Monday, March 9, 2015

The Definitive Guide to Infidelity

I've gotten a fair number of questions regarding infidelity over the last few years. Specifically, many people seem to be interested in learning how to identify if their partner is cheating on them. My psychologist side is fascinated with this topic because extramarital affairs are incredibly complex human behaviors that typically involve all sorts of hidden and not-so-hidden feelings, motives, and behaviors. My relationship blogger and writer side is interested because preventing affairs is one of the themes in my latest book No-Bone Zone. Before we tackle the nitty-gritty details, it's important to define exactly what we mean by "infidelity."

Operational Definition


The first definition I encountered on the 'Web is as follows:

"The action or state of being unfaithful to a spouse or other sexual partner."

It's not a bad definition, but requires us to define "unfaithful." How about this definition instead:

"The action or state of violating prenegotiated boundaries within the confines of an intimate relationship with a romantic and/or sexual partner."

I like this definition better because it allows different couples to define "infidelity" as they see fit. They can set clear expectations about what is allowed and not allowed. As such, "infidelity" happens when those boundaries are violated.

Prevalence


Finding statistics on the rate of infidelity is almost impossible because every study seems to return different statistics. Most find the rate of infidelity for women to be somewhere between 15% to 40% and men from 25% to 50%. If we exclude "sexual infidelity" and only consider "emotional infidelity", all of these numbers jump around 20% higher. If we ask people "if you would cheat if you had the opportunity and there is no chance you would get caught", both genders jump to an astonishing 70% or so.

Staggering numbers, right? 

The first time I came across these numbers, I was shocked. I assumed the subject pools had to be biased. That is until I started doing research for the aforementioned book. One of the most shocking pieces of data I found - the infidelity website ashleymadison.com has over 38 million registered members. 

Let that sink in for a moment. 

Okay, so infidelity is exceedingly common. Here's the weird part - according to a 2013 Gallup poll, 91% of Americans consider infidelity to be morally wrong. Given the majority of us would cheat if we knew we wouldn't get caught, this stat highlights our blatant hypocrisy on this issue. Even more interesting - that stat is trending upward even though the actual rate of infidelity is increasing. The more we cheat, the more it disgusts us. 

Is Cheating Ever Justified?


When it comes to questions of morality, there are no obvious right or wrong answers given the variability of individual mores. I've been spending a fair amount of time perusing Reddit's /r/DeadBedrooms subreddit. 

One thing became abundantly clear - many people's attitudes toward infidelity is directly related to their own situation. People that have been trapped in a sexless, extremely unhappy marriage are much more willing to consider infidelity, especially if they've made repeated attempts to solve their relationship problems via counseling, group therapy, etc. In this situation, the unhappy partner may be looking for an alternative partner when (not if... these relationships usually fall apart eventually) the relationship ends. If discovered, the relationship is likely going to end.

Another situation that comes up on occasion involves a very specific situation. You have a couple that's been together for a long time, usually a decade or more. They're both happy and pretty much fulfilled, but one partner wants to add a little sexual excitement AND they've discussed that need with their partner AND the partner cannot provide the sexual excitement. The partner with the itch may initiate a brief sexual encounter to scratch the itch, so to speak. They have no desire to leave their spouse, so there's no emotional component to the encounter. If discovered, the relationship may or may not end, though these are the situations that often lead couples to explore consensual nonmonogamy

Both situations are a moral slippery slope. Does the situation justify the behavior? Some say yes, many more say no. My take-away - as a society, we despise infidelity... until we're in a situation where it becomes at least a little bit appealing. Does this mean we should do it? Only the person making the decision can make that decision. 

Gender Differences


The widely-held societal belief is that cheating is a man's game. In fact, it's not uncommon for people, mostly women, to believe all men are cheaters. Indeed, men report engaging in more infidelity. But is that accurate? If we measure the actual number of people that cheat (versus asking them if they cheat), that gender difference disappears. It would be safe to assume men and women cheat at roughly the same rate, and often for the same reasons. So what are those reasons?

