Ask Cynthia: I have a constant desire to cheat. Is that bad?

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I’ve been married for one-and-a-half years and with my husband for six years. I love him very much but have a constant desire to cheat. I miss the fun involved with dating new people and I worry about the idea of being with just him forever. I don’t want to be without him, but I don’t want to be with only him. Please help!
 
Thanks for writing this. You’re certainly not the first woman to write me with this type of question. I say this because so often when we talk about cheating or the desire to stray, there’s an assumption that it’s only men. And that is simply false.
 
I’m sure many people who read your question are going to either shame you for feeling this way or urge you to leave him.  I am not going to do either of those things. You say you love him deeply and don’t want to be without him so, without knowing you, I’m going on the assumption that you have a good relationship but simply are experiencing what many people refer to as “the seven-year itch” (which often, interestingly, happens around year six).  
 
The truth is that the vast majority of people who are in long-term, monogamous relationships will be hit with the desire to be with another person at some point. It’s how you deal with that urge that really reveals your personal and individual values and ethics.
 
But let’s start with this idea of missing “the fun” of dating new people. Unfortunately, those amazing feelings we have when we are with a new partner stem from a particular hormonal and chemical cocktail that our bodies simply can’t sustain for the long haul. So it’s important to realize that even if you were to seek out a new partner, in a few years, you will likely be missing “the fun” feelings once again. 
 
Maybe you’re simply not having enough “fun” with your husband. In which case, why not try to inject more adventure in your relationship.  Maybe you need to travel together more? Or maybe you need to engage in a bit of role play so you feel like you’re dating someone new? Why not meet up at hotel bar in different outfits and act like strangers again. When we try new things with our partner, it stirs up those “new” feelings and there’s the added bonus of being with someone who knows our bodies really well (statistically women are more orgasmic with established partners than with new ones, just FYI).
 
Or maybe you just need to spend some time creating “fun” for yourself. The truth is that often the urge to stray is not so much about the person actually wanting to leave their partner, but it’s about the desire to leave a part of themselves that they have become bored with. So why not first start by having an affair…with yourself. What kind of adventures could you go on in your city?  What kind of private hobby or passion could you indulge more in? Doing new things that make you feel ‘exciting’ and ‘free’ can often recreate that feeling we have at the start of a relationship.    
 
Finally, another option that many couples are exploring is the idea of “ethical cheating”. Ethical cheating isn’t actually cheating at all – it is an open agreement in a relationship to “open up”.  The two of you would sit down and have a conversation about what “opening up” means: it may just be flirting with others, it may only be kissing, it may only be with each other and perhaps one other person. Some couples adopt a monogamish policy – meaning for instance that they are monogamous but are allowed to “play” with other people on, let’s say, work trips. In other words, the couple will define what activities are allowed and which are not and fully respect each other’s boundaries and constantly renegotiate these boundaries when issues arise. 
 
And here’s something that’s interesting: sometimes just the very idea that you are “allowed” to stray reduces the desire to do just that.  
 
If you are interested in more on this idea, head here, here and here for some great resources.

Cynthia Loyst is our resident relationship expert and a passionate advocate for healthy sexual information. As a sought-after relationship coach and columnist, she’s known for giving advice and opinions on the joys and complications of love. She has received awards from SSSS (Society For The Scientific Study of Sexuality) and Planned Parenthood in Toronto. She is also SAR (Sexual Attitude Reassessment) certified, a member of SIECCAN (Sex Information and Education Council of Canada) and holds a Sex Education Certificate from The University of Michigan. Cynthia is also the founder of FindYourPleasure.com. For legal disclaimer, click here

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