal from infidelity and genuinely move forward with renewed love and connection, the relationship will never be the same. Affairs always indelibly change a connection. Maybe it appeals to you to have your relationship be indelibly changed, there’s honestly nothing wrong with that, it’s just that there are about 17 million easier ways to get there besides cheating.