My friends often seek my counsel on how to handle small situations in their lives. Should they hook up with their boss? How to take the perfect belfie? How to end a relationship? How to tell their kid they ruined their life? You know, simple things. But I was recently shook when two of my best gal pals told me they were cheating on their partners. They love their significant others as much as Oprah loves bread, but they’d grown tired of eating the same bread day after day, night after night and as much as they’ve tried to dress it up—adding jam, toasting it, inviting other breads over—they are craving something else from the food groups.
Listen, I get it. As someone who likes his men like he likes his grapes (in bunches), I truly believe variety is the spice of life. That said, when you’ve made a commitment to someone else and you’ve made it your rule to only enjoy each other’s bread, you’re locked in—at least that’s what I believe. But do you counsel your friend based on your own guiding principles? How do you support them without enabling them? Since I have better luck keeping the mold on my shower curtain alive than any long term relationship, I reached out to my friend, life coach and author of A Face of Anxiety Trish Barillas for some advice on the matter. So, here’s what to do when a friend admits to cheating.
Why do people cheat in the first place?
Cheating has a lot to do with the ego. We all know the difference between right and wrong, yet as humans, we tend to listen to the ego. The ego has a very strong and powerful voice, which overrides our “sacred self.”
So, the ego is like the little devil on our shoulder, but clearly someone’s unhappy or something otherwise the devil wouldn’t get their attention, right?
We as humans need intimate connection. In relationships, often times someone either doesn’t feel heard or “wanted” by their partner so they will look elsewhere to find that intimacy they are craving, that human connection.
Or perhaps they are tired of the same bread on the regular? Just kidding. You don’t have to answer that. So how should I approach my friend who’s just told me she’s cheating on her bae?
When trying to speak with a friend who admitted to be cheating, the best approach is to get them thinking in a different mindset. It would go something like this: “Sarah, if I just told you I was cheating, what advice or insight would you give me?” When you approach someone by flipping the situation, they have to think about what they would do or say to someone else about their exact situation. This takes them out of the equation and places them in the same position you are, therefore diffusing a potentially defensive answer and makes them start to think about their own situation from an outside perspective.
Couldn’t communication remedy this somehow? I feel like you could tell your partner you’re not that thrilled with their intimacy selections, or lack thereof, before you’re driven to dine at another restaurant, no?
As a life coach for over a decade, I’ve coached many people on relationships and breakups. The two most common reasons why relationships fail is due to lack of communication and finances. Unfortunately, the finances are harder to navigate, but the communication is easy to address. Always be honest and open with your partner, and tell them what it is you need to be happy in the relationship. We tend to not express our needs and are hoping our partners are mind readers and clearly this isn’t the case. The more specific you are, the better your partner understands you. For example, I need more date nights where we are going out to dinner and we don’t look at our phones for two hours. I would like to hear when you think I’m beautiful, or how much you appreciate the little things I do around the house—whatever it is that makes you feel loved and looked at in the relationship. In time, we forget the little stuff because it becomes part of the norm. We are constantly evolving. That’s human nature. But the relationship needs to evolve also. This means both parties need to put in the time and effort to make the relationship work.
You’re probably thinking now, well, should the cheater tell her partner she cheated? Well, I don’t condone lying, but I also think sloppily revealing secrets can leave permanent, lasting blemishes. Flip the question around and ask your friend what advice she would give you in that situation. Hopefully her moral GPS knows the way there in addition to side bae’s bakery.