I think the first thing to recognize and understand is that a long term relationship, arrangement or marriage is a choice, a commitment one makes not just to their partner, but also to themselves to adhere to the rules and guidelines of the relationships as is determined by the couple together, especially in a relationship where one or more partners cheat.
What I am suggesting is that these rules and guidelines may be something defined by the greater society, your church, your friends, family and/or neighbors, or they may not.
People go into a long-term situation for various reasons. The most common of these reasons is because they feel attracted to, and connected to the individual they choose as their long-term partner, and have a desire to be with them long term. This is not to say that each individual will want to follow the rules set forth by everyone else, nor is it to say that the rules will stay the same throughout the duration of the relationship.
The rules do, however, need to be discussed and agreed up by each partner, and should be revisited often and regularly. The rules should never just be assumed.
What rules am I referring to here? Specifically monogamy. The rule of monogamy is simple: You stay sexually faithful, namely physically faithful, to one person. Monogamy is the norm in our society, true, but there has been some evidence to suggest that as human primates we are not necessarily monogamous by nature.
Unfortunately, most people blindly go into a long-term situation with an assumption of monogamy, assuming their role and their partner’s role are both that which is dictated by the monogamous frame. Here in lies the problem.
If, in fact, we are not necessarily monogamous by nature, then an assumptive role of monogamy can be detrimental. Why? Mainly because it doesn’t hold each individual party in the relationship accountable for a decision they make consciously.
Assuming rules can lead to one person to cheat in many ways.
If no decision is consciously is being made, then it doesn’t appear to us that we are making a choice and we are more likely to feel a lack of control over our life. Cheating often makes us feel more in control. And, not to mention the assumptions made, then often bleed over into other areas of the relationship, which can also lead to cheating.
Most people who cheat, men and women alike, do so because they are feeling neglected in the relationship. Whether it be in the form of sexual neglect or something is lacking by way of emotional or physical intimacy the bottom line generally remains the same: some need is being left unfulfilled.
There are many books, articles, stories etc., about why people cheat, and studies being done over the reasons people cheat. My philosophy tends to look at the concept of monogamy as something to address when we decide to embark on a life journey with someone. My philosophy tends to focus on honest communication with each other, and honesty with yourself.
When a partner’s role is assumed to be monogamous, many other assumptions might go hand in hand, for example, his/her faithfulness, happiness, likes/dislikes and a whole slew of other things. Chances are your partner will like the idea of monogamy, so we should not be afraid to have the conversation. If this is what you want also, you will need to speak up about it.
Don’t leave this part up to chance. You and your partner will be more committed to a choice made consciously with the relationship in mind, and by recognizing that the choice to be faithful and monogamous is a decision and a commitment to yourself, each other and to the relationship. The rules are not something that naturally will be, nor should be assumed so.
Talking about whether or not a couple, or an individual chooses monogamy can be uncomfortable to say the least. This is where most of us are faced to confront our jealousies and insecurities about our partner’s desires, as well as to accept and admit our true inner desires, which may not necessarily follow the norm of monogamy, or maybe they do, or maybe they do today and will be something different tomorrow.
The conversation is a journey. Recognizing that feelings ebb and flow, that our sexuality is fluid and changing, and then being open to at least talking about the tides of change, and what is on your mind, is often the first step in many cases to an open, and honest relationship that is less likely to breakdown from the throes of lies, deceit and infidelity.
The point here is not to assume the rules of your relationship, but to decide on the rules together, and to revisit them often.
We need to see if the rules need any tweaking, if the rules still fit, etc., Talking about the rules and expectations of your relationship together is empowering. Feeling empowered in your relationship will make it less likely that you or your partner will seek out solace elsewhere.
Cheating also does not need to indicate the end of the relationship. If the cheater has not moved on permanently, and the cheat-ee can find room to give the partner a second chance, this can be a great place to start the conversation about what led to the cheating in the first place honestly, and then to repair and essentially to start over with more clearly defined rules together. With a little love, patience and efforts from both individuals a couple can come back after infidelity, stronger than ever.