Remember – Send me your stories and questions. All are confidential. You can email Ask Stacy at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also see follow up information and resources for each topic on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/askstacyssw.
Unfaithful in the past: Dear Stacy, I have been unfaithful to my partner in the past. It was never planned and sometimes worry I could mess up again. The men in my support group suggest I block all my devices and that will protect me from the urge to cheat. While that may be a deterrent, do you suggest something more fool proof?
Answer: Dear Unfaithful in the past, thank you for reaching out. The men in your support group are right to encourage you to block your devices. I assume this means from social media and other websites that could be tempting for you. Research shows that 1 in 7 divorces are caused from social media.
One 2015 study found that one in five people admit to having cheated on a partner, so cheating is much more common than most people think or want to talk about. Our phones can be a great help in our lives, but they can also be a huge distraction and put temptation right in the palm of our hands.
Just like with other addictions, sex and infidelity can also become addictive. Watching porn or other sexual content seems harmless at first, but it could lead you down a path of darkness that makes it hard to see the light. Unfortunately, there is nothing in life that is “fool proof”, but with hard work and intentionality, you can learn to avoid temptations and stop cheating.
As with any harmful behaviors, the key to stopping is to exercise your emotional skills and try implementing the following tips.
1. Figure out what you want. Do you want to stay? Do you want to leave?
2. Think, is monogamy is for you? If so, then create a new monogamy agreement with your partner.
3. As your support group suggested, shut down your tech!
4. End any current affairs or interactions with those you have cheated.
5. Talk to your partner. A lot. You have to build trust and intimacy back up.
6. Go to therapy, individual and couples therapy. This can help you figure out why you cheat. A professional marriage or relationship counselor is ideal.
7. Go on a weekend retreat with your partner. Start focusing on making your relationship the best that it can be.
Believe it or not, most affairs are not really about the partner or the relationship, even though that is what you may blame. “Cheaters are not searching for something that is missing in their relationship; they are searching for something that is missing in themselves.”
Cheaters project this need onto their partner, and as people, we blame our unhappiness on the other. We tell ourselves, “If they would just act the way we want, love us the way we want, then we’d be happy.” You may not want to hear this, but nobody’s life revolves around you, and you can’t expect your partner to make you feel alive. (Tammy Nelson, Ph.D.)
Practice being completely honest with your partner. This will build up trust again which is paramount. Building this trust back up could take a long time, but your partner needs to see that your words match your actions over and over again. Sharing social media, a calendar and over communicating about your daily life is a great way to start.
“As a society, we don’t entertain any conversation about why cheating happens, which makes it all the harder for people who cheat to make sense of their actions, make proper amends, and seek to be better in the future. Cheaters don’t wake up in the morning and think about how they want to hurt their partner that day.” (Tammy Nelson, Ph.D.)
Here are some resources on the topic.