Infidelity is preventable, especially for those in a committed relationship who wish to avoid the pain and damage it causes.
For some individuals, willpower alone is enough to resist any impulses that may arise to step outside the bounds of fidelity.
But for many people – good people, the need to apply the brakes when life and circumstances propel them toward cheating is essential.
Some people might think, “Of course, infidelity is preventable. All that partners who are committed to one another have to do is honor their commitment.”
If only it were that simple.
Such thinking assumes that everyone who strays, even once, from their marriage or relationship vows is – at best, a weak person; and at worst, a bad person.
In some instances, that’s true.
Some people who cheat on their partners are self-centered individuals who don’t care whom they hurt or what damage they cause in pursuit of carnal pleasures.
But in the course of my career counseling couples struggling in the aftermath of infidelity, I’ve found that many men and women who betray their partners are – at their core – fine people who had a lapse of judgment.
Why good people cheat is a complex question which has no single or even general answer. The closest I can come is to say that they are human, and humans sometimes act against their own best interests.
Please don’t interpret this as excusing infidelity. Whatever the reasons, especially those that at the moment seem so compelling, infidelity is wrong. It is a breach of trust that causes great pain and creates incalculable emotional and practical ripples.
My main purpose for highlighting the fact that not everyone who cheats is evil is to alert good people – those who never intend to cheat but might when presented with the opportunity – that there are ways to reduce, if not eliminate, the kinds of impulses that fuel infidelity.
As I wrote about in a previous column, The Loyal Spouse’s Guide to Avoiding Romantic Entanglements at Work, one of the best ways to keep infidelity at bay is to assiduously avoid the type of situations and behaviors that facilitate cheating. These include avoiding secluded one-on-one get-togethers with anyone who could possibly become a romantic interest; and never acting differently toward a potential romantic interest if you are alone than you would if your spouse were present.
In addition, I’ve found that there are three highly effective “brakes” that can also dramatically reduce the likelihood that a good person will make the very bad choice of infidelity.
Strengthen Your Relationship
The best defense against infidelity really is a strong offense, i.e. a strong marriage or partnership.
Do good couples sometimes get blindsided by infidelity? Yes. But far less often than couples who haven’t made the commitment of time, energy, and spirit to perpetually elevate the bonds of their partnership.
- Be Kind
- Be Without Anger
- Be Exclusive
- Be Accepting
- Honor Your Spouse
- Be Private
- Be Loyal
- Live With Love
Those partners who follow these 8 Rules, which I break down step-by-step in my book, are highly likely not only to avoid the awful experience of infidelity; they’re likely to live out their lives in a happy, fulfilling partnership.
Study the Impact of Infidelity Before You Act
The lies that men and women who cheat tell themselves are legion. Among the most common are: “I won’t get discovered” and “It’s a harmless dalliance.”
Most cheaters are discovered, and even when they’re not, they have to live with the demoralizing self-awareness that they’ve betrayed their life partner. Inevitably, that knowledge alone damages the relationship, not to mention that cheaters – instead of investing their time and affections enriching their primary relationship, as they should – expend their energies elsewhere.
As for infidelity being a harmless dalliance, nothing could be further from the truth. When you cheat on your partner, you inflict on him or her major-league emotional damage. You also potentially devastate your children, if you have them, and everyone else who loves the man or woman you harm.
When adults read and see videos about the horrendous accidents and pain that drunk driving causes, it is effective in putting the brakes on their consumption of alcohol before they get behind the wheel.
So it is with infidelity. If you read and view the many reports of just how emotionally gruesome the fallout from infidelity is in real life, it may give you serious pause before you proceed.
Stick to the Code
Whether it’s a humanistic moral code or a religious code, wanting to do the right thing not only in the eyes of your family but in keeping with the rules of a greater universal force is a powerful prophylactic against infidelity.
While some elements of popular culture aim to glorify infidelity, those who value the conventional standards of morality that have successfully guided families for millennia will discover they are most at peace with themselves when they don’t stray from these well-established codes of behavior.
While the morality of infidelity is a matter of one’s individual beliefs, those who view it as immoral because they’ve embraced a religious or humanistic moral code that defines it as such, will discover that the lure of infidelity is tempered by acting in a way that is consistent with their beliefs.
It is never safe to assume that your partnership is immune to infidelity. Good people do cheat. Instead, work daily – literally, to strengthen your couple and never take for granted the priceless gift of a loving, dedicated, life partner.