There may not be anything more detrimental to an intimate relationship than infidelity. Cheating is a surefire way to hurt your partner. It ruins trust and can lead to the end of your union. All that being said, there is a single time that cheating is, well, OK. Wondering what circumstances can make this hurtful act acceptable? Let’s take a quick look. We’ll also see if cheating can ever be a good thing.
For starters — no, we don’t condone cheating!
Infidelity is a no-go. We aren’t suggesting you go out of your way to make it OK, either. Most reasons for cheating are bad excuses — excuses that many people seem to make in their relationships.
Next: How common is cheating these days?
Unfortunately, it’s hard to gauge how common it is
There have been a plethora of studies done on the frequency of infidelity. Unfortunately, it’s still difficult to determine just how common of an occurrence it is. The reason? It’s a sensitive subject that most people don’t want to talk about. Moreover, individuals who have cheated typically don’t want to admit to engaging in this behavior.
Next: There are many reasons for cheating.
And where does the urge to cheat come from anyways?
There are many reasons that can make one — or both — members of a couple cheat. A lack of sexual or emotional satisfaction frequently leads someone to cheat on their partner. The want for more sexual adventure is also a common reason. In some cases, one member of the couple has already been cheated on and wants “revenge sex” to feel vindicated in the situation.
Next: How both parties can be affected
How both parties can be affected by infidelity
Cheating does more than break the bond of trust in a relationship. The cheat-ee will likely walk away with lowered self-esteem, and experience sadness that can manifest into depression. But the cheater doesn’t make it out of this doing so well, either. They will either become completely ravaged with guilt, or become completely detached and convince themselves that their partner drove them to cheat.
Next: There is one time when it’s OK to cheat.
There is one time, however …
In the instance that you are in an open relationship, your partner may give you the go-ahead to sleep with someone else. We know this sounds odd — is it even still cheating if you get permission to do it? It’s actually becoming a more common practice, with more and more people giving their spouses the green light to have the occasional fling. Of course, the key to making this work is to actually have permission from your partner, and a very clear understanding of what the affair can entail.
Next: What happens after cheating?
One of you cheated — now what?
Let’s say you didn’t get the go-ahead from your significant other to sleep with someone else — and then you got caught. Now what happens? For starters, the only way to move forward is to admit that you did something wrong. Take responsibility, and stop lying. Be willing to give your significant other space to be hurt and angry. If you genuinely feel awful about what you did, learn to forgive yourself as well.
Next: Can your relationship recover?
Can the relationship recover?
Psychotherapist and author Mira Kirshenbaum tells TIME that cheating doesn’t necessarily lead to the end of the relationship. “Just because people have problems doesn’t mean they can’t solve their problems,” she says. The key in saving the relationship is to recognize that it has to be rebuilt, and that you can’t dwell on the negative events in the past. If you and your partner can move forward from a cheating scandal, view it as a new relationship altogether.
Next: Is cheating ever a good thing?
Is cheating ever a good thing?
The Cheat Sheet spoke with Dr. Stan Tatkin, assistant clinical professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and author of Wired for Love to better understand cheating.
Affairs are most often a sign that there is a deeper, more profound issue of fidelity within the relationship. By fidelity I am not referring to affairs but to the secure functioning of the relationship. Secure functioning relationships operate as two-person systems based in true mutuality and interdependence. Partners are fully transparent, protect each other in public and private, are the go-to people, and operate according to principles of fairness, justice, and sensitivity.
When one partner has an affair, the result is a crisis that can set in motion a real transformation of the relationship toward secure functioning. It can be the catalyst for growth and increased complexity. The affair can become a scar that reminds both partners of their failings, a reminder that drives them to do better and be better people. But the main ingredient of this lesson is regret. Without embracing regret people will repeat self-harming behavior and remain young (and not in the good sense). Betrayal cannot be forgotten or forgiven. Partners must own their misdeeds and strive to become more than they were before they did harm.
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