If a relationship’s single greatest strength is the ability for both people to trust one another, then its greatest enemy is infidelity. Not so conveniently, the college environment — with its alcohol-fueled parties, high concentration of people in the same age group, and freedom from curfews and other parental rules — isn’t exactly conducive to staying faithful.
From Usher’s Confessions album to tabloids emblazoned with celebrity cheating scandals, it seems that cheating has become more sensationalized than ever before. According to a 2011 study published in the book, “The Science of Relationships,” by Gary W. Lewandowski, Timothy J. Loving, Benjamin Le and Marci Gleason, roughly one in three men and one in five women have committed sexual infidelity. With so many cheaters roaming wild and unmarked, it seems that getting cheated on is some kind of twisted rite of passage.
Whether the cheating was a drunken encounter with an ex at your fraternity’s formal or long-distance relationship adultery, the single biggest consequence of infidelity is the loss of trust. Without trust, a relationship will not succeed in making both partners genuinely happy and instead could take an ugly turn down the road to resentment.
Often, what’s more difficult than actually finding out your partner cheated is dealing with the consequences afterward. As Justin Timberlake bitterly crooned, “just so confused about it,” in his single “What Goes Around Comes Back Around,” confusion almost immediately sinks in as you try to figure out if cheating is a forgivable offense. On one hand, there’s the “once a cheater, always a cheater” theory, and on the other hand, there are your partner’s genuine apologies that suggest a second chance is within reason.
While a breakup following infidelity is a surefire way to protect yourself from future betrayal, it also disregards the love or feelings you may still have for your partner. Second chances should be considered only after each person in the relationship has established that they would like to move past the betrayal and both agree to stay faithful to each other.
Sometimes the shame associated with cheating is not limited solely to the cheater, as the person who was cheated on often feels embarrassed and made a fool of. Even if the person who was cheated on didn’t do anything to deserve it, they may blame themselves for their partner’s infidelity before they judge their partner.
For those who have been on the wrong end of infidelity, the easiest way to avoid blaming yourself is to remember that your partner’s unfaithful act is not a reflection on yourself. For the cheaters who are interested in continuing the relationship despite your betrayal, you should be willing to accept the responsibility for your actions by openly admitting why you were unfaithful.
Both partners deserve to know the truth no matter how painful it may be to fully move on, instead of leaving things to the imagination that can be more torturous than the truth.