How come this topic hasn’t been discussed more frequently? I mean, there’s zero doubt that infidelity is a factor in countless broken relationships.
Perhaps we encounter so little elaboration on the subject because each of us believes we have a firm grasp of what it means to be “faithful” to a significant other.
But do we really? And what’s more, does our PARTNER believe the same way WE do? You just can’t make that assumption by default, or else serious trouble will be looming sooner than later.
Clearly, the key is open, honest communication early on.
So why do so many couples leave this topic “open ended”? The problem arises when neither partner wants to come off as overly jealous or insecure, or when one partner fears that opening such a “can of worms” will actually trigger jealousy in the other.
Nevertheless, if you care about a relationship, both of you have got to set expectations for yourself and for each other, and agree to them together.
Here are four particular areas that can help focus the somewhat nebulous topic of “fidelity”, making it easier to talk about and simpler to define.
1. Decide What The Structure Of The Relationship Is
I was asked a fascinating question recently during a radio interview. “So Scot, if you want your wife to agree to a threesome and you think she’s going to object, how do you convince her to agree to it?”
My answer caught the host completely off guard. “You don’t”, I said. “If you are open to threesomes and you know she isn’t, you shouldn’t have married her to begin with. These are things you bring up with your new girlfriend, not someone you’re already in a committed relationship with.”
The very foundation to trust and fidelity is defining whether you are in an exclusive and monogamous relationship with someone as opposed to some other kind of relationship.
“Other” in this case can mean you’ve agreed to bring other partners into your sex life together, agree that both partners can have sex with other people, or some mixture of both. No matter what, however, you’ve got to carefully define what’s fair game and what isn’t well ahead of time—before any assumptions are made, and most definitely before you walk down the aisle.
2. Set Flirtation Boundaries
Another area discussion involves how “flirtation” with other MOTOS (members of the opposite sex) is defined. It’s mission-critical that the two of you agree 100% on what those boundaries are and that they are the same for both partners.
For example, if it’s decided that sexually charged conversation and body language along with playful touch are to be kept within the relationship, then so be it.
There can be no “double-standard”, however. For example, a woman cannot be of the opinion that all women are generally well-intentioned, but all men are dogs if given the chance.
That train of thought is not only arrogant, it creates an environment where she defends her little wink at the waiter as she touches him on the thigh as “harmless” even as she objects to her boyfriend or husband even smiling at a waitress.
Where the “double standard” is in effect, deep resentment surely follows.
3. Define Out-Of-Bounds Activity
I find it particularly amazing how many unspoken assumptions are made between men and women in this specific area.
But the truth remains that when it comes to the subject at hand, this is one of the broadest expanses of “gray area”.
The range of factors at play here is almost mind numbing.
I’ve known at least one couple where one partner felt that kissing other people was NOT cheating, but had somehow let that aspect of their belief system escape coming up in conversation together.
Suffice it to say that the other partner had felt it was implicitly obvious that the two of them shouldn’t be making out with other people if they’re in an “exclusive” relationship.
But don’t kid yourself. In other cases, the fine line may be much more difficult to draw.
For example, you and your partner may readily agree not to tongue down other people, but what about full-body embraces?
And how about having social contact with exes (or other MOTOS, for that matter)? Is it okay to talk to them on the phone or even have lunch with them sometimes because they’re now “just friends”?
If that’s off the table, is it alright to at least friend them on Facebook? Do you keep their numbers stored in your phone, if for no other reason than so if they call you can know not to answer the phone?
And what about, say, porn? Does looking at other MOTOS naked constitute cheating? How about frequenting strip clubs? No doubt there are a LOT of women out there who don’t view this stuff the same way that a LOT of men do.
You’ve got to talk about all of this, and you’ve got to cover all bases (including first).
4. Just Say “No” To Logical Justification
I’ve always found the whole concept of “bachelor parties” deeply fascinating. Stereotypically speaking, the infamous sexual trysts that might possibly happen once strippers, etc. get involved are accepted as kind of a “last hurrah” before the “constraints” of marital life kick in.
Obviously, most people don’t tell their new wife (or husband, in the case of certain “bachelorette parties”) what actually happened the night before. The best-case scenario one can hope for is a “don’t ask, don’t tell policy”.
But the way I see it, if you feel like you’ve got to get one last “piece” in because you feel as if you’re about to get locked down with a ball and chain, you most definitely shouldn’t be getting married to begin with.
Nevertheless, many people justify bachelor and bachelorette parties as a “rite of passage”.
This is one clear way that we tend to seek logical justification for behavior that to most observers would constitute cheating. And in fact, we’re talking about actions that even WE would consider unfaithful—if under different circumstances.
I’ve noticed that a surprising number of people—men and women alike—somewhat nihilistically think that all MOTOS will happily cheat, if presented with a tempting opportunity.
Meanwhile, many people of both genders have honorable intentions from the very beginning of always being faithful.
What’s weird is that when one partner is unreasonably jealous to the point of fearing that the other will cheat—or that he or she is already doing so—that fear can eventually become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The faithful partner who is consistently suspected or even flatly accused of cheating finally says to him or herself, “If I’m going to get treated like I’m a cheater, I might as well make something happen to justify it.”
A similar thought pattern would be, “If I’m going to be considered a cheater, I might as well get the ‘benefits’ as well as the penalties.”
The potential danger of extreme jealousy to fidelity in relationships goes even deeper.
When one partner is super jealous, it becomes LESS likely that boundaries will even be discussed. The less jealous partner assumes that ANY discussion on the subject wouldn’t end well.
So each partner is left to decide what constitutes “cheating” him or herself.
That means that when one’s significant other is the über-jealous type, that less jealous partner’s decisions are indeed made without the other’s input because it’s assumed that EVERYTHING would incite his or her anger anyway.
From there, the proverbial envelope tends to get pushed to the limit because there ARE no established guidelines.
Perhaps subconsciously, some people will go a bit overboard to “stick it” to a partner whose jealousy they’ve come to resent. Usually, this is taken to the extent that they feel they can reasonably defend if ever caught red-handed.
For example, this can down to semantics. A famous example would be invoking Bill Clinton’s definition of “sex” versus what Hillary may have thought it meant
As per a memorable example from my coaching experience, one partner may suggest it’s time to “date other people” but the decision is ultimately made not to. Then, the partner who suggested the idea ends up having sex with someone else, but attempts to logically justify it because he or she never actually “went on a date” with that other person.
Since the discussion was about “dating other people” rather than “being exclusive”, the justification for sex outside the relationship is made.
Ultimately, if you’re in a truly monogamous, exclusive relationship with someone the guidelines have got to be discussed, and no emotional mindset can ever be allowed to blur the lines. It’s really as simple as that…otherwise, there’s cheatin’ going on.
Obviously, there’s way more that could be covered here. What all-important factors and/or examples have I left out?
And what is your opinion on all of this? What do couples need to discuss, and what should a “faithful” relationship look like?