A male celebrity in the Philippines got a lot of media attention for allegedly cheating on his long-time partner. I thought about my own thoughts on cheating and reconciliation and recalled an important book that I wanted to share with you today.
News on infidelity always makes headlines.
For Filipinos, cheating is highly sensationalized in the media and a plot in TV dramas.
In France, they say it's acceptable for a married man to have a mistress.
A few years ago, I met a German guy who says he's in an 'open relationship' with his wife and meets other girls when he's out of the country for work. His wife does the same.
I recently read about a long-distance couple who broke up just after the woman moved in with the man. She found out her boyfriend has been cheating on her with an ex-room mate.
In certain Islamic law courts, it's legal for a man to have up to 4 wives.
Book Recommendation: The State of Affairs
For this subject, I turn to Esther Perel, Belgian relationship therapist with a private practice in New York. I found her through her TED talks here.
State of Affairs: Rekindling Infidelity is one of my favorite books this year. She has quite an unpopular, well-thought of opinion about infidelity.
I might not do a good job explaining what she wrote about, but I'm going to try. Here's what she says:
Cheating should not be the only reason to break up a home, a family, a relationship or marriage. A relationship is so much more than loyalty to each other. A marriage has many other elements - raising kids, taking care of parents and in-laws, staying together in sickness, paying debt - that cheating is only one aspect of a big, complicated picture.
And there are more questions to ask before judging the situation:
Did he hide it from you? Did he want you to find out? What was the motive? Does she regret it? Is she sorry at all? How does forgiveness look like?
After reading the book, I talked to my partner and asked him what makes up cheating/infidelity for him. I gave my answer as well. We need to know the lines that we shouldn't cross.
As a couple in a long-distance relationship, this is critical. There's no way for us to find out what we're up to if we hide things from each other. Define, define, define.
Here are my suggestions for couples:
1. Define what 'cheating' means in your relationship.
Is flirting considered cheating? Is meeting at a cafe and holding hands with a friend considered cheating? Are you allowed to entertain admirers?
2. Learn about infidelity from real people and, if possible, research data, not soap operas.
Read or watch Esther Perel's interviews, podcasts and TED Talk. She's brilliant. They're here. Her podcasts feature actual therapy sessions of couples. So much to learn there.
3. Be extremely clear about the people you can trust and must be careful with.
These could be exes, flirty colleague from work, former Tinder matches. Set a limit with what you and your partner can and can't do.
Here are my thoughts on cheating and relationships.
The most important of all is to build trust. Build enough trust with each other that when you agree on one thing, it becomes a commitment. To love in the small and big things, to be consistent, and to act.
Okay, we can define all we want. Even so, no relationship is cheat-proof.
We change our minds. Our desires vary from time to time. Circumstances push us to look outside of our current conditions and seek pleasure, attention, maybe even love outside of what we already have. We can't control our partner's emotions, thoughts, and urges.
This is how we are wired. What makes each person different is how we use our will or conscience or commitment whenever this happens.
How do we act on these urges? Are we get swayed by 'temptation' easily? Do we prioritize our partner's feelings over ours? Can we figure out creative ways to make the relationship work despite these factors? Do we accept and understand that our partner might differ from us?
To make it clear, I don't condone any form of infidelity and betrayal, and I never wish it on anyone. It has affected my life greatly and never will I want to go back.
Some couples go for the 'open relationship' route. Many are exploring polyamorous relationships. Some partners hide. There are others who seek professional help for repair. Others stay in the cloak of infidelity all their lives.
Is reconciliation possible?
Depending on the degree of the betrayal, and whether the one that was betrayed can get past it. I think it's possible, only when both parties are willing to work on not only getting back the trust, but the respect.
For others it isn't. Infidelity then opens the gates for a new life - a better sense of dignity, creative pursuits, singlehood, career, travel, or a newfound love.
The only thing we can do now is to prepare by defining what 'cheating' means to us as a couple, learning about it with openness, and being clear about what we can commit and be open to.
What are your thoughts on cheating and reconciliation?
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