Advice – I might be the type of person who’d cheat on their partners.

I want to preface this post by saying I have never cheated. I (M22) have a beautiful fiancée (F22) who I am head over heals for. We have been together four years and she is everything I need and want emotionally, physically and practically so that is not the reason I am feeling this way.

The last thing I would ever want to do is hurt her but I am starting to fear that I have the potential to cheat inside of me. There have been several occasions in class or at work where I started to feel an intense desire for one of my peers, either sexual or emotional. So far I have acknowledged these feelings and tried distancing myself whenever one of these situations comes up. It has worked so far, but I fear that is only because the opportunity for a sexual relationship hasn’t presented itself. If I was ever in situation where one of the people I was infatuated with began to push my relationship’s boundaries I’m not sure that in my current state of mind I would be able to resist. I know that in a lifetime of marriage, more than likely this will be the case at least once.

Frankly I hate this about myself and want to change it. I want to be the rock solid monogamous guy that she deserves. That is why I am coming to this subreddit. How can I train myself to handle these situations before I am in them? It’s not exactly something I can learn from experience. I DO NOT want to tell my fiancée about these feelings because I am afraid to hurt her. Any advice on how other people deal with these feelings would be greatly appreciated.

Anonymous, /r/relationship_advice.

Dear Anonymous,

Let’s first start by acknowledging that monogamy is an agreement, where sexual and romantic exclusivity is agreed upon by yourself as well as by your partner. Monogamy as a basic relationship structure provides fundamental stability, wide communal acknowledgement, and legal & societal support. Many people inherit monogamy as the default relationship orientation as well as assume monogamy as a core facet of their personal and relational identity. This can be true for some whose relationships can only function in a purely exclusive, monogamous context for various inter- or intrapersonal reasons.

For most, monogamy is an agreement that which we opt into. It is a commitment we make to ourselves for the sake of our relationship that we will forgo all other relationships to secure the exclusive relationship we have with our partner. Monogamy agreement acknowledges that there will inevitably be attractions to others, and that others might be attracted to you even though you have a monogamous agreement with your partner. And in the context of monogamy, we promise to ourselves and to our partners that we will establish appropriate relational and emotional boundaries to avoid exploring any other romantic, emotional, or sexual connections.

Adultery has existed since marriage was invented, and so, too, the taboo against it. In fact, infidelity has a tenacity that marriage can only envy, so much so, that this is the only commandment that is repeated twice in the Bible: once for doing it, and once just for thinking about it.

Esther Perel, “Rethinking Infidelity.” TED Talk. May 21, 2015.

Now that we have discussed monogamy as an agreement, our next step is to figure out how this specifically applies to your mindset.

It is really interesting to read how there seems to be a distinct lack of agency in the way you practice your monogamy agreement. You said you were able to acknowledge those feelings when they arised and distanced yourself from those feelings upon acknowlegement. That is exactly what you are supposed to do in these types of circumstances. While feelings desire to be acknowledged, not every feeling requires reaction or preemptive action. The agency behind those feelings lie squarely on your shoulders to determine what you want to do with those feelings. It’s not like once those feelings arise, you are suddently not able to do monogamy. Your ability to have successful monogamous relationships comes from your ability to step in between your feelings and implement proper and healthy boundaries to not indulge in or pursue those feelings.

Maybe it is time for you to reassess why these feelings make you feel bad, and why you perceive your ability to create distance from your crushes on people other than your partner as a form of resistance rather than a proactive guideline for the relationships you do want to form. It isn’t like the crushes that you have on other people are temptations that try to lure you away from your fiancee. Instead, imagine those feelings as natural reaction to the most basic instinct of our human development. And you don’t always have to do anything with those feelings beyond letting those feelings know that you have noticed their existence.

On a side note, I strongly urge you to take a look at that TED Talk about Esther Perel linked above. It is a great primer on why we heavily stigmatize infidelity, especially in the western culture.

Throughout the course of a relationship, 25% of all relationships experience infidelity to some extent. For as common as infidelity is, it is also looked upon as a grave indictment upon failure of a relationship. I urge you to question the why. Why is something so common considered such a dire betrayal of their partner to the n-th degree?

At the end of the post, you asked how you can train yourself to handle these situations. The best way is to proactively talk about and anticipate these situations before they arise. One of those ways is to talk about those feelings with your fiancee to help get a better grasp on why you are feeling a certain way, even if it makes you feel vulnerable to admit so. We can’t always have the most productive dialogue with ourselves just through our internal monologue. We humans are by default social creatures who use language to communicate. As such, communicating those words with your trusted connections – like your fiancee – can help with the acknowledgement phase of those feelings. In addition, talking it out loud with your fiancee could also help alleviate the sense of guilt you feel about developing feelings toward others. Remember. It is not the presence of those feelings that will hurt your fiancee. It’s the secrecy, guilt, and the personal insecurity that she could feel that makes these revelations sting.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

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