I’m annoyed by infidelity.

What’s gotten me so annoyed to write about it are radio advertisements I hear for a website that encourages people to cheat on their spouse or significant other, acting as though it were a common or even normal experience.

Infidelity — or cheating, as people often refer to it — is neither common nor normal. If you’ve come to the fork in the road where you’ve cheated or are considering cheating on your partner, it’s time to acknowledge another reality — your primary romantic relationship is in trouble. Serious trouble.

You can go down the easy road and cheat — because, after all, somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of people in relationships do. Or you can acknowledge something is going on with your relationship and work to fix it. Cheating is never a sign of a healthy relationship after all.

And if you can’t fix it, you’ll do the honorable thing — leave the relationship first. Before cheating.

Why People Cheat

In our entry two years ago about the possible reasons why Tiger Woods may have cheated, we noted the things that typically precede cheating:

  • Significant, ongoing, unresolved problems in the primary, long-term relationship or marriage
  • A significant difference in sex drive between the two partners
  • The older the primary relationship
  • A greater difference in personality than perhaps the partners realize
  • And to a far lesser extent, perhaps some theoretical, evolutionary remnants that may have reinforced multiple partners over monogamy (although this is just a hypothetical argument that would be difficult to disprove)

Regardless of the reason why a person may turn to infidelity, the reality is that it’s the expression of an underlying issue in that person’s life and/or relationship. And while cheating fixes that problem short-term, it’s just that — a shallow, short-term fix.

Cheating, as people soon discover, is complicated. Even if no emotions are involved in the illicit affair, keeping the stories and lies straight, and ensuring uncomfortable questions don’t arise becomes a quickly complex dance. That’s why most affairs don’t remain a secret — it’s just too hard.

Remember, if cheating was normal or okay, there’d be no need for the secrecy. In fact, the secrecy is a part of what makes an affair so sexually attractive in the first place. But secrecy has no place in a long-term, committed relationship.

What Cheating Means About Your Relationship

Contrary to what these cheating websites would have you believe, cheating is not a sign of a normal, healthy long-term relationship. It is a sign that something is seriously wrong. People who cheat have basically lost all hope for their relationship, and all respect for their partner.

Infidelity — whether real or contemplated (outside of the random fantasy you’d never act upon) — suggests your relationship is in trouble. You can, of course, deny that and say you just need some variety in your sexual life. But if that’s the kind of person you are, you simply shouldn’t be in any long-term, monogamous relationship. Folks like George Clooney have seemingly figured this out for themselves; you should too.

Because it’s only fair. An affair means you have little respect for your partner — so little, in fact, that you’re happy to be indiscreet with someone else without your partner’s knowledge. If you have so little respect for another human being, why are you in a long-term relationship with them?

Oh, “the children.” Well, sorry to break it to you, but the children would be better off without two parents who are living a lie. All that teaches children is that you have to remain in an unhappy relationship even when you don’t want to.

If it’s for another reason, it must be a doozie. The rationalizations and justifications you must use to justify an affair must be very special indeed.

We’re on this Earth for a very short time. How we treat others is a reflection on ourselves. If we treat others — others that we proclaim that we love in one breath — in a way that is disrespectful and disregards their own feelings, well, that says a lot about a person’s character.

Cheating Should be Avoided

I’m not the morality police, so ultimately, it’s your choice. All I’m suggesting is that if you’re considering cheating, or if you’ve already cheated, it’s time to come clean. To yourself… To your partner. Are you in this relationship for the right reasons? Is this how you want to live the rest of your life (with lies and secrecy)? Yes, I understand cheating can be “hot.” But is that temporary sexual release worth your integrity, your honor, and your word?

If your relationship needs some attention or help — get help! Go to a couple’s counselor or a marriage therapist (it’s really inexpensive compared to the costs of infidelity and a divorce) and work — openly and honestly — toward a positive resolution.

I find long-term relationships most often lose that “spark” that marked the beginning of their relationship because the couple has grown apart emotionally. The good news is that you can learn to grow together again. All it takes is a commitment and willingness on both people’s parts.

If you’re not willing to do that, do the right thing — break up with your partner. Don’t disrespect them by cheating on them.