Reasons People Cheat


There are millions of possible reasons we may engage in extramarital sex. Humans are, after all, rationalizing creatures. Regardless of our morality or belief system, we do what we're driven to do then explain it afterward. Here are a few of the more common reasons a person may cheat:

  • Compulsive cheater: This is the category that invalidates pretty much everything else in the article. Compulsive cheaters are probably suffering from antisocial personality disorder (they're psychopaths that don't experience the normal range of human emotion.) They have always cheated on their partners at every opportunity and will continue to cheat in the future no matter how much you plead, negotiate, or threaten. 
  • Crime of opportunity: This describes the folks that usually do not intend on cheating. In fact, they may be completely happy and fulfilled, but are placed in a specific situation. That situation usually involves lowered inhibitions (usually via alcohol), a provocative environment (there's sexy stuff going on around them), there's a degree on anonymity,  the experience is likely going to be a one-time thing, and there's virtually no chance they could get caught. Some studies suggest upwards of 75% of both men and women would cheat in these conditions. The social psychologist in me wholeheartedly agrees. 
  • Boredom: As I'll mention throughout the article, sexual boredom is rampant in modern long-term relationships and the main reason I wrote No-Bone Zone. No matter how hot, sexy, or kinky our partner is, hedonistic adaptation sets in and we get bored. It's not an inevitability, but avoiding boredom is hard work few are willing to research and execute. That boredom eventually is what leads many people to seek out others.
  • Resentment: Resentment occurs in relationships because one or both partners aren't getting their needs met in some way. There's not enough affection, not enough sex, boring sex, one person does too many chores, one person always cares for the kids, one person works too much, etc. All are behaviors that breed resentment. The problems can usually be solved with communication. 
  • Revenge: "My partner cheated on me, therefore I am going to cheat on them."


Warning Signs


The following six scenarios are fairly reliable predictors of situations where one or both partners may consider initiating an extramarital affair. 

  • Sex has diminished in frequency and/or quality. Sexual satisfaction is one of the best predictors of infidelity. After the honeymoon period in relationships, sexual frequency and quality decrease. One partner typically becomes the "low libido" partner; the other becomes the "high libido" partner. This dynamic eventually creates a great deal of resentment and often sets up a situation where the high libido partner begins searching for another avenue to fulfill their needs. Oddly, sometimes affairs are started by the low libido partner. Their lack of sex drive could be caused by simply no longer being sexually attracted to their spouse. In either case, this "sexual boredom dynamic" is the situation that prompted me to write No-Bone Zone
  • The partner is feeling emotionally neglected. Sometimes affairs are started for emotional reasons instead of sexual reasons. When one partner's emotional needs aren't being met, they may look elsewhere. "Emotional affairs" are usually started innocently enough, but quickly spiral out of control due to something known as the restraint bias
  • One or both of you have limited sexual experience. So you wanna marry a virgin, huh? Aside from the lack of experience, having a limited number (i.e.- "one") of partners is a reliable predictor of extramarital affairs. Basically a person falls in love and has sex with their mate, the honeymoon ends, and they begin a slow dance toward a boring sex life. Because they've never experienced that cooling down period, the inexperienced partner wonders if the grass is greener on the other side. Many times, they hop the fence to frolic in the new field.
  • One or both of you are needy and require affirmations. People that need external validation (which usually coexists with low self-esteem, lack of confidence, poor body image, etc.) are more likely to have affairs because, well, it fuels their needs in a powerful way. This is one of the reasons confident people tend not to seek out extramarital sex.
  • One partner verbalizes their unhappiness. If there was ever a red flag of red flags, voicing unhappiness should be it. Most people report being blindsided by their partner's infidelity, but they just ignored the very obvious warning signs... and this is the most commonly-ignored. If they say it, they've probably been thinking it for a long, long time. 
  • Seven Year Itch. The entire premise of No Bone Zone is based on the idea that we're not very well-suited for monogamy, at least for long-term relationships that go beyond about four years. Very few of us possess the relationship skill set to effectively keep the passion alive for the long haul. One or both partners eventually succumb to sexual boredom, which eventually leads to affairs. Don't just assume your partner will always be faithful; the power of sexual yearning is greater than most peoples' resolve to remain faithful with unmet sexual needs. 


