Is cheating just a reality for gay men? If you look at statistics alone, then you can conclude the answer is yes. Statistically, more than 50% of gay men in committed relationships cheat. However, that doesn't mean that the often dismissive and stereotypical assumptions that gay people aren't capable of committed relationships are accurate. Instead, understanding comes from taking a deeper look at the relationships that gay and bisexual men have.
Many people would say that any sexual contact with others outside of monogamous relationships is cheating. Others would expand that to include less direct behaviors up to and including:
Connecting searching on dating apps
An emotional affair
Here's the thing. None of these definitions are wrong, but none of them are inherently right either. Why? Because each of these definitions assumes that all same-sex couples operate in the same way. Specifically, they assume that gay men should hold up heteronormative definitions as being the superior view of things to any other.
That depends! Gay couples need to communicate and set boundaries that work for them. Essentially, gay men decide what constitutes an affair in a monogamous relationship. Then, they need to discuss that with their sexual partner.
When gay and bisexual men have these conversations, some interesting truths are often revealed. Some, perhaps even most, gay men want the same kind of monogamy from their partner that aligns with traditional views on fidelity. Anything outside of that is an affair.
However, others find that neither they nor their loved one wants to limit themselves to just one sexual partner. Once that happens, they have to decide between themselves where those boundaries are. An affair can still happen in an open or poly relationship. It's all about rules everybody agrees on.
This also requires a bit of perspective and myth-busting. First, almost all statistics on cheating rely on self-reporting. The numbers are based on what lesbians and gay men told researchers for the most part. Additionally, studies on infidelity often exclude people in LGBTQ+ communities. Across the board, 46% of people in committed relationships cheat as do 24% of married people. There's also the uncomfortable truth that men in general are more likely to cheat. All those things considered could mean that gay men don't cheat all that much more than straight.
Let's not let cheaters off the hook. It happens because somebody decides not to be faithful. Sometimes that happens for the very same reason that cheating happens in a straight relationship:
They aren't in love
Believing their partner is also unfaithful
Afraid to break up
Cheating gives them a self-confidence boost
It makes them feel alive
They are simply bored
Unable to communicate their physical and emotional needs
They handle negative emotions poorly
There are also reasons for cheating that are unique to same-sex partnerships. Specifically, gays often receive messaging that their partnerships are inadequate, they aren't real, and that gay relationships center around sex, not emotional connections. Most men who are gay also grow up without ever having seen a healthy gay relationship modeled for them. You can't deny the gay community things like support and health equality and then shame them when they don't achieve monogamy.
Yes, these views and attitudes are changing, but they persist. Recent evolution doesn't fully mitigate the collective trauma the gay community must navigate and how that impacts them. The bottom line is that it's okay to acknowledge that people cheat in gay couplings. However, it's also important to understand that society has worked pretty damn hard to make it difficult for gays to form strong, monogamous commitments. This is less about making excuses and more about acknowledging the various reasons this happens to do better.
It is okay to have empathy for the cheater, but also hold them accountable. Cheating doesn't happen because the other partner wasn't good enough or sexually available enough. One person decides to have an affair.
As long as your response isn't abusive and you don't blame yourself, your response to cheating isn't wrong. Your feelings are valid whatever they are. It's okay if you want to break up right away. It's also okay to take time to decide what you want to do. The best thing to do is prioritize your mental health and self-worth. Here are some things that may help you.
This is an overwhelming thing to go through. An affair causes feelings of hurt, anger, and rejection. It can also do a real number on your self-esteem. It's a lot to go through, and you shouldn't have to do that alone. If you are struggling, talk to a professional. They will help you work through your feelings without judgment so that you can process your partner's infidelity in an emotionally healthy way.
You need to make yourself your number one priority. Even if you aren't sure what this infidelity means for your relationship, your emotional and mental well-being is most important. Set boundaries that give you the time and space you need. If your partner understands the hurt they caused, they will understand and respect your wishes, even if it means no contact.
After an emotional experience like this, you may feel shaken to the core. Anger and self-blame can lead you to stop taking care of yourself. Don't make things worse by losing sleep, drinking too much, or eating poorly. Don't let infidelity or your anger over it cause you to spiral.
Commit to taking physical and emotional care of yourself. Even better, take things a step further and do things that you normally wouldn't focus on for your well-being. Get a massage. Buy new sheets for your bed. Do yoga with friends.
As a gay guy, you may feel as if you need to handle all of this yourself. That's untrue. Lean on your buddies. They will keep you sane, check in on you, and give you helpful perspective when your emotions are running high. But, they may not know what you are going through with your boyfriend if you don't reach out to them first.
Now for the flip side of things. Sometimes well-meaning friends stop being helpful. For example, they may want to give you advice when what you need is emotional support while you process things. It's okay to tell your pals when their help starts to be less than helpful. For example, they may bad mouth the guy who cheated on you. That can sting if you still have feelings for him.
This is hard. Accountability is important. You need to acknowledge what you did and show that you understand the harm you caused. It's also absolutely imperative that you respect your partner and their boundaries about your relationship. While you are giving them space, here are some things you can do.
Serious self-examination is in order here. Why did you cheat on your partner? You have to be honest with yourself. Otherwise, you are likely to repeat the same cycle over again in the future. For example, maybe you were avoiding the confrontation that is inevitable in breaking up a relationship. Maybe you wanted to maintain an emotional connection with your partner while being able to explore sexual experiences with other people. Maybe past trauma leads you to sabotage amazing relationships.
