Sex & Relationships

Illicit liaisons

My five-year relationship was going well until my boyfriend had a fling. He claims he was drunk and it didn't mean anything, but I've checked his phone bills and discovered that he's still calling her. What should I do?

Before you confront your boyfriend, you need to think about whether this relationship is worth keeping. Illicit liaisons can be like cockroaches – for every one you see, there are 10 in hiding. Of course, there is always a first time, and cheating can be an isolated mistake, but your boyfriend continues to call this other woman, which is not a good sign.

Is it worth it?

Since you’ve been a couple for five years, I’m guessing that you’ve been thinking about your boyfriend as a possible long-term partner. Choosing a person to marry and have children with is the most important decision you will ever make. Relationships are based on trust and I don’t think he’s earned yours.

I have many clients who have led lives of misery because they married a philanderer. They stayed because they thought they could change these men, only to be cheated on again and again.

Excuses, excuses

Your boyfriend says he was drunk when he cheated, but he wasn’t too drunk to meet the other woman, find a place to have sex with her and get fully unclothed. Many experts believe that drunken behaviour is actually premeditated; people simply drink some “liquid courage” to enable them to carry out their plans without too much guilt. Your boyfriend is responsible for making the decision to get drunk and he’s responsible for what happened afterwards.

Why would he cheat?

Men and women tend to view sex differently: men often see sex as fun and physical while women tend to feel more of an emotional attachment. Your partner may think sex outside of your relationship isn’t a big deal if he’s not emotionally involved while you believe that the deal couldn’t be bigger.

On the other hand, cheating can be a symptom (rather than a cause) of a troubled relationship. If your partner wants out of the relationship but can’t face ending it, he might cheat – and make sure he gets caught – so that you have to do the dirty work of breaking up.

If you stay

If you’re determined to save your relationship, confront your partner and say you know he’s cheating because you saw his phone bill. He may deflect blame by getting angry about you checking up on him. Simply tell him that all actions have consequences and he has lost his right to your trust.

The next step is to seek therapy, focusing on his lying, cheating and inability to communicate. He should be the one to find the therapist, and he should do the work required to make you believe in him again. If he isn’t willing, then you know the relationship isn’t worth much to him.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Catherine Gildiner is in private practice. Too Close to the Falls (ECW) is her memoir.