Why cheating will always be with us.

I have a wonderful variety of friends.  Some are happily partnered and monogamous.  They joke “I can only handle one partner.” They just feel comfortable in a marriage like “mom and dad”.  Others feel with children, monogamy is just the most comfortable option.  I know one couple that said they will consider open marriage, but only when they feel the children  are old enough to deal with the subject.  They feel “sneaking around” and “hiding” that part of their life from their children would be dishonest in a family that values honesty.  Often it is hard to be “open” about having an “open relationship”.

We all have to define marriage for ourselves, but respect should be part of any relationship

We all have to define marriage for ourselves, but respect should be part of any relationship

The stigma society still places on this subject has made many people feel they have to be discreet about their open marriage choice with family, friends and work.

There are those that feel “open relationships” will cure cheating and help keep the divorce rate down.  They make a good point, many marriages end because of “cheating”, however studies seem to show that the number one predictor of divorce appears to be disagreements about money.

I have to agree is that I think the biggest problem most people have with cheating isn’t the sex, it’s the lies.  Many a marriage has been saved when both partners have sat down and agreed that an open relationship is the best thing for their marriage.  Does sleeping with someone else you are attracted to mean you have to lose full custody of your children, and also the joy of living with your best friend and partner?  While not for me, I respect couples that sit down and honestly have this conversation at some point in their relationship.  It then is no longer “cheating”.

I know a couple that has clearly defined rules, no missing children’s events for another partner, no children with the other partners (financially it would effect all partners if child support was needed), no bringing home STDs, and no large purchases with family money for another partner without the approval of both partners that are married.  As in any relationship, they claim the number one problem they have with an open relationship is money.  As it is the number one thing married couples fight about,  it makes sense open relationship relationships will also fight about this topic.  Their worst fight wasn’t over sex, it was over the husband buying a new expensive TV for one of his long time partners for a holiday gift, and using the children’s college fund to pay for it. He replaced the money, and the “no big gifts without approval by all” rule was started.  It’s not “open no rules swinging” for the people I know in open relationships.  There are as many rules, and as much respect expected, as with any traditional relationship.

One important rule, keep it covered!  Share the love but not anything else!

One important rule, keep it covered! Share the love but not anything else!

Still, the perfect world of happily openly married couples, with low divorce rates, will never fully replace cheating.  That’s because the world is full of people not willing to treat others with the respect that any relationship demands.

The people I have known over the years that cheat, for the most part, do not cheat because they are too afraid to ask for an open relationship with their partner.  I’ve suggested often “why don’t you talk to your wife/husband about having an open relationship.  This cheating business seems like it involves a lot of sneaking around and lies.”  It did not take me long to figure out that ,for some, it is the sneaking around and lies that makes cheating so much fun.

Cheating can take a life ,that is perhaps a bit dull and sneaking into middle age,  exciting.  “It’s the chance that you can be caught that makes it so much fun.” one co worker confided.  Nothing can come closer in their lives to  a James Bond lifestyle than figuring out an elaborate ruse to fool your wife you are at a convention, when you are really at a hotel in New York with your “girlfriend”.  Meeting your boyfriend for lunch, and having to drive towns away so perhaps no one will recognize you, is also a “lot of fun” I’ve been told.  One woman told me she dresses up, so she doesn’t look like her usual jeans and tshirt mom, and sometimes even wears a wig and sunglasses.  I tried not to laugh, but for her, this is what makes her life interesting and exciting.

Life is exciting enough without cheating, if possible, be honest about your need to include other people in your life.

Life is exciting enough without cheating, if possible, be honest about your need to include other people in your life.

The cost of being found out is indeed high.  Divorce can mean financial ruin for both these “cheaters” I currently know.  The woman I know is not really prepared to give up her very lovely married lifestyle to try to live on alimony and child support.  Her husband is a great dad, and drives the kids to school and enjoys spending his bonus money on nice jewelry and clothing for her.  I joked if he found out and demanded a divorce, she’d be giving up a lot of the material things she loves, plus a father that is very involved in the lives of his children.

However, I also point out she could make a good case for an open relationship. She’s bored and he travels a lot, wouldn’t it be easier to just be two adults and talk about this possible change?  Wouldn’t it be better than the lies and planning and even fear of being caught?  Her answer was “no”.  She joked “But then I’d have to take up motorcycle racing, or bungee jumping….I need this in my life or I’d be so bored.”  She even jokes she hopes he’s fooling around, maybe all his business trips or late nights are spent with another sexual partner.  “I don’t want to know, “she says “as it would ruin his fun.”

