Tuesday, September 9, 2014
5 ways to stay faithful if you’re tempted to cheat
Things were just getting cozy: your toothbrush had taken up permanent residence in her medicine cabinet; he’d finally seen you without concealer on. Then, it happened. You developed a little lust in your heart for someone else and, understandably, you’re feeling a bit evil. Guilty? Panicked? All of the above? Relax. Just because your eye has wandered doesn’t necessarily mean your morals are down the drain. In fact, “A temptation to cheat can be a great catalyst to get a relationship back on track,” says Linda Olson, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and radio host based in New Canaan, CT. So now what do you do? Here are five options to consider as you sort out this difficult situation.
Option 1: Keep your crush to yourself
When the urge to stray isn’t overwhelming — say, when you’re feeling only a slight attraction as opposed to an all-out obsession — and you know you’ll be able to stay away from your crush, silence may be the best solution. “I never told anyone about the time I almost crossed the line with an attorney I’d been working with,” says *Mary of Pittsburgh, PA. “I’d been feeling insecure about my looks and this man was giving me more attention than I was getting from my boyfriend, so naturally, I couldn’t get him out of my head. But when he asked me out, I finally came to my senses and realized just how much I’d be giving up if I cheated. If I told my guy that I’d been tempted, it would only hurt him.”
Just be sure that you’re being honest with yourself (if not your partner) about what you’re feeling. Otherwise, the less-is-more approach to disclosure can backfire, warns Dr. Olson. “[Some people are in a situation where] the more they deny their temptation, the more likely they are to act on it,” she explains.
Option 2: Come clean with your partner about the issue
Telling your partner about fantasies of getting romantic attention from another probably seems like relationship suicide. He or she may find it hard to trust you again, even if you never gave in to the temptation. But then again, if your dynamic is strong enough to withstand brutal honesty, “telling your partner what’s going on can prevent a crisis,” says Dr. Olson. “Be specific about why you considered straying in a non-accusatory way,” she adds. “Saying ‘I feel as if we need to be more spontaneous’ is far less blaming than a statement like, ‘You’re not spontaneous enough for me.’”
Option 3: Vent to a trustworthy friend about it to keep yourself in check
Friends can be great (not to mention free!) sounding boards when you need a safe place to sort through what’s going on in your hormone-addled head. Just be careful who you share your frustrations with, warns Dr. Olson, who advises carefully considering whether you admire your friend’s moral standards and discretion before you speak. *Quencey from Atlanta, GA knows that from experience: “I loved my girlfriend, but this beautiful coworker was making it clear that she didn’t care that I was attached. I turned to my friend, DJ, for moral support. At first he told me to be strong. But when I told him the woman had made a pass at me during a working lunch, DJ said, ‘I’d go for it! Why not?’ Thankfully, I didn’t heed DJ’s advice; I think he was a victim of vicarious thinking,” says Quencey, who ended up marrying his girlfriend. To avoid his dilemma, Dr. Olson suggests that you explain that the best thing your friend can do for you is to listen without editorializing before unburdening yourself.
Option 4: Ask for a professional’s take on the situation
A little time with a therapist at the first sign of an illicit attraction can help you figure out why you were tempted to cheat and give you the tools to communicate your needs to your partner, says Dr. Olson. Even you do decide to confess to your partner you’ve felt the urge to stray, go solo for at least the first few sessions before doing so. You’ll need to feel as if you can honestly discuss your needs, desires and shortcomings — which wouldn’t be possible if your partner was sitting right there in the session with you. Once you’ve laid your cards on the table with the expert, you can plan the best way to broach the topic with your partner and see if couples counseling is in order.
Option 5: Get out of the relationship before infidelity occurs
Let’s face it: temptation to cheat can sometimes signal that a relationship isn’t working out. “My boyfriend and I had been together for two years, but the real love of his life was his job,” says *Tawny of Baton Rouge, LA. “I was starved for attention. One day, I put my profile back up on a dating site and started hanging out with an old male friend. Part of me wanted to cheat just to get some affection. But I finally realized that I needed to pull myself out of this going-nowhere relationship before I did something that would make me feel bad about myself. I’m single again, but at least I didn’t compromise my principles,” she says.
When is it time to go? Ask yourself, What are my relationship needs that aren’t currently being met? Security? Warmth? More affection? “Now consider whether this person will ever be able to meet those needs,” suggests Dr. Olson. Another question: Does your supposed “significant other” still feel significant to you? “Once you’ve lost respect for someone, there’s usually very little left to work with. When you find yourself constantly tuning that person out, it’s a bad sign,” says Dr. Olson. Should you decide to give up, know that it’s by no means an easy way out. “Having the sense to leave before a betrayal occurs is a very courageous thing to do,” says Dr. Olson.