Are you really sure you want to go down that road?
You want to cheat. Come on, admit it. You’ve been seriously thinking about what it would be like to have sex with ... someone else.
Maybe someone attractive flirted and showed signs of interest in you. Or maybe you're feeling neglected because your partner isn't giving you enough love, sex, or attention. Also, all your friends are doing it, so why can't you?
Yes, you love your partner and you don’t want to hurt anyone. But, could you get away with it? Could you live with yourself?
I understand the struggle. I had a chance to cheat myself, and things didn't go exactly the way I imagined. When I was an undergraduate student, my girlfriend said she wouldn’t be available because she had to write her thesis.
"Go off and play with some of the other girls," she told me.
I said, "You don’t mind if I sleep with someone else?"
She assured me that she just wanted to make sure I was happy while she worked. So, I had sex with one of her friends. Once.
She wasn’t angry and claimed she wasn’t hurt. But, then she proceeded to ‘sleep with’ every single one of my friends, one after the other. It was devastating!
So, before you go down the road to infidelity, here are five reasons to consider why you shouldn't (even if you really, really, really want to):
1. Cheating will change your life forever
Whether it's for the better or irretrievably for the worse, if you don’t want your life changed, don’t cheat. But if you do, maybe you can take action to change it without causing someone (a.k.a. your partner) a world of hurt.
2. You probably won’t get away with it
Oh, you’re good at keeping a secret, containing your feelings, and zipping your mouth shut. Sure, it's possible to have an affair and never get caught.
One patient of mine has led a double life for 30 years. She doesn’t want anyone to find out or end her marriage. I think she will get away with it, but most people do not. Why? Because ...
3. Sex changes us in noticeable ways
What's the point of having sex if it didn’t. Doing the deed affects us in powerful ways. You can put your clothes back on, tidy yourself up, and try to look normal. But you feel different inside. You might feel elated, enraptured, or enthralled. Or you might feel guilty, ashamed, or regretful — or both at once.
How you feel on the inside shows on the outside. What then?
4. Usually, the discovery of an affair (or even a sexual misdemeanor, like kissing someone else) causes more pain and damage than the act is worth.
Sometimes, that damage is irreparable. The hurt feels like a javelin through the heart and it DESTROYS trust. It is one of the most traumatic experiences a human can face.
Look, the temptation to cheat is normal.
But you should really think through whether it's worth the drama and pain you'll cause through that act of betrayal.
If you're unhappy or unsatisfied in your current relationship, there are other choices available other than cheating. Here are things to focus on instead:
- Understand how cheating happens. Sexual infidelity often begins with seemingly innocent interactions, like meeting over coffee and then progresses from there. Lunch. Drinks. Dinner. Attending an event together, a conference perhaps. Before you know it, you’re both on your own in a hotel room ... (Hint: Stopping this behavior at the earliest stage is easiest.)
- Bring your thoughts, feelings and fantasies to your partner. This is a testing moment, but it helps prevent acting on the deed itself. Tell your partner honestly about your temptations and what is eliciting them. They may feel terrible, but they are more likely to forgive you if your disclosures aim to apply the brakes.
- Identify any issue that generates susceptibility to cheating. Are you feeling resentful? Are you unhappy with how your partner is treating you? A number of reasons are possible. Even if you cannot resolve the issue, couples feel better for frank and open discussions about their negative feelings.
If you cheat and discover you have destroyed your relationship, don’t be surprised. Be prepared for payback. I wasn’t, but learned the hard way.
And if you’re really that unhappy in your relationship, get out first, then you’re free to do what you like and with whoever you like.
If the fantasies are compelling, or someone you’re attracted to makes you feel tempted, remember this: Cheating changes you, and it shows.
Coming home aglow is like wearing a red neon sign that says: Guilty!
Better to bring your inner life to your partner honestly than risk your outer life being turned upside down.
Jan Resnick offers consultations by Skype. Look for his book How Two Love, a guide for couples to make their relationship work and last, coming in 2016.