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!


WHY THE HAPPIEST COUPLES GO TO BED AT THE SAME TIME
12/09/2015 Saturday, September 12, 2015; Romantic Reminders

BED-SAME-TIME

By Jamie Rea

If you read any article online only about ‘Things Happy Couples Do’ or ‘Things Successful Couples Do’ you will find ‘Go to bed at the same time’ on just about every single list out there.

It’s the truth. How you and your partner sleep, as well as construct your nighttime schedules, can have a dramatic impact on your relationship.

According to a study done on DailyMail.co.uk, 75 percent of couples go to bed at different times due to heavy workloads, hectic social lives, and surfing the web (hmmm, sifting through that virtual garbage). Going even further, over one third of these couples with varying sleep patterns said that it created arguments.

That, in a nutshell, means — the majority of couples go to bed at different times and many have claimed issues in their relationship with a direct correlation to their different bedtimes. So it shows that sleep patterns in your relationship can be a real determining factor that contributes to a happy and smooth union, versus a rocky and argumentative one.

So what do these varying sleep patterns look like?

Well a successful couple in this area looks like this…

They’re both on a similar circadian rhythm. They both work jobs that are relatively close to the same hours (i.e. they both work night jobs, or both work day jobs). While they may separate for evening activities, they converge at the very end of the day, right before bed. They set their alarms at the same time, read their books at the same time, while chatting about their day, as well as their plans for tomorrow. They use this pre-bedtime routine as a chance to check-in, communicate, and relax and enjoy each other’s company before turning out the lights. They also use this time to have sex, of course!

Why is this time so important for a relationship?

It allows both partners to feel relaxed and closer to each other. It leads to more kissing, cuddling, touching, massaging, back scratching etc. (all crucial forms of intimacy that are often overlooked). As well as obviously more sex. In fact, one leading cause of the old argument “we don’t have enough sex” can be largely attributed to couples operating on conflicting work schedules and sleep patterns.

So heading to bed at the same time as your partner has a multitude of positive factors on you and your relationship.

Such as…

Both you and your partner feeling more relaxed and at ease within the relationship.

Better communication.

Better sleep.

Less stress.

Fewer arguments.

More intimacy.

More sex.

And creates a deep, underlying feeling of camaraderie and partnership.

Now an example of a couple that is not successful in this area looks like this…

They always go to bed at different times; one partner always goes to bed much later, often barging into the room and waking up the other. Now the person who was woken up suddenly, probably ends up having a lousy sleep, which contributes to their irritable mood the next day. Now this creates susceptibility for tension and arguments, as well as a pressure point in the relationship if the problem persists. There are also couples that, instead of using the time before bed to talk to each other, end up spending that time with their attention being sucked into their cell phones as they check social media and randomly browse websites. Technology can become a huge interference during this time.

Growing up, my dad would always pass out on the couch, while my mom would go off to bed. It used to drive her absolutely crazy. This is because when someone doesn’t come with you to bed, or doesn’t reciprocate your invitation to come to bed at the same time, then they’re going to take it that their partner is directly turning down an opportunity to spend some time together, or at least doesn’t value the “before bed time” as a great opportunity to be close to each other.

Now many things are lost when this situation happens.

Firstly, they have less time to spend together, and if they both went about their busy, individual lives that day, then there is no time to communicate and reconvene. Secondly, they lose a perfect opportunity to be intimate with each other, to pillow talk and just be with each other in a quiet space after the noise of the day has subsided. They end up sleeping on far sides of the bed, with absolutely no bodily contact. Pretty soon this romantic relationship starts to feel like a friendship. And for couples who have children, this time before bed becomes particularly crucial as it’s often the only time they can be in each other’s company without their kids being around. They also lose out on, for many busy couples, the only chance to have sex. So now this couple is intimate with each other less often, and they communicate less often. Over time this can result in a huge gap between the couple.