Extramarital Affair Behavior


The following is a large but still not comprehensive list of behaviors that could be indicators your partner is having an affair. Most of these, taken by themselves, do not constitute solid proof you're the victim of a cheating spouse. However, several taken together could be enough to warrant further investigation. 

  • Change in routine. We like our routines and only change them if absolutely necessary. If your partner is changing their routine for no discernible reason, they may be rearranging their schedule to meet up with their lover.
  • Unexplained absences. Affairs take time, and people engaging in affairs usually have excuses to explain where they were, why they were there, and how long they were there. Still, some absences may be unexplained because the details can get overwhelming. Those unexplained absences are usually a sign their were meeting someone else.
  • Too many or inconsistent details. All of us have a default level of detail we add when explaining or describing something. Few of us ever consciously pay attention to the level of detail we use. When we lie, we unintentionally provide either more or less detail than we would if we weren't lying. 
  • New underwear. Or in the case of women - matching bras and underwear. Both behaviors are typical of people in new relationships. While simply buying new underwear may just be an attempt to replace the ratty underwear they've had since college, pairing the new underwear with situations where they could be meeting their lover should be considered a red flag. 
  • Unusual bathing habits. If your partner is bathing more than usual, or bathing at odd times (like immediately after returning home from a "night out with friends"), it's probably not because they've developed OCD.
  • Sudden focus on appearance. If your partner is prettying themselves up more than usual, they're trying to impress someone. 
  • Sudden interest in fitness. This can be tricky because it's not uncommon for folks in their 30's and 40's to have an existential crisis about their mortality, realize they've treated their body like shit, and being frenetic workouts. This is also the age when a lot of people first consider having an affair. Two two often go hand in hand.
  • Emotionally distant. Consciously or unconsciously, we tend to spend our emotional capital on our highest emotional priorities. If a significant other becomes emotionally-distant, they're probably spending that capital elsewhere.
  • Sudden interest in a new hobby. Couples get to know each others' recreational outlets pretty well, including the motivation to do said hobbies. If your significant other takes up a new hobby with no obvious inspiration, their new lover may have given them the idea.
  • They become accusatory. Some people cover lies with a good offense. They respond to accusations with accusations of their own. This redirection is meant to end your questioning. 
  • They begin looking at you while talking on the phone or using the computer. This is subtle, but telling. If they're talking on the phone, texting, or using the computer and they glance in your direction repeatedly, they're probably being careful to keep you from seeing their activity. 
  • Foreign smells and tastes. When you've been with someone for a long time, you habituate to their smells and tastes. In other words, you don't really notice it. If you DO notice their tastes or smells, it's probably because they've changed, and odds are good they've changed because they're now mixed with the smells and tastes of a third party. For example...
  • Sex dramatically decreases. A loss of interest in sex can be caused by all sorts of things, including "they're getting it elsewhere."
  • Sex dramatically increases. Weird, I know, but sometimes sex begets more sex, and the unfaithful partner will begin being much more sexually assertive and initiate more often.
  • Sex gets inexplicably mechanical. When people start affairs and get emotionally-attached to their new partner, they often distance themselves emotionally from their original partner. That's often manifested by a lack of emotion when having sex. It feels far more mechanical than it did in the past.
  • Shaving routine changes. We tend to shave on a fairly predictable schedule. When we're in a long-term relationship, we tend to... how do I say this delicately... we tend to let shaving go a little longer than we did when we were single. A dramatic increase in shaving frequency is a sign your partner is trying to impress someone with their silky smooth skin. The more intimate the area being shaved, the bigger the red flag. 
  • Unusual travel. Any unusual solo travel, for work or pleasure, should be viewed with suspicion. 
