[COLUMN] The Lovers Rocque:<br />
Does Cheating Have to be a Deal Breaker?

How would you deal with infidelity?

Cheating is a polarizing subject that from my experience, people (self-included) seem to have strongly adverse reactions to until it actually happens to them. Most people seem to feel that cheating is an automatic deal breaker, or judge people who decide to stay with a philanderer. I used to be part of that crew until I took a class on the psychology of black relationships when I was in college. Admittedly, I barely remember most of what I learned in that class, but of the few things that I did retain the part about infidelity was fascinating because it made me change my perspective. I realized that cheating isn’t as black and white as folks think and that people cheat for several different reasons.

Infidelity is obviously a breach of trust and a potential risk to a lover’s health but there are other variables to consider when deciding whether to stay with a wandering partner or not. It has never happened to me, as far as I know, and though I am a cynic I don’t believe that everyone does it. I understand that sometimes you can be staunchly for or against a hypothetical scenario but life likes to improvise and when that happens, your reaction may surprise or enlighten you. The hubby and I had a discussion about cheating before we were married (it was just a casual conversation that came up), and were surprisingly on the same page. Our conclusion was that it wouldn’t be an automatic deal breaker for our marriage. Here's why:

Infidelity is selfish but it can also be misguided. You have to look at the individual circumstances. Were there problems in the marriage that caused someone to lose self-control because they thought the grass on the other side would make them feel better? Was the person always trifling and never really cared about the sanctity of marriage anyway? What type of cheating was it, cyber, emotional, physical? I’m not saying to stay with a chronic cheater, because that’s obviously a major problem, but some cheaters really do feel remorse and realize their mistake—sadly after the fact—but that could be a blessing in disguise for a relationship if the couple can work through it.

Vows actually mean something, but people get selective about the phrase, “For better or for worse,” and choose not to think about the fact that times might actually get hard. This is what couples who have been married for 20 years or more mean when they say that it takes work keeping a union together—within reason, of course but don’t act like life together is going to be peaches all the time.

Forgiveness sounds nice in theory, but in practice it’s one of the hardest things people have to do in life. True forgiveness means letting go, stepping outside of yourself and having enough faith to move on from the experience. One of the things about cheating that people don’t like to come to grips with is that aside from the anger, pain and mistrust, the person who was betrayed may feel inadequate, insecure...questions rise about who our partner cheated with and then we may compare ourselves to that person. The egotistical side of us awakens. We feel played and defeated. As a society, we’re trained to suppress these types of emotions because they suggest weakness. Yet acknowledging all of our feelings, even defeat, is important in order for the healing process to begin, whether we choose to forgive and keep the relationship going or whether we choose to forgive but end things.  

But for all of this, we believe that a couple that is truly committed to going forward can rebuild in the wake of something as devastating as infidelity. It doesn't always mean that your partner doesn't love or doesn't value you, not does it have to be the end of your romance.

We say this all the time but Mr. Rocque and I aren’t experts and again, perspectives can change. Hopefully we won’t have to go through any thing like infidelity down the line but we are realists and understand that sometimes life rewrites the script and requires you to be proactive, not reactive.

How would you deal with infidelity?