You see, couples that are on conflicting sleep schedules experience more stress in their relationship, which creates more arguments. It can even be partially attributed to ‘poor sleep’ as well. When we get less than 8 hours of sleep, we become more irritable and more prone to arguments. It’s also particularly important for women to be on a similar sleep cycle, as according to Austria-based sleep researcher John Dittami, women are the sleepless sex. Meaning that they tend to have a harder time falling asleep than men and are more easily waken. Men fall asleep faster and have fewer complaints about their sleep. So if in a relationship, the guy tends to go to bed later, it’s likely that he’s going to wake his partner up when he comes to bed. She’ll not only be upset that he always wakes her up when he comes to bed, but also that he didn’t come spend time with her when she was heading to bed in the first place. So now she’s irritated by being woken up, as well as feels neglected that she goes to bed by herself every single night, as he sees random YouTube videos and Netflix shows to be more important than spending time with her. It’s also probably not a surprise, that according to DailyMail.co.uk, statistics have shown that people who sleep poorly have a higher divorce rate.

And all this over sleep!!

The argument that most people will have is that one person is a night owl and the other likes to go to sleep earlier, or that one person’s work requires them to be up late on the computer, while the other’s work requires them to be up super early. There is then the endless brigade of social obligations that keep couples out later and apart from each other.

But, the very important difference, which was noted by ‘Psychology Today’, is that it’s not so much about going to bed at exactly the same time, but rather couples getting in their “sacred time” together before bed every night. This doesn’t mean they have to be on the exact same sleep cycles, as that’s completely unrealistic every single night, but it’s about making the effort to use that time at the end of a busy day to find time to be close with one another. ‘Psychology Today’ goes on to say that couples that have different natural sleep cycles (night owl vs. morning rooster) should focus on spending quality time right before the bedtime of the person that goes to bed the earliest. The other person can then get up and do whatever they have to go do for the rest of the evening after they’ve spent quality time together, talking, cuddling, making love, or just being around each other and winding down after the day.

This difference between “sacred time” before bed and actually sleeping was further lamented by John Dittami when he said this, “sleeping is an individual thing. It’s not a duet.” What he meant was that most couples like to sleep independently from one another, i.e. very few couples actually fall asleep while they’re cuddling and spooning each other. This notion that couples always fall asleep perfectly caressed into each other’s arms has been blown out of proportion by romantic comedies, am I right? The majority of couples sleep on their own side of the bed. There is sex followed by cuddling, and then there is sleeping. Sleeping is its own thing.

We all lead busy lives. We all have social obligations. There are things we enjoy doing in the evening such as spending time on the computer, watching TV, movies, going out to see friends, and scrolling our Instagram feeds. But like so many other things in a relationship, quality time before bed is something that needs to be put into practice and done through a very concerted effort. It’s not about ALWAYS going to bed at the same time as your partner every single night, but it’s about trying to carve out that time in the evening, when the world shuts down, even just to be lying next to each other as you both read your books or make your schedules for the following day. As we’ve seen with so many other articles circulating the Internet, being on a complimentary sleep pattern is so crucial and evident in successful relationships, it leads to less arguments and more feelings of alignment and happiness with your partner.


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.


HEALTHY COMPETITION
05/08/2015 Wednesday, August 5, 2015; Romantic Reminders

lesbian-couple

I’m sort of embarrassed to admit this, but it feels like my girlfriend of two years and I are competing. I went back to start my Masters, then she applied to do hers the following semester. Last June, she started eating better and exercising more and lost 20 lbs, and all of a sudden there I was signing up for Crossfit and counting carbs. Sometimes, it’s harmless, but other times I feel like we can’t be happy for each other because we’re too focused on one-upping each other (or at least, that’s how I feel). Got any advice?

Competition in relationships (particularly ones in the dating stage) is actually quite common. The research on competition suggests that we’re most likely to compete in areas that matter to our identity, and even more if it’s with people with whom we relate or share commonalities. For example, with any partner I’ve ever had, I’ve actually felt quite angry if they’ve beaten me in tennis. However, if they schooled me in say, replacing brake pads, I didn’t give a crap. Some believe this is because if we are outperformed in skill areas that are integral to our confidence, self-esteem, and identity, our self-worth in undermined.