  • They bust out new moves. New sexual moves, no matter how subtle, are always a red flag. In my experience, very few people actually spend time researching better sexual techniques. Most learn new stuff from new partners. 
  • Begins to volunteer for opportunities to get out of the house. If they're abruptly volunteering to run errands, they may be using the opportunity to meet or communicate with their lover.
  • Sudden interest in new foods. We're creatures of habit, especially as far as food is concerned. If your spouse develops an interest in a new type of food, they may have been introduced to that food by the person they're cheating with. 
  • Passwords. New, unknown passwords or passwords on devices that were previously unlocked is always a damning sign. 
  • Unusual mileage, gas consumption. When people engage in extramarital sex, they usually have to travel somewhere. If there's an unexplained increase in their car mileage or money spent on gas, they could be driving somewhere to meet their lover.
  • Scratches or bruises. If your spouse has a bite-shaped bruise on their ass or claw marks down their back, well, you know where that's going.
  • Unusual attachment to phone. If your partner suddenly becomes noticeably attached to their phone, odds are good they're guarding it for a reason. And that reason is almost always because they're hiding an affair.
  • Unexpected gifts. Infidelity typically induces guilt, which is often alleviated by giving gifts. These gifts are tend to be rather expensive. 
  • Stops asking about your day. When we enter into relationships, we develop scripts that we more or less follow every day. One of the most common elements are "how was your day" questions. A disruption in that pattern usually means they no longer care about your day and aren't careful enough to maintain that pattern.
  • They stop using pet names. If they've always called you "Schmoopie" but suddenly refer to you by name, they're distancing themselves emotionally.
  • They begin subtly engaging in attempts to guide you towards other partners. This is a weird phenomenon, but should always be a HUGE red flag. If your significant other seems to be subtly trying to set you up, odds are good they already have your replacement lined up.
  • Digital hiding and/or deleting, emptied trash. Discrepancies between phone bill records of calls and texts and the actual calls and texts saved on your significant other's phone can be a sign of infidelity. Also, electronic messages moved to the trash or, more damning, emptied trash (assuming they were never OCD about emptying the trash before) can be signs they're hiding something.
  • Loss of weight. This may be intentional (to look better) or unintentional (falling for someone causes our appetite to be suppressed for a few months.) 
  • Lack of sleep. New relationships cause a release of a lot of neurotransmitters, many of which inhibit sleep. Also, the stress of keeping the secret can make it difficult to relax enough to get to or stay asleep.
  • They increase complaints about your family and friends. When someone is our highest priority, we tend to avoid criticizing the other people in their life. Those critiques will increase when their priority slips.
  • Begin talking about other couples going through divorce. Other couples are always getting married and divorced. If your significant other starts talking about these more than they may have in the past, it's probably because they're weighing those relationships against your own. 
  • Avoids long-term plans. People in long-term relationships tend to make long-term plans. People in long-term relationships that are having affairs tend to avoid making long-term plans.
  • Unusual washing of clothes or bedding. Are they washing the sheets daily when they may have only washed them weekly? Are they doing laundry after getting home from a night out with friends? Any change in laundry habits could be suspicious.
  • Once-endearing things now annoy them. Do you laugh like a hyena? Did they also find that trait to be cute, but now can't stand it? Red flag.
  • They flirt with a proxy. Odds are good your partner isn't going to flirt with the person they're having an affair with in your presence, but they may flirt with others in an attempt at misdirection. 
  • They begin talking about the nature of love and/or relationships. This may be done consciously or unconsciously, but a new fascination with relationship dynamics usually means our spouse is assessing the nature of your relationship and may be comparing it with the relationship they're forging with someone else.
  • Sick days. If your significant other is supposed to be at work and they take a sick day without telling you, odds are good they're meeting up with someone. 
