In June of 2015 I finished my senior thesis on infidelity. My question was this: do women experience the emotional aspects of infidelity uniquely because of their gender? I found that they did. In breaking down my thesis I’m writing a series of more digestible blogs about the subject of infidelity.
Today I want to talk about preventing infidelity, and the first thing we always tell our significant others in the heat of our love. I will never cheat on you. If something happens, I’ll tell you first. This isn’t based in any kind of reality. People do cheat – just about as often as they don’t, and often what happens prior to this is the loss of communication. Without the ability to communicate openly with their partner, they’re unlikely to confront any issues of unhappiness or dissatisfaction. So, no. Someone may cheat on you, and it’s very possible you’ll never see it coming.
My first post about this broke down infidelity into a few categories, here’s the goofy graph I made to refresh your memory, but I’d recommend going back and reading the article again just in case.
I believe that unmet needs and desires actually comes second to failed communication.
If I were to redraw the graph based on that information, it would look more like this.
This graph is saying:
- Someone is unhappy
- Communication has failed in their relationship so they are unable to share that with their partner
- They experience unmet desires or needs further making them unhappy
- They find themselves with the opportunity to make these needs met elsewhere. With an emotional block in front of their partner, their Needs Meter starts to go up in this new situation, and they experience happiness. (Potential New Relationship Energy (NRE))
Infidelity may or may not occur at this point, but if it does, this partner may:
Believe they cannot leave or be physically/emotionally unable to leave (children, money, abuse, etc.)
Be more at risk for infidelity based on personality traits or beliefs about love (we must stay in our marriages no matter what even if we are unhappy, for instance.)
Knowing this, how can we prevent infidelity from occurring in the first place? Start at the beginning with unhappiness. This is the secret: It’s okay to be a little selfish in your relationships. When you choose your partner, it’s acceptable to say “I want a partner who does these things and is this way.” Loving someone in spite of not having these things does not necessarily make you a great person. Particularly because you may experience doubt or regret later in the relationship, having not really gone for the type of person you know you want or need.
TIP #1: Make a list of all of the things that you want or need in your partner
A want might be that your partner is interested in traveling the world.
A need might be that your partner shares a similar interest in having a healthy lifestyle.
How are these different?
This person may be able to travel the world by themselves or with friends and not really need their partner to partake in this part of their life. However, their lifestyle is something that is incorporated into many other aspects of their day-to-day life. If one partner orders Pizza Hut every night for dinner and likes to be relatively sedentary, it will be difficult for the other partner to share in long walks, cooking a healthy meal together, going on hikes, staying trim, etcetera.
What do you want and what do you need? Get as specific as you feel is necessary for you in your relationships. Remember you’re not looking for someone that is exactly like you in every way, and it’s natural for there to be places where you disagree with your partner.
Finding a partner who seems to be in the same place in life as you are with most of the same general goals, outlooks, and lifestyle will help you in the long run. Some might more simply call this compatibility.
Make sure you like the same things in bed! Make sure you want the same kind of relationship! Make sure you have interests you share together, and things you can talk about! Make sure you have your own life and your own passions that you can pursue!
Unhappiness can occur for many more specific reasons. Feeling disconnected from our partner. Feeling the inability to share with our partner. A low libido or other medical issues that prevent physical intimacy. But unhappiness often occurs because of the above – a more grand example – realizing we’re just not with someone who is compatible with us.
Stay tuned for part two: when you experience unhappiness in your relationship, whatever the cause, how can you properly communicate your unhappiness with your partner?
And part three: If you’ve properly communicated the problem, can you satisfy those unmet needs or desires? Is your unhappiness a sign that the relationship has met an end? Can you workshop together to make those needs/desires met again? (Discussion of triangular theory of love.)
Following, what is opportunity, how can we avoid it, should we avoid it? What does it mean when we feel we can’t leave a relationship? What is it about some people that makes them more prone to infidelity? (Discussion of New Relationship energy.)
I will also cover the language of infidelity and of course my thesis topic itself, why do women experience guilt differently than men?
Have a question? Submit at www.suggestivetongue.com/ask and I’ll answer it on my blog.