MATE DEBATE: CAN YOU FORGIVE A CHEATER?
08/11/2015 Sunday, November 8, 2015; Romantic Reminders

CAN YOU FORGIVE

By Romantic Reminders

This Side

Infidelity claims the lives of successful relationships around the world every day. What we’re looking at today is whether or not the cheater should be forgiven.

Our steadfast stance on the matter is no, absolutely not – like the Swiss, we lend no quarter. Relationships are built on trust and respect, among a few other indispensable elements. These elements are the sum of a strong support foundation that can provide both guidance and backing for future challenges that couples may face. If your relationship is the kind where both parties are comfortable with the opposing person interacting intimately with other people then the ramifications of cheating do not exist. If, however, you are in a clearly determined monogamous relationship, then it is paramount to the well being of your person and to the relationship that you close that chapter in life and begin to move forward on to the next phase. By excusing your partner for having cheated, you have directly encouraged the dismantling of the sturdy foundation of which your relationship is built on, quite simply because your trust has been severed and you did nothing to stop the bleeding. In addition, there is a mega chance that once your partner has tasted the fruits of faithlessness, they will become a full blown repeat customer and cheat again. In no way shape or form will that serve any positive purpose towards the strengthening of your relationship and the love shared between the both parties. Simply put, you should not excuse your partner if they’ve engaged in infidelity, it’s a lose-lose no matter how you cut it.  

That Side

Put on your boxing gloves, folks; this one could get ugly! Can you forgive your partner for cheating on you? Oh. Fo. Sho. Unless you have some sort of predetermined agreement (in which case I believe “swinging” would be the word), cheating is not OK. But it ain’t a black and white, if/then statement (i.e. If you cheat, the relationship is over). It’s one of those “it depends” statement. You know–to exercise your brain! Here’s the deal: First off, all couples define cheating differently. Is cheating flirting? Making out? Staying over? Texting? Getting horizontal? Grinding? Becoming Facebook friends? This is an important definition, but for the purpose of the argument let’s just go with the home run. Cheating is having sex with a person who is not your partner. Ugh. Yeah, that’s a tough one to come back from, but cheating should not be the act that defines the future of your relationship. Here’s why: In some cases, cheating can basically be the cowardly way to convince you it’s over. Cheating can be the symptom of a failing relationship. Cheating can be a sticky affair, a premeditated, selfish act. In some cases, the relationship wounds caused by cheating are harder to heal, and in those cases, perhaps calling it quits is the better option. But in other cases, cheating is a short lapse in judgment. The result of a few too many gins and charm at just the right (wrong) time. An indication your relationship–or sex life–could use a little TLC. Yep, in other cases, cheating can actually be a catalyst to change and promote growth. Or, it can be the beginning of the end. See, it’s up to you how you decide to proceed if you get cheated on, and all this chitter-chatter about it being unforgivable gets in the way of making a decision that’s going to benefit you. So screw all the messages in our culture that say to end it despite the situation…that’s just gonna blur your vision. It is possible to forgive, and it is possible to heal. It doesn’t mean you have no backbone, it doesn’t mean “it’ll happen again,” and it doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed. Humans mess up, and sometimes forgiving them is the best route. Now back away from the burning barrel filled with their clothes and call a couples’ therapist!


LATE NIGHTS
16/08/2015 Sunday, August 16, 2015; Romantic Reminders

My husband and I have been married for 3 months, and before that were together for 7 years on and off. The whole time we’ve been together, there’s been one major issue: what happens when he goes out with his friends. When we were in college, he played football and was always out with the boys on Friday and Saturday nights. Sometimes he wouldn’t be home until 5 or 6am. You can imagine where my head goes at that time. After we graduated, I thought the late nights would end, but he still would spend most weekend nights out. Then I convinced myself it would change once we got married – but that didn’t happen. I feel like I’m panicking and am considering ending things with him. I’m 31 and want to have kids soon, but I don’t want to do that if I can’t be sure I’ll get the support I’ll need from him. What should I do?

I can certainly understand your frustration considering the length of time you’ve considered this the “everything’s great except ____” issue. Of course, in the same breath, it’s a testament to the strengths and values of your relationship that you’ve been together for the better part of a decade (most relationships dissolve before the 5-year mark). Your concern is a common one, as women in our culture are socialized to be relational, while men are more socialized to be independent. As a result, women tend to want to connect and are viewed as “needy,” while men feel pressured to retain a sense of autonomy and independence. Another interesting tidbit? During times of stress, women have an additional response to the fight/flight/freeze instinct — one which motivates them to connect, and referred to as “tend and befriend”. Their brains secrete more oxytocin (the “cuddle hormone”), urging them to desire closeness and connectedness. However, men in general (not exclusively by any means) are more likely to close off in reaction to this response, creating what’s known as a demand-withdrawal pattern.

