Synopsis: This mini love lesson deals with the question of what infidelity really is; New World infidelity; answers if it is the act or the agreement; considers if couples should breakup over infidelity; explores whether infidelity means he or she does not love me; considers forgiveness; and more.
What Is Infidelity Really?Wow, do people vary on what they call infidelity. Celeste said, “If you look at another woman for more than 30 seconds you’re cheating”. Breck said, “My wife and I agree that it is okay to have sex with someone else when you’re more than 100 miles away from home. So for us infidelity is sex with someone else within 100 miles”.
Kerri expressed that “it doesn’t matter what one does with their own or anyone else’s body, it only matters what they do with their heart. Heart infidelity is the only kind that really counts”. Alfred proclaimed, “If you even think about another with lust you already have been unfaithful, committed infidelity, and you are an adulterer”. Jeannie replied to Alfred, “If that is true, one might as well go ahead and have sex with anybody that strikes your fancy because I think just about everybody thinks about others with lust, and they may be weird if they don’t”.
Maurice told of his wife temporarily leaving him after finding him looking at porn on the Internet because she thought that was being unfaithful. Later he discovered her reading the raunchiest sex scenes imaginable, which explicitly were described in her so-called romance novels. Dolores said, “For us it’s about being excluded. My husband and I do lots of threesome sex with our friends, and sometimes foursomes too. If we did it without the other one present that would be an act of infidelity.
Jennifer said, “My husband, Jarrett, and I have agreed not to do anything that would endanger us bringing a disease home, so it’s really about ‘safe sex’ for us and, of course, no unwanted pregnancies please.
Marlowe remarked, “Where I come from having intercourse secretly with somebody other than your spouse is being unfaithful but oral sex, anal sex and everything else, except intercourse, doesn’t qualify as infidelity. “I disagree strongly”, said Lucille. “Infidelity starts with flirting, a passionate kiss is going way too far, and everything and anything beyond that is certainly infidelity and betrayal”. Carl said, “I think it’s any time you break an important promise of any kind”.
As you can see, people can have very different ideas about this thing we call infidelity. In couples counseling I’ve seen many couples disagree on what is infidelity and this is an issue which is getting a lot more complicated.
New World InfidelityAre you being unfaithful if you do mild flirting online with people you will never meet? How about talking really dirty and super-raunchy seductive online? What about just listening to others do that? Then there is online sex talk while mutually masturbating, and also having Skype sex with strangers.
A couple came to me and he was arguing she was unfaithful because her Avatar (a sort of alter ego, comic book like character she created online) was having sex with other people’s avatars in Second Life (an online, elaborate, alternate cyberspace world). She said that was ridiculous, and it was just naughty fun and he shouldn’t be such an old world prude. What do you think?
Is It the Act or the Agreement?I like to suggest to couples that, from a very heart-centered position, they try to talk with each other about what they sexually want, might want, don’t want and could conceivably come to want. Then I like to suggest that they make an agreement about what’s okay for now. I also suggest that they include in that agreement a sort of clause that allows for renegotiation later. That’s because people change and renegotiation discussions, done with love, may prevent a lot of trouble.
There are some husbands who say “my wife will never agree to the new and different things I’m starting to want to do” and there are some wives who say “my husband would never understand some of my wants”, gender role reversal of these statements happens also. Then there are the lovers who are just too scared to bring up anything different than the standard stuff.
Sometimes it takes a lot of love and courage to deal with the truth of human nature. Most unfortunately many couples don’t renegotiate their fidelity agreement until after one of them, or maybe both of them, has broken the original agreement. So many people make fidelity agreements out of doing what they think is expected of them rather than what really fits them.
No small number secretly know or suspect they won’t keep a fidelity/infidelity agreement they enter into, but they make it anyway because it’s what people are supposed to do. I like to suggest couples think about custom-tailoring their relationship with one another as that is a more unique, loving thing to do. As you’ve seen from the above examples, couples fidelity agreements can come in a lot of different forms.
A Loving Approach to Another’s InfidelityIf you discover that your beloved has been unfaithful to you what should you do? The first thing to do is don’t do anything immediately. The best act of healthy self-love, which you’re probably going to need a lot of, is to go very slowly and do not do anything rash. Definitely don’t make any impulsive life-changing decisions.
