AFTER CHEATING: RESTORING RELATIONSHIP TRUST
After so many lies and secrets, can trust ever be restored?
How do you define infidelity? Does looking at porn count as cheating? What about webcam sex? If you play around on hookup apps but never actually hook up in person, are you cheating? If you’re chatting with an old flame on social media, is that a form of infidelity? What about playing virtual-reality sex games?
Do you think that you and your partner might have different ideas about the behaviors that do and don’t qualify as infidelity? With all of the uncertainty about what does and does not qualify as cheating, it’s high time we had a universal, digital-era definition. And here it is, as it appears in my book, Out of the Doghouse: A Step-by-Step Relationship-Saving Guide for Men Caught Cheating:
SHOULD YOU TELL YOUR PARTNER YOU CHEATED?
Will telling the truth help or hurt your relationship?
I’m going to say this up front: I am not a fan of lying and keeping secrets in an intimate relationship. If you are looking for someone to tell you that after you cheat you should probably just keep things quiet for the sake of your relationship and your partner’s well-being, because learning that you cheated would be painful for her/him, look elsewhere. Before you do, though, you should know that the glue that holds healthy and enjoyable long-term relationships together is not sex, money, or even the kids. It’s trust. When you violate your partner’s trust, you violate your relationship — even if you’re just keeping secrets as opposed to actually lying (although in my opinion, keeping secrets is just another form of lying).
Consider the definition of infidelity that I use in my recently published book, Out of the Doghouse: A Step-by-Step Relationship-Saving Guide for Men Caught Cheating:
“Infidelity (cheating) is the breaking of trust that occurs when you deliberately keep intimate, meaningful secrets from your primary romantic partner.”
WHAT YOU SHOULD BE THINKING WHEN YOU ARGUE WITH YOUR PARTNER
One critical skill that can help save a relationship
Years ago I spoke to a patient who, on the eve of his marriage, received some unanticipated advice. “You want to get married, and you want to make it work?” an older family friend had said. “You gotta ask yourself, whenever you argue with your wife, what’s it gonna cost ya?” To all appearances, it sounded ominous. But this offhand, knowing remark, which I heard when I was just getting started as a therapist, eventually became part of the way I practice couples treatment, and something I quote to my patients all the time.
The older gentleman who delivered this advice was talking about marital conflict, which of course is unavoidable. Spend enough time with your spouse and you will discover exactly which of your own personal traits are the least palatable to him or her. This isn’t a cynical thought, or a commentary on the value of marriage: it’s simple mathematics. No two people share every belief, on every style of interacting with the world. So when you’re involved in a fight with your husband or wife, and you find yourself sticking to your guns, determined to prove you’re right or to extract that last concession—that’s the right time to ask yourself, what’s it going to cost you?