Tag Archives: healthy relationships

Do This BEFORE a Partner Cheats

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Finding out your partner has cheated on you is often devastating. Regardless of your relationship style (monogamous, non-monogamous, polyam), partners can cheat. Any time a person violates the pre-agreed upon boundaries of a relationship, that is cheating.

As a society, we talk about cheating in salacious ways. Its office or church gossip. It’s watching Cheaters, or daytime talk shows. It is seen as a terminal point for a relationships. When famous folks cheat, we rarely understand why their partner would stay with them.

We don’t talk about the realities of being cheated on/cheating and what it looks like during a relationship. So, dear reader, I’m about to get deep into dealing with cheating in a relationship and options for how to handle it.

Who Cheats?

Reliable statistics on cheating behavior are hard to create. Survey methodology relies on self-reporting. This means people must decide whether or not to disclose on a survey or to a researcher if they have cheated. Obviously, even in anonymous surveys, some people who do cheat will not admit to it. Second, unless the survey or researcher specifies what they mean about cheating, people may not disclose even if the behavior would have counted as cheating within the relationship (the classic “We were on a break” dispute in Friends highlights how two people in a relationship can see behavior differently).

Additional difficulties figuring out who cheats comes with the heteronormativity of fidelity studies. Most of these studies are conducted on married or previously married heterosexual couples. Obviously, this leaves a fair number of us out of the studied population.

Taking the above into consideration, most surveys put the figures around 13 percent of women and 20 percent of men admit to cheating in a relationship at some point. For people under 30, women tend to report cheating more than men. The trend reverses once people get into their 30s.

Talking About Cheating in Relationships

Many couples do not address the issue of cheating until someone has strayed outside the boundaries of a relationship. This means that the first conversations about cheating, fidelity, and other tangential issues only get addressed after boundaries have been transgressed. Trying to deal with the pain of being cheated on/found out and negotiating about these topics makes the conversations fraught and very painful.

Talking about cheating and fidelity prior to it happening can have several benefits for your relationship(s). First, you and your partner(s) have the opportunity to reach a common understanding about what you mean by fidelity, relationship, ethical non-monogamy and more. Second, you have time to do some deep thinking about how you want to react if you find out your partner is cheating. Third, this early work sets the stage for remaining true to the person you want to be in a relationship.

What Questions Should I Ask Before Someone Cheats?

First, you and your partner(s) should actively decide the boundaries of the relationship.

  • What are your expectations around monogamy?
  • If you are non-monogamous, what are the boundaries around bringing in a new person to the relationship?
  • What are your expectations around safer sex with your partner and between your partner and other people?
  • At what point in a developing friendship is your partner expected to disclose that the relationship may become intimate?
  • Is your definition of cheating limited to sexual intercourse or do other intimate behaviors count as cheating for you?

Having open and honest discussions about these topics sets you and your partner up for clear expectations of behavior. When someone violates these boundaries, it is not done accidentally or because you never talked about them and just expected your partner to have the same expectations as you do. This makes is easier to decide how to react if your partner cheats.

Even if you are submissive and have negotiated power exchange when it comes to your Dominant choosing other partners, you should have some boundaries and a way to check in with your partner about their behavior. I know plenty of submissives who have an agreement that their partner may choose to sleep with whomever they want, without restrictions. However, there are times the submissive may have an issue with the choice of partners (e.g., the individual has toxic traits, the individual is disagreeable, the individual loves causing drama for the dominant). Establishing a protocol for checking in with your dominant to express your concerns is important for maintaining the health of your relationship.

What Kind of Person Do I Want to be in This Relationship?

Developing a clear idea of who you want to be in the relationship will help you stay true to your authentic self during conflicts.

  • Do I want to support my partner’s happiness, even if that means accepting another partner in his life?
  • What do I expect in terms of my partner’s actions when it comes to protecting my physical and mental health?
  • How much am I responsible for my own happiness versus what my partner provides?
  • What do I think fighting fair looks like? How do I make sure I fight fair?
  • How do I want to respond when my boundaries are violated?
  • If I find out my partner is cheating on me, is that worth ending our relationship for without question? Are there times I could forgive cheating? What are my boundaries around this?

What Do I Expect from My Partner if They are Caught Cheating?

  • Do I expect my partner to be apologetic about cheating?
  • Do I expect my partner to tell me the truth when confronted about cheating?
  • What level of disclosure about the relationship(s) they engaged in do I expect?
  • Do I expect them to tell me about the sexual details?
  • Do I expect them to get tested for STIs prior to having sex with them again?
  • Do I expect them to leave our home?