None of these things are excuses. The ugly truth is that you cheated. You may not like some of your discoveries revealed about you. Still, your partner deserves your honesty and your future significant others depend on you being able to recognize the issues you have that caused you to act on your desire to have sex with another person.
First, this assumes that your partner has indicated they are willing to hear from you. When this happens, the first thing you should offer is a sincere unqualified apology. Start with acknowledging what you did, and how it impacted them. You can discuss what led to your behavior but use I statements. This is about your choices and reactions. If you are interested in remaining a couple, let them know what you will do differently, and indicate that you will accept the boundaries they have moving forward.
Be prepared that your apology may not be well received. Unfortunately for you, your partner is not under an obligation to forgive you. The unfortunate truth is that this may not be a situation that you can't fix with an apology. Above all else, you have to respect their wishes. But, don't let that stop you from continuing to work on yourself.
Whatever happens, this is a good time to engage in some self-work. Also, take care of your own emotional needs as well. Even if it was initiated by choices you made, the loss or significant change of any relationship is traumatizing. Taking responsibility doesn't mean forgetting to take care of yourself or suffering for the sake of it. That won't help you now, and it won't help you do any better at navigating relationships in the future. There's no shame in therapy to process your feelings or in giving yourself time to mourn a relationship.
Ultimately, you have to move on. There is no sense in spending hours every day shaming yourself. Commit to being a better person. If it's been more than two months, consider talking to a professional. You need to get over you partner as much as they need to get over you.
No matter what side of this equation you are on, you might decide to continue the relationship. Is this a good idea? What are your chances of being successful? That depends.
The following road map won't guarantee your success, but it will give you an approach that keeps you grounded in reality. If you are willing to move forward after one of you has cheated, here are steps to take.
This part usually gets some backlash. People will say that it doesn't matter why. Just keep in mind that a person who cheats can take full responsibility. They can do this while also examining what in their situation led them to make that choice. It isn't about blaming another person. Instead, it's about making sure it doesn't happen again.
Although cheating is the responsibility of the cheater, both of you must get on the same page about why this happened. You need this as a part of moving forward as a couple. This is particularly important if the infidelity was mutual.
If you are not willing to forgive one another, you won't be able to rekindle your relationship healthily. Remember, you can forgive somebody but still need the relationship to change and expect them to work to rebuild trust. Of course, one of you must be willing to acknowledge that you cheated. The other must agree that life goes on without turning it into a weapon.
It's important to set boundaries and ground rules upfront. Otherwise, any situation has the potential to stir up a lack of trust and conflict. Also, this puts both people in the position of mutually agreeing on things that will get the relationship back on track. For example, if the infidelity involved someone at work, you might agree to get a new job or a transfer.
Use this experience as an opportunity to renew and strengthen your relationship. Commit to better communication and spending time together. Find shared interests that you can enjoy together. Also, consider couples counseling. This is ideal for getting over this crisis and finding ways to communicate better in the future. When things are better between you and your boyfriend emotionally, your ability to be honest with one another.
You're entering into a new relationship. How do you prevent your partner from cheating? How do you stop yourself from making the same mistakes in a new relationship if you have a history of cheating?
That's a challenging set of questions. You don't want to build relationships with new partners around fears of cheating. You also don't want to constantly monitor your relationship or worry that you aren't adequate.
What you can do is cheat-proof your relationship by creating a safe and supportive relationship dynamic for both of you. When people are free to express themselves, talk about needs that aren't being met, or simply walk away if they are unhappy, they are less likely to cheat.
Also, nurture your relationship. Both of you should work actively to maintain a strong emotional connection and ensure that sex is satisfying for both of you. Communicate with your partner and touch base with them about their feelings. Without that work, you may unintentionally create what feels like an unloving environment for your partner.
If you aren't emotionally ready for a new boyfriend, that's okay. It's better to recognize that than it is to treat each new person like your ex. Instead, have an open conversation about your trauma, where you are emotionally, and any boundaries you need to set.
This is the ultimate question. More than anything else, it is up to the person who has cheated in the past to examine their behavior and commit to doing better. This starts with taking ownership of past mistakes and truly understanding how their infidelity impacted past partners.
Next, they need to do the emotional work of knowing what led them to cheat. Then, they need to make plans to deal with that in more productive ways. For example, instead of poor communication with a partner leading them to cheat as it has in the past, they can make a conscious decision to set aside time each week to talk to the other person about their emotions.
Enter your next new relationship slowly. Some gay men are desperate for a partner but aren't ready for the work that comes with that. Later, when fantasy and reality don't align they feel driven to cheat. Leave the careless, head-first dives into a commitment to the soap operas. In real life, people end up getting hurt when the other person commits before they are truly ready.
Finally, deal with your past pain so that you can contribute something positive to your relationships. Many gay men carry the burden of past abuse, rejection, and isolation. All of these things can lead to self and relationship-sabotaging behaviors. If you cheated, please deal with your traumas before you screw up another person's life.
Are open relationships a cure for cheating? Absolutely not. Sadly, people who cheat may float the idea of an open relationship because they perceive that gives them a safe space to be unfaithful without accountability.
That said, if you trust your partner's real motives and also enthusiastically consent to an open relationship, go for it! A healthy open relationship with great communication and respect for boundaries can be fulfilling for everyone involved. That is better than putting a partnership on the road to eventual breakdown because one or both of you is attempting to stick to a deeply dissatisfying relationship. Neither one of you deserve that kind of pain.
Are you just ready to move on after a cheating situation? If so, a dating app could be the answer for you. This modern-day approach to finding a mate or a hookup helps to connect you with compatible gay guys who are also not your ex. This could lead to a healthier cheating-free future.
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