Have you ever cheated? Buss and Shackelford estimated in 1997 that roughly 30 to 60 percent of all married individuals will engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage. That study was drawn from older statistics again. In the AskMen Great Male Survey from 2013, 26 percent of respondents from Canada, the United States, Australia and the UK said they were somewhat likely to cheat on their partner, even if it made them feel guilty. To be conservative, let’s say 1 in 4 falls into this category. So if you’ve been in a relationship, there’s at least a fair chance your answer to that initial question will be ‘yes’. If this idea doesn’t bother you then you can stop reading now. You’re bound to shamelessly break the bonds of trust again and again.
Regret and moving on
But if you regret what you’ve done, there’s no reason for it to affect your future relationships. The trick, though, is to confront it rather than bury it as something uncharacteristic and shameful. In fact, embarking on a new relationship is the perfect time to intellectualise what you’ve done and start working to avoid the same traps. So, how do you mend your ways? For starters, forget the line about cheating being in our nature (an excuse often used to pay the bill for men’s transgressions in particular). Even if this were the case, it’s still an inglorious copout. Cheating, for the most part, is a product of environment and conditioning, sparked by opportunism. Which, thankfully, means you can change your habits.
Talk about it
First of all, it’s about communication. Just about every problem in every relationship, no matter how large or small, can be traced back to a lack of good communication. If you love someone, you tell them, of course. And it’s the same when transgressions occur. They need to be discussed. Otherwise, you spiral into a pattern of passive aggressive gamesmanship, second-guessing and resentment. That’s when you’re open to temptation.
Lay it on the line
Related to communication is the importance of being honest. Lay things on the line, and you’ll be paid back in kind. Be dishonest and your partner will at least sense it or, even worse, catch you out. And honesty feels good. It releases tension, takes the weight off your shoulders, and opens you up to further productive communication. Most of all, though, resisting the urge to cheat is about integrity. This is the part that really requires work. But the good news is, if you’re someone of integrity in other areas of your life then it will quickly seep into your relationships as well. That means it’s something you have to work at every day.
Be a person of integrity
Maybe the workplace is somewhere to start — never shirk responsibility, always stand up for others, take the hits on the chin. Soon enough people will come to respect you, and that sense of integrity will develop itself into a personal trait. It’s like a muscle — you build it and it becomes stronger, harder to overcome. Temptation is everywhere in the modern world. But if you’re someone of integrity you’ll easily deflect any opportunities to cheat on your partner. It will become your natural instinct to rise above temptation rather than entertain it, which is where most of us slip up.
Finally, if your partner asks you about your cheating past? Tell them, you goose. This might seem counterintuitive, but honesty is the best policy and they’ll probably ask sooner or later (or a loudmouth bud will let slip on your behalf). The fact that you’re upfront will add weight to your character, as long as you also present the strategy that has mended or will help you mend your ways.
Of course, this new person in your life you should make you never want to cheat again. And if that’s not the case, you probably need to return to the pond to look for a different catch.