Someone asked the following question on Quora.com recently: “Should I get back with my boyfriend? I could see the pain in his eyes of not having me. I don’t know how long it will last. I feel he has changed. Will he ever cheat on me again or he has really changed? He says he wants to marry me immediately.” Here’s my answer …
Cheating, in general, is a very complicated topic.
There are so many variables and factors at work here, that it’s almost impossible to give a one size fits all piece of advice.
But, in saying that there is quite a bit of insight research has revealed to us about the nature of infidelity (in general).
We know that generally speaking, roughly 1 in 3 men and 1 in 5 women have committed sexual infidelity, although these estimates vary from study to study.
We also know that our interconnectedness (mainly because of the internet) has put a completely new spin on the nature of what is perceived as infidelity or cheating. It has forced us to rethink what it is exactly, and HOW it influences relationships.
There is a real question to be asked, what exactly constitutes as cheating these days, and what impact do these various forms of cheating have on a relationship.
Is chatting with someone else online seen as “cheating?”
Or does there need to be sexual contact in order to qualify as cheating?
Now even though this is very complicated, we do know that as a rule of thumb, and in essence, “cheating” is any type of activity with a non-partner that your own partner would find upsetting or a breach of trust in your relationship.
In other words, even though our means to cheat have increased and changed, you can literally cheat from the comfort of your own home while your partner is at the gym, it still comes down to the matter of TRUST.
Cheating, as a rule of thumb, is when trust has been broken between two people – regardless of HOW it happened.
And this can vary from couple to couple, but the essence still remains the same.
The reason this is important is that the moment trust is lost in a relationship, through whichever means, it puts a real brake on the growth and long-term success of that relationship.
Irrespective of feelings of guilt and remorse later on.
Some studies have shown that when somebody stays with a cheater because of fear (for example), he or she is more likely to seek revenge, avoid conflict, and become generally more disrespectful and aggressive towards the partner in the future.
That’s not a good foundation for a happy and fulfilling relationship long-term.
We also know from the same studies that the next most frequent outcome, in 34% of the sample, was that the marriage ended in divorce or breakup.
So, to clarify, whenever cheating was involved but the relationship continued, it either experienced a significant drop in satisfaction and the increase of toxic behaviour from the one partner (cheated on) to the other (cheater) – or – it ended up in divorce/breakup later on (34% of the sample researched).
Those are not good odds for you should you consider to continue with this relationship.
The other important question to consider, in light of cheating, is WHY one partner has cheated in the first place.
This is typically overlooked after the fact when there are many feelings of guilt, regret, and remorse.
But, it would be a mistake to simply overlook or ignore the dynamics that actually led to one partner straying.
Now again, it is very complicated as to why people cheat exactly. There are many different reasons. Some are complicated, and some more obvious.
But, what we do know is that people typically become romantically involved with someone whom they love, respect, care about, and trust.
So whenever cheating happens, there is a huge question to be asked about one person’s true love, respect, care for the other, as well as their trustworthiness.
If we get together for one set of reasons, then we cheat because those reasons are no longer true for the one who cheated.
We know that cheating can take on many forms, and the one caught out will often times show a lot of remorse later on, but regardless of this fact, it is also safe to say that cheating damages relationships and undermines many of the positive reasons why a person likely entered the relationship in the first place.
Ultimately, if you want a long-term successful relationship, your best bet is to form a relationship based on trust with someone you care about and respect.
Once you’ve made that decision, you then need to spend time making sure that that relationship is satisfying, fulfilling, and provides sufficient excitement so that neither partner will be inclined to stray. Because the temptations are simply too ever-present these days.
Now in that very sentence, also lies your challenge – again in spite of the remorse your ex is showing – or suggestions around marriage he is making right now.
If he has already cheated on you, you have to consider the reality that your relationship up to the point of his infidelity was most likely NOT satisfying and fulfilling enough for him, as well as the fact that it most likely lacked sufficient excitement for him. The relationship had to be that unsatisfying to him that he was willing to stray.
Now, there are obviously two sides to the story here.
I have no idea what he (and you) contributed or not to create that type of stale relationship that contributed to him cheating.
All I know, based on what research is telling us, as well as my experience working with couples, is that if a person has cheated it is because they have already felt deep levels of dissatisfaction, unfulfillment, and a lack of excitement – and the question needs to be asked what will change in the future to keep that from happening again, especially now that trust has been broken completely?
Personally, I cannot tell you what to do, but what I do know is this – I have met very few couples who managed to overcome infidelity afterwards because of the huge commitment it demands of a couple to repair trust, respect, love, and excitement.
Many find it too difficult because broken trust is no small matter when it comes to feelings of connectedness to another.
I would caution you to jump into a marriage based on his feelings of remorse and hurt – as these are very very unwise reasons to get married for.
Healthy, happy, and intimate marriages are the result of unconditional love, mutual respect and trust, and ongoing excitement.
Fear, remorse, hurt, and guilt are not good reasons at all. It’s a foundation of sand. And you’re setting yourself up to become another sad statistic.
Also, and lastly, you have to ask yourself the question – is this all I am worth as a woman and human being?
Or do I deserve a partner that thinks the world of me, worships the ground I walk on, and loves me unconditionally no matter what?
PS. Relationship expert Esther Perel wrote a book “State of Affairs – Rethinking Infidelity” recently that you might want to go check out also.
Hope you found something of value here.
If you want any more thoughts on this, check out my eguide “How to overcome infidelity” in my store.