As I was cruising around on the Internet today, I noticed a lot of articles about why people cheat. Most of them were focused on why men cheat, which I found strange since women cheat nearly as often as men. Dr. Erica Goodstone, one of my fellow experts on YourTango, had a number of thoughtful reasons people cheat. Many of them revolved around coping skills and long term expectations.
I think the number one reason people cheat is because (drumroll, please...) we are not intended to be monogamous. In cultures where monogamy is not mandatory, infidelity doesn’t destroy marriages. Having said that, I don’t condone cheating. I prefer open, honest communication and parameters within a relationship that allow for the possibility of non-monogamy.
But... I also don’t think people who cheat are monsters. I don’t believe they’re deviants (although a very small number may be sex addicts), and I don’t believe there’s necessarily something wrong with them. What I do believe is that we don’t offer a good role model for being anything in between monogamous and a cheater. We don’t offer a socially acceptable alternative.
Related: Can Cheaters Ever Change?
There are a number of acceptable alternatives; the more people embrace these alternatives, the more socially acceptable they’ll become. For example, twenty years ago it was considered taboo for a heterosexual woman to experiment with another woman. Today, many women experiment (I’ve heard numbers as high as 80% of women are at least bi-curious) and that particular taboo has lost some of its edge.
The same principle applies to relationships. The more couples experiment with alternatives to monogamy-- from polyamory to expanded monogamy to swinging-- the less of a stigma will be attached.
But before you experiment with alternatives to monogamy, we’ll return to Dr. Goodstone’s coping skills and long term expectations:
Let’s look at coping skills first. How do you deal with loss? How do you deal with success? How do you deal with disappointment and unmet expectations? How does your partner handle these things? It’s critical to develop healthy coping skills if you are to successfully navigate changes in your relationship. I am assuming with these questions that you want to shift the dynamics of your current, long term relationship. However, having good coping skills is also important when you’re in a new non-monogamous relationship and you have to deal with your partner having other partners.
Long Term Expectations
Long term expectations are another key dynamic in relationships. What we want in our 20’s is not what we want in our 40’s or 50’s. As you grow, it would be helpful to examine your long term expectations on occasion (I’d recommend every five to ten years). Examine your own expectations as well as your partner’s expectations. It’s not uncommon for expectations to be implied and assumed, and that’s what causes a lot of problems in relationships. It goes back to having clear and open communication.
Related: How to Tell If He's Cheating
If you expect your partner to do your laundry and he doesn’t, you’ll harbor resentment. But if you don’t explicitly request that he do your laundry, how is he supposed to know about that expectation?
The same goes for sexual expectations and expectations about intimacy and romantic gestures. An affair, whether it’s a one night stand or a longer affair, doesn’t have to mean the end of the relationship. You will likely need professional help together to move past the hurt, anger, betrayal, and the underlying reasons for the affair.
And you may decide after working through all those things that it’s time to separate. I’m just suggesting that you don’t end the relationship in a knee-jerk reaction. Take the time to explore the underlying dynamics which led to the affair, and make an empowered decision about how you want to move forward.
Could you move past an affair? Do you think someone who cheats once is a 'bad person'? Do you think someone who cheats once will always cheat? We want to hear from you!
More from GalTime:
- Will the Recession Cause Your Man to Cheat?
- Newlywed 911: Protecting Young Marriages
- Can I Sue the 'Other Woman'?
- Does 'Separated' Mean 'Off-Limits'?
Johanna Lyman is a published author, an internationally known speaker and teacher, and a Spiritual Love Coach. She is a certified life coach (CCUG) trained by CoachUniversity. Johanna combines personal experience and esoteric studies in a humorous, practical and accessible style that empowers her clients to live the fullest expression of their lives.