Now, if this has been going on for seven years, my guess is you’ve had a conversation about it before. However, it’s common for couples to share a way of communicating about a contentious or chronic issue that gets immediately dismissed. For example, it might be that every time your partner comes home at 5am, you sleep on the couch and give him the cold shoulder for the next day. Sometime in the afternoon when he gets up, you have a disconnected conversation in which he tells you to stop controlling him and points out all the evenings he’s been home that week. You end up feeling powerless, dropping the issue, and slowly connection builds again until things are good. Now, that’s just an example — I have no idea what your “pattern” is, but my guess is that there is a pattern of sorts. It’s important to try to communicate in a different way, so that your partner really hears you, rather than dismissing it right away.

First, I encourage you to explore the issue internally to really understand the impact it has on you, and the impact you believe it has on your relationship. Some questions to consider: What exactly is the issue? What is the emotional impact the issue has on you individually – how does it make you feel when your husband stays out all night? Angry? Hurt? Disrespected? Jealous? Resentful? What message does it send you? That he doesn’t care? That he’s interested in other women? That he’s not committed? What’s the impact it has on your relationship to your partner (e.g. feelings of disconnection, resentment)?

Then, really explore realistic expectations for change. If we have unrealistic expectations, they will not be met, and we’ll continually be disappointed. What would realistic change look like? What would compromise look like? Is there a possible solution that can meet both of your needs, and the needs of the relationship? What are concrete behavioural changes that you’ll be able to measure/see change? Is there anything you can change internally, with regards to your expectations or your perception/interpretations that can be clarified or changed? Is there anything getting in the way of change right now (e.g. resistance, egos, lack of resources, addictions, etc.)?

Finally, as you two continue to transition from young adulthood to middle adulthood, whereupon the relationship dyad becomes primary (as opposed to the peer group), my guess is that you will notice less nights “out with the boys.” That being said, hoping for change is not enough. If you aren’t getting the cooperation you expect from your partner, there might come a point where you need to make a decision as to whether or not this is a “deal-breaker,” or whether or not you can accept this behaviour or find a way of managing your frustration around it. This is not to say that you should take that route; however, when we feel powerless or hopeless towards a behaviour of our partner’s, and don’t want to remove ourselves from the relationship, it is generally less painful to work towards expecting, accepting, and finding a way to negotiate this behaviour rather than struggle against it.

Warmly,
Megan Bruneau, M.A. RCC

Although many individuals share similar concerns relating to their relationship advice, no two persons or couples are the same. Romantic Reminders’ Registered Clinical Counsellor, Megan Bruneau, provides professional advice that some might find helpful influencing how they consider approaching their concern; however, her advice is by no means a substitute for couple’s therapy or one-on-one professional help. Megan advises all of her clients to seek relationship support in the form of a trained professional if their situation grants them the opportunity to do so. Additionally, if physical or emotional abuse, addictions, or mental illness are present in your relationship, this advice likely will not be suitable or sufficient for you. Instead, individual and couple therapy are strongly recommended.


MATE DEBATE: FLIRTATIOUS BEHAVIOR
02/06/2015 Tuesday, June 2, 2015; Romantic Reminders

Young couple flirting in the office

By Romantic Reminders

This Side

Look, guys, we get it – you have a penis. And, somewhere along the line, you realized that flirting can facilitate using it with an actual human. And it can...

That Side

Ok gentlemen, here’s the scenario: You’re out with your significant other at a social event, catching up with friends and...


MATE DEBATE: DRESSED TO KILL
08/03/2015 Sunday, March 8, 2015; Romantic Reminders


By Romantic Reminders

This Side

Ladies, did you know that when you get dressed up like a Siberian streetwalker with an accompaniment of friends looking like a bunch of lusty harlots, we can’t...

That Side

Guys, firstly, if your woman wants to dress “sexy,” you’re a lucky man. Enjoy it. A lot of us are too insecure to show our bodies off.  Secondly, have you ever been...


CONCERNED YOU MIGHT CHEAT?
09/02/2015 Monday, February 9, 2015; Romantic Reminders


My fiancé and I have been together for 4 years. I seriously do love her -I see her as the mother of my children and want to spend the rest of my life with her. The thing is, I’m worried about my ability to stay faithful to her. There’s this woman at work that I’m really attracted to, and I know she’s into me, too. We flirt like crazy but it’s been pretty harmless until this point. We have a company retreat coming up, and I’m worried about where things could go if I have too much to drink. I’m not a cheater—I feel guilty for even thinking about it, but I don’t know if I can help it if I’m in a compromising situation. I’m also wondering if this means I shouldn’t be getting married. What should I do?

