Sex + Dating

So You're in a Relationship and Thinking About Cheating...

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Following the Ashley Madison hack, it seems like everyone is cheating. From politicians to entertainers to athletes to your slightly creepy third grade science teacher who you absolutely found on the hacked list of subscribers, there certainly are a lot of people who don't handle monogamy well. Because of that, we talked to a number of experts, from religious leaders to sex therapists, to investigate the causes of infidelity and give some practical advice on what to do if you're currently considering it. Here's what they suggested you do if you're in a relationship and want to sleep with other people. Feel free to pass their advice to Mr. Phillips.

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Why people cheat is a complicated issue

“There are thousands of reasons -- most of them stemming from a deep emptiness and the belief that this new person can somehow fill that emptiness. Which pretty much never works. The much more interesting question is: Why do I have this emptiness and how can I better understand myself and the person I am with?” -- Rob Bell, pastor

"Sometimes [cheating is used] as retaliation. Whether it's 'you cheated on me', or 'you're withholding sex from me' or 'you hurt me in some way and I want to use this to get back at you.' I've definitely worked with a lot of couples where if one person cheated, the other person does it back." -- Vanessa Marin, sex therapist

“Maybe 20% of people who cheat are serial sex fans. They will cheat no matter how good their primary love relationship may be. 80% people who cheat are not. They're naive. Naive people slide into sexual feelings, then naively enjoy the titillation without realizing that, like any strongly addictive substance, sexual chemicals will overpower their capacity to utilize their frontal lobe functions. Once feeling takes control over thinking, people become 'dumb' -- they act with zero regard to the consequences of their actions.” -- Dr. Susan Heitler, clinical psychologist

"I think we're all, as humans, obsessed with the forbidden. We struggle to find a strong sense of identity and we all have unmet needs and deep wounds. It's easy, especially in today's society, to try to meet those needs in the wrong places." -- Brandon Cox, pastor

"Let's set aside mental issues and pathologies and deal with 'normal' people reasons. My top two reasons are, first, you aren't getting the things you want out of a sexual relationship and you go elsewhere. Or, secondly, you get bored with your present partner. If people aren't getting the quality of sex or frequency [they desire], they'll supplement on the side, but will still love their partners and want to stay with them." -- Eric Amaranth, sex life coach
 

Being attracted to other people is normal, but...

"It's natural for humans to be attracted to others -- whether a physical or emotional attraction, or both -- but in a monogamous relationship, individuals must recognize they feel an attraction, but overcome any desires, as adultery is a sin." -- Rabbi Jason Miller, rabbi

"Sexual feelings toward attractive others means you are still alive. You haven't died yet. At the same time, sexual feelings toward someone else can be a helpful gong that goes off to tell you its time to reinvest in your loved one. The stronger your relationship, the stronger your immunity will be to straying." -- Dr. Susan Heitler, clinical psychologist

"There are over 7 billion people on the planet -- it's not that big of a surprise that you may find some of them attractive from time to time. The key is to observe your attraction without giving it more power, weight, or energy than it deserves. And then give all that energy and power and love that you do have to the person you're with." -- Rob Bell, pastor

"People think, 'If I'm attracted to someone else, I'm not attracted to my partner any longer.' Human beings are wired to be attracted to other humans, and that doesn't go away when you're with somebody -- regardless of how much you love them or if they're your soul mate." -- Vanessa Marin, sex therapist

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What to do when you're thinking about cheating

"Attraction is something that can be fed, or starved. So when we're attracted to someone with whom we shouldn't be in a sexual relationship, it's important for us to refuse to give room in our minds for focused thinking about them. Instead, we distract our minds and shift back to what is healthy and good sexually -- our spouse." -- Brandon Cox, pastor

"First,acknowledge the feeling to yourself. Knowledge is power. Second, plan your self-protection strategy: Minimize contact with that person. No conversations on personal subjects. No conversations in private places. If you work together, talk only about work. If the feelings get too strong, find a way to stop working together. And be especially careful to protect yourself when you travel. The biggest dangers are work colleagues and old flames." -- Dr. Susan Heitler, clinical psychologist

"One of the best ways for a guy to give his brain some novelty fun is buying a few different colored/styled wigs for your woman to wear. Maybe even [ask her to] change her voice and role-play. She can have a lot of fun being someone new and be the source of all your fantasy lovers. The brain loves novelty in sex." -- Eric Amaranth, sex life coach

"Remind yourself that seeking immediate gratification from sexual flings often leads to unhappiness in the end. And give yourself permission to fantasize about others." -- Dr. Seth Meyers, psychologist
 

On whether or not people are "wired for monogamy"

"Most yes, some no. Like voles. Most voles are wired for monogamy. Others don't pair bond.  Researchers have pinpointed a genetic difference in the voles. Most humans want a reliable, loving companion who will be a trusted and gratifying partner throughout life. At the same time, long-term relationships and marriage take high-level skills. If you don't have them, get them." -- Dr. Susan Heitler, clinical psychologist

"The problem with the word 'wired' is that it implies that there's a way we are and we can't do anything about it -- that's just how it is. But the extraordinary thing about human beings is that we have been evolving, transforming, and continually raising the bar on what is possible for literally thousand of years. The idea that you can give yourself to one person in an exclusive and singular way is a rather enlightened, sophisticated idea -- it raises fascinating questions about just what we're capable of.'" -- Rob Bell, pastor

"In my clinical work, I find that many men and women aren't meant to be monogamous, but try to do it anyhow, and later cheat or resent their partners because they don't like being monogamous." -- Dr. Seth Meyers, psychologist

"I've read Sex at Dawn and some of that research. I think it's hard to answer. It's an incredibly difficult task to take on, and one that a lot of people simply aren't capable of doing. But I don't know if I'd feel comfortable going so far as to say that we're not physically wired for it." -- Vanessa Marin, sex therapist

These quotes have been edited and condensed.

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Lee Bresloueris a senior writer at Thrillist and is wired to watch a lot of TV. Follow him to positive life choices at: @LeeBreslouer.