Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Cheating: Forgive and Forget?

            Ever since I first started thinking about relationships, my worst fear about them was the fear of being cheated on. It is my worst fear about relationships to this day even though it’s never happened to me. Relationships require a lot of trust and commitment, and when that is betrayed, the outcome can be devastating for anyone involved. Someone who has been cheated on can develop trust issues and have the fear of it happening again in another relationship. And then there’s the question of whether you can forgive the person who cheated on you. Is it true that “once a cheater, always a cheater?”

            Before that question can be answered, it has to be understood better. What constitutes cheating is different for men and women. Researchers from Kansas State University found that, “Males reported that sexual infidelity scenarios were relatively more distressing than emotional infidelity scenarios, and the opposite was true of females.” Both genders considered sexual infidelity cheating, but women were more distressed by emotional infidelity.

            In Kelly Campbell’s article, “More Than Chemistry,” she states that, “More than 90% of Americans believe infidelity is unacceptable, yet 30-40% of people engage in it.” She believes there are three main reasons why people cheat. The first is for individual reasons, which includes three factors: gender (men are more likely to cheat than women), personality (people less considerate of others are more likely to cheat), and religion and political orientation (people who are very religious and/or have conservative political beliefs are less likely to cheat).

            The second reason was because of relationship reasons – “Researchers find that partnerships characterized by dissatisfaction, unfulfilling sex, and high conflict are at higher risk for infidelity.” The last reason is situational reasons, which is the most complex one. Anything from work environment, ratio of men to women, the type of work someone does, the communities people live in, can all contribute.

            Campbell lists these reasons so that we can understand that cheating isn’t such a simple subject to think about. She believes there are different reasons for why people cheat, and when these are understood, you can determine for yourself whether that person will cheat again.

            Jay Kent-Ferraro, who has devoted his study to infidelity, has another perspective. He too seeks to understand why people cheat, but in order to reach forgiveness within a relationship. He admits to being unfaithful to his wife, but after a divorce and time spent understanding himself, they remarried and celebrated their 14th anniversary in 2012. Through a lot of effort, understand, and forgiveness, he and his wife salvaged their relationship.

            He believes, “the question is not "Can I ever trust him again"? but rather, "What contributed to this person's choice to betray me - why did they choose infidelity"?” He stresses and thoroughly explains that it is your choice to understand your partner’s infidelity or not. If you choose to understand it and succeed, then you can determine whether or not to continue the relationship and work on it. If you understand and don’t want to work on the relationship, then at least you won’t have the fear of your next partner being unfaithful.

            Understanding why people cheat can be very painful and hard for those who have been cheated on. Still, it is important to understand it to help your own emotional health and possibly to save a relationship. Of course, I’m not saying that everything rests on your shoulders (if you’re the one who was cheated on). It requires both people to understand why it happened, and why it would or would not happen again. Both people must choose to work on the relationship and make a change in themselves and/or the situation. But the silver lining is that it is possible to forgive, though there are definitely times when you should move on from an unhealthy relationship.


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