Can Cheating Make Your Relationship Stronger?

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I’ve always thought that people should find ways to make their relationships work even if it might strike others as odd or unnatural. In the end there are only two people in your relationship, you and your significant other. I’ve sat on panels and had private conversations with so many people who tell me what they will and will not stand for, sometimes, they even tell me things they could never fathom. This story today is written by a woman who says her affairs have made her marriage much stronger. Like many of you will see, it’s hard to stop reading once you get started.

It’s a Wednesday night, and my boyfriend and I are drinking wine and making out in the back booth of a dimly lit bar. It feels like nothing else in the world exists… until my phone vibrates.

“It’s my husband. The kids are in bed,” I say, then put my phone in my purse and pull my boyfriend toward me. I spend half a second staring at the diamond on my engagement ring before hiding my hand from my sight line. It’s not a secret that I’m married, but it’s also not something I want to think about right now.

Am I a horrible person? Without context, I know I sound horrible. But in my marriage, having affairs works. My husband and I don’t talk about it. But I’m certain our don’t-ask-don’t-tell rule is what has allowed our marriage to last as long as it has.

Notice that I didn’t say we’re in an open marriage — we’re not. An open marriage is transparent, with agreed-upon rules and an understanding of what both parties will and will not do with others. My marriage is opaque. I recognize what Frank and Claire Underwood have in “House of Cards,” although I like to think my husband and I aren’t as soulless as their characters. But there are similarities: We know the other has secrets, but we don’t care to find out more. It’s an attitude people think of as very French — the idea that you can have an affair and a healthy marriage. Quite honestly, it works. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

When Dave* and I met in our late 20s, I knew that he was a player. So was I. We also had chemistry beyond anything else I’d ever experienced. We just got each other. When I was with him, I could be myself. He was the only boyfriend I’ve ever told the truth to about how many men I’d slept with, because I believed that no matter what I said, he’d never judge me. He also never seemed to get jealous.

After about six months of late-night booty calls, Dave and I settled into a proper relationship and started calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend. At first, it was incredibly volatile. After not hearing from him for an evening, I’d go ballistic. He’d refuse to engage, saying he had nothing to apologize for. We yelled about cheating — he’d do it, I’d do it, we’d be furious with each other. But eventually, I realized this dynamic wouldn’t change. One of us would always act out if cheating was against the rules.

But what if it wasn’t? What if we both admitted that, yes, we were sometimes tempted, and that sometimes we acted on that temptation? I think I was the one who brought it up over dinner one night, just after we’d moved in together. I told him that I’d no longer ask questions, that I didn’t want to know. He said he’d do the same. We reaffirmed that we loved each other, and that wouldn’t change. And then, without drawing up any official rules, we embarked on our anything-but-traditional relationship.

We got married seven years ago and now have two sons, ages 4 and nearly 2. The arguments started up again during my first pregnancy. I was pretty sure Dave was sleeping with someone else while I was stuck at home. Before, I felt we could both have our cake and eat it, too, but the last thing I wanted to do when I was pregnant was seek out an affair. It seemed tawdry and gross, and I resented the fact that all my husband had to do was slip off his ring and he’d look single. Meanwhile, I was huge, hormonal, and knew my husband was cheating on me. When I told him how I felt, he broke off his side situation.

Toward the last trimester of my pregnancy, Dave was amazing. He was home every night, did everything around the house, and was 100% there for me — but I still felt resentful and like I’d gotten the short end of the stick.

A few months after our son was born, I quickly got into a relationship with a former co-worker. It wasn’t great — I really would have rather been at home with my son, and I felt I was punishing myself for my husband’s behavior during my pregnancy. I liked my co-worker, but I know I pushed us into romantic territory fast because I wanted to feel desired. My husband and I had some huge fights during that time, and we both uttered the word “divorce.” But deep down, neither of us wanted that. We love each other. We also seriously like other people.

Read the end of the story on CNN.