Buffering a Relationship from Cheating

There is at least a ten percent chance your partner will cheat on you during your relationship. Having the questions above answered prior to that happening can provide you a buffer against the pain and trauma which often accompanies finding out a partner has been unfaithful.

Keeping true to your authentic self and who you want to be in a relationship will allow you to remain grounded. Even if the relationship ends, if your partner is less than gracious and kind, you can remain impeccable with yourself. You will be able to leave knowing you did what you could and did not violate your values in the process.

Having clear boundaries and expectations set prior to any cheating occurring will allow you to clearly state what boundaries and relationship rules were violated. Neither you nor your partner can claim it was, “simply a misunderstanding.” This ends much of the fighting couples experience when the pre-work has not been done.

Finally, if you make the decision that sexual intercourse with another person is not enough to end a relationship, you will already have a roadmap back to the relationship you want. Being able to clearly state, “I need you to get tested for STIs before we sleep together again,” or “I need you to see a therapist to address the issues you have leading you to cheat,” based on your earlier decisions and your desire to remain true to your needs and authentic self allows you to be firm and kind at the same time.

For tips on fighting fair, check out my piece, “Above the Belt: 7 Tips for Fighting Fair” on Wellcelium.

#cheating #infidelity #loss #relationships #boundaries #tips #recoveringfromcheating #desire #lying #divorce #recovery #STIs #nonmonogamy #love

5 Skills for Fighting Fair in Kinky Relationships

Healthy couples fight. Most healthy couples don’t fight often, but disagreements do arise, emotions heighten and we fight. Its actually a good thing. Repressing feelings, saying nothing, rolling over to your partner’s every demand or becoming a passive-aggressive pain-in-the-ass is not healthy.

Fighting as a couple can be tricky. It takes time and practice to learn to fight fair. In a power exchange relationship, fighting is made trickier because of the roles we assume and feel comfortable in.

I have spent a good amount of time in my adult life thinking about how I fight in a relationship and looking for tools that help turn heated disagreements into productive growth points as a couple. This is not particularly easy for me as I am incredibly strong-willed, opinionated, self-assured, sharp-tongued and a giant wall of energy. Precisely because of these traits I know I can easily overwhelm a partner when I am highly emotional so I have had to learn how to channel these things into something that isn’t harmful.

Fighting as a D/s or M/s Couple

By their very nature, couples in a power exchange dynamic have rolls. The D-types generally have final say over a wide array of things and the s-types are expected to follow the D-type’s preferences or lead. This works well when the couple has clear boundaries, has articulated needs, and both parties have the other’s needs and desires in mind. However, it hampers fair fighting.

When I talk about fighting in this post, I am not talking about a disagreement over what color of bedsheets to purchase or which parents to visit for Thanksgiving. We all have disagreements and some things may be irksome but these are not make or break a relationship issues. What I am addressing here are fights which arise over fundamental issues in a relationship. This would be something like a perceived betrayal of a trust or implied agreement, money issues, child rearing, or the way you treat one another. Issues which may not necessarily put the relationship in jeopardy of ending immediately but do address boundaries, fundamental needs (food, money, safety, housing), or consistent detrimental behavior patterns on the part of one or both partners.

In a power exchange relationship there are several skills and techniques which can make fighting more fair and more productive.

Don’t maintain roles while fighting. I can’t stress this enough. When you are discussing fundamental issues and boundaries in a relationship, it is next to impossible to have a fair fight and maintain all the structure and protocols of your defined roles. As a submissive in relationships, I will always back down to a D-type’s demands and give them deference. I will allow them to speak first and have the final word. If I enter a fight in my roll as a submissive, I have a near-impossible time speaking up for myself. Since I know this about myself, I know to have a fair fight we have to create a space for a discussion about key issues where roles are suspended.

I am among many subs who feel like this. I know plenty of s-types who are strong and assertive outside their roll as a sub. In the roll, which means in a relationship where we are always the s-type, we have to have structured space and time to come out of that roll.

There are many ways to create space to have a discussion about relationship issues which allow people to free themselves from their rolls. Some couples have a regular set time and place where the rolls are suspended for discussion of relationship issues when both parties are on equal footing. Other couples will schedule such time as needed. Some people need to have a set space (e.g., only at the dining room table, on the sun porch). Having a recognized space and time to discuss things as equals makes fighting more fair.