She compares it to shop lifting when she was a teenager.  “My friends and I would shop lift lipsticks, makeup, whatever we thought we could get away with.  We had the money to pay for it, but it was the excitement of getting away with it that mattered.”

The price when caught can be huge.  Financially, a divorce can lead to a splitting of assets, selling of the family home, and in some cases a family business ruined.  We had a lovely local candy shop in town, for years it was a favorite place for my children to visit.  We were there almost weekly.  When the wife was found to be cheating, the business that had taken so many years to build up (into more than 5 stores across the area) had to be sold and the profits split.   An open marriage, where at least the wife could have asked “would this work for us?”, might have allowed their financial prosperity to continue.

If it all reads like a bad TV movie, that’s because it’s how some people think their lives should be.  It’s not the sex, it’s a cure for boredom. It’s also the “I can never get caught” ego of many men and women.  It’s not fair to the partner, and probably often the partner would agree to an open marriage.   An open marriage  might not be the same level of excitement as “risking it all, family and finances”, but it’s  a lot safer.


Is it about the sex? Or about the "naughty" sex?  It's all about personal choice...but those choices can come with a cost.

Is it about the sex? Or about the “naughty” sex? It’s all about personal choice…but those choices can come with a cost.

I’m the sort of person that watches people bungee jump and thinks “I would never do that.” I see people parachute out of planes and think “interesting to watch, but really not for me.”  Maybe I have the wrong personality type to see the excitement in cheating.  Honesty is important.  Even if that honestly is difficult for a partner to hear.  I think though that as open marriages become more the norm, or at least far more common and openly spoken about than now, cheating will still have a place in society.  The excuse will still be “I don’t want to hurt my partner” but, in their hearts they know, it’s about the excitement.



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10 replies

  1. I don’t know if I’m just too old or not but I can’ get my head round the concept of an ‘open marriage’ any more than I can get it round cheating. If you marry for love surely that should be enough and if you’re bored take a hobby.
    xxx Hugs Galore xxx

    • my feeling exactly David! my husband and I joke we are very busy people, and need to give each other MORE time. There is a family joke that our dearly loved great aunt was told her husband (then in his early 70’s) was cheating on her. When he got home that night (from working at his own business that he was dedicated to) she “told him off” about neglecting the “poor young mistress” by not spending enough time with her. they both had a good laugh (it was her sister in law who told her, who was mentally ill, and our aunt was kind enough to visit her in the “home” she resided in). I feel the same way, if Mark is cheating he’s a horrible person for not spending any money on her (I know our finances) and also spending little or no time with her! As for open marriage, he jokes, “I have one wife and two daughters, the last thing I need is another woman in my life!” HUGS!

  2. I lived with a man who didn’t know how to keep his pants zipped, and who always lied about his indiscretions. I knew every woman he slept with but didn’t know he was sleeping with them. Of course, they didn’t tell me they were sleeping with him either. The one that ended our relationship was “the woman of his dreams”. I asked her why she would want a man she couldn’t trust. She said she was sure she could trust him because he would never do to her what he did to me. I said, “And, you know this for a fact, how? Isn’t it obvious that he has no problem with lying?”

    The most laughable part of this was that this “woman of his dreams” turned into his worst nightmare because she was having sex with other men and lying about it. He called me up, and claimed he was contemplating suicide because he had dumped a great woman like me for a dishonest witch. He kept saying what an awful thing she was doing to him. I said, “What’s awful about it? You did the same to me, thereby proving that you condone this behavior. And, you were engaging in this behavior with her so she made it clear that she approves of it as well. I don’t understand why you would want to kill yourself when you have found someone with whom you are so compatible?”

    Most people who cheat on their partners would never tolerate having the same done to them. People need to be honest about their needs and come to an understanding about having an open marriage or end the relationship before moving on to something “new and improved”. The “I don’t want to hurt my partner” is just self-justification. It’s a way of “having your cake and eating it too” because if one of these paramours seems like a viable replacement for the current partner, not wanting to “hurt my partner” is no longer an issue. Philanderers never have a problem with asking for a divorce when they have found a “more suitable” replacement, and they don’t give a damn if the partner is hurt when the truth comes out.