Firstly, I want to acknowledge that you are like almost every other human being on this planet in a monogamous relationship. Temptation is a natural part of being in a relationship, so don’t beat yourself up for feeling it. Everyone likes being desired, and doing something “forbidden” can be very alluring. Particularly as a man in our society that celebrates masculinity, being desired by an attractive woman is highly masculinizing. However, the fact that you are committed enough to foresee your colleague as a potential avenue to being unfaithful (and are concerned about it) is a testament to how much you value and respect your relationship, your partner, and fidelity. I see two parts to your question: 1) not trusting yourself to stay faithful and 2) wondering if your interest in your colleague means you should not be getting married. Let me speak to both of those topics:

I like to take a cost-benefit approach to most difficult decisions in life. Ultimately, you want to ask yourself what is going to serve you best. Now, when it comes to decisions that might serve your desire but hurt your partner/relationship, the question to ask yourself is does the cost of the guilt I will experience if I cheat on my partner outweigh the pleasure I will experience by feeding my desire to hook up with my coworker? Now, if you didn’t value fidelity in a relationship (or your partner’s feelings), we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. What makes cheating worth it for some people is when it does not weigh on their conscience. However, because you’ve brought this up as something that’s causing you conflict, my guess is that you have strong values around fidelity, and don’t want to cheat. So, is it worth it to you? Take some time to think about it and potential benefits and consequences. There’s no universal “right” answer–the answer is for you to decide based on the information you have available to you at this time, so take some time to explore your thoughts and feelings around the issue. Some people find free-writing (but not somewhere your partner will find it) to be a nice space for deliberation. Think about where you see things going with your colleague. Think about after you’ve hooked up. What will it be like? How would it change the office dynamic? Your dynamic? Can you see yourself leaving your fiancé for this person? Without viewing her as a sexual object, how do you view her? Finally, how many times have you felt attracted to a woman previous to being with your fiancé, thinking it could go somewhere, and had it end up fizzling out? Sex is not difficult to come by, whether you’re in a relationship or not. So, is it worth it?

Now, onto your second question: Does this desire mean you shouldn’t be getting married? No, not necessarily. Crushes and physical attractions are normal and healthy parts of the human experience. If there are other factors of your relationship that make you question your desire to marry your partner, that’s a different story, but don’t believe popular wisdom that “If you’re attracted to someone else it means there’s something wrong with your relationship.” Sometimes we’re tempted to sleep in instead of go to work, or have a second (or third) bowl of ice cream, but knowing the consequences (e.g. being reprimanded, stomach ache, etc.) leads us to go against instinct and make a wiser choice. And, it doesn’t mean that, rationally, we want to leave our jobs or replace every meal with dessert. Our emotional and rational thoughts do not always align, and there is certainly a place for both of them in the decision-making process. However, in cases where listening solely to the emotional mind leave you feeling regretful in the future, it’s important to consider the possible consequences. Yes, you can “help it.” Chances are, this likely will not be the only time you will be tempted to cheat on your partner, but the sheer fact that you can foresee potentially sticky situations allows you to plan to not put yourself in them. So, what to do? Well, how can you put yourself in the best position possible so that you won’t be tempted to cheat at the retreat? Better yet, do you have to go? Can you plan to chat with your fiancé on the phone each evening before bed? Can you plan to only have 1-2 drinks a night (it’s probably better for professional reputation too!)? Can you talk to the object of your desire and let her know that you are committed to your fiance and, tempted as you are to get physical with her, you do not intend to do so and ask that she respect that? Going back to the cost-benefit approach, you only have to do what serves you best TODAY. So, you don’t have to decide “I’m never going to cheat on my partner.” Rather you just have to make the decision, “I’m going to remain faithful to my partner TODAY.” You are always aiming for what serves you at that moment in time, and that might change in the future. So, be kind and understanding with yourself as you consider what serves you best right now, and how you can facilitate that.

Warmly,
Megan Bruneau, M.A. RCC

Although many individuals share similar concerns relating to their romantic relationships, no two persons or couples are the same. Romantic Reminders’ Registered Clinical Counsellor, Megan Bruneau, provides professional advice that some might find helpful influencing how they consider approaching their concern; however, her advice is by no means a substitute for couple’s therapy or one-on-one professional help. Megan advises all of her clients to seek relationship support in the form of a trained professional if their situation grants them the opportunity to do so. Additionally, if physical or emotional abuse, addictions, or mental illness are present in your relationship, this advice likely will not be suitable or sufficient for you. Instead, individual and couple therapy are strongly recommended.