When fights develop at an unanticipated time or place, some couples have rules or cues which they use to indicate they need to break from the roles in which they normally function. For example, if you are talking casually with your partner while watching television and a significant issue arises neither want to delay discussing, something akin to a “safe word” for a role release can be useful. This can be as simple as stating, “Look, we need to talk about this on equal footing now.” For other more high-protocol couples, something more formal may need to be established.

Permission to fight cannot be controlled solely by the D-type. Plenty of couples in power exchange relationships have negotiated areas where the D-type always has final say. They may argue or bicker over an issue, but at some point the D-type has the capacity to make a definitive decision with no further discussion.

This works well on many areas where the couple has negotiated that power exchange. However, there will be areas where power has not been exchanged or the need to discuss what the originally negotiated parameters come up for discussion. Couples should find a way for the s-type to indicate that there is a topic they need to discuss and possibly fight about and they need to be on equal footing.

If the D-type refuses to allow discussion of an issue simply because they are uncomfortable with the topic or they are satisfied with the arrangement, this sets up the relationship for possible abuse. For example, many couples will negotiate around the area of allowing additional partners (both sexual and intimate) to have relationships with one or both parties. As relationships grow and develop the need to renegotiate these boundaries arises. While the couple may have had a working and solid agreement for some time, if serious issues arise, this may need to be renegotiated. A D-type who refuses to have a discussion with their s-type as an equal partner is running into a grey area on possibly becoming abusive. You can extrapolate to other equally sensitive and fundamental agreements.

Understand the ramifications for failing to renegotiate. I know plenty of D-types who believe that the agreement negotiated at the time of collaring is the final agreement for the couple. Many of these D-types negotiate on a limited number of areas but what is negotiated is presumed to be acceptable for the remainder of the relationship and their s-type agrees.

This is not so unusual. Think about most vanilla marriages. At the time of the marriage ceremony, both parties assume that the relationship will be monogamous for the remainder of their lives or at least the life of the marriage. With 52 percent of marriages now ending in divorce and many of those divorces due to affairs and sex outside the marriage, clearly this isn’t the most successful model.

I have a deep and abiding respect for M/s style relationships. In my own power exchange relationships I defer to the D-type. However, it is important for D-types to remember, while their s-type may defer to your judgement and the negotiated parameters of a relationship, if the s-type repeatedly asks to address one of these areas and you repeatedly refuse to listen, eventually your s-type can lose respect for your judgment. Once respect is gone, it is nearly impossible to salvage a healthy power exchange relationship.

Don’t Hit While Angry. Don’t Ask to be Hit While Angry. This is another rule I can’t stress strongly enough. If you are angry and hurting from a fight, it is not a safe time to play. Many different kink activities can trigger strong emotions. If you enjoy impact play you need to tune into yourself and your emotions prior to deciding to start an impact scene. It is too easy to slip from a D-role into taking your anger at your partner out in a play session. When this happens, it is physical abuse. A mature D-type will check themselves to see if they are emotionally ready to play safe. And s-types need to check in with their D-types if there has been a recent fight. As an s-type into impact, I know I can be jonesing for a good play session. If I know that I have recently fought with or angered my D-type pushing for an impact session before he or she is ready is not acceptable behavior and is setting up a dangerous scene.

Don’t Attack Your Partner’s Identity While Fighting. People who enter power exchange relationships value their identities in those relationships. Going after someone for “not being a good Domme” or “being a shitty example of a submissive” is a cheap shot meant to hurt the person and does not promote anything positive. If you are having a fundamental disagreement on the way your partner practices power exchange, talk about that but avoid the “You are/You are not” statements in relationship to an identity.

The other rules around fighting fair as a couple still apply to use kinky folks. Things like avoiding bringing up past fights, digging up past misdeeds which have already been addressed or are not key to the issue at hand, surprise attacks like screaming at your partner as soon as they arrive home, seeking to embarrass or hurt your partner on purpose are all unhealthy fighting practices still apply. Fighting as a power exchange couple must include the additional considerations mentioned in this piece.

Fighting with a partner sucks. It can hurt and can be scary and anxiety provoking. However in a healthy relationship it will happen. The trick is to make the experience one where an issue can be resolved and you can continue to grow together as a couple.

#relationships #fighting #fightingfair #powerexchange #BDSM #kink #submission #dominance #longtermrealtionships #hitting #negotiation #marriage #tipsandtools