Cheating is something that comes up in most relationships at one point or another. However, it can be hard to pinpoint what the definition of cheating is exactly. Is it a look, time spent with others, sexual interaction? A hug, a kiss, text messages? Cheating is going to look different from relationship to relationship and person to person. But no matter how it plays out, it can cause destruction to a relationship unless it is properly addressed.
Human are, by and large, driven by the need to bond with others. This need has been one of the building blocks of our civilizations over the millennia. But it can also come with a heavy price. When someone we feel bonded with breaks that bond, it can cause devastation, despair and even divorce. Today’s column looks at various forms of cheating that can come up in relationships and how to resolve them.
How Do I Confront My Wife About Her Cheating?
“My wife and I have been together for 18 years. We have two kids, a stable relationship (I thought) and more good times than bad. Recently I found out she cheated on me. I am devastated and ready to divorce her. I can’t believe she would betray me in this way and did not see it coming. How do I confront her?”–Hurt And Shocked
There is a lot here to unpack HAS, and let me start out by offering my sympathy. After investing almost two decades with someone, finding out that they are cheating can be devastating. But before you pull that divorce trigger, let’s sit down and go over all options. The way that your letter is constructed does not make it seem like your wife has a long-term and consistent cheating tenancy. Unless she’s really good at hiding it, it seems like this is a more recent thing.
People tend to cheat because they are not getting all their needs met, be it emotional or physical. Unless they are pathologically addicted to the “cheater’s high” that you can get from pulling off something forbidden behind someone’s back, cheating usually happened because someone is feeling neglected in some way. Does this justify their actions? Absolutely not! But it does give us a better base for understanding the actions.
18 years is a long time HAS, and you have raised two children and shared a life together. Is it possible at some point your wife started to feel neglected or taken for granted? Did your sexual needs become incompatible at some point with one of you having higher desires than the other? Did a routine get created where neither of you were investing the time in cherishing each other? Any of these factors could create a situation where cheating starts to look tempting.
Before you go through with the divorce, I strongly suggest that you sit down with your wife and talk it over. Arrange a neutral setting and a time to talk when the two of you will not be interrupted. Then discuss what has happened in a non-accusatory way.
Ask her what caused her to want to cheat in the first place? Can that be addressed and fixed? Is throwing your entire relationship away over cheating the best course of action? Only the two of you can answer these questions, but when it comes to cheating I am always in the camp of attempting to fix the problems in the relationship as opposed to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
It should be noted that I don’t hold this stance when it comes to chronic compulsive cheaters. Those that cheat for the sake of cheating or engage in it in an addictive manner. That is an entirely different situation and people wired like that do not tend to stop their behavior.
If the two of you find it difficult to discuss the problem independently, there is no shame in bringing in a third party like a marriage counselor. Often seeking professional help in mediating these difficult conversations is better than attempting it on your own. It can be extremely helpful having an unbiased person guide the conversation and offering a view a view of the situation that you can’t see while in the middle of it emotionally. Best of luck!
How Do I Talk To My Boyfriend About His Emotional Affair?
“While he has not cheated on me physically, I know my boyfriend is having an emotional affair with another woman. He is always finding time to spend with one of his coworkers, he keeps bringing her up in conversation and he hides his cell phone from me. I am so sick of the situation. What is the best way to call him out?”–The Other Woman
The best way? Calmly and honestly. As hard as that may be. Emotional affairs are often trickier to address than purely physical affairs. It can also be harder to prove an emotional affair because there is not one specific incident like a sexual interaction to point to.
Would you feel the same if he was spending the same amount of time with another man? Has he always felt protective over his cell phone privacy? No mater how much we may want to, we have no right to invade the privacy of our partners cell phone.
I am assuming that your boyfriend and his coworker are not just friends. That their interactions have risen to the level that they are taking away needed time from your relationship. Also, this behavior of cell phone hiding is something new that has developed around his relationship with this other woman.
Seeking sex outside of a relationship is one thing, when you start seeking emotional companionship with someone other than your partner, it is a huge red flag for a relationship. A partner brings companionship and emotional support to a relationship, not just the sexy times. If both partners are not putting in the time needed to maintain or grow the relationship then it will inevitably fail. What it comes down to is that you feel like you are not getting your emotional needs met and you feel that he isn’t giving your relationship the time and attention you desire.
Calmly sit down and have a frank discussion with your boyfriend. I have found that scripting out what I want to say ahead of time and even writing down some notes can be very helpful so I don’t forget what it is I’m trying to communicate with the other person. There is a high possibility that your boyfriend will discount what you are saying and claim that you are overreacting and making a big deal over nothing. Notes are helpful so that you can compile all the time he spends with her, how frequently he brings her up in conversation and how his behavior has changed around hiding his cell phone. Just don’t use these notes in an accusatory manner that could cause him to shut down and stop communicating with you.
Hopefully you will be able to relate your feelings to your boyfriend in a clear effective manner and he will be able to clearly see your point of view. You can then move forward with fixing the damage done.
However, if your boyfriend is unwilling to address all of the emotional currency he’s investing in another woman and change his behavior, you really only have two options left. Get used to the fact that there is a third person in your relationship or call off the relationship. Both of those options have the potential to be quite painful, but right now it sounds like you only have half a relationship at best. You are worthy of a fully committed relationship. We all are.
What Is The Definition of Cheating In A Poly Relationship?
“Even though both my partner and I are successfully poly with previous poly experience, I have found out that he is cheating on me. He denies it and says that it is impossible for poly people to cheat. I disagree. Is it possible for polyamorous people to cheat?–Perplexed Poly Person
Is it possible for polyamorous people to cheat? Most certainly. Cheating can happen in any relationship dynamic, from swinging to open, the definition of cheating is behavior that violates the previously established boundaries. It is a misconception to think that poly people can’t cheat.
You don’t say how long you have been dating your boyfriend, but I’m guessing that it is a newer relationship. You also did’t indicate in what manner your boyfriend cheated on you. I am left to assume that the two of you have already discussed the boundaries that your relationship will operate in and that your boyfriend acted outside of these boundaries.
Traditionally, most polyamorous relationships mean that the people in them are free to also be in other relationships as well (unless it is a closed triad or quad relationship). Polyamorous relationships fall on a wide spectrum. (Here is a great graphic that illustrates this) All these relationships can contain their own unique rules and boundaries. Deciding to label yourself as “polyamorous” does not suddenly give you a free pass to engage with every consenting person that catches your fancy. Unless this has been fully established with your partners from the onset.
You say that your partner has previous successful poly experience, but I find myself wondering about that. It seems to me that what he wants is a fully open relationship with no real discussion about what he is doing outside of your relationship. If this is behavior is beyond the dynamic that the two of you established, then this falls under the definition of cheating. Your boyfriend seems to think that by hanging the label of “poly” on himself, he now can not be a cheater. Nothing could be further from the truth. Polyamory is not a get out of jail free card for unethical behavior.
It can be difficult to agree upon the hows and whens of your interactions with other partners. But If you want to maintain this relationship, the two of you need to sit down and establish the perimeters that your relationship will exist within. Additionally, decide on what safety steps will be used for sexual interactions outside of your relationship. These are important things that need to get laid out at the beginning of every polyamourous relationship.