Infidelity doesn’t stop at illicit stolen evenings in anonymous hotels, nor does it need to mean the end of a relationship. Here we delve into this tricky subject and discover what infidelity really means in our modern world.
In our culture it is commonly accepted that once a relationship becomes sexual it also becomes monogamous – our partner is the main focus of our love, affection and attention and the only person we have a sexual relationship with. This is what the majority of people are looking for and also the general expectation once a connection has been established without it ever having to be openly discussed or agreed upon.
When we say someone has cheated we automatically think that they have been sexually intimate with someone outside their main, monogamous relationship. It doesn’t have to be a full-blown affair to be classed as infidelity - a one night stand or even sexual contact that doesn’t lead to penetrative sex are also classed as infidelity. The intention of the person committing the act is what generally damages the relationship. If they are getting hot and steamy with someone else the chances are that they are not fully committed to their partner and this can lead to feelings of hurt, betrayal and a lack of trust in the future.
Even within an open relationship, infidelity may arise if a partner in the relationship acts outside of the understood boundaries of that relationship.
A lot of people say that they could forgive and accept a one off physical act of infidelity more easily than they could their partner developing a deep emotional connection with another person, especially if that person is of the opposite sex and there is a chance that the emotional intimacy could develop into a sexual relationship. This will often be perceived as a threat to the relationship whereas a close intimate relationship with someone of the same sex will usually be accepted.
We all have friends and the line where a friendship with someone of the opposite sex crosses into emotional infidelity is usually when one’s partner begins to channel emotional resources, such as romantic love, time, and attention, on someone else. This doesn’t necessarily have to be in person. With modern technology it is possible for someone to develop a deep emotional connection with someone outside the relationship without ever meeting the person.
Are you cheating?
If you have been accused of cheating but feel it is unfair because you haven’t done anything wrong - in that you haven’t slept with anyone – take a step back and look at your connections with people outside of your main relationship. Are you giving more time, attention or affection to someone other than your partner? When you are with your mates who do you tell anecdotes about? If you are in emotional pain or have a problem who is your first port of call? Are you sexually attracted to someone else, even if you never intend to act on it, because you are committed to your partner? Do you spend hours on the internet talking to someone else?
If many of your needs are being met outside of your relationship then it is understandable that your partner will feel insecure. Verbal reassurance often doesn’t work because 80% of communication is non-verbal and your partner will pick up on the fact that your attention is elsewhere and will be hurt if, for example, you know every detail about your platonic friend on Facebook but can’t remember your partner’s birthday.
Be honest. If you are not committed to the relationship say so and if you are committed then make sure the lion’s share of your time and attention is given to your partner. Just like a plant will die if it isn’t watered, a relationship won’t thrive without adequate time, love and attention.
Are you being cheated on?
If you feel like you are being cheated but are repeatedly told that you are being paranoid, jealous, controlling or neurotic because there is nothing going on, it is time to stand back and take a good look at yourself first. Have you been like this in other relationships? Were you hurt in the past and are now looking for evidence that it is happening again? Do you feel inadequate or that your partner is too good for you and will go off with someone better suited? Are you in need of constant reassurance because something traumatic happened, like a bereavement, and your partner seems to have disappeared, the more you need them the further away they seem to be?
If any of the above are true for you then it’s time to do something about it – see our article on ‘How to dump your emotional baggage’. If none of the above are the case it is time to have a heart to heart with your partner and find out if they are committed to you - if not you deserve to be with someone who is.