  3. I agree. Our neighbor was married to a man she had lunch break sex with while he was married to first wife. He left his wife for her, when she became pregnant. All I ever heard was how horrible this first wife was. Also his kids with first wife, they were being raised all wrong (though she never would see them as husband didn’t want to have them around, probably as she would learn they were nice kids). She did make him pay his child support (he never wanted to). I pointed out how a man takes care of his children is rather reflective on what kind of person he is. (Not paying child support is a bad sign). she always supported him, then he demanded a divorce after 5 years (and two kids). Seems he was cheating with someone at work. UPS seems to have a long lunch break, or he’s a fast worker! She finally met the first wife and kids (and found them lovely). Third wife they warned “don’t have children, he’s the child!”

    My point was that cheaters are most often not nice people. I’m sure there are exceptions. I know some people cheat TO GET CAUGHT, because they want out of a relationship. (this has happened in my family, they want a divorce but haven’t the courage to ask for one, so they cheat and get caught and voila, divorce. I keep pointing out there should be a better method).

    People that advocate open marriages I think over sell the “There won’t be any cheating, or hardly any!” aspect. I don’t mind what people choose to do, but as I wrote, my husband and I don’t have to pencil in other people in our already too busy lives. Nor do we want to. We’re really happy, supportive and not bored at all. Plus our children would kill us. (seriously). Cheating has existed probably since the “cave man” lived. It may be what is “natural”, but so is living in caves I suppose. If you can manage it, and everyone is happy and fine with it, you are a far better manager than I will ever be!

  4. S. Madison, that’s a classic thing. I’ve heard it myself. “Oh, he won’t cheat with ME”. Because you are so much better than me? Oh, the stories I have!

    • YUP!!! Of course, cheaters are telling tall tales about how awful their partners are so that they can convince others that they are the injured party deserving of consideration (which includes sympathy sex) for the horrible lives they endure with their partners.

      • “my wife doesn’t understand me.”

        So how is this a compliment

      • “Doesn’t understand me” was the least of my crimes against ‘unzip man’. He convinced himself, and others, that I was the stupidest person on the planet. The way he told it I was a needy, incompetent idiot whom he couldn’t leave because I wouldn’t be able to function without him. When he dumped me for the “woman of his dreams”, I got to hear from him just what a useless person I am.

        Of course, he didn’t explain to others why he had convinced himself that I was an idiot, but I insisted that he provide examples of my stupidity and neediness. His one and only example was that I couldn’t change the heating controls in the car. I said, “Just because I have you change the heating controls in the car when we’re together, doesn’t mean I’m incapable of doing it myself when I’m alone.” He said, “Then why do you make me do it?” To which I responded, “Back when we first started dating 12 years ago, if I changed the heating controls, you would immediately change them to a different setting to achieve what you thought was my intended goal for the change I had made. I figured you had some strong opinion about the “right” way to arrange heating controls, so I decided it would be better to let you make the change.” He said, “I NEVER DID THAT!!!” I said, “Fine. I must have imagined it.” We were having this disagreement while we were in the car, and an hour later I got too hot and changed the heating controls to my preferred settings. He IMMEDIATELY reached over to change them to his preferred settings. I yelled, “DON’T YOU TOUCH THOSE CONTROLS, YOU BASTARD! For 12 years I have listened to a fan running continually when I’m in the car with you just to make you happy. And what I got for my consideration is nasty judgment and resentment from you. I HATE listening to that fan. THE FAN STAYS OFF!!!”

        When I first started dating Matt, I never touched the heating controls in his car. After a few times of telling him I was too warm or too cold, Matt said, “You’re allowed to change the heating controls, you know.” I told him about my previous partner’s tale of my heating control incompetence and how he had secretly held it against me for years. Matt got laughing so hard that his eyes filled with tears and he almost drove off the road. Matt and I were made for each other because he hates listening to a running fan just like I do. 😉

      • I can’t imagine anyone telling you what to do 😉

  5. I have little respect for people who cheat and lie, especially when betraying their partner. If it’s broken, fix it. If it can’t be fixed, get out, as you’re not doing the kids any favor by modeling an unhappy relationship for them to emulate. I know too many people who stay in bad relationships for years until someone better comes along, and then they leave. That is the laziest, sloppiest way of all to get out of a marriage.

    If two people want to have an open marriage, that’s fine, but I believe it’s usually a case of one person wanting it and the other reluctantly agreeing to do so in order to stay married, but even that often lasts only until the open marriage affairs lead to establishing a new partnership and divorcing the old one.

    I guess I’m a monogamist, and I would rather live on my own than with an unfaithful spouse.

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