When You Stray…

Cheating tends to be a very touchy subject, one about which most people have very firm theories and convictions. It is so easy in hypothetical conversation to make claims about what you would or would not do, but when that hypothetical becomes a reality, the rules often change.

I did it
There are many reasons that people stray from their committed relationships, and often the reason for straying is used as a justification for betraying the one you love or have committed yourself to. Whatever your reasons, your justifications, your needs or your excuse – nothing changes the fact that you have broken your word. It is after we realize that a bad case of guilt usually settles in.

The guilt
Even people who are trapped in the worst relationships often find themselves weighed down with guilt over the moments of joy and pleasure they found in the arms of another. It’s a natural reaction, because regardless of how you became involved in this triangle, most people believe cheating is fundamentally wrong. Guilt is a tough emotion – a heavy burden. It is also the give-away – the reason most cheaters will eventually get caught. Guilt can change a person at their very core, dictating their actions and reactions, and many feel that it’s a stain on their character that no amount of cleansing will ever remove.

What now?
Okay. Against your better judgment, you cheated on your partner, and now every moment of your life seems to be shaded and defined by your indiscretion. How do you live with it? Simply put, the best way you can. You can’t roll back the hands of time and take yourself back to the time before you made the decision to cheat. (Yes, it was a decision.) Accept that you made a decision you will have to live with forever. Whether you are joyful or regretful, that experience is forever ingrained in you. Maybe you regret it, maybe you don’t – either way, you have no choice but to keep moving forward in your life. Take what you need from the experience, the good and the bad, and accept that there may be consequences.

To tell, or not to tell?
Many people find themselves so consumed with guilt after an affair, or an instance of cheating, that they believe the best course of action is to confess to their loved one. Sure, confession does cleanse the soul of the confessor – but this type of confession isn’t generally quite so liberating to the person who has been cheated on. Most couples have had a discussion or two about cheating in a relationship. Some people say that they would want to know, and others maintain they would prefer never to find out.

Telling your partner you cheated is not an easy conversation to have. The real question is, should the discussion actually take place? The decision to tell or to live with this secret is yours and yours alone, because not only do you have to live with the choice you make, but so does your partner or lover.

Some couples can survive infidelity, using the mess to rebuild and reconstruct the relationship into something better and stronger than it was before. Others can never forgive or get past the betrayal, and the soul-cleansing confession marks the beginning of the end. Coming clean is definitely a risk, but it may not be any more risky than deciding to cheat in the first place.

Safe sex
When you cheat on your partner, you are physically putting them at risk. Safe sex isn’t essentially safe – it is only safer. There are no guarantees you will come home to your own bed without bringing something funky along, and on that front – your partner has a right to know. If you think your fun and games has put you at risk, you have a moral obligation and a human duty to allow your partner to protect their health – because they shouldn’t be an innocent victim of your weakness, regardless of the circumstances. Failing that, get a thorough checkup from your doctor.

Forgive yourself
No one on this planet does everything right, but most people do learn from their mistakes. If you discover that your indiscretion now colors your world with fear, guilt and regret – learn from that. While your actions may have been wrong, they also may be just what you needed in order to see yourself more clearly – flaws and all. Through all the anguish and turmoil, this is a chance to grow and strengthen yourself and your beliefs. You might emerge a better, stronger person.

Remember that we tend to be harder on ourselves than anyone else could ever be, but there comes a time when you have to learn to forgive yourself. You know what you did, and you probably know why you did it – but if you don’t make peace with yourself and forgive yourself for your actions, you will become a martyr to your own mind – making true happiness an elusive dream that will forever be out of reach.

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One thought on “When You Stray…

  1. maxine Johnson

    Sir: This could not have been said any better than the way it was written. Thank you so very much. I just hope many,many more persons had a change to read this newsletter. mej


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