Local experts share the latest information and resources on all things mental health.
Posted: February 02, 2014 by Jeff Guenther
So you’re thinking about cheating on your partner? Maybe the honeymoon is over. Maybe you don’t have as much sex. Maybe you’ve been married for a while and it’s not as hot as you thought it would be. Maybe you met someone who is totally the opposite of your current partner and now you are questioning everything because you’re attracted to them. Maybe you’re just bored. There are tons of reasons for wanting to cheat and none of them are that original. I’ve heard them all.
Here are six things to consider before you cheat:
Okay fine, you’re attracted to someone else. You flirt with them and fantasize about them. You find yourself caught in the witty back and forth banter. Chances are they are attracted to you as well. So what? Why is this so important? As human beings we are constantly attracted to people. The question is how do you want to deal with it? Do you want to question your whole relationship or do you want to see this as an isolated flirtation that doesn’t have to have significance? It’s not cheating if you find yourself flirting. It’s being a normal human that likes flirtatious attention. It’s not an issue unless you make it one.
If the flirty behavior starts to escalate or you find yourself crushing on every single barista who serves you coffee and has cute glasses and a chest tattoo (if that’s your thing), then think about your current sex life. A lot of times we are turned on by other people simply because they are not who we are sleeping with. It’s really as straightforward as that. As human beings we crave novelty. Sleeping with someone else would be fun and new. Instead of giving in to your desire, talk to your partner about introducing some novelty into the relationship. Are you bored? Maybe they are too. Maybe you have some ideas and fantasies. Speak up! Remember that they have fantasies too. You don’t have to say you’re bored but you can say that you want to try something different. Success depends on how you approach the situation. Don’t lead with something critical.
Monogamy is a sacrifice. If you have agreed to be in a monogamous relationship then be in one. Nobody said it was going to be easy. Remember that you made the choice to be with this person and stop hooking up with other people. Nobody forced you to do this. You’re not single and unattached anymore. Sure, there are things you are missing out on. Go ahead and grieve the fact that your single life is over. It’s sad that you can’t just have sex with whoever you want. It sucks that you have to tolerate wanting to be with other people. It’s not easy. But it’s easier if you actually grieve that part of your life and leave it in the past. It’s ok to be bummed about it.
Chances are that you are still in the beginning stages of your relationship. You should know that the real benefits of being in a monogamous relationship accrue over time. It’s like making payments into a 401k. You’d like to spend your emotional capital on other people but you need to put it into your relationship so that it can mature and you can reap the riches with your partner 30 years from now. You’ll get depth and connection that you wouldn’t get if you kept spreading your capital from one person to the next. The thing is that you can’t possibly understand this if you’re young and in a relationship in the beginning stages. Just trust me. It’s worth staying in the relationship. Or go ask some old married people how it’s paid off for them.
What do you want in the long term? Do you want security and long term commitment or do you want to party? Remember that you chose to be in this relationship because you wanted companionship and security. Well, this is your chance. Remember that you’re grieving the party life. You can remain uncertain, trying to decide whether you want domesticity or to party but you are going to be feeling anxious the whole time. Sitting on the fence is usually pretty painful.
If you are struggling with this decision you may be facing a 1/3 life crisis. You’re not dealing with the quarter life crisis (being out of school and feeling lost) and you’re not yet to the mid-life crisis (dealing with the fact that you’ll die someday). You are right smack in the middle and leaving your youth behind can feel scary. The 1/3 life crisis is about saying goodbye to parts of your past and moving on to more adult relationships.
So are you ready to let go of that part of your life or do you need to continue to indulge it? If you aren’t ready then you may want to think about breaking up with your partner. If you are truly not ready to settle down, be honest with yourself and your partner. If you choose to stay in the relationship, you should know that there may be lingering resentment. Blaming your partner for not cheating is actually common. It’s a lot easier than actually grieving what you give up in a monogamous relationship.
Remember to integrate the sexy side of yourself into the relationship. If you don’t it will manifest itself in thoughts of cheating. If you can successfully integrate all parts of yourself into a relationship then you don’t have to secretly express them outside of the relationship.