It wasn’t until about three years ago that I realized that even though it’s not for me, an open relationship might be best for some couples. The marriage stays in tact and the sexual needs are satisfied. I’m not sure I agree with an indefinite cheating pass or a no questions asked policy. What are your thoughts? Did you find the story interesting? Disgusting? Not for you? Do you get the feeling that you don’t understand why get married if you plan to cheat?

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From Our Partners

  • Payne Well

    I don’t know if it can make it stronger. I guess it depends on the circumstances. If you guys have been together for years, someone steps out once and felt remorseful, and then you go through the processes to heal, in that instance it could strengthen the marriage. Though I would not test it because with infidelity comes, loss of trust, unrest in the home, feelings of disgust, and if you were lacking s*x before, it really will go down here because of the lack of stress. However, if you guys are bf and gf and y’all haven’t been together that long, I doubt it. If you want to sleep with multiple women, do it. But dont make an agreement to be exclusive if you dont agree with the terms.

  • JT

    Payne, I agree. It isn’t cheating that ‘can’ make your marriage stronger. Cheating actually destroys something within both marriage partners, i.e., trust, loyalty, devotion, friendship, love, it just depends. I think what can make the marriage stronger AFTER cheating has been revealed, is the couple, i.e., BOTH marriage partners’ willingness to forgive, learn, move on, rebuild, re-ignite, re-devote themselves to one another and their marriage. But the cheating alone? Hell naw, that don’t make shit stronger. LOL

  • cynicaloptmst81

    I don’t think cheating made this marriage stronger. I think acceptance…fully accepting each others personality/habits/flaws, etc. makes this marriage “stronger”…or allows this to “work” for them. They have fully agreed to love each other unconditionally despite being players.
    I couldn’t do it but the root of their “success”…knowing and fully accepting your partner (and how they operate)…is something every married couple must have to make the marriage work.

  • Troy Eichelberger II

    Is it cheating if its condoned?

    • JT

      thats a good question….per Wikipedia

      Infidelity (also referred to as cheating, adultery, or having an affair)
      is the subjective feeling that one’s partner has violated a set of
      rules or relationship norms and this violation results in feelings of
      sexual jealousy and rivalry (Leeker & Carlozzi, 2012). Infidelity is
      a violation of a couple’s assumed or stated contract regarding
      emotional and/or sexual exclusivity (Weeks et al., 2003, p. ix).[1]

      What constitutes an act of infidelity is dependent upon the
      exclusivity expectations within the relationship (Barta & Kiene,
      2005). In marital relationships, exclusivity expectations are commonly
      assumed although they are not always met. When they are not met,
      research has found that particular psychological damage including
      feelings of rage and betrayal, lowering of sexual and personal
      confidence, and damage to self-image
      can occur (Leeker et al., 2012). Depending on the context, men and
      women can experience social consequences if their act of infidelity
      becomes public. The form and extent of these consequences are often
      dependent on the gender of the unfaithful person.

      • JT

        I don’t believe that condoning the activity makes it something other than cheating any more than condoing domestic violence makes it something other than what it is.

  • Gray

    This was very interesting… Going through and overcoming trials does strengthen a relationship. It is how you build trust and learn to honor codependency. However, sex brings a whole-nother element into the mix. When the sex is deemed as cheating how on Earth can that build trust or strengthen a relationship? Through my exes cheating I personally lost trust and respect. Initially I stayed in the relationship, but incident after incident took its toll on me personally. If he was honest maybe I wouldn’t have lost total respect, but I know our relationship would not have sustained all of that.

    Swingers and/or those in open marriages don’t typically consider their trysts as cheating. Although it’s an odd concept to me, I think they could manage to have some level of trust and respect for one another.

  • Bree

    imo I think this woman was cool with this “arrangement” because she was the cheater. And, she had/has a “player” mentality herself. As Cyn said, they’re both a lot alike and they fully and completely accept each other, flaws and all. They still love each other despite their flaws. Only difference between people whose marriages last and people whose marriages don’t is the ability to truly love another person Unconditionally & Everlasting. Not many people are capable of loving like that.