By Amanda Tonoli
The other day I watched my friend cry her eyes out in the middle of Applebee’s over dinner. She kept asking what she had done wrong. It had happened again — yet another boyfriend cheated on her, and she was beginning to blame herself.
That’s one of the many struggles someone goes through after being cheated on. It drives them mad — the thought that if they had done something different their partner would not have sought out someone else. The feeling of betrayal never really goes away. But cheating in relationships is far more complicated than this, with a bountiful heaping of effects — some we even choose to ignore.
In “Rx for Infidelity: When Infidelity Has Invaded Your Head, Heart and Sexual Health” published in The Huffington Post in January, Sherrie Campbell discusses the act of cheating and the residual wounds it leaves — physically, mentally and emotionally.
“Infidelity is on the rise in our culture. Women and men are having affairs in equal numbers, and it is destroying the American concept of marriage,” Campbell said. “The emotional turmoil of being the person cheated on creates lifelong damage in the areas of trust, self-love, and being emotionally and mentally healthy.”
The old “forgive and forget” saying can still hold true to some people; however, I think the actual practice of forgetting such disloyalty isn’t ever truly achievable. Having someone be unfaithful to you changes the way you embark on your next relationship, perhaps causing you to err on the side of caution rather than jumping in full force like you would’ve previously.
The emotional scars aren’t the only wounds you can receive from being cheated on. Another ugly part of the aftermath of someone being unfaithful is the risk you take when you decide to be sexually active: STDs. Although you weren’t sleeping with multiple people unprotected, your partner has suddenly put you at risk as if you were. Worse yet, as Campbell notes, if you contracted a disease that isn’t curable, it will forever remain as a reminder of this infidelity.
“The affair transcended from being emotionally destructive to physically destructive,” Campbell said.
But why do people cheat? Personally, I think it’s because some are too immature to end a relationship, so they simply move on first and end it later. However, in “Women Who Cheat on Relationships” published in Psychology Today in October 2013, Robert Weiss puts scientific research to work to better explain why people cheat.
“In short, women are usually interested in sex that includes — or at least hints at — some sort of emotional or relationship connection, while men are typically seeking a purely objectified sexual experience,” Weiss said. “Both scientific and nonscientific research confirms this dichotomy.”
Weiss acknowledges how technology has made cheating even easier and likely a little confusing — blurring the lines a bit more.
“The playing field is — thanks to digital technology — quite literally endless,” Weiss said. “No longer is the pool of potential partners limited to people physically encountered in day-to-day life.”
Further, Weiss reminds us that infidelity extends beyond just the physical aspects. Now that we have the privilege of being in constant communication with one another, certain types of communication — without even being physical — can be cheating. Even feeling something for someone else in a way that would be inappropriate if your partner knew is a precursor.
“Relationship infidelity can be incredibly damaging on many levels,” Weiss said. “Interestingly, it is usually not any specific sexual or romantic act that hurts the most. Instead, it’s the keeping of secrets and the constant lying that causes the most pain.”
If you want to move on, have the decency to tell the other person before you do so, even if you’re afraid of hurting them. If you fail to do so, you have the potential to damage them far worse by being deceitful rather than hurting them with the truth.