This is a delicate topic that is not often handled delicately. Firstly, we are not taught how to create healthy, happy, mutually beneficial relationships. Then when we encounter problems within that relationship, we don’t have the tools to resolve our differences for the greater good of all concerned. In some cases, when conflict cannot be resolved, the relationship either ends or one or both partners may seek solace with another person.
Affairs are commonplace today and lead to pain and devastation for all concerned, whether you are the one who cheated or the one who was cheated on. There is always shame and guilt for the betrayer and hurt and humiliation for the betrayed. Perhaps if we have the deeper conversations and create our relationships consciously, rather than by default; we can actually prevent affairs from happening.
We live in a world where most people wear two faces; one for the public and another behind closed doors. Couples become isolated. So even when we have serious problems in our relationships; we don’t address this because we want to show the world that we are perfect. We post pictures on Facebook about places we’ve visited and anniversaries we’ve celebrated. The result of us not being willing to have the deeper conversations and ask for help has resulted in a divorce rate of over 50%. That does not count couples who are living together and then break up due to an affair. While it’s not a part of the statistics; it’s no less devastating.
Now while I don’t, under any circumstances, condone affairs; we must be open enough to look at it from both perspectives. Society, as a blanket rule, sees the one having the affair as the perpetrator and the one being cheated on as the victim. I don’t believe it’s as simple as that.
When two people meet and fall in love; they are in a euphoric state and live in a perpetual state of bliss. They see the best in each other; acknowledge each other and appreciate everything their partner does for them. They find ways to show the other how loved and adored they are.
This euphoric state, however, cannot last forever. When the couple get into a committed relationship, the energy then shifts to expectation. The shift is most often unconscious; triggered by the demands of life as we know it. Bills need to be payed; the house needs to be cleaned; the kids need to be taken care off. There’s less time for romance and really seeing your partner and we all have a need to be seen, acknowledged, loved and appreciated.
When one or both partners start to feel invisible or taken for granted, they look to fulfil this need elsewhere. Affairs are less about sex and more about wanting to feel desired, alive and vital. It’s about being seen again and feeling a connection with oneself and another. Most people that have affairs do not intend to hurt their partners. They often do not even want to leave their partners; but the desire to feel alive again makes them step in a direction that they themselves thought they would never do.
So what constitutes cheating? Some people have relationships with people over social media and form an emotional connection, but will deny that it was an affair because you never met. Some people say, “It was just sex. It didn’t mean anything.” A simple rule would be that if you have to keep the relationship a secret, you know you are outside the boundaries.
Relationships are subjective. There cannot be one magic formula that makes all relationships work. There are no 7 steps to living happily ever after. If both partners want to consciously create a healthy, happy relationship and you invest the time to protect, nurture and grow that relationship, it can most certainly last a lifetime. We have to be willing to put in the effort with our partner instead of putting in the effort with someone else.
We can have many relationships with the same partner. When you first meet, your relationship is about fun and romance and getting to know each other. When you decide to commit to each other, you begin a new relationship with each other that now includes the responsibilities of sharing a home. When you have children, you begin yet another relationship with the same person that now includes parental duties. When your kids leave home, you begin another relationship.
If you come together at the start of each stage and re-negotiate the relationship to see what worked in the last phase and how you can keep the love, appreciated and aliveness while moving on to the next phase; you are actively creating an epic relationship together. You choose each other over and over again.
If you’re in a relationship, I challenge you to make one small change and see the results for yourself. Take a look at all that your partner contributes to your relationship and start acknowledging them for it. Say “thank you” more often, but say it because you really mean it and feel grateful for their presence and contribution to your life. One simple change can cause a huge shift in the right direction.
Kas Naidoo – Relationship Coach and Matchmaker