  • Dating apps, websites. If you find an app like Tinder (or Grindr... we don't discriminate), accounts on dating websites like match.com, or adultery websites like asleymadison.com, your significant other's phone or tablet, that's usually a pretty good sign they're playing the field.
  • They stop doing household chores or maintenance. When we check out of a situation, our commitment to the trappings of that situation decreases. That includes household responsibilities. 
  • Unusual anxiety. Having an affair causes stress due to the ever-present danger of being caught. If the cheater is falling for the other person, it's also likely that process will cause what appears to be constant low levels of nervous energy that are impossible to hide.
  • Faster talking and moving. This is tied to anxiety. When we're falling for someone, the adrenaline release causes neural transmissions to speed up. Not only does it produce anxiety, but we talk and move a little faster than we would normally.
  • Sudden increase in time spent with friends. A "guys' or girls' night out" is a common cover story used to hide affairs. If your significant other seems to be spending a lot more time with their friends, they're probably not spending a lot more time with friends.
  • Toilet seat. This one is pretty much exclusive to an unknown man being in a bathroom. If the toilet seat is normally down and it's inexplicably left up, there's a pretty good chance it was a detail overlooked by the cheating couple.
  • Towels. Most families use a predictable number of towels. If there's an unexplained increase in dirty towels without an obvious explanation, it could be caused by a third party showering and/or cleaning up after sex in your house. 
  • Weird phone calls. An increase in hang-ups, sales calls, or calls received in the middle of the night are all possible signs something is going on. 
  • Birth control. Unexpected changes in birth control methods can be a red flag. Typically, women may being using the pill, a diaphragm, or another method for no apparent reason. It's less likely, but the sudden insistence on using condoms (by either gender) can be a red flag they're concerned about a possible STD infection. Passing it to you would provide concrete evidence of infidelity.
  • Different behavior at family gatherings. Spouses will develop patterns that define their interaction with both their family members and your family members. If they're having an affair, both interactions usually change. They may suddenly get closer to their own family and farther from yours. 
  • They become overly concerned about YOUR schedule. Affairs tend to be time-intensive activities that require a degree of careful planning. The cheating spouse will usually have to plan around their significant other's schedule, so they may take a new-found interest in your comings and goings. They may also do this if they suspect you of having an affair.
  • Different attitude toward kids. Children are often the unintended victims of adultery because of the relationship strife that can occur when the affair is discovered. Before that point, however, a spouse's behavior towards children will often change. The unfaithful parent may either lavish the children with attention or ignore them completely. They may also attempt to alleviate guilt by showering the children with gifts.
  • Change in "I love you" habits. People typically give out "I love you" sentiments in a relatively predictable manner. When someone is engaging in an extramarital affair, that rate may increase or decrease. 
  • They suddenly become forgetful. I like to call this the "Ronald Reagan defense mechanism." When people create a web of lies, keeping track of truths and lies becomes increasingly difficult. People intentionally or unintentionally forget stuff. That sudden change in memory skills usually means they're hiding something.
  • Change in Internet habits, no browser history. A significant increase in time spent online, browser history that includes anything suspicious (like a Google search for "how to cover your affair"), or deleted browser history can all be suspicious. 
  • Sudden increase in jealous behaviors. Whenever we engage in undesirable behaviors, we have a tendency to assume other people also engage in the same behaviors. It's not unusual for a cheating spouse to become hypersensitive to the very behaviors they're doing when trying to cover their tracks. The result? They suddenly get much more jealous than they were previously. 
  • Sudden decrease in jealous behaviors. The opposite could also happen. 
  • Wedding rings. If you wear wedding rings (Shelly and I rarely if ever wear ours), watch their habits. If you catch them without it, that's usually a good sign they're removing it because of an affair. Also, look for tanning under the ring, which would indicate they're taking it off during the day.
