Cheating in relationships is quite common. If you haven’t experienced it yet yourself, there’s a good chance you know of someone who has experienced it.
Infidelity has existed since marriage and relationships were invented. Today our idea of infidelity keeps on expanding.
Is it a hookup, a love story, a massage with a happy ending, watching porn or is it staying secretly active on dating apps?
Whatever definition you give to infidelity and affairs. The truth is that affairs are here to stay.
So we should look at infidelity from a dual perspective, rather than looking at it in the way that we have been conditioned from generations: affairs, purely as an act of betrayal.
Let’s explore this dual perspective of cheating by debunking some of the popular myths surrounding cheating and affairs .
Myth 1: If you have everything you need at home, there’s no need to go looking elsewhere
This myth is wrong for many reasons, but mainly because it assumes that there’s such a thing as a perfect relationship that will prevent us from wanderlust.
A wedding ring is not insurance against cheating.
At the heart of an affair is often a longing for newness, for freedom, for independence, for adventure, for sexual intensity or playfulness – basically a wish to recapture lost parts of ourselves- all the stuff that often gets diminished in one’s committed relationship.
The Mexican essayist Octavio Paz described this as a “thirst for otherness.” What she means is that the “other” that people discover in an affair is not necessarily a new partner, rather a new self.
The quest for the unexplored self is a powerful theme in the infidelity narrative and usually has nothing to do with the partner they are committed to.
Esther Perel, a pioneering psychoanalyst, author and speaker says that when we seek the gaze of another, it isn’t always our partner that we are turning away from, but the person that we ourselves have become.
You might just be married to someone who has an innate sense of adventure and desires within them that have nothing to do with you, per se, but they are personal desires that need to be explored in some manner
Affairs could also be an extension of one’s curiosity, what other stories could we have been a part of? What will I discover about myself if I’m with this person? What other layers will this person add to my life?
Just as traveling to other cities can enrich your life and enhance your appreciation for your home base, exploring connections with other people can have the same benefits.
Myth 2- An affair means a flawed relationship
Another tragic misconception.
Conventional wisdom subscribes to the idea that cheating and affairs happen only when something is missing or if something has gone terribly wrong in the marriage/relationship.
We have been taught to value fidelity as the litmus test of a relationship and conditioned to feel wronged and victimized if someone cheats on us.
Infidelity is not necessarily a sign of a relationship gone wrong and happy couples do cheat
Research shows that people don’t cheat because they have fallen out of love with their partners. Rather, they cheat simply because they desire sex with someone else. Monogamy does not necessarily provide a lifetime of sexual contentment.
It’s time we dropped the typical assumption that if someone cheats, either there’s something wrong in your relationship or there’s something wrong with you- neither could be the case.
Myth 3- An affair is the end of a relationship
Cheating and infidelity shatters the grand ideal of love but it doesn’t have to
The true strength of a thriving relationship is when two people can turn a crisis into an opportunity.
An affair can be a death in a relationship but it also can birth a new relationship. A new disorder can lead to a new order.
Extramarital adventures are undoubtedly painful but they can also be liberating and empowering. In this sense, it’s all about rebuilding and repairing the rupture together and paving the way for a more beautiful relationship to emerge, but this time with more honesty, empathy and authenticity.
There are many people who you will love but they are not necessarily the same people that you build a life with.
Do you want a love story or a life story? Love stories per say are not life stories
Love stories and life stories both have their own set of ingredients. Some love stories cannot be sustained long term. Similarly life stories might not have all the passion, mystery and adventure that we would like to have.
Final words: Managing expectations
We live in a society where we expect what an entire community once provided from our partners.
We want our partner to offer us stability, safety, security, predictability, and dependability. And we want the very same person to give us mystery, adventure, and risk. We expect comfort and edge, familiarity and novelty, continuity and surprise- all from one person
We have conjured up this grand ambition of love, where love remains unconditional, intimacy enthralling, and sex oh so exciting, with one person, for the long haul
We really need to place an affair in the context of the relationship at large, and not separate it and make it the ultimate truth about the marriage or a relationship
Sex is not a crime, regardless of who it is with
We live in an individualistic society, where we feel entitled to be a little bit selfish with our needs, wants and desires, sexual or not.
Only when men and women are able to make sexual choices free of stigma will people be honest with their partners about their desires.
– Rochelle Abeywardena