Okay, so the bar is on the floor. If your best friends’ boyfriend boasts about ‘the ball and chain’ getting on at him everyday for no reason, ‘when it’s not like I’m cheating or anything’, we clearly have a discussion to have here, lads. The marker for a good boyfriend, or even a loyal boyfriend, quite simply, cannot just be defined by negation that they ‘don’t cheat’. Not cheating isn’t a paragon of virtue that is just barely breaking even. That’s just not being a dickhead and kamikase-ing your relationship. Cheaters know what they’re doing, and they’re trash for it, but the reality is, most guys are also trash, just in slightly different ways. Amusingly, they seem to think they’re the ‘good guys’. Lets all share a laugh and pour one out about that one, ladies.

If this is the case, they need to either reassess their understanding of loyalty, or get out of your life.

Moreover, cheating isn’t really understood in the traditional ‘capital C, Cheating’ way anymore. There is a more modern conception of cheating and the understanding of it varies from relationship to relationship. For some, cheating is liking another person’s instagram, or for others, cheating is only sex itself, not kissing or other forms of intimacies. With the likes of polyamory and polygamy or open relationships on the rise – as is perfectly valid – the role of communication and establishing boundaries is particularly key. Just because it may seem irrational doesn’t mean that it’s unimportant.

If you are in a committed relationship, it won’t seem dramatic, you will be ready and willing to agree to the boundaries of the relationship, and will likely want to suggest some of your own