Those of you who are into music, particularly music from back in the 60s and 70s are probably familiar with Bob Dylan and his famous song Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright. For those who enjoy the music but may have misinterpreted the lyrics, the ‘don’t think twice’ bit is being said to a lover who is leaving – not to the the one cheating on their partner!
Though not the norm infidelity is definitely something that many have suffered and may have partaken in. There are numerous men and women out there who have searched for intimacy which is physical, emotional or both outside their existing committed relationships. The question is, is there a problem with this?
There are some who may argue that individual actions are personal and should not be anyone else’s issue. There are also those who may insist that they did not know any better when they were tying the knot and now realize they are completely incompatible with their partners. Apart from this, some even feel like looking outside their relationships is due freedom and that their actions are not harming anyone.
My only question is; if this is all true, why the secrecy? Why hide?
When You Know It’s Not Alright
I’ll give you the answer to the question above. It’s quite simple. The reason that we hide and sneak around despite all our rationalization and justification is that on a deep level we know it’s not okay. For those of you who may still be resisting this truth, I’ll cut it down further.
Whether you’re a man or a woman, your commitment to someone means something to them even if it does not to you. Breaching the boundaries of such a commitment is a recipe for damage and disaster and if your current relationship is indeed unbearable to the point where you need to cheat, maybe a clean ending would be more helpful!
Why Can’t We Just Keep On Doing Our Thing?
The reason why it is advisable to either stay true to your commitments or, alternatively, to openly sever those bonds (via divorce or separation) is because you’ll damage those around you if you don’t. Allow me to elaborate.
Damage to Existing Partners
Even if you’ve kept things on the down low, your intimate partner will know something is off sooner or later. As a practicing therapist offering couple therapy and individual relational counseling in Palo Alto, I have witnessed firsthand, the hurt, heartbreak and damage that infidelity has caused those who were cheated on. When I say damage I mean the kind that takes a long time to heal and move on from. One article published by Psychology Today actually elaborates on how long the term infidelity can result in PTSD and this is something I too can endorse.
When you lie to your partner, you make them question their own sanity, their own emotional stability and their own intellect. This can seriously damage someone’s emotional and psychological health over a period. Even worse, when they find out that they were probably right the whole time – which in most cases they eventually do, the hurt and distress hit a whole new level.
In other words, what you’re doing is breaking the person down before leaving them with a lifetime of low self-esteem, feelings of rejection, feelings of inadequacy and difficulty loving and trusting. In short, you pretty much destroy the person they used to be, and all for what? An affair?
Let’s Not Forget the Kids
Apart from causing your partner needless pain and distress, if you have children, you’re probably making a mess of them too (sorry if that sounds harsh). Children are a lot more perceptive than we adults give them credit for and a lot more in tune to us as their parents than we may be ready to accept.
They can tell when we’re upset and stressed out. They can tell when we’re hiding something and they feed off our energy particularly in their earlier years.
If you think you’re being clever and that your family doesn’t know what’s going on, watch out. Your kids will pick up on the anxiety or distress of the parent you have dumped them on (your partner). They will also feel your absence and know that you’re choosing something or someone over them every time you go to see your other lover.
The result? Your children might have problems forming their own emotional connections, they might normalize your behavior and take it up a notch as adults or they may learn to lie and manipulate. It is also known that children from homes where there was cheating and infidelity often struggle immensely forging their own healthy intimate connections.
In other words, by cheating and not being honest, you’re damning your own children to a life of dysfunction!
So What’s It Going to Be?
For the men and women out there who may be having affairs or cheating on their partners, the question is; what’s it going to be? Are you going to turn a blind eye to what you just read and keep on like a train till one day you’re old and alone and you realize how much damage you caused or are you going to pull your socks up?
Remember, it’s not about you being a good or bad person. If you are a certain way or have done certain things, what is important is to take ownership and to make amends. If you’re having trouble in your current relationship, see a counselor with your partner or seek therapy solo.
Just remember, there is a healthy and clean way to resolve conflict, to navigate confusion and to reach a point where you can live the life you want. Lying, being avoidant and cheating are most certainly not it! In other words folks, if you’re about to do something which isn’t particularly decent – do think twice because it’s not alright!