Can Cheating Ever Help Your Relationship? We Chatted To 5 People Who Think Their Affairs Did

Sometimes we catch ourselves with beliefs about relationships and love that we didn’t put into our own heads. They’re just there. It’s like this universal script we’ve all heard so many times, seen played out on so many different mediums, both fiction and in real life — that it’s how we subconsciously measure the success of our relationships.

Things like believing in “the one”, or that real love is supposed to “complete you”, that the process of “falling” is supposed to be painful but that we’re supposed to like it and that being in love is a feeling you’ll “just know”. 

Or, that getting engaged means loving someone and wanting to have sex with them forever and that cheating is one of the worst crimes you can commit in a relationship. So much so, that it probably means that you’re not in love.

But all of these stories, the ones we repeat over again as though they’re unproblematic and not a one-size-fits-all lie, are rooted in the limiting structures of monogamy; which is still the most commonly practised relationship structure in Western society.

“The culture of monogamous and sexually exclusive relationship structures has dominated the Western world for centuries,” Adelaide-based sexologist and sex columnist Jamie Bucirde tells PEDESTRIAN.TV.

And within that world, the act of cheating is simply not acceptable. It’s seen as the ultimate betrayal, a sign that someone is not in love with and doesn’t respect you. If a person cheats on you, you should walk away immediately. 

But what if it’s actually helping the relationship you’re in?

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Affairs are happening. While 30% of marriages in Australia end in divorce, 1.8 million people signed up to dedicated extra-marital dating site Ashley Madison in the last year, as a way to keep their marriage together — unbeknownst to their husband or wife. 

We can choose to ignore affairs and shame the people who engage in them, or we can talk about them and perhaps — understand a bit more about why dishonesty can feel easier than tackling complex emotions.

We can also find room within the messy grey areas of relationship expectations, to learn of other structures that might feel better suited to us, outside of monogamy.

“Whilst monogamy may be deemed as the most ‘socially acceptable’ relationship structure for us, it doesn’t mean it suits everyone or that we need to adhere to it just because others are,” says Bucirde.

“There are many other types of relationship dynamics out there that may fit you and your partner/partners better. Non-monogamous, polyamourous and open relationships are becoming more popular and are represented in mainstream media more than ever before.”

Despite the dishonesty, affairs aren’t always the end of a relationship. Sometimes, they can be the catalyst that is needed for change, growth or realisation.

Below, I spoke to five people who have engaged in affairs that have positively impacted their relationships. 

Ben*, 36, married.

My wife and I have been married for almost seven years, and we have a really solid and happy marriage. We get along really well, enjoy each others’ company, and have plenty of things in common that we like to do together – like go to the movies or out somewhere new for dinner. 

Over time, our sex life has changed. She’s a wonderful person, but unfortunately, she’s lost her libido. I don’t blame her, I know that we all go through ebbs and flows with our sexuality and our desires but right now, we’re not aligned. 

So, I have affairs.

I always meet the women online, so that they’re far removed from my own social circles. I never stay with one woman for too long, so that there’s less opportunity for one of us to become attached or form feelings deeper than sex.

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For me, the affairs have allowed me to get experimental with sex and try new things, which I haven’t been able to experience with my wife. In exploring new sides of sex, I’ve learnt more about myself and my desires, which makes me feel fulfilled outside of my marriage. This in turn, makes me a better husband. More patient, considerate, and level-headed. I don’t feel resentful towards my wife, for not giving me what I feel I need.

Our patriarchal society forces a lot of rules and expectations on us when it comes to sex and romance, but I believe you can maintain a close, harmonious relationship while also satisfying physical needs elsewhere.

Monogamy has a lot to answer for, and I don’t just say that because I’m the one stepping out of my marriage. If my wife came to me and said that she was doing the same, but wanted to remain committed to our marriage, I wouldn’t have a problem with that. At the end of the day, nature will overrule society’s expectations. 

Amy*, 49, married.

I’ve been married for over 20 years and my husband has never given me an orgasm. When I’ve tried to broach the subject, he gets defensive and it becomes difficult to communicate vulnerably. 

Outside of our sex life, we have a good relationship. We’ve built a family, a home and a life together over 20 years, and there’s something to be said for that. I feel a love for him that won’t waver, that I don’t feel for anyone else. But, there’s also something to be said about desire, about feeling sexy and seen by your partner. We might be too far gone for that in our marriage now.

