Hi there. I don't write a lot so forgive me if this isn't that well written. Nothing here is the ultimate truth, it's just my perspective. I have a bachelor's degree in Psychology, but I am by no means an expert on human behavior.
I'm divorced, and there were many things that lead to that divorce that were the fault of me and my wife, and more things that weren't the fault of anyone. Cheating was one of the major reasons. We both cheated on each other at different points in the relationship, and to different extremes. A year has gone by since we separated and I find myself reflecting more and more on what drove us to cheat, and if its possible to avoid it in the future for either of us as we head in different directions.
I see a lot of posts on here that just make me shake my head. A lot of people just don't get it. Some ask if giving blowjobs is cheating, as though cheating on your partner is only the most extreme physical actions like intercourse. On the complete other end of the spectrum you have the people who react so extreme to their partner slightly flirting with their coworker via text, and think that they must break up and that their partner is a terrible person, so different from themselves, and will be doomed to cheat forever. Neither of those extremes are healthy or realistic.
First, I need to define what I mean by cheating. To me, you cheat if you betray your partner. If you take part in behavior that you know your partner would not want you to, &/or that you wouldn't want your partner to. It can be as simple as flirting or even becoming better friends with someone else over your partner (emotional affair). Someone complimenting you, and you eating it up and encouraging it can be cheating, in a way, if you partner feels betrayed. You may disagree, but if you think about your partner eating up compliments from an attractive person instead of keeping things strictly platonic, you likely can understand how that might be cheating, in some ways.
So, we could argue about where to draw the line for hours, but for the sake of this article, I'm defining cheating as any behavior with a person that isn't your partner, that would make your partner feel second best or betrayed. The best thing to do is to discuss this with your partner and decide where you want to draw the line yourselves.
Second, let's get this straight: everyone, and I mean eeevvverryonne is susceptible to cheating. There is no human being alive that is completely immune to it. Get that through your head now. You are susceptible to it in the right circumstances. The likelihood of you, no matter who you are, how you were raised, what you believe, how often you pray, etc... making it through a long term relationship without ever cheating, is low. The longer the relationship lasts, the less likely you will not cheat at all.
I attribute this to 3 primary reasons:
1. People are less religious than they have been in a long, long time.
To me, an athiest, that's good. Religion oppresses people so they think any sexual thought or feeling is a sin. So even though more people cheating is a negative consequence of less religion in the world, it's certainly better than a repressed world.
2. We get bored faster.
This is a fast-paced, high-substance age, where we are always doing something, watching something, going somewhere. Do you notice that kids get tired of their toys faster than you did? Faster than your parents or grandparents did of their toys? We have abundance, so we get tired of what we have a lot faster. People keep their cars for fewer years, keep their jobs for fewer years, and I believe that spills over into relationships. I truly believe my grandparents and their grandparents were better at not taking their spouse for granted than we are. They had less stimulation, less change, less societal messages that it's OK to get tired of everything in your life after a while.
3. The biggest reason: It's wayyy too easy to cheat.
It's literally always there. We are so connected, a potential sexual interest is always a few taps away. There is an old saying, and song lyric, "The wolf is always at the door." This scares me the most when I think about trying to have a faithful relationship in the future. How does one do that today, when multiple interested people are always right there waiting for you, and your spouse. In our parent's and grandparent's day, yes cheating happened, but things had to line up. You usually had to actually go somewhere and meet someone to cheat, to even begin to have an emotional affair... which was hard to do because your spouse was home more than we are today.
In contrast, today we're working more, spending more time apart from our spouses, and cheating, as I mentioned earlier, is always right there at your fingertips. I am not very attractive. I have a physical disability and look like a potato on wheels, and yet I had 5 or 6 women show sexual interest in me during the short 5 years I was with my wife. That's how prevalent cheating is in the digital age. In our grandparents day, a guy like me, in a wheelchair, not particularly attractive, would've had a much, MUCH lower chance of even just one woman showing interest in me during a short 5 years. But we're SO connected, we're so instant, and any time you fight with your spouse, any time you're in a rut in your relationship, any time you feel neglected, or not attractive to your spouse, any time your relationship is boring or not exciting... there's someone right there, a text away, to make you feel young and sexy again, to make your heart beat fast and to make you feel that thrill of someone new being interested in you.
So, what do we do with this knowledge? How do we move forward into new relationships... knowing that most relationship will experience cheating at some point. Knowing that it's extremely unlikely for your new relationship to last year and years, without your partner cheating on you? Do we just give up on commitment?
I think we have to change how easily we enter into relationships. I think we ignore how prevalent cheating is, we long so strongly for that next relationship that we willingly pretend that we don't know how likely it is that cheating will creep into that relationship. We have to stop that. We have to be honest about our relationships, and about each other, or we doom ourselves to make mistakes in the dark, in secret, and ultimately be heart broken.
I think each of us has to be honest that we're susceptible to cheating, and OWN that when we agree to start a relationship. We have to have that honest conversation with ourselves "Am I really ready to deny attention from others for as long as I'm committed to this person, even when the relationship isn't easy, even when my partner isn't giving me everything I need?"
If you can't answer yes to that, you need to say no to the relationship. period. it's that easy.
Somehow, my wife got it in her mind that even though she married me, if I wasn't giving her enough sex she had the right to get it elsewhere. I'm sorry, but no. I wasn't the perfect husband... but the marriage vows literally mean you commit to that person no matter what, for the rest of your life. That is your person. You're going to go through periods where your partner has a very low sex drive. You're going to go through periods where your partner is stressed, angry, overworked, sick, absent minded... you can't just throw out your vows as soon as one of those things, or others, happens. The answer to all of this is stop BEFORE you make the commitment. You need to test yourself, test your partner, test your relationship before you make that agreement.
No wishful thinking, no rose colored glasses, no love goggles. Be real about temptation, about how nearly impossible it is to make it years and years without someone else turning your head or your partners head. Just say no, until you really are ready.