The next thing to do is notice your pain and if possible do something healthy to ease it. Some people go to a good friend or family member and talk and get care and hugs. Some people say a lot of self-affirming things and give themselves a hug. Others do a lot of praying. Various acts of healthy self-love definitely are in order.
Then it’s time to try thinking things through, difficult though that may be. Getting help from a counselor, or therapist, or minister or someone like that can do a lot of good.
At some point going to your beloved and asking them to work with you on what’s happened, what it means, and what’s to be done about it is necessary if you’re going to have a healthy outcome.
Going into a rage, running to a lawyer and filing for divorce, becoming physically violent, or getting immediately lost in drugs or alcohol are all on the what not to do list. I’m biased, but couples counseling is ever so frequently the best thing to do about it. Be sure you go to a licensed couples counselor or couples therapist, not just an individual therapist because they often don’t know what to do that will help you as a couple.
At some point it will be important to note and work to understand where your pain really comes from. In these situations a great deal of it may come from the way you were raised to think about infidelity. Lots of people around the world take infidelity very seriously, and lots of people around the world do not take it very seriously and those, therefore, are not so severely effected by infidelity. Those less severely affected seem to get healthier, more constructive results when infidelity does occur. It’s amazing how much of your psychological pain can come from your culture and from your family upbringing and if you had been raised differently it might not hurt as much.
You can take a very loving approach to your unfaithful beloved. The people who do that usually get the best results in the long run. If you loved them before, just because you discovered they were unfaithful doesn’t mean you stop loving them. Remember, a lot of people have said things like “love cures all ailments of the heart” and “love can conquer all”. With lots of healthy self-love and with lots of hard-working, and maybe with heavy doses of ‘tough love’, things may be able to get better than they ever were before in your couples love relationship.
A Loving Approach to Your Own InfidelityIf you desire to do actions which your beloved would count as being unfaithful and you know if they discover your actions of infidelity they will hurt a lot, you have a lot of thinking to do. If you’ve already done some of those actions you still have a lot of thinking to do. What are you doing and why are you doing it? Those questions are easy to ask but without assistance may be nearly impossible to actually answer thoroughly and accurately.
I like to suggest that you start with wondering about your own healthy self-love. Lots of infidelity is done as an attempt at doing some sort of, possibly needed, favor or boost to the self. I also like to suggest that you be as loving as you possibly can be to your beloved and to everybody else around.
Too many people having an affair start treating their spouse with indifference or distancing actions usually out of guilt or worse. The situation needs more love and probably more truth. I suggest that ‘beating yourself up’ with a lot of guilt, shame, self negation, etc. usually just makes everything get worse. A better idea is to make the best ‘response-able’ set of actions happen. Again a good, love-knowledgeable counselor may prove invaluable.
I recommend you consider taking a very love-centered approach to yourself, to your spouse and even to the other person involved, along with anyone else effected like children, family, etc.. Then work toward being able to live truthfully.
Know that having an affair or anything like that has been discovered to usually cause a lot of stress-related health problems and also quite a bit of poor self-care. It won’t help anyone if you ruin your health, have a stroke or heart attack and turn into an invalid. Take your vitamins, exercise, do things that relax you, etc. With love and truth, and often with the help of a good, love-knowledgeable therapist, people get through all this and come out on the other side often better than when they went in.
A Dozen Common Reasons That Infidelity Happens1. Genetic Predisposition A wealth of recent, scientific evidence points to people being predisposed, especially those who may have a strong sex drive, and, therefore, being subconsciously compelled toward having sexual and perhaps emotional relations with a variety of people.
Some evidence suggests that people of higher than average quality, talent and psychosocial strengths may be especially so predisposed. This is referring to ‘traits’ not a moral imperative. That makes sense in an evolutionary way for the good of the human race because it keeps mixing the gene pool with higher quality contributions.
2. Love Starvation People who are under-loved are much like people who are underfed. Their survival mechanisms push them to become adequately fed. Love works much like a psychological food and so people subconsciously and automatically seek it where they can find it when they don’t have enough nourishment in their regular life.
3. Ego Boost Romance, sex, being pursued, seduced etc. is for many people a great ego boost and they feel much better about themselves and their life, but perhaps they also feel guilty when they intimately have been with someone else.
