Is Cheating a Deal Breaker?

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

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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.

The other pattern that strikes me is just how many cheaters acknowledge, by their actions, that they aren’t where they really want to be, but still they stick out a relationship and, essentially, settle. I’ve also heard many men argue that cheating isn’t necessarily indicative of how they feel about the relationship. They tell me that sex can be the emotional equivalent of eating a sandwich. It’s like, “I was hungry and so I ate. The end.”

While I recognize these men’s ability to compartmentalize in a way that most women can’t, I don’t buy that it’s just that simple. One of the signs that you want to be with someone else is that you’ve been with someone else. Whether you’re the cheater or the person being cheated on, continuing on with a partner who is good enough for now is a lose-lose for both parties.

That being said, if you still want to work it out, here’s a five-step plan:

1. Stop having sex for three months.

That’s not an arbitrary time frame or a punishment. It is, however, how long it can take for HIV antibodies to show up in test results. Insist that your partner get tested for sexually transmitted infections and HIV when the deadline is up. If he or she balks, call it a wrap.

2. Vent (to your partner).

You need to get it off your chest, and your partner needs to understand the impact of the infidelity on you and your relationship.

It’s also time to go over the boundaries of what is acceptable to you and what is not. Make it clear that there are no second chances, and if this happens again, you’re out — for good.