  • Change in religious habits. Affairs cause guilt and religion can greatly amplify guilt. Most people react by backing away from their religious practices, though some may increase (they're trying to compensate.)
  • Become unusually critical: When people cheat, they may or may not be in the process of leaving the relationship. To mentally prepare for that, it's not uncommon for the cheater to "pre-rationalize" leaving by highlighting their partner's flaws. If they do leave, it makes the decision easier to justify.
  • Their friends or co-workers suddenly become socially-awkward around you. Spouses that have affairs will go to great lengths to plan and anticipate interactions with you, so they tend to be fairly well-prepared to lie. Their friends and co-workers are not. If they suddenly start acting uncomfortable around you in any way, they probably know of the affair and are trying to hide it.
  • Unusual expenses. Any significant deviation in spending habits should be viewed with caution, especially large (like two people were eating) restaurant tabs, movie tickets, jewelry stores, hotel rooms, etc.
  • Gifts. When people first get together, gift-giving is extremely common. New objects that inexplicably appear, especially stereotypical "romantic" gifts like cards or jewelry, likely came from a new love interest.
  • New music tastes, new interest in literary genres, movies, or TV shows. Humans have a weird tendency to adopt the habits of their romantic interests, and people having affairs are no different. A new-found interest in any of these is a potential red flag. 
  • Burner phone. If you find a second secret phone, they're either having an affair or peddling meth. 
  • Their eyes change. This is subtle, but people will adopt a slightly different "gaze pattern" if they're trying to hide something. Bad liars avoid eye contact more than normal. Good liars use more eye contact than normal. People that have recently fallen in love (or are getting novel sex) tend to have brighter, more sparkly eyes. 
  • Excessive daydreaming. This is another very subtle sign, but if your significant other seems to be lost in thought A LOT more, there's something that's capturing their interest. 
  • New credit cards or bank accounts in their name only. This is a classic "covering your financial tracks" move.
  • Trace evidence left in pockets, purses, or cars. Receipts, movie ticket stubs, wrappers or containers from new restaurants, condom wrappers, etc. can be physical evidence of infidelity. 
  • Increased anger, starting an unusual number of arguments. Anger is a fairly common emotion cheaters express because they've probably been suppressing a great deal of resentment towards their significant other. Now that they have a potential option in the new partner, they're more likely to express those previously-suppressed feelings.
  • Seat position moves. We're creatures of habit. When many people get into a car, they adjust the seat. If your significant other's passenger seat moves and you're the only person that normally sits there, it had to be moved by someone. The same can be said about things in the back seat. If nobody normally rides back there and stuff is moved around for no logical reason, odds are good people were back there for a reason.
  • Increased happiness. New relationships tend to make people happy, which is difficult to suppress. If a significant other suddenly seems happier for no obvious reason, they could be riding the high of a new relationship.
  • Hoarding cash, sudden concern for finances. People that suddenly show an interest in finances are usually either interested in hiding something OR calculating the feasibility of splitting the finances. People that are hoarding cash are usually using the cash to fund secret affairs or preparing to leave the relationship.
  • STD's. I alluded to this one earlier in the list. Contrary to popular belief, you can't contract gonorrhea from a tractor seat. If you suddenly have an STD and you're not having sexual contact with anyone besides your significant other, you can be certain they contracted it from a third party.
  • The other person's name comes up in conversation more than usual. Most people will avoid mentioning their elicit lover's name in conversations. A few people will resist that by doing the exact opposite - they'll talk about the person more than would be expected in normal conversation. Think of it as a compensation behavior.
  • They become overly defensive. We normally get defensive when we feel we're under attack. We also get defensive when we're being questioned about something we're trying to hide. The behavior is driven by a desire to dissuade the questioner from asking questions.
  • They hire a divorce lawyer. This one usually doesn't require a lot of additional detective work...

How to Catch the Cheater


  • Track. Tracking your significant other's movements and communications is the first step towards catching the cheating spouse. Fortunately, technology makes that really easy these days. If your spouse has a smart phone, all operating systems have the capability (usually turned on by default) to track and save geographic location data. Do a Google search for their particular phone to learn how to access that data. Computer usage can be tracked with commercial keylogger software, and searches are usually recorded by search engines. For example, when you sign in to Google, it records all your searches by default. You should also track all communications, financial records, and behavioral changes. If you are thorough, it probably won't take more than a few weeks to find a definitive answer.
  • Document. This sort of goes without saying, but keep detailed records of the tracking you're doing. Record times, dates, locations, names, email addresses, phone numbers, and whatever else may be of use. I would recommend using some sort of journal to record the data, but keep the journal well-hidden. If they're having an affair, it should become painfully obvious. 
  • Consider options. How you proceed is entirely dependent on your particular situation. The most common options are to confront, then either try to fix the relationship or leave the relationship. Some people choose to ignore the infidelity. While I really don't recommend it, that option may work for some. A less traveled route that's gaining in popularity - consider consensual nonmonogamy. Regardless of your decision, do not confront your significant other without first developing a plan.
  • Develop a plan. Regardless of the option you choose, it's important to develop a plan. If you choose to stay, how will you work through the inevitable shitstorm of emotions? Is individual or couples counseling an option? What if they don't want to stay in the relationship? If it's ending, how will you share custody of the kids or split up material possessions? What about living arrangements? All of these things need to be considered. 
  • Question using "volatile conundrum" technique. Once you collect enough info to know they're cheating, have considered your options, and developed a plan, it's time to set a trap to potentially confront them. Because people will almost always deny having an affair, it's best to catch them in an indisputable lie. For this, you can utilize a volatile conundrum. A volatile conundrum is an ingenious technique used to safely test is someone is telling a lie. It works like this. Let's say your spouse was supposedly running to the grocery store, but was gone for a suspiciously long time AND you're fairly confident they're lying. When they return, you give them a fabricated "incident" like "I'm glad you're home. I was listening to the news and the grocery store was robbed shortly after you left. Are you okay?" The spouse must now make a decision - lie about being there for the robbery OR dispute the robbery. If they go along with the lie and claim to have been there for the robbery ("Yeah, it was pretty scary. The police questioned all of us"), you know they were lying. If they dispute the robbery ("I was there and didn't see the robbery or the police"), you know they were telling the truth. At that point, you can use an "out" like "Huh, I must have misheard the report. I was in the kitchen and it was hard to hear the details of the story." The out effectively hides your suspicion until more evidence can be collected OR you're able to catch them in a lie. So let's assume you caught them in a lie and it's time to confront...
  • Confront them. So you caught them in a lie using the volatile conundrum. Now it's time to put them plan in action. Odds are good they're not going to admit to the affair even after being caught in the obvious lie, so be prepared to present some (but not all) of the information you collected. Always keep a few cards hidden in case they continue to deny it. Explain your plan. Depending on your decision, you can discuss or negotiate where you go from this point. It's going to suck balls, but this is necessary regardless of the future.

A Slightly Different Perspective


Remember the earlier section where I discussed the definition of "infidelity?" I mentioned we should define it as crossing negotiated barriers the couple decides, not use a blanket definition society tells us we should use. Why is this concept so important?

My polyamory friends were the first to introduce me to the idea that "cheating" should be a nonexistent idea because it's based on the belief that we have ownership over our mate. As such, we have no right to determine what they can and can't do, ergo there can be no such thing as "cheating." 

I have mixed feelings about this concept. I agree in principle, but believe the practical implications simply deviate too far what we consider to be the societal norm to be useful for most couples. Still, I was curious about how this concept would work in a non-poly couple. Nicole, the contributor that has been writing the "Confessions of a Female Swinger" posts, gave her thoughts:

"My husband and I have talked about boundary-setting at length, and our boundaries are always adjusting. We give each other far more latitude than many couples would be comfortable giving, but we do still have clearly-defined boundaries.
Even though we're swingers, there are behaviors that would be cheating. Early in our swinging days, we would sometimes get lost in the moment and cross a line. For example, we had established a "no kissing" rule. One night, in the heat of the moment, I kissed a guy. It led to a minor fight which actually turned into a good conversation about why we had that particular rule in the first place. Eventually we both agreed it was silly and got rid of it.
Does the poly crowd have a point? Maybe, maybe not, but I don't buy that they don't have boundaries. I just think their boundaries are more relaxed than most, including us. If it works for them, great. For us, finding that barrier for our own special place just the two of us can enjoy is the point of us being together. That's ours to share; that's our commitment to each other."

Conclusion


So ya read this whole post, huh? Odds are good your attention to read through a 5,000 word blog post is fueled by either the suspicion your significant other is or about to cheat OR you're in a situation where you're considering cheating yourself. If you suspect your significant other, this post should you you plenty of tools to help discover the truth. If you're the one considering it - tread lightly. There's a reason it's the most common reason people get divorced; it destroys the trust that's the foundation of any intimate relationship. If you're considering it, have a conversation with your significant other. Who knows, they might be having the exact same thoughts.


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