Given our increasing life expectancy, you’ve probably heard the argument that monogamy is simply unrealistic over the long haul. For those in committed relationships who’ve been ballsy enough to put their trust in another person and put their heart on the line, this sounds a whole lot like a convenient justification for cheating.
Polyamorous and open relationships can be successful in the right set of circumstances (and with plenty of communication), but most couples are still hoping for faithfulness and monogamy. And for the traditionally committed couples who’ve agreed to no hanky-panky on the side, cheating can be a total deal breaker.
The bad news is that the actual numbers on cheating are hard to come by, since most cheaters, malicious or accidental, are prone to denial. But 2005 research from the
Journal of Marital and Family Therapy indicated that the amount of cheating going on behind closed doors may be lower than we first imagined. In a comprehensive review of the existing infidelity research, scientists discovered from data collected in the 1990s that only 13 percent of people admitted to having extramarital sex. Overall, researchers found that cheating occurred in less than 25 percent of committed relationships, with men dabbling more often than women.
While there’s no reason to get yourself into a tizzy over nothing, there are a few important things about monogamy for you to understand. First, the odds are low that your partner is going to cheat, so you can start by giving them the benefit of the doubt. And second, communication and awareness are key to addressing any issues that look suspicious — if you see one or more of the cheating warning signs below, talk to your partner about it ASAP, and consider checking out couple’s therapy.
1. Your partner has cheated before
Sadly the old wisdom holds water — cheaters cheat, says Dr. Tina B. Tessina (aka “Dr. Romance”), psychotherapist and author of
Money, Sex, and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage. “That’s why it’s inadvisable to marry someone who was cheating in an affair with you — when you’re the spouse, you’ll get cheated on. People who feel entitled to sex any way they can get it will always rationalize cheating and just keep doing it,” she explains.
2. Habits change
If your partner suddenly or gradually stops coming home on time when they used to arrive home at 6 p.m. sharp, this is not a good sign at all, Dr. Tessina says. Habit changes, like dressing better, spending more money or dodging phone calls, are all big red flags that could indicate cheating.
3. Random gifts are given
OK, OK, we’re certainly not suggesting that you look a gift horse in the mouth and accuse your guy or gal of cheating when they bring you flowers on a whim, but Dr. Tessina reminds us that “guilt gifts” are common when someone is getting nookie on the side. If a partner who has never thought to buy you flowers before suddenly starts bringing home roses on the regular, something may be amiss.