Let's tackle a double standard today, shall we? Even as a woman, something that I find to be a real trip is how, when men do something that we don't like, oftentimes it's wrong—point blank and period. Oh, but let us do the exact same thing and here we come with the justifications for why it should get a pass. A good example of this comes from the article, "Women Cheat More Than We Think. What To Do If That's You." that I penned for the site a couple of years back. If there weren't jokes that were made in the comment sections of our socials, women were writing me to explain why them being unfaithful wasn't "as bad". What. In. The. World?
When two people vow to be husband and wife, a part of what comes with that is fidelity. And no, it's not—pardon the pun—better or worse if a husband or wife does it. It sucks either way. With that being said, because marriage can also be mad challenging at times, sometimes things are understandable, even if they aren't justifiable. What I mean by that is, it can be easier to slip into an affair than a lot of us who've never had one may think. And until you fall into that kind of space, it can also be easy to say that you never would when actually, statistics say that, based on the age demographic, sometimes it's actually the women who cheat more than the men do (the more you know, chile).
Since cheating is rather rampant (around half of all married people will cheat at some point in their relationship), it's kind of a trip how taboo the topic is when it comes to actually discussing it head on. Yet because I have sat in so many sessions where the wife either cheating or wanting to cheat is the issue, I thought it would be important to share what you should do if you find yourself in this head/heart/libido space and you're not exactly sure what to do about it. If that is indeed you, let's begin here.
1. First, What’s Going on With Your Marriage, Sis?
It might sound cliché, yet I promise you that there is a lot of truth to the saying, if someone cheats in their relationship, it speaks more to what is transpiring (or not transpiring) within their marriage than it ever does about the other individual. Case in point. I have a friend who recently survived an emotional affair with an ex. It almost got to the point where sex went down but some messiness in the ex's life (cough, cough…another woman) nipped it in the bud. The thing is, this friend was going through a really difficult time in her marriage at the time and, you know what they say about that damn 80/20 rule—when you're not getting the 20 percent that you want at any given time, it can feel like the other 80 is close to being pretty irrelevant.
My friend, the wife, was in need of a man who listened to her and made her feel appreciated. Her husband was doing anything but that which left a gaping hole for her ex to walk back into. When she finally cut off all communication with her ex and she and her husband got into counseling, she recalled why her ex was her ex to begin with.
I'm telling you, affairs are a trip because they're a lot like mirages in the sense that, more times than not, the other person really isn't all that—you're just so depleted in your own relationship that you want them to be.
That's why, if an affair is something that you're currently in or even contemplating, first ask yourself why your marriage isn't currently fulfilling you. I don't mean in the vague sense either. Get specific. The clearer you are in what your marriage is lacking right now, the better you'll be able to figure out how to fill those voids—without being unfaithful.
2. Who Is the “Contender”?
Boundaries. If there is one thing that all marriages need, it's boundaries. This brings me to my next point. Whoever the guy is that you're considering cheating with, where did he come from because that answer will make it easier for you to figure out how to set some limits. Is it an ex? Is it someone at work? Is it a guy who is—well, was—just a friend? Maybe it's someone you met online or someone who is connected to a friend of yours.
While some folks are strategically selfish in their relationships—meaning they intend to cheat and so they do—oftentimes affairs are far more gradual than that. We find exes (or they find us) on social media. We get way too comfortable with referring to a co-worker as a "work husband" (you've got ONE husband, by the way). We tell our male friends more about how we're feeling than our own spouse. We sneak online or use a friend as an alibi to hang out with one of their buddies.
One of the reasons why I'm big on advising single people to totally get their heart pieces back prior to marriage (check out "Why Every Woman Should Go On A 'Get Your Heart Pieces Back' Tour") is because, if you don't get some sense of closure and fully heal from your past situations, oftentimes they will be dormant instead of dead—and dormant has a way of resurfacing when we least expect it.
Yet even beyond exes, temptations don't end just because you've got a husband. Whoever the guy is, be honest with yourself about how you've relaxed your boundaries in the first place to even get where you are with and about him. Then use the self-control that is required to put those limits back in place. If you need a close friend (one who can be completely trusted) or a reputable therapist/counselor/coach to help to hold you accountable, get one. You're already vulnerable. Don't disillusion yourself into thinking that boundaries will suddenly just…appear. You've got to build those jokers. And sometimes it takes some real blood, sweat and tears to do so.
Back when I was touring with a ministry that dealt with porn and sex addiction, I was constantly encountering women who said they were virgins yet they would engage in oral and/or anal sex. Since a lot of them grew up in the Church, they felt like so long as they weren't vaginally penetrated with a penis, it was all good. First up, yeah…I'm not so sure about that. When the Bible speaks of virginity, it's referring to sexual purity (which is why some translations use words like "chaste") not just "not technically doing it". And second, short of pregnancy, oral and anal sex can put you just as much at risk as vaginal sex can.
