For most couples, monogamy and sexual fidelity are an assumed part of their relationship contract. However, the extent of this assumed contract discussion is essentially:
“we are not going to sleep with other people…right? … Yeah”
Then most people leave it at that and going their merry way…until someone violates the ASSUMED or IMPLIED monogamy or fidelity contract that was never actually discussed as well as the consequences of the contract violation.
You know what they what they say about the act to ASSUME: “It’ll make an ASS out of U and ME.
Think about this. When people sign a lease for a condo or buy a house, they are often signing and agreeing to at least a minimum of 18 pages of conditions, definitions, terms and consequences of contract breaks. Yet, one of the things that wreaks the MOST havoc in any relationship is a break in the fidelity or monogamy contract that most people barely discuss or spell out.
Today, with the expansion of chatting apps, web apps, voyeurism type websites and hand phones and skype- there are more grey areas as to what constitutes cheating. Throw in sex clubs, happy ending massages, KTV clubs and prostitution and what constitutes cheating to one person may not be cheating to another. Cheating is often further influenced by religion, culture, socioeconomic status, gender and past experiences. What is cheating gets murky fast.
A really false belief that gets many couples into trouble is the belief: “well isn’t that obvious!! That XYZ is cheating! Everyone knows that is cheating.”
The short answer is NO. It is not obvious. There are no universal truths about what is cheating and what isn’t cheating. Each couple must work that out for themselves, bearing in mind that this type of discussion can lead to a deal breaker or the end of the relationship if we, the couple can’t come up with 1 version of a definition of cheating.
There are very few universals truths. A universal truth is GRAVITY. Gravity works and affects EVERYONE the same. It’s so universal we don’t need to discuss it. But does a happy ending = cheating, or chatting on facebook with an ex-boyfriend mean cheating….these are things that a couple must work out for themselves. There is no ONE truth.
A frequent client type I see in my office are the couples that are having after-the-fact contract negotiations on whether or not the person in question broke an assumed contract or not, and if so, how severe and what are the consequences. These types of after-the-fact fighting are ugly. A professional mental health counsellor or professional marriage counsellor cannot settle this issue for couples. Counsellors are not judges and their office isn’t a court room. Instead, mental health counsellors help couples work out a TRUTH for the couple. Every couple's truth or contract is unique. There is no 1 size fits all.
The act in question has occurred and is locked in the past. Because there was no clarity in terms of what is cheating (just a lot of assuming), they are now fighting about whether or not cheating occurred and what happens as a result.
This creates huge dilemmas for the couple such as: Do we stay together or break up, how does this change the relationship, who is responsible and if we choose to make up how to resolve this hurt. Do we believe in punishment? How do we punish the offending person? What are the consequences? Who is responsible for managing the offending and hurt person, the consequences and the repair of the relationship? How do I enforce my views, consequences and beliefs on my partner without them hating in the process?
Because couples don’t clarify and agree to what is break in monogamy or fidelity in their relationship, this creates problems as to the consequences of violating act. Again because most people don’t think about, discuss or negotiate what happens if someone violates monogamy or fidelity, they are fighting about to do about.
Does a couple breakup? Does the person have the right to kick partner out of the couple’s home? Does the person have the right to call everyone and speak ill about the partner? Does the person who feels violated have the right to take control of the relationship and control the money, the movement of the person, their access to the internet, email and phone? Does the person who committed the act have to comply?
These create HUGE dilemmas for the couple and how a couple chooses to handle them can end the relationship before anyone determines if a contract has been broke.
A dangerous belief that people hold is deciding that someone will not cheat on them because they haven’t cheated in the past.
A few things to bear in mind with this dangerous belief: Everyone is capable of cheating just as they are being faithful or committing murder or stealing. When situations change people may choose differently. Most people who cheat do not believe in or value cheating. They often have no history of cheating. Nothing CAUSES people to cheating.
Cheating is a solution to a problem as defined by one person. People choose cheating. People choose to be monogamous and faithful. A couple must work to keep a relationship that both people want to choose. No one has to do a relationship.
Marriage is not magic and doesn’t make people be faithful, cooperate, be nice or participate together. People must choose to do this and they must believe that the relationship gives them back more than what they put in. If they don’t they may make other choices, one is to cheat, but it may also be overworking, overparenting, overdrinking, over exercising or over eating.
So if you are starting a new relationship or in an existing established one, it is never too late to have this discussion. It’s a good idea to have it regularly because the world is changing and people’s views change.
Areas to cover:
· How do you define fidelity
· How do you define monogamy
· What do you consider cheating?
· Do you have levels of cheating? I.e. a blow job isn’t as bad as intercourse? Having sex with a prostitute isn’t cheating because you don’t have an emotional attachment to the person. Chatting on WhatsApp with an opposite sex co-working about our relationship, is that cheating? Etc.
· Do believe all cheating is the same or are there degrees? Do believe the number of times you cheating (based on definition) matters. IE if you do it once that is forgivable but if you do it more than once it is not etc.
· What do you see if any, are the consequences of stepping outside of the relationship?
· Do you believe in using protection against STDs in sexual encounters?
· How do you choose to be monogamous? What do you see as the benefits of monogamy?
· What do you need the relationship to look like to want to keep being faithful and monogamous
· How important is our sex life in your decision to be monogamous and faithful?
· How easy do you find it to bring up topics that you know we don’t agree on? How does not being comfortable to bring these up potentially affect your monogamy and fidelity decision?
· What do you believe are the consequences for cheating or breaking a monogamy contract? Do you believe in breaking up, repairing?
· What steps would you want to put in place if we are starting to look out side? How do we need to work together to make it easier to bring up difficult and high conflict topics so we can resolve them and keep the relationship awesome.