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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
Teen

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other SelfhelpMagazine.com staff.

Question

What do you do if your mate is cheating?
14 year old male

Answer

People of all ages struggle with this question, and there are no easy answers. You are wise to give some thought to a situation such as this before acting upon impulse. In fact, the process you go through to determine your actions in your current situation may set the stage for how you will handle relationships throughout your life. For the sake of simplicity, I will answer this assuming your mate is a female, however, the same answer applies to same sex relationships. Ask yourself these questions . . .

First of all, are you sure she is cheating? How do you know? Have you talked about it? Did she admit it? If not, is your source of information reliable? These questions need to be answered to see if you're sure there is a problem to be solved.

If you are sure that she is cheating several things need to be evaluated to decide how you want to proceed. Did you have an agreement that you would not see other people? Were both of you in agreement about this? How long have you been going with this girl? Is this the first time something like this has happened? Do you know if she has a history of doing this in previous relationship? Did the cheating happen one time with one person? Or does she cheat with different people? Does she have one other person that she sees on a regular basis? Are you sexually active in your relationship? If so, are you willing to take the health risks involved with having a mate who is unfaithful? Do you always practice safe sex? Does your mate always practice safe sex with all partners? Can you be sure?

How do you feel about honesty and trust in a relationship? If you decide to continue the relationship, will you be able to forgive her? If so, will you be able to trust her again? What will she have to do to earn your trust? Are you willing to take the risk that this may happen again? If so, what are the consequences if it happens again? Do you want to be in a relationship where you can't be sure if your mate is committed only to you? Are you angry? Are you hurt? How do you feel about her now? How do you feel about yourself? How will you cope with those feelings?

After you answer all of these questions, you will have to decide many things about yourself. How do you want to be treated in relationships? Is it okay with you to see other people, or do you want an exclusive relationship with this one person? Are you going to be miserable wondering where she is and what she is doing anytime she is not with you? Will this event make you doubt yourself and your worth as a mate? Do you feel you have to continue in the relationship to prove something to yourself, her or your peers? How will this influence your future relationships? Are you going to learn from this situation and handle things differently in your other relationships? Will you set a pattern that will follow you in future relationships?

These are all important questions to ask yourself before making any decisions. You are learning at this age how to handle relationships and how to make choices based on rational and logical information, rather than simply reacting to things someone else does. The fact that you even asked the questions leads me to believe that you are thoughtfully considering this problem, rather than acting impulsively because of you anger or hurt feelings. The most important thing to remember is you have to make a choice that is best for you.

Examine why you want to stay in the relationship, if you do. If it because you are afraid you can't find another girlfriend, that is most likely not true . . . you will eventually. If it is because you can't trust her and don't want to risk it happening again . . . that is making a decision based on what is best for you, and you are the one to consider here. If she sincerely regrets what happened and you believe you can forgive and trust her, you may want to give her another chance. Just remember this, it is usually easier for it to happen again after the first time . . . particularly if your mate thinks she got by with something and could get by with it again. People only change their behavior if the consequence of what they did hurts enough to keep them from doing it again.

In a situation like yours that means she needs to understand that if you continue this relationship and it happens again you will fill-in-the-blank. Once you decide what will happen the next time, you must follow through with it, otherwise you set yourself up for a lifetime of broken promises and unhealthy relationships. Believe it or not, what you do now and how you learn to interact with your mate at this age is setting the stage for the years to come.

Sit down with her and tell her how you FEEL. "I feel _____ (hurt, angry, sad, disappointed, confused, etc.) about you going out with ___. I have decided to _______________ (give you another chance, break up with you, etc.) because ____________________ (I can't trust you now, I don't want to take the risk it will happen again, I believe you regret it and really want to work things out, etc.). If this happens again ___________ (it is over for good, we will talk about it again at that time, etc.) Can we agree on this?"

Think about it. How do you want to be treated by your future mates and even your spouse?

3/12/98

LuAnn Pierce, MSW, CMSW
Author of Growing up Sane (in uncertain times)
Seminar Leader Growing Well Adjusted Kids
Editor-in-Cheif Person to Person: Strengthening Youth & Families
Telephone Counselor Affinity Counseling Center
Affinity Books & Resource Center: Your Source for Emotional Wellness

 

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