MATE DEBATE: THE EX FACTOR
19/11/2014 Wednesday, November 19, 2014; Romantic Reminders

ex-boyfriend1

By Romantic Reminders

This Side

This month we tackle the age-old debate of whether or not it is a good idea to keep in touch with your ex. Our thoughts: Not a good idea. The simplest way to...

That Side

What seems like a more threatening situation to you? Your honey catching up with the ex they’re no longer physically attracted to but want to maintain a...


WANDERING EYE…
31/10/2014 Friday, October 31, 2014; Romantic Reminders

WANDERING EYE

My boyfriend is constantly commenting on attractive women in front of me. I get that he’s going to find other people attractive, but it pisses me off, and, even more embarrassingly so, he does it in front of our friends. Is this some sort of weird way of putting me down? Or am I just being a jealous psycho? How do I get him to stop?

Some folks in Dating 101 missed the lesson about how telling their partner how hot someone else is usually doesn’t fly well. Feeling hurt, offended, annoyed, etc. in response to your partner’s comments, particularly in front of others, are completely natural and understandable reactions. However, our society tends to place the blame on women when they express their feelings (i.e. calling them “crazy” or “jealous”), leaving them feeling invalidated and hesitant to bring up their concerns.

Like you said, it’s natural that your partner is going to find other women attractive—just as you probably find other men attractive. This is human nature and doesn’t mean he intends to pursue the hot girl at the gym or the server on your dinner date. Still, it sounds like his acknowledgment of this attraction understandably leaves you feeling disrespected and inadequate, and thus asking for a change in his behaviour seems like a valid request.

Let’s look at why he might be commenting on other women. In order to do this, let’s explore things further: You mentioned he comments in front of others — does he comment when it’s just the two of you, as well? If so, does it leave you feeling the same way? My guess is that the humiliation and anger you feel are a reaction to the public violation of the “I only have eyes for you” rule that we hold in our society. Of course, there’s pressure not to get jealous or to express discontent in response to his interest in other women. Now, this very well may be a product of insecurity either in himself or in the relationship. The implicit message in these comments might be “I find other women attractive and believe I have other options,” and underneath that might be “I worry that you might leave me, so by commenting on other women I hope you’ll feel less secure and will choose to stay with me.” It might be that he has witnessed his parents interacting in such ways, or that his father/brother/role model did this, and so he believes it is a normal and acceptable behaviour in a relationship. Or, maybe he has done it with past partners and had the behaviour reinforced (for example, a past partner might have reacted to comments by dressing more attractively or becoming more sexual). Or, maybe he just appreciates human beauty and feels a need to point that out. Maybe.

But of course, knowing the “why” won’t get him to keep his attraction to himself. Sure, it can be helpful to know, because it might provide more insight into his intentions and change how you feel; but, what’s most important is that a behaviour is occurring that leaves you feeling disrespected, and you desire change.

My suggestion would be to address the issue with him directly (you’re not surprised). Be specific about the behaviour, and use “I” statements (for example, “When you make comments about finding other women attractive, it leaves me feeling annoyed/disconnected/confused/inadequate/etc. Can you see why I might feel that way?”)

Then, ask how he thinks mentioning these things out loud would benefit the relationship and what he gets out of it, or if there is something else he is trying to tell you by stating such things. Not in a sarcastic or accusatory way, but in a truly curious way about the intentions of his behaviour (.e.g “I’m wondering if you can help me understand better what’s happening for you when you tell me that you find other women attractive.”) Focus on intention and potential benefits/growth in the relationship rather than harm.

Depending on his reaction, you can then move to the next step of asking for change and defining realistic expectations together. For example, you are not asking him not to find other women attractive, as that is an unrealistic expectation. Rather, you are asking him to be more considerate in how he reacts to this feeling of attraction in front of you and in front of others, by not stating it out loud. Because he likely will not be able to completely extinguish the behaviour right off the bat, explore together a firm but compassionate response that you can have prepared for if he “slips up.” (e.g. “I’m noticing you’re commenting on other women. I know it’s a habit that is likely difficult to change, but I just want to remind you that I find it creates a disconnection between us.”) Theories of behaviour suggest that immediacy is important in successful change, so don’t wait until you go to bed that evening to bring it up. Try to do it as soon after the behaviour occurs as possible (ideally with as few curse words as possible). Finally, remember that change is not an immediate or linear process, so try to practice patience and compassion in the process. Good luck!