Do you see where I am going with this on the cheating tip? Some married people are in relationships that are totally inappropriate. However, because there may not be any actual sex going down, they figure it's all good. No cigar, sis. There are emotional affairs. There are online affairs. There's crushing on someone else so hard that you either try and manipulate your partner into becoming more like that person or you fantasize about that individual (including during sex with your mate). Then there are physical levels of interaction. And these are just some examples of how you can cheat without traditionally copulating.
How do you know when you've crossed the line? Do it like this—if your husband was doing the same thing(s) that you are, how would you feel? Don't say "fine" just so that you can excuse your own actions. Be real about it. If that lunch date, conversation or physical embrace would make you feel some type of way, then you have gone too far. On some level, you are cheating because you aren't being faithful to the understanding that you and your partner have about what is cool and what…isn't. You are expecting from your spouse what you are not willing to do. And yeah, that's being unfaithful—to him and yourself—AF.
4. Pull Out Some Pros and Cons
Oh, I'm good for a pros and cons list because sometimes we need to see things in black and white in order to make wise choices. Another wife that I know (who's divorced now) was in an affair with a guy for about three years before she tried to end it (she didn't clean break it, so her marriage ultimately didn't survive). Her husband was built like a walrus. The man she was cheating with worked out daily. Her husband was always on the road. The man she was cheating with gave her constant attention. Her husband had a low libido. The guy she was cheating with was always good to go.
Yeah, let me address that last point first. If you're single, you want to get married and you're reading this, please keep in mind that while married sex can—and should—be totally wonderful and extremely fulfilling, one of the reasons why a lot of people are thrown off by it during the first couple of years is because "single sex" can be extremely selfish. It's all about you and your needs when marriage is about substituting "me" for we. So, of course, sex with your husband is going to have seasons of being less exciting than some new guy who is encouraging you to act like you're single all over again. Of course, the sex is going to seem unbelievable—at least for a while.
At the same time, when it comes to whatever is going down physically and otherwise, it's important to really assess both men and the connections as unbiased as possible. Is your husband a good provider—monetarily and in other ways? Does he love you? If you've got kids, is he a good father? What are the things you've been through together and he's always been there? Why did you choose your husband in the first place? Then, when it comes to ole' boy, other than what is happening on a carnal tip, what is he bringing into your world that is long-lasting and reliable (because again, he's down to help you gamble at blowing your entire world up, so how much can you trust him)?
If the pros with your husband outshine the cons, you know what you need to do. If the pros are somehow larger with the one you're cheating with—tell me…why are you cheating? Why aren't you taking steps to end your marriage in order to be with him? Trust me, the answer to that question will reveal a lot about what's actually going on…too.
5. Have You Thought Past the Present?
Wanna know a clear indication that you are moving in these streets in a mature way? You don't just make decisions based on how you feel or what you want in the present. No, what you actually do is factor in how what you say and do today could impact your life—in 30 minutes, in a week from today and 10 years from now.
There is another woman I know who cheated on her first husband, shoot, decades ago. The child that she created with that man never knew it and the person she cheated with ended up molesting her child after she married him. When that child found out, as an adult, they wanted nothing to do with their mom because they are now traumatized by the fact that her selfishness put them in harm's way—and she lied about it. Again, this all happened decades ago and yet the woman is dealing with consequences right in the here and now.
It seems like not a day goes by in the news cycle when we don't read about something someone did years ago that they are currently paying for. Listen, that man you're cheating with (or thinking about cheating with)? It might seem like bliss now; still, it's a huge gamble that it won't catch up to you, in some way, in the future. Very few things in this life don't plant seeds that sprout when we least expect it. Be careful that you factor all of this in with every decision you make. The outcome of an intoxicating affair can sober you up. Real fast.
6. Understand That Cheating Is ALWAYS a Shaky Foundation
I'm not gonna lie to you. I know several marriages that have survived affairs—affairs from both sides—and I even know a couple who married who cheated on their first spouse with each other and have been together like 30 years at this point. Yet one thing that all of these people will tell you is cheating is a shaky foundation to try and build anything on. Aside from the popular sayings like "if they cheat with you, they'll cheat on you" (which isn't automatically the case) or "once a cheater, always a cheater" (also not true; if you don't want to be thought of that way, don't put that stigma on others), the fact that you stepped outside of your relationship to begin with meant that either you or your marriage was broken—if not both. And to me, that's like trying to build a house on a foundation that is already cracked. Let the right storm come and the house isn't going to stand like you thought it would.
An affair? It definitely comes from a state of brokenness, no matter how much you may try to deny it or even romanticize it. It really is best to not "escape" into what keeps you from dealing with the real issues and instead figure out what is happening in your marriage and how to repair it. Besides, a guy who is down to help you dishonor your union is a guy who is broken his damn self on some level. Broken things cut, one way or another. And sometimes the healing process is complex, messy and long. Choose wisely, sis. Not emotionally. Not hormonally. Not temporarily. Wisely.
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