Here I'm referring to a betrayal, and simply put, the act of having some sort of sexual relations with a person other than your partner. I often wonder what would happen if I were to accidentally cheat on E., and my immediate thought is that I would hate myself and try to do bodily harm to myself for hurting her and for ruining the most amazing relationship in my life.
In fact, E. and I discuss the possibility: What we would do? Would it mean the end of us? Should we tell the other person? What we've decided is that we would go into couples therapy immediately to talk it out and figure out why it happened. It would not mean the end of us. And I insist that we tell each other because withholding is a huge peeve for me.
What if I want to have sexual relations with another person? Or she does? Then we talk about it ahead of time, and we analyze it to see if it's a manifestation of some problem in our relationship. And it's quite possible that we might allow the other person to have these relations if we've discussed it first.
Why do people cheat? Are they hurt? Angry? Do they feel abandoned or ignored? These are things to pay attention to. And if I ever did cheat on E., more dangerous than the actual event of the sex would be how I would feel afterwards. I think I might hate myself so much that my negativity and constant self-degradation might strain the relationship more than anything. Couples therapy would be imperative. And I believe constant communication. And if E. cheated, I would be mad and hurt, and probably insecure, and so she would have to help me deal with that, but I think that would be her burden to bear for the act. As it would be mine, if it was I who had done it.
But here's another thought about this "betrayal." In some countries, children are smacked or spanked or hit once in a while as a matter of course. And these kids don't feel abused or like their parents don't love them, because they know all their friends parents do it as well. But in this country, especially in a certain economic class, if you are hit it's a bigger deal. It's a source of shame and you so you hide it and don't speak of it to your friends. You might even think your parents hate you. I think that in this country "cheating" is similar -- it's a source of shame. The person who was cheated on often feels like they shouldn't tell anyone that their partner strayed. The person who cheats might feel horrible, like they are a terrible person, and eventually feeling guilty will become too much to bear and they will get angry, at themselves and at their partner, because they will feel that their partner is making them feel guilty. But what if we understood "cheating" as a thing that happens, like fighting? You work it out. It never means the end of relationship. You talk about it and understand where it comes from, is the cheater insecure? Self-sabotaging? I feel like if we could just communicate about it more, understand it more, and not surround it with shame, but understand that cheating connotes a break in the promise you make to your partner. A break in trust, possibly.
And of course, in this day and age, safe sex is imperative and cheating could put your partner at risk if you don't tell, and if you are unsafe and if you don't get tested afterwards.
This is a rambling, and I'm not trying to make an argument for cheating by any means. But I personally think it's not the act of sleeping with another person, but the fact that you break your promise to your partner, the promise not to sleep with anyone else. And that it's also a form of communication, a way for you to express something to your partner -- granted, not the healthiest form of communication.
All this being said, I've never been close to straying from E., and the thought of it brings tears to my eyes. And E. has never strayed from me. But we talk about it, and if I ever have the urge, I think I would call her and talk to her about it first. Unless I was drunk, because sometimes physiology kicks in. But that's an argument to never get that drunk.
In an ideal world, we would be able to have relations and share love and intimacy with more than one person, without ever feeling that we would lose the love of our partners. But right now I'm too insecure to make that possible, and E. has no interest in that.
I think it should be called something other than "cheating." And betrayal is a very loaded word. Maybe a mistake? It's hurtful, but it doesn't mean that two people don't love each other anymore.
Okay, I'm rambling and with no destination in sight.
Food for thought.