Sex Column: Feeling cheated

Upon observing the behavior of a few of my friends, I reached the conclusion that the average college student is absolutely terrified of being cheated on. We all know that it happens and there’s a good chance we’ve been directly involved. Enrollment in college is essentially the world’s best excuse for promiscuity, and even if you intend to be faithful, it’s not hard to get drunk and slip up. I’m not defending cheating, but I don’t think it’s the end of the world. After cheating, it’s hard to make a relationship survive. But there are ways to do it.

Call me crass (and you wouldn’t be the first), but cheating can be prevented with a direct conversation. Both people in a relationship need to establish boundaries. In a committed relationship, especially when there’s a strong emotional bond, you should be able to ask your partner what counts as cheating. Strictly monogamous relationships are hard to maintain in college, and many people don’t become “exclusive” for a few months after they start going steady – or whatever the kids are calling it these days. So take a step back and think about this scenario.

Your partner goes to a party, gets drunk and makes out with someone else. Maybe it goes a little further, but no sex. You might be mad, maybe about the breach of trust, maybe because you committed to each other, or maybe because you’re angry that your partner got to fool around with someone else and you didn’t. By the way, don’t write jealousy off. It’s a perfectly valid emotion.

Think about these questions. What happened that offended you? Can you understand why they made a mistake? Is it so hard to forgive them for messing around with another person? I’m not saying you shouldn’t be angry, but a drunken mistake probably isn’t grounds to end a relationship that was otherwise going great.

Of course, not all cheating occurs this way. Plenty of sober infidelity happens – sometimes full-blown intercourse – and that’s an entirely different animal. The first thing to do if your partner has sex with another person is to both get tested. You may be furious with them, but imagine how much angrier you’ll be when you find out that they slept with someone, got an STD from them and then passed it to you. You might even want to wait before sleeping with them again for a few months and getting tested a second time, as some infections take time to show up.

If you still care about your relationship and you don’t want to end it, you have some options. A little behavioral monitoring on the part of the cheated-upon isn’t out of line, but there’s a point where asking about your partner’s plans turns into forbidding them to do things based on the assumption that they’re going to cheat again. That’s a line you don’t want to cross. Even though they may have cheated on you, the cheater in the relationship will only put up with so much.

On that note, you can’t assume that your partner will cheat again. You may not be able to trust them for a couple months. You may even hate them for a while. If you assume that your partner will inevitably cheat again, it’s time to end the relationship. You can’t have that cloud hanging over your head for the rest of the time that you’re together. But if you can find it within yourself to forgive them, eventually you’ll be able to get past it together and you’ll remember what you liked about them in the first place.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.