How Not to Cheat

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Marriage is simply hard work. But the good news is that attitude is everything.

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The Toltec Empire lasted from 300 to 600 BC and included the Pacific Coastal Chiapas and Guatemala, the Yucatan Peninsula, and much of Northern and Western Mexico. They left clay tablets with a message they called “The Four Agreements.” They were: Be true to your word, don’t take anything personally, never assume and do your best. It seems the idea of being true to one’s word is a universal and fundamental part of living with others and maintaining sound relationships. What is essential about being in a relationship with anyone, and especially for the endurance of the relationship, is our word. Losing that is tantamount to relationship or soul death. It’s something that many men don’t think about when they feel entitled to act out sexually, but the lies are devastating to families and relationships, not to mention the guilt, anxiety, and shame they cause to themselves and their mates.

If a man must lie to his wife to have an affair, then he becomes someone who both lies and cheats. Our actions define us, and many men and women suffer from who they have become. If we become a liar and a cheat what does that do to our children and our family? We become someone who will not be respected, internally and externally. In this sense, character is destiny. If we withhold our truth from our mate, we are in effect building a wall. The secret alone creates such a huge chasm between partners that it will inevitably kill off love, intimacy and connection even without the knowledge of sexual misbehavior.

What makes people do these things that they promised not to do? Sex is the most powerful thing we do. The temptations for infidelity face men and women in the workforce, where they may be captivated by intense visual sexual cues and emotional attachments to co-workers.

But it’s not a birthright to be sexually unfaithful. If you want this to be a part of your life, then don’t get married and make all those promises in the first place. Tell the truth. Let your partner know who you are and take your licks for it. He or she may leave you but you will still have your integrity intact. Living a lie will only hurt you both.

If your marriage is making one or both of you unhappy, then work on it. Make it better. Become a couple. Learn how to solve problems and have productive fights. Learn how to talk about what you want and need from each other to make your relationship work better, especially in the bedroom.

Do you want to be married or do you want to lead a single life? You can’t really have it both ways. Are you willing to do the work and keep your promise? If you find it too difficult then get some help. Don’t run from the problem by diving into sexual relationships and hiding them from your mate. If you can’t do those things then perhaps you need to consider going at it alone: become a bachelor. Then you are acting in accordance with your wishes and desires. You are free to do what you want. Trying to be in a marriage and acting like a single person rarely makes for happy marriages or happy individuals. If you are not willing to put in the effort to make things better and workable, then you’re better off single than in a marriage you can’t make work.

Do you want to do what is necessary to maintain an intimate relationship? Don’t stop doing what you did when you wanted this person you are with. Don’t stop trying. If you feel alone and need some intimacy, get help. Let your mate know that you mean business.

Have zero tolerance for bad behavior. Don’t be the perp or the victim.

The way to succeed at marriage is to be a kind, caring person who is willing to listen and respond. There is always room to be supportive, express appreciation and close those gaps in your connections. You and your partner are all in the marriage together, so neither of you owns the problem when one of you becomes unhappy. Yes, it takes two to tango, but it all starts with keeping your agreements and showing up with who you want to be. Remember: Be true to your word, don’t take anything personally, never assume and do your best.

 

Read more on Infidelity on The Good Life.

Image credit:  Klearchos Kapoutsis/Flickr

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About Bill Cloke

Dr. Bill Cloke has worked with individuals and couples’ for 30 years. He received a master’s degree in education from the University of Southern California and holds a Ph.D. in psychology from California Graduate Institute. A frequent talk-radio and tv psychologist, he is also a contributor to PsychologyToday.com, Care2.com and other popular websites and has lectured at UCLA. Bill Cloke lives with his wife in Los Angeles. Bill's book Happy Together has won the Nautilus and Benjamin Franklin Silver Awards for 2012. To learn more about Bill Cloke, and for more resources on creating healthy, happy relationships, visit his website.

Comments

  1. Cornelius Walker says:

    From episode 95 of This American Life comes this snippet in which Ira Glass is introducing the speaker for the segment.

    In a magazine called Critical Inquiry, a Northwestern University professor named Laura Kipnis makes the case that there are a lot of marriages where people are simply unhappy. And these people are like workers who are alienated from their jobs, numb, going nowhere.

    You know, we’re told these days that we’re supposed to work at marriage the way that we’re supposed to work at a job. And so you work your job, and you work at home. And what do you get? And for these people in unfulfilling marriages, she says, having an affair is like a wildcat strike. It’s an action, a civil action, a small attempt at altering the business-as-usual of their own lives.

    The essay he’s referring to, if you should care to read it, is in Critical inquiry Vol. 24 No. 2 pp 289-327 and I’ve just discovered is available with the “free” JSTOR account for those who don’t have access to a university subscription.

  2. OtayPanky says:

    Better yet, read the book Kipnis wrote, called “Against Love”. It’ll curdle the cream in your coffee.