Some suggest it is within sibling relationships that we develop such tendencies, competing for our parents’ love and validation. This then transfers from the parent/child relationship to the romantic relationship. Some suggest that, before the couple truly considers itself a unit (which often happens during marriage), they still feel the need to prove themselves as individuals. Of course, chances are, there’s a combination of things contributing to the presence of competition in your relationship.

So, what to do? Well, first, check in with yourself and acknowledge how it makes you feel when your partner does something that leaves you wanting to compete. This will be an important indicator for creating change. Vulnerable? Afraid? Angry? Threatened? People generally feel a need to “prove themselves” if they feel as though their worth is being threatened, or that they might not be “good enough.”

Then, bring attention to it with your girlfriend. Perhaps not during her thesis defense, or when you’re having people over for dinner and she brings out the crème brulée you’d expressed interest in learning to make, but sometime when you know you’ll have the time and the environment to discuss things. Use “I feel” statements to avoid bringing about defensiveness—e.g: “There’s something I’ve been wanting to bring up with you. I’ve been noticing something happening in our relationship, and I’m wondering if you notice it, too: Sometimes I get the sense that we’re competing. This leaves me feeling vulnerable, confused, and frustrated. What do you think?”

Now, if she says, “OMG I notice it too — I’m so glad you brought it up,” then the topic is now open and you can discuss it. Voice your shared responsibility contributing to the issue: (e.g. I’ve been thinking about it, and I have a feeling the reason I feel a need to compete is because I worry I won’t be good enough for you/myself if I don’t outperform you), and suggest ideas for change or brainstorming (e.g. I’m going to make a point to pay attention to when I feel the sense that I’m competing with you). Now, it’s also typical for people to get defensive when they’re feeling accused of something. Although “I” statements tend to decrease the possibility for this to happen (as opposed to “You” statements that tend to seem accusatory) she may not have the same insight, or might feel accused or embarrassed and act defensive as a result. If you receive a defensive or denying reaction, focus on what you can do to notice when you’re comparing and change your reaction.

Use immediacy when you notice competition is putting a wedge between your relationship. Some couples find it helpful to use a word — in this case, perhaps “comparing” might fit. For example, if you find yourself feeling competitive, say “comparing” either in your head or out loud, and check into what you are feeling. Perhaps an urge to prove yourself is coming out of feeling threatened or insecure. Notice this urge. Be curious about it. Don’t judge it. Then, rather than reacting with a need to “one up,” sit with that feeling of inadequacy and give yourself a compassionate statement such as “I’m feeling a need to compete right now because that’s a habit I’ve been in for a long time. Initially, I thought competing would make me more loveable, but I now realize this habit does not serve my relationship, and I realize the real accomplishment is not reacting to my urge to compete.”

If you receive a positive response from your loved one that invites discussion, I encourage you to explore areas where it might be better, at least for now, to do some things individually rather than as a couple (e.g. if you find your Crossfit classes aren’t enjoyable because you’re too focused on outperforming each other, it might be a better idea to take classes at different times for now), and to instead do something more “fun” together (take an art class, join a recreational softball team).

Finally, it’s likely that as your relationship continues to develop and feel more secure (and as you begin to feel more secure with yourself), the desire to compete will decrease. However, it likely won’t hurt to say something like, “I love you regardless of what you achieve or how long you run for. I want to be with you because of the person you are, not because of how you look on paper”.

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: Six Months
03/07/2015 Friday, July 3, 2015; Romantic Reminders

THE SIX MONTH MARK

By Romantic Reminders

This Side

If you are in a relationship past the six-month mark, here are a few things you should definitely know about your...

That Side

The six-month mark can be a time of transition. The words alone have enough weight to bring about the inevitable truth: that you are officially...


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...


FITNESS JUNKIE
07/04/2015 Tuesday, April 7, 2015; Romantic Reminders

workout

My boyfriend has recently become obsessed with health and fitness. At first, I was excited because I found myself more attracted to him. Now, though, it’s not only annoying how much it cuts into our life (he won’t go for Italian anymore and he’s always talking about his next fitness goal), but I’m also worried he’s going to attract more women, and that he might not be as attracted to me as he once was. Help!

