Friday, August 15, 2008

When You Stray...

Don't let it wreck you
Cheating tends to be a very touchy subject, one in which most people have very firm theories and convictions. It is so easy in hypothetical conversation to make claims of what you would or wouldn't do, but when the hypothetical becomes reality, the rules often change.

I did it
There are many reasons why people stray from their committed relationships, and often times 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 excuse - nothing changes the fact that you have broken your word, and this is typically when a case of the "guilties" settles in.

The guilt
Even people who are trapped in the worst relationship a mind can dream up often find themselves weighed down with guilt for the moments of joy and pleasure that they find in the arms of another lover. 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 heavy emotion, a hard burden to bear. 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, a stain on their character that no amount of cleansing can ever remove. Ask yourself if this kind of burden is really worth it.

Reality check
Okay, against your better judgement, you cheated on your partner, and now every moment of your life seems to be shaded and defined by your indiscretion, or master plan. 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 choice to cheat. (Yes, cheating is a choice - while the opportunity to cheat may "just happen," the decision to let it happen belongs to you.) Accept that (right or wrong!) you made a decision that you will forever have to live with. It's a done deed, my friend. Whether joyful or regretful, that experience is forever ingrained in you. Maybe you regret it, maybe you don't - but 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 for your actions.

To tell, or not to tell?
Many people find themselves so consumed with guilt after an affair, or cheating on their partner, that they believe the best course of action is to confess. Sure, confession does cleanse the soul of the confessor - but a confession of cheating usually isn't 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 say that they would prefer never to find out.

Telling your partner you cheated on them is not an easy conversation to have. The real question is, should the conversation 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 no 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.

Forgive yourself
No one on this planet does everything right, but most people do learn from their mistakes. If you discover that your indiscretion may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but now colors your world with fear, guilt, and regret - learn from it. While your actions may have been wrong, they also may be just what you needed in order to see yourself, flaws and all, more clearly. Through all the anguish and turmoil, this is a chance to grow and strengthen yourself and your beliefs, and emerge a better and 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, you 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 of your own mind - making true happiness an elusive dream that will forever be out of your reach.

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