Infidelity is common in relationships. However, just because something is common does not mean it is natural, inevitable or unavoidable. This truth is a fundamental reason why we wrote our book, Loving In The Grown Zone: to challenge the misguided belief that risking and enduring mistreatment and disrespect is just the price you have to pay for a chance at love.

In the case of infidelity, you can do far better than just trusting your feelings (so not Grown), crossing your fingers, and hoping it doesn’t happen to you. The time to find out a person is no good/is a dog/ain’t loyal is before you surrender access to your body, money, home and/or heart. There are absolute signs that will give a reliable indication of whether a person is likely to cheat, signs you can learn to recognize before you commit sexually, financially or emotionally to a relationship. We’ve identified these seven:

He or she has cheated/is cheating with you. If this is not obvious, it should be. If their value system allows them to cheat on others with you, you would be a fool to believe that they won’t cheat on you with others. And if you are living a lifestyle of infidelity, you will attract those who have that in common with you, while repelling those committed to lifestyles of fidelity.

He or she says they believe in and desire fidelity, but they only practice it conditionally. Most people, when asked, give lip service to fidelity as desirable and right, while condemning infidelity as deceitful and wrong, but too few genuinely believe that fidelity is a realistic, reasonable and achievable standard. As a result, too often, their actions contradict their stated values.  This is especially true with religious leaders, politicians and other public figures.

That’s why it’s important to assess people’s characters not by their words and stated beliefs, isolated actions or how they make you feel, but by examining past and present patterns of behavior, i.e. their lifestyles. People often lie (especially to themselves); patterns never do.

He or she believes infidelity is natural and inevitable; that it’s bound to happen sooner or later, especially under certain circumstances. (These are the people who always want to remind you that “nobody’s perfect” and “everybody makes mistakes”, as if perfection is required to choose a lifestyle of fidelity.) You would be wise to treat this belief as a self-fulfilling prophecy; anybody who expresses it is essentially giving you advance warning that cheating can happen at any time.

In fact, this person has probably already told you (directly or indirectly) the exact situations when you should expect to be cheated on: because they are sexually frustrated or dissatisfied; they are angry (or you are); they are drunk or high; a certain person (or type of person) becomes sexually available; he’s a man and monogamy is unnatural; etc.

Infidelity is never inevitable, nor is it ever a “mistake” or an “accident.” It is a choice (as is fidelity) and is always intentional, even if the cheater doesn’t want to hold themselves accountable for the act. To enter into a relationship with a person who believes otherwise is to volunteer for victimhood.

He or she condones, rationalizes and/or encourages the infidelity of others. They may insist that they will never cheat on you. But listen to their comments and opinions about acts of infidelity committed by others, whether in movies and on TV shows, in the news, or among your family, friends and acquaintances. If you hear things like “I know she’s wrong, but…” or “Look how she’s treating him; can you blame him?” or “Who could resist anyone that fine?,” they are telling you that there are things that would justify them cheating on you.

He or she has cheated in past relationships. Infidelity is a pattern of behavior (again, as is the practice of fidelity); if you’re looking for it, you’ll spot it. If they believe their past acts of infidelity are excusable, then you already know at least some of the circumstances under which they’d feel justified in cheating on you. Too many people get burned because they so desperately want to believe that they will be treated differently, because they are “special” or “The One.” However, a person uncommitted to fidelity on general principle (again, as a lifestyle), will not make an exception for anyone—including you.

He or she has accepted being cheated on in past relationships. If a person repeatedly tolerated infidelity from others (out of helplessness or a misguided sense of forgiveness, love or “better or worse” commitment) no matter how hurt, unhappy or angry they are about it, he or she is not less likely to cheat, but more likely to. Examples of their thinking: “If I endured/forgave infidelity from others in the name of love, why shouldn’t you do the same for me, if you really love me?” Or: “Everybody else gets to do it. Why not me?”

In the absence of a genuine commitment to fidelity as a lifestyle, it becomes easy for the cheated on to embrace the justifications and rationales used by those who cheated on them. It’s best to assume that people will not provide you with a standard of treatment that is higher than what they require for themselves.

He or she has never committed to a lifestyle of fidelity as a core personal practice and belief. More over, they don’t understand why anyone would.

This last sign may be the most important takeaway from this post: Since both infidelity and fidelity are lifestyles; it is impossible to practice both at the same time. Does this mean that any person who has ever committed an act of infidelity will repeat that act in every relationship, forever? Of course not. People who have practiced infidelity in the past have and do decide to commit to a lifestyle of fidelity. The opposite is also true: Many people who have never cheated, have also never consciously and intentionally committed to a lifestyle of fidelity. For them, committing an act of infidelity is just a matter of time, opportunity and circumstance.

A person truly committed to fidelity does not waver based on circumstances and situations. Conditional fidelity is not fidelity at all; it’s just a ticking time bomb, set to go off when the conditions for infidelity (they’re bored, you’re angry, they’re drunk, you don’t want sex, they’re out of town, you’re pregnant, it’s Tuesday, etc.) are just right.

But a change from a lifestyle of infidelity to one of fidelity can only happen if people intentionally choose it for themselves. True fidelity is a commitment to self, not others. You cannot sex, seduce, bribe, coerce or “love” others into it (or out of it, once they are truly committed to being faithful). Remember one of the fundamental truths of the Grown Zone: It is not your responsibility, nor is it within your power, to change, fix or control the behavior of another person with your love.

There is only one way to determine whether a person is committed to a lifestyle of fidelity or infidelity: Investigation and observation of patterns of behavior, past and present, over time. That begins with you and that person talking early and often about how you feel about infidelity and fidelity. If you can’t talk openly and honestly about it, that should automatically rule out the possibility of a relationship between you.

Protecting yourself from becoming a victim of infidelity is yet another reason to withhold access to your body, money, home and heart until you have taken the time to really get to know who a potential love interest is. But it’s not a matter of luck or chance, but time—sooner or later, people will tell you who they are, even if they don’t mean to. All you have to do, following the wisdom of Maya Angelou, is believe them.

Finally, remember that you don’t attract what you want, but what you are. If you want to attract people committed to lifestyles of fidelity, you must be committed to practicing it yourself.

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