This is actually a very common source of conflict in romantic relationships. When one partner makes a lifestyle change — even if the result is a healthier individual — the relationship can experience stress. All of a sudden, priorities shift, one partner’s attention is focused away from the couple, and activities the couple once enjoyed no longer fit into one partner’s “lifestyle”. Feelings of hurt, disconnection, frustration, and fear surface. Luckily, so long as both partners feel supported in their lifestyle choices, and secure and connected in the relationship, sharing different interests and values around food and activity level does not have to have a detrimental effect on the relationship.

From your question, I’m hearing there are three things going on for you: 1) frustration around the logistics of your relationship now that there are new rules around how time (and meals) are spent; 2) fear around your partner attracting women; and 3) insecurity around whether or not you are still attractive enough, and that perhaps he might not approve of your lifestyle. I’ll speak to all of these points, but I encourage you to really explore each of these areas (journaling or therapy are always great ways), to determine what’s most distressful to you.

Oftentimes, when our partner becomes quite “into” something, it can feel as though we’re being cheated on. Our mind starts to wander (Is there a pretty girl at the gym? Am I not as important as a workout? Is he no longer attracted to me?) Ask yourself what happens for you when he orders salad instead of pasta: What do you feel? What’s the message it sends you? That you’re not good enough? Fear? Believe he might leave you? Talk about it. Ask how he feels about you not choosing to join him in his diet and exercise changes.

A health-focused lifestyle change can be beneficial to a certain extent, but if it’s preventing you from being able to spend time together or enjoy a meal out, it can begin to have a negative effect on the relationship. With regards to the logistics of activities and meals in the relationship, discuss how you can support him in his lifestyle change without letting it take away from your quality time. For example, can he adopt a gym schedule that doesn’t interfere with your time together? Can he substitute a day or two a week with a cycle or walk with you? If he’s given up bread, can you still go to your favorite Italian spot, but you’ll order the pasta and he can get chicken salad? Can you structure date night/day where he gives you his full attention? Get creative and brainstorm how you can “make it work”. Compromise.

Next, we go a bit deeper: Fear around your partner attracting other women and insecurity around your attractiveness as a mate go hand in hand. In some ways, these feelings are positive, as they show you value the relationship and its continuation. However, fear and insecurity often breed jealousy, resentment, and manipulative behaviors. Without getting too in-depth theoretically, our romantic relationships often mirror our attachment styles with our parents from growing up. When we feel anxious or insecure in our relationship, some women respond to such anxiety with a “tend and befriend” style, where upon they require closeness and reassurance. Others respond by withdrawing, particularly men. Express how you are feeling to your partner, and clarify any assumptions you’ve made, or mind-reading you’ve done. For example, if you believe that his lifestyle shift now means he believes you’re lazy, or that he’s no longer attracted to you, or that he’s preparing to re-enter the single world. Clarifying such assumptions may help alleviate your feelings of fear and/or insecurity.

Now, this all being said, is there any part of the lifestyle shift that attracts you? Sometimes defensiveness, pride and stubbornness get in the way of trying something different. Could you see yourself enjoying eating this way or accompanying him to the gym? Is it something you could do together? If your partner has expressed desire for you to join him in making changes, being open to the possibility of enjoying it shows flexibility and support, something that he will likely appreciate. Furthermore, if you try it out, you can more legitimately state that you’ve tried it and prefer to go about things as you had been previously.

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.


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.


TRUE ROMANCE IS IN THE SMALL DETAILS
02/12/2014 Tuesday, December 2, 2014; Romantic Reminders

TRUE ROMANCE SMALL DETAILS

By Jamie Rea, Romantic Reminders

What do you see every year on February 14th? You see streams of men flowing down the street with bouquets of roses in hand, most of them bursting into flower shops last minute before they close, narrowly escaping sleeping on the couch for the next week. Would you call these men romantic? I don’t think you would. If they were to get a romance report card, it would probably read ‘Satisfactory’

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