  3. Bill, well stated and I agree. 39 years of marriage and we’re still working at it but all the work is well worth it.

    You stated “If you are not willing to put in the effort to make things better and workable, then you’re better off single than in a marriage you can’t make work.” …. You’re right but I get the impression that a lot of people “think” that they’re willing to do what it takes but find out that it’s harder then they thought and give up way too soon. I don’t understand why people give up.

    • Cornelius Walker says:

      Maybe they change their minds? Maybe they realize it’s no longer worth the effort? Maybe their partner isn’t willing to meet them half-way? Maybe the relationship was ill-advised from the start? Maybe one or both partners have changed and no longer share common goals or values? Maybe there are only so many years you can work at something without seeing improvement?

      Which is not to say that lying and cheating are the answer, but I do think there are many reasons people give up, and some of them quite valid. What is the point of honoring a “commitment” that isn’t serving anyone? If you no longer take joy in your spouse what good is served by continuing on in conflict or, as Kipnis says, alienated and numb? I agree with the author, it’s better to “give up” and go it alone than continue on in a marriage that shows little prospect for providing happiness or comfort.

  4. I am a “living witness” to what happens when a spouse decides to “cheat and lie” for decades. After over 20 years of marriage, I discovered my ex-husband having an affair for the 2nd time; this time with a married woman. Years earlier, while we were engaged, I heard rumors that he was having a sexual relationship with his female student assistant. He lied and said: “these were just vicious rumors being spread by a former disgruntled male student assistant”. A few months after we were married, I found a pile of hidden letters from his female student assistant, in one letter she stated that she was relieved that she “was not pregnant”. I confronted him with this evidence, and he “swore” up and down that he would never betray me again. Of course, he lied and once I discovered his 2nd affair, I filed for a divorce immediately. I refused to let him disrespect me and dishonor our daughter for the 3rd time. During the divorce proceedings, I also found evidence that he was “trolling” Craigslist for threesomes, prostitutes, etc. He was leading a “double life” and our marriage was being used as a front to cover up his lies and serial cheating. I only wish he had told me in the beginning that he “cared about me”, but didn’t love me enough to be a faithful, responsible and mature husband and father. If he wanted to be a “swinging bachelor for life”, he should have never proposed to me and walked down the aisle. If somewhere in our marriage, he discovered that he just wasn’t the monogamous type, then he should have been “man enough” to tell me the truth. I would have signed the papers for an “uncontested divorce”. I would much rather see him happy with someone else rather than being miserable with me. I have moved on with my life, and I am excited about my future and my daughter’s future, she will be a college freshman in September and traveling to Paris next year as an exchange student. She loves her father very much and is deeply disappointed in his behavior. I have never tried to keep them apart. I had the right to divorce him, but it was not my right to keep him from his child.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for a great article on cheating. I am married for 27 years and my husband kept a secret from me for 9 months. He was in the Phillipines (first business trip away from home) and he had some free time in the afternoon so he decided to go to the mall and as he was entering the mall a prostitute approached him and asked him “r u alone” and “do u want some company” in which he replied “yes” to both questions. They walked back to the hotel and she put a condom on him and he said “we had 5 seconds of sex” b/c I realized what the f**k am I doing. He said he told her to get the f**k out (cost him $50 USD) and he confessed all this to me 4 weeks ago. On his insistance we have started marriage councelling as a couple and individual and he has started going to church with me. He never was a religious person growing up. He is extremely remorseful and held this “secret” in for so long it was eating him up. I look back and see how he had a loss in appetite, he had night sweats, trouble sleeping, and when I would ask him “what’s wrong” he said “stress from work and the stock market”, and I believed him b/c the man I married I never dreamed in a billion years would have sex with a damn prostitute. He is trying to understand through therapy why he did this and I don’t know if I will stay in the marriage or not.

    • Cornelius Walker says:

      I’m curious, why is 5 seconds of immediately regretted non-intimate sex with a “relationship extinction” worthy event? Assuming it hadn’t happened before and hasn’t happened again, and he’s truly remorseful about it, it doesn’t seem to be an issue at all. I mean, one very brief, unmeaningful, regretted slipup in over 9000 days of marriage seems like it should prompt some difficult conversations, but on the large scale of things, it seems a shame to throw away the relationship over this one incident.

  6. Sex is the most powerful thing we do.

    Yes. And yet it’s supposed to be of no value at all when someone decide not to do it.

Trackbacks

  1. […] What is essential about being in a relationship with anyone, and especially for the endurance of the relationship, is our word. Losing that is tantamount to relationship or soul death. It’s something that many men don’t think about when they feel entitled to act out sexually, but the lies are devastating to families and relationships, not to mention the guilt, anxiety, and shame they cause to themselves and their mates. Read more: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/the-good-life-how-not-to-cheat/ […]

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