Infidelity – The Key
INFIDELITY – THE KEY
Naivete is a term that is used to describe every professional from time to time. Why? We all come to conclusions and think we have “the answer”. In fact, I recall being 17 years of age and concluding that I finally understood women. Before you laugh yourself to death, the point I am making is that it is always safer to assume there is information and understanding out there that we have yet to grasp. The field of Psychology that relates to infidelity is no different but what does this mean to you?
The average individual and even the professionals charged with helping to sort the mess of an affair out have probably a sizeable lack of understanding of the topic. In fact, the most glaring caveat pointed out in the professional research is that the common professional lacks training and/or knowledge in what infidelity is and how to react to it. That doesn’t mean the person is incapable or of little use, it just demands a fill-in-the-blank. The other takeaway from a more reasonable amount of understanding about infidelity is to guard against it. Does it not sound reasonable that a marked increase in wisdom might yield benefits that might safeguard your relationship?
Now, if you ask the common person, the typical answer to “why do people cheat” sounds more like a platitude than great understanding. The answers tend to fall along the lines of the adulterous individual just lacking moral character or the relationship being unrewarding. Unfortunately, there is an incredible amount of gray area in between either of those extremes and, perhaps, people cheat for simpler reasons than that. Because we understand the gray area so well, we simply implement precautionary methods to address them pre-emptively.
What I tell all of my clients is that they should not assume that they won’t or don’t have the propensity to cheat. Infidelity is almost universally taboo, yet the majority of Americans will commit some form of adultery, meaning that they perform the act that they simultaneously scorn.
The Key to addressing infidelity are the following measures:
- Police yourself first.
Have you ever been on the highway and been passed by a police officer that didn’t have his lights on? He was going far above the speed limit and you remarked to yourself, must be nice to be able to break the law and not be punished. Well, in relationships, individuals tend to get so focused with what their partner is doing that they forget what they are or are not doing, just like this cop. To adequately address the first measure, put yourself in your partner’s shoes and act in a manner that they feel safe.
2. Police your partner.
It just isn’t enough to have blind faith in your partner. Sure, some will never cheat but many will if the blind eye is given. That doesn’t make them bad people but, instead, exposes the flaw that we have to address. Sometimes you and your partner get yourselves in situations that might lead to adulterous behavior, whether it is in the short-term in farther down the line. Getting drunk at a party where several sexually interested parties are at could spell disaster, even for the well-intentioned partner.
3. Co-create boundaries and define infidelity together.
Do you know that there are different definitions for infidelity? If you’ve read as much on the subject as I have, your head would spin. Luckily, none of that matters. What would devastate me might be different than what would do the same to you, so the definition should be “plastic” and adjust to the environment: your relationship. It is wise to do this early on, but it is never too late. Simply talk about infidelity and determine what crosses the line and what doesn’t. To some, watching internet pornography is cheating, so don’t assume anything here. In fact, the case for that being included in a common definition is compelling.
Secondly, create boundaries that address the defined term (infidelity) and how to ensure it will not happen. To do this, risky behaviors are identified and adequate safeguards are put in place to keep it from escalating or to make sure that no risk is taken. To some, going to a party just means including the significant other. Problem solved. Whatever you do, have this conversation.
Anthony John Bartlett
Please contact me if you have questions or concerns.