Is Cheating a Deal Breaker?

Ask Demetria: A reader seeks counsel on a mate caught creeping at a hotel.

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Is a relationship totally doomed if you catch your mate cheating on you in a hotel on the same night that you return from vacation? My boyfriend says he realizes his mistake. He has apologized and says he wants to make things work. Can trust be built again, or should I just walk away? --G.W.

No, your relationship is not necessarily doomed. But before you agree to stick it out with your mate, I want you to consider a few thoughts. 

This used to be a question that caused me a great deal of conflict to answer. I want to see relationships work, and I acknowledge that people make mistakes. I also know that at least 45 percent of married women cheat, and 50 percent of married men do the same, according to the Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy. You can imagine that the numbers are higher for couples who haven't upped the stakes by vowing fidelity before their God, their family and all of their friends.

Advising people to leave means that a whole lot of them would be packing their stuff. I also hesitated to say it because infidelity is something that can be worked through, if both parties are willing to put in the work (see my tips below).

It became significantly easier to say "Walk!" without hesitation last year when I moderated a relationship panel with six celebrity men. The topic of infidelity came up, of course, and it was Jeff Johnson who broke it down. As a self-confessed reformed cheater, he advised unmarried women who are in relationships not to stay and work it out when someone cheats.

His logic went something like this: When an unmarried man cheats, it's a flagrant sign that his partner is not "the one." You are perceived as a placeholder while he looks for her. Men cheat only on women they do not value, because when they do value a woman, they don't put the relationship in jeopardy. They put in the work to make the relationship work.

When he finished, the other men onstage -- Lamman Rucker, journalist Ed Gordon, Finesse Mitchell, Darren Sharper, actor Hill Harper and Mr. Marcus (yes, the porn star) -- applauded him for keeping it real.

Ever since then I've been hyperaware of patterns surrounding the topic of infidelity. One is that of all the times I'm asked, "D, what do I do?" it's never a man seeking help.

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Of course men get cheated on, and it's devastating to them in much the same ways it is for women. But they tend not to want to work it out. There's ego involved, and, too, loyalty consistently ranks among the top three traits that men look for in a partner. Cheating is a huge sign that someone lacks it. Women would do well to acknowledge this, too.

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Sept. 19 2014 8:34 AM