Warmly,
Megan Bruneau, M.A. RCC

Although many individuals share similar concerns relating to their relationship advice, no two persons or couples are the same. Romantic Reminders’ Registered Clinical Counsellor, Megan Bruneau, provides professional advice that some might find helpful influencing how they consider approaching their concern; however, her advice is by no means a substitute for couple’s therapy or one-on-one professional help. Megan advises all of her clients to seek relationship support in the form of a trained professional if their situation grants them the opportunity to do so. Additionally, if physical or emotional abuse, addictions, or mental illness are present in your relationship, this advice likely will not be suitable or sufficient for you. Instead, individual and couple therapy are strongly recommended.


BEING “OPEN”
28/08/2014 Thursday, August 28, 2014; Romantic Reminders


Recently, my husband suggested we try out an “open” marriage. I was pretty surprised when he suggested it, and it’s definitely not something I would have considered before. The thing is, I consider myself to be pretty liberal, so I’m thinking maybe I should give it a whirl? I’m also worried that if I say “No”, he’ll end up cheating on me… Thoughts?

I was waiting for this question! More and more attention is being brought to open relationships as couples aim to navigate declining rates in marital satisfaction and longevity. Marital longevity began to decline after the industrial revolution. Since then, women have entered the workforce and no longer depend on men for fiscal support, emphasis on religion (and religious values) has declined, no-fault divorce makes marital dissolution easier, society has developed more liberal attitudes around divorce and sexuality, and technology (dating websites, social media) gives more choice for alternative and additional partners.

Before I offer advice on testing out the trend, I think it’s important to address the hesitation I sense in your question. It sounds like you feel pressured into trying out an open relationship, because you worry that cheating is an inevitability if you don’t. This concerns me, because, assuming you share an egalitarian relationship characterized by mutual respect, agreeing to a relationship format you don’t feel comfortable out of fear of being cheated on does not sound ideal.

I strongly suggest having a conversation to answer the “why” and the “why now” questions, first. Is he feeling bored in your physical relationship? Is a friend doing it and he’s envious? Has he met someone else? Having sex with other people will likely not solve one of those concerns. Does he think it would benefit your relationship? Do you think it would benefit your relationship? It is essential that both partners be on board with this idea and discuss it thoroughly before engaging. Find out what “open relationship” means. Open physically? Open emotionally? How would you benefit? What would your expectations in an open marriage be?

Because there hasn’t been much attention brought to the subject in the past, there isn’t a ton of research available on what makes some open relationships work. However, qualitative evidence suggests that being “open” — in a communication and informational sense — works best. For example, having access to each others’ Facebook, text messages, email, etc; setting rules such as not exchanging last names or contact information, only engaging in intimate encounters with new partners (i.e. no “repeats”), and, of course, using protection and maintaining regular health check-ups.

However, some couples are more of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” mindset. They’d rather not know, and what pressures them to find out is a message from society that considers sexual intimacy with another partner “cheating,” and if they weren’t to know they might be considered naïve or pathetic. If you decide to try on an open relationship, this is something that should be thoroughly discussed. Consider what you’d want your open relationship to look like. After setting your expectations, your partner might change his mind, as the idea might seem less attractive with expectations and boundaries.

A few other points to consider? Jealousy will inevitably arise, so discuss how you plan to deal with it. Most people find compassion is a helpful strategy, and there are many resources available to help further develop this skill. Furthermore, discuss if and how you will share the details of your relationship shift to your friends and family. Be prepared that not everyone will be on board with, or supportive of this. You might experience social prejudice, discrimination, and lack of support.

To sum, above all, communication is the most important ingredient to facilitate a successful open relationship. Discuss, devise, debrief, and repeat as you go!

Warmly,
Megan

Although many individuals share similar concerns relating to their relationship advice, no two persons or couples are the same. Romantic Reminders’ Registered Clinical Counsellor, Megan Bruneau, provides professional advice that some might find helpful influencing how they consider approaching their concern; however, her advice is by no means a substitute for couple’s therapy or one-on-one professional help. Megan advises all of her clients to seek relationship support in the form of a trained professional if their situation grants them the opportunity to do so. Additionally, if physical or emotional abuse, addictions, or mental illness are present in your relationship, this advice likely will not be suitable or sufficient for you. Instead, individual and couple therapy are strongly recommended.


MATE DEBATE: Eye on the Prize
30/06/2014 Monday, June 30, 2014; Romantic Reminders

Man-and-woman-flirting-2502782

By Romantic Reminders

This Side

Ok, so crushes happen. At the office, the gym, during a night out with the girls – at some point in our relationship, we’re probably going to feel attracted...

That Side

Honesty is king. The strongest foundation for a long lasting relationship is honesty. You need to be honest with yourself and with your partner, because...

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