Last Christmas, I had an affair. We met online and met up at a hotel, purely for sex. He’s married too and in a similar situation as me — his wife doesn’t want to have sex with him regularly anymore. He gave me my first-ever orgasm, just by going down on me. 

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I’ve thought about him every day since we met up at that hotel room, not because I’m in love with him, but because I’m in love with the feeling he ignited inside my body. It’s a moment I won’t ever forget. 

Ever since, my relationship with my husband has been better. Well, I think I’ve just been happier. For the longest time I’ve felt as though I have something wrong with me, or something has been missing. Now that I know I can experience pleasure like that, I feel calmer somehow. My husband noticed this and commented on it. He seems happier too, especially now that I don’t bring up our sex life as much anymore.

We’ve actually got a plan to meet up again during these holidays, probably a week or so after Christmas. Same place. Hopefully another orgasm. It might become a more regular thing, but I’d like to keep it to once or twice a year — if I can. 

Sara*, 29, “in a don’t ask, don’t tell” relationship

I’ve been with my partner for ten years, since university. I learnt pretty quickly into our relationship that I wasn’t going to be satisfied with just one sexual partner in my life, and I was okay with that. It’s pretty unrealistic to expect one person to satisfy all your sexual needs!

I communicated this with my partner early in our relationship, after I’d had an affair. I told him that as a sexual person, who is always inquisitive and wanting to experiment and explore, I’d need to venture outside our relationship, sexually — to satisfy those needs. He said he was okay with that, as long as it was purely sexual. He also said he didn’t want to know about it.

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Ever since, I’ve had multiple sexual partners outside my main relationship. Some days, I’ll be in three different beds! I’ll wake up with my partner, go visit a lover and end the day in someone else’s bed. It’s the life I love to live! I’m a strong and independent woman who takes charge of her sexual pleasure and knows what she needs. I asked for it, I communicate with everyone that I’m intimate with so that we’re all on the same page — and it really works for me. 

I don’t think my relationships would be as steady and strong if it weren’t for my other sexual partners. Feeling sexually satisfied makes me feel empowered and like myself, which makes me a better partner. 

I think it’s all about asking for what you need, and going after it. If you’re not in a relationship that allows for that, then it might not be the right relationship for you. 

Vanesa, 30, currently single

I was with my ex for six years and we were in an open relationship. We had rules around our openness, and one was that we’d only see other people a maximum of three times. This was supposed to stop us from developing feelings for someone outside of us. 

But then I met this guy and it was different. My partner knew it was different too, from the first time I came home after spending time with him. I came home different, you know? 

Things escalated quickly, and of course, the three-time rule went out the window. It sort of became an affair, this parallel relationship outside the one I was in. I lied and cheated a lot, broke heaps of our rules that we’d established and been successful with so far. It felt pretty awful, to be honest. 

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But eventually, it became a polyamorous type of thing. I was in a relationship with both guys, separately, I had two partners. 

Having that second relationship — even though it was an affair at first — really helped my primary relationship at the beginning. I think my primary partner felt that he had to try harder, because there was someone else who wanted to be with me? Regardless, we had the best sex of our whole relationship during that time, and felt more connected than ever.

Sam*, 27, engaged.

I’ve been with my now-fiance since year nine, when we were 14 years old. Obviously, we’ve changed a lot as people since then, but we still have such a great relationship and big love for each other. I just get her, and she gets me. She’s my best friend. 

Recently, I met someone else who makes me feel alive in a way I’ve never really felt. She’s wild. She’s brought things out of me I didn’t even know I had within. I’m able to be vulnerable in this newfound way that is actually having a great impact on my relationship with my fiance, because I’m finding the confidence to open up more. This is impacting both our conversations — they’re deeper than before; and our sex life — it feels more vulnerable and real, as though we’re opening up.

It’s crazy, because I thought we really knew each other. I guess we do, but we know a version of each other, a version of our younger selves. It’s hard to go through so many life stages and developmental years with someone else. Things get lost along the way. Some of the ways I’ve changed, I don’t think I even have the words to communicate.

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Meeting this person — who I’m having an affair with — is allowing me to see who I am now, through someone else’s eyes. It’s making me feel as though I know myself better. I feel less afraid of all the changes that have happened inside of me, and I feel more open to continue growing and evolving.

Right now, I’m not sure what to do about my situation. I love my fiance and I still want to marry her, but I can’t help feeling like she doesn’t know every part of me. But maybe that’s okay? This affair is helping my relationship, and even though I know it’s wrong to be dishonest, I want to keep this relationship, too.

*Names have been changed.