Would You Cheat?

In last month's article, Police Are Sex Symbols? (linked below) we convincingly established that - yes, indeed - cops are sex symbols. Agreed? Of course, you surely knew that before, but we wanted to point out some of the reasons why. The inspiration for that article was the recent and booming journalistic cottage industry of covering celebrity infidelities. We posited that some of the same qualities possessed by athletes, entertainers and politicians that might make them more susceptible to affairs are found in police officers, and might make them susceptible as well. Here we want to share a simple strategy to safeguard your relationship form the threat of unfaithfulness.

If you want to cheat, or see it as no big deal and maybe even acceptable, then most likely you will cheat. Current estimations of infidelity rates in the U.S. place the percentage of persons who will be unfaithful while in a committed relationship (marriage or similar) at somewhere between 30-60%. Men have generally been assumed more likely to cheat but women are certainly not immune to infidelity - some studies show virtually no difference in male/female infidelity rates - and for both genders the incidence of infidelity is increasing.

The increase has been blamed on a number of factors:

  • the continued blurring of gender lines in the workplace, bringing men and women into closer proximity
  • less reliance on traditional social mores, and the weakening of sexual taboos
  • an increasingly sexualized culture, coupled with greater inter-gender connectedness, that has normalized behavior that previously shocked sensibilities
  • the growth of online social networking sites connecting and reconnecting people, who may share common interests, mutual attractions, and sometimes even unresolved and never-quite-forgotten romantic histories

Most likely, a bit of all of them have contributed to the uptick in cheating. Consider there are internet sites and online ads devoted to connecting those seeking sex with those offering it - legally and otherwise - and it is clear why more people are stepping out on their partners.

Unfortunately, if you do not want to cheat - if you want to avoid becoming one of the statistics - the odds may still be stacked against you! As many as a 25% of persons who consider themselves happily married still self-report sexual affairs (and this number may even be low, as underreporting among respondents is often expected). Not wanting to hurt someone by rejecting their advances, fearing rejection or loss of approval from their suitor if they rebuff attention, mistaking attraction or admiration for the other person as love, or risk-taking can all lead to unfaithfulness. And whether someone is in a happy, satisfying relationship or not, most affairs have an opportunistic, and perhaps unexpected, element to them. It is that opportunistic component that can open the door to an affair for even the happily married, and the unexpectedness that may suddenly override normal defenses.

Opportunity shows up in many forms:

A terrified woman, who has never experienced a healthy relationship or even a compassionate male, looking to get an abusive ex-boyfriend out of her life becomes enthralled with the supportive patrolman who helps her. He soon finds himself her "personal police officer" as she begins to routinely circumvent the dispatch center to request police help with an assortment of minor troubles, instead leaving messages and pleas for assistance on his voicemail. Flattered by her attention, and feeling good to be able to truly help (rescue?) someone, the young officer slips one night on one of his visits "to check up on her" when she admits her growing crush on him. After work he calls his wife, tells her he picked up some late overtime, and quietly slips over to her house.

A lot of cops are born rescuers; they live to take care of other people’s messes and feel good when they can help. And there is no shortage of people looking for someone to rescue them, either. Problems arise, however, when the personal feelings enter and good judgment retreats.

Sheila and Mark have been partners for eight years and tight friends even longer, since they graduated the academy over a decade ago. They share the same taste in music, the same sense of humor, and stories and scars from the same bar fights and one major squad crash two years ago. They are even Godparents to each others' children. There is one thing Sheila can never share with Mark, though, or her husband Phil, or anyone else for that matter. The spark for Phil, the one that flared way back in their sophomore year of college, went cold years ago. She still loves Phil, of course - he is a great guy and an excellent father and one of the finest actuaries the firm has ever had, everyone there says so! (gag!) - but only goes through the motions at home. She still has a spark in there for Mark, though. The true love she can never touch. The one who adores his wife and tells Sheila she is "the sister he always wanted."

Emotional affairs may never become physical, although they often do, and they may even be one-sided, but they are very destructive. An emotional affair steals intimacy and focus from your real partner, distracts you from home, and creates an unattainable ideal in your mind.

Thirty-seven years of marriage and not once had Ed strayed. He adored his wife more today than he did when he proposed to her all those years ago, still amazed she had patiently waited almost three years while he led a platoon of petrified kids through Vietnam. Thirty-seven years and then, checking in on two of his young midnight guys as they waited for a stupendously drunk (and lucky) DUI suspect to be stitched and cleared for booking, he met Kaylie. Ed had gotten to know a lot of ER nurses over the years, and more than a few had made their interest in him very clear, but not once did he even consider it. Kaylie was different. Hilarious and vulgar, she was a high-energy chatterbox who charmed him immediately. Conventionally beautiful, beneath her scrubs were an elaborate collection of tattoos and piercings and scars that both horrified and fascinated Ed. She had a mind both brilliant and unhinged, and you never knew which you would get. And more than thirty years his junior, she had wicked Daddy-issues, wildly acted out on him. He was smart enough to know she was using him for her own dark purposes, flailing through her pain, and he was powerless to stop.

Staying faithful requires more than true love and good intentions. It requires vigilance and strategy, especially in a career with more than its fair share of relational landmines and plenty of opportunities to stray. What follows next month is a five-step tactical plan designed to defend against the pitfalls you will encounter.