4. Family And/or Cultural Programming Many people’s families or the subcultural group that they grew up in subconsciously programmed them for infidelity. For many being unfaithful is ‘just what you do’, while at the same time giving lip service to standard morality.
5. Establishing Intimate Independence Infidelity, for a fair number of people, is a secret way to establish their own, independent, intimate selves. By way of infidelity they privately see themselves as not controlled by society, religion, their parents, their spouse, etc. but rather by only themselves.
6. Curiosity A bunch of people just have to find out what it would be like. Others may have established a mated relationship early in their lives without experiencing other relationships.
7. Adventure A major way quite a few people make their life interesting, full of excitement, drama, a sense of being fully alive, etc. is through acts involving infidelity.
8. Desire for Variety Some people just are not going to be monogamous although they can be very loyal in a polyamore or other alternate lifestyle arrangement.
9. Revenge There are those who get into infidelity as an act of vengeance because their spouse either cheated on them or has been particularly unloving or difficult in other ways.
10. Emotional Compensation Some people are proving to themselves and others that they still are attractive, ‘have what it takes’, still are potent, can keep up with their infidelity-prone peer group or a group they identify with, or may be trying to give themselves evidence that they are not yet dysfunctionally old or decrepit, etc.
11. Avoiding Regrets There are those who want to make sure they are not going to miss out on any major ‘psycho-emotional trips’ that other people get to go on in life and which they might regret missing. Infidelity, a love affair, a higher number of conquests, etc. are on their secret ‘bucket list’.
12. Seeking a New and Better Love Mate This is the one almost everybody fears and it can be true both subconsciously and consciously. Thus, some people may be involved in infidelity without consciously knowing they are actively seeking a better love mate.
There are lots of other reasons infidelity occurs. The one most talked about in many circles is the infidelity which occurs when there is something wrong in the marriage or love relationship. Lots of people jump to that conclusion. A lot of other people jump to the conclusion that they are in some way sexually or relationally inferior, so they start blaming themselves a lot which usually makes things worse.
The other unloving source of infidelity is to think of the ‘unfaithful’ person as very blameworthy i.e. ‘a dog, a slut, a scumbag, a whore, etc. Other blaming and self-blaming usually don’t lead anywhere worth going, and certainly don’t add accurate understanding to the picture.
Should a Couple Breakup over Infidelity?Most of what I see suggests strongly that people who breakup over infidelity later very often wish they had not. Most couples who use an infidelity experience as a motivation to work on improving their relationship usually are very glad they did so.
The wounds of infidelity frequently are very hard to repair. However, with a lot of love, truth and reassurance relationships often can grow stronger than they were before the infidelity. Of course, that is only true if both people in the relationship are working at it with lots of love and truth. Certainly a breakup is more likely to be necessary if there are a lot of repeated infidelities with lots of lies, deception, dishonesty, manipulation, etc. accompanied by a lot of emotional pain and life chaos.
Does Infidelity Mean He or She Doesn’t Love Me Anymore?Quite frequently infidelity doesn’t mean any such thing. As the above List of 12 Reasons people get into an infidelity experience shows, a lot of other causal factors may be involved.
What About Forgiveness?Love is forgiving. Love can forgive anything and everything. To do that it has to be strong and great love. 1) Forgiving oneself, 2) forgiving one’s partner and 3) forgiving the way you both, in accidental teamwork, did not avoid the infidelity – all three usually are required.
The inability to forgive may be linked to low self-love. It is important to remember that in ‘healthy self-love’ one always can be cautious and adequately self protective while at the same time be forgiving. See the entry in the Subject Index under Behavior titled “Forgiveness in Healthy Self-Love”
Learn MoreThere is ever so much more to learn about this subject, and learning more about it may do you and those you care about a lot of good. To learn more go to the Problems and Pain entries under the Subject Index at this site and dig in. In particular you might want to take a look at the entries titled “Adultery and No Divorce Love”, “Love Affairs: Bad, Good and Otherwise” and “Trust and Mistrust in Love”.
As always – Go and Grow in Love
Dr. J Richard Cookerly
♥ Love Success Question If infidelity enters your life will you do love well enough not to let it destroy anything really valuable to your heart?