Cheating in a relationship is common but no one person ever gets used to it. You don’t get used to being cheated on no matter how well you might have learned to deal with it over time. Just like death, cheating hurts each time, in a fresh way and you always wish it hadn’t happened. So how do most of us react to it? Well, some cry, fight, confront, hope for a miracle, pray the person changes, revenge or just walk away and end the relationship.
Cheating is not always about who’s slept with whom–it comes in all forms and some are more painful or subtle than others.
Emotional: This is when your spouse has feelings for someone else. They are with you, they choose to be with you, but they have feelings for someone else (oh, and some for you, of course). You can spend a lifetime with someone and never discover they are secretly interested in another. Plus, anyone including yourself, can develop feelings for someone other than your spouse at any point before or during your relationship and it may in all honesty be purely accidental. If you are loyal, then you will not pursue these feelings. However, this will not change the fact that emotionally you are torn between two or more people beside your current spouse. There will be times when you suspect something is off with your spouse but it can always be explained away. It may be that they are stressed with work lately, going through some crisis, plain bored, naturally introverted, or something that will forever protect this painful truth from being revealed.
Psychological: When we are much younger we imagine ourselves in love with the perfect man or woman and for some of us it feels so real. We live out this imaginary love or relationship totally in our heads. We have conversations, walks, dates and more with this person all in our head. Normally this happens before people actually find their special someone in real life but it can still happen when you are in a committed relationship or marriage. In the mind, your spouse and those around you cannot eavesdrop nor snoop on you to see or hear what you are doing or who you hang out with. It can happen especially when you use this mental relationship as an escape route or a way to cope with your real spouse’s inconvenient tendencies such as nagging, quarreling, tantrums, lies, selfishness, arrogance, and whatever else that makes it uncomfortable continuing the relationship. Did I say ‘continuing the relationship’? Yes. This is because, a mental relationship can be your way of respecting your commitment while freeing yourself up psychologically to give love with another person (imaginary) a chance. It may also be a way of the cheating spouse to comfort themselves by imagining their ideal love life with their ideal spouse when the possibility of it ever happening seems impossible due to the current reality.
Physical: That moment when your spouse interacts with someone they are interested in in more physical ways like handshakes, hugs, face to face or over-the-phone conversations, coincidental meetings, quick glances and the like. Think of this as a more innocent interaction. They get a chance to engage and be in each other’s company even from a distance or just for a minute or seconds. Here, they don’t do anything that would make you suspicious and if ever you became suspicious, it would seem like you are just ‘imagining’ things. Chances are you will very much feel like a fool and with time you will believe you really might be insecure and maybe ‘imagining’ things like they said. Since the world is all for ‘do you have any proof?’, you may never have evidence for this kind of cheating, you may never even find out it’s happening and if you do and your spouse gets to know about it they may stop interacting with that person just to make you happy or save your relationship but will now resort more likely to the mental (pursuing the relationship in their minds) and chances are the other person will be doing the same.
Moral: Your spouse ‘ends’ up with you. It’s more like if they had a choice or if they could turn back time or if it was entirely up to them they would rather be with someone else. This kind of cheating is common when religion is involved- your spouse commits to you because their and your religion forces them to be with someone of the same spiritual convictions even when their heart is with someone that doesn’t share the same spiritual beliefs. It happens when you are already engaged to someone, are planning your wedding only for the ‘love of your life’ to show up; out of obligation and respect you must go on with your engagement and cannot cancel your wedding but inside you, you know your heart’s been ‘married’ off to this other person. Also, it can be that you are married, happily but loveless and yet your spouse stays true to the marriage in respect of that ring, the memories, your friends, and family, the ‘kids’, but they would rather be out of it or with someone else. Their moral obligation and a pinch of love keeps them in the relationship but not enough to keep them from falling in love with someone else and pursuing that other relationship or feelings in any of the forms we have talked about so far.
Gratitude: It’s good to be nice and help people out especially when it is someone you would like to have a future with. Go ahead and pay off their debts, sponsor them through school, cater for their parents’ hospital bills. Do they love you, of course they do? But with time, they may stay not because they have grown in love with you more and more over time but because your acts of kindness ‘force’ them to reciprocate with ‘loyalty’. It will hurt you if they left, especially if they left to be with someone else after you have spent so much on them. You tell yourself and you often take the opportunity to indirectly remind them you expect them to be ‘grateful’ for all the sacrifices you have made and to show it by being with you in return. In a way, you are the cause of this. If you don’t expect them to stay just because you have done this or that for them then they will be really selfish to stay anyway even when they are interested in someone else and whether or not this is the case—yes, they will be using you and you will be offering yourself up to be used.
Business: This is common with arranged marriages. When two families get their children to be joined in marriage just to secure business ties, business deals, or as a way to strengthen political ties with each other then you can expect almost anything to go wrong. The couple may agree to see other people secretly or one of them is going to be interested in someone else outside their union but pretend usually out of fear or respect or both. This type of cheating spouse stays in the relationship as a form of sacrifice—sacrificing their own happiness for that of their family’s or parents’ business or political ambitions. In some arranged marriages or relationships it’s made clear that neither spouse should expect total commitment but it still doesn’t change the fact that it would be cheating if one or both of them started pursuing a relationship with someone else.
Ridiculous: This annoys more than it hurts us when we find out the absurd reason for our spouse’s unfaithfulness. It happens, that whether or not you are having a healthy relationship or marriage, your significant other decides to pick a most pathetic choice for their cheating: they cheat on you with someone old enough to be their parent or someone young enough to be your grandchild; they get sexual with pets (it happens); they get intimate with their sibling; or they ‘slap you in the face’ by choosing to have an affair with someone their gender. With this form of cheating, you will usually find yourself acting different because when we think of people cheating we don’t usually think of it in these terms. So, when this happens to you, you feel hurt obviously, but most get to feel annoyed, speechless, disgusted alright, shocked but more so, insulted.
Intimate: Here is when the mental and physical get more romantic and your spouse actually becomes more sexually involved with the other person. One thing we tend to overlook is that being sexual in nature doesn’t have to be that they are having intercourse. Let’s imagine for a moment that your special someone has for weeks been secretly spending their August napping the afternoons away with their lover (full clothes on all the time and nothing more happening). Would you walk in on them and go like ‘ah well, they are just two adults having a harmless moment’, help cover them better so they don’t catch a cold, read them a bed time story, go to the kitchen and fix them something, would you? Of course not, there are so many ways of being intimate, sexual and yet not engage in actual intercourse with someone. This is just so next time your spouse cheats, try to be a little more specific what you mean and this will help your reaction be a little more appropriate when you know more exactly what you are dealing with and how best to go about it.
So, the next time you google the internet, read a dating book, or talk to a friend to help you know for sure if your spouse is cheating, remember that because cheating comes in all forms, most of which are not obvious, there might never be any actual ‘evidence’ and that it may be more sensible for you to just believe your intuition. If something is wrong, you will feel it; If something is off, you will know. If you keep dismissing the suspicions and after months or years, fresh ones spring up, then like I said believe your intuition or as others may say ‘just go with your gut’. What then do you do if they are cheating and you still want to hang in there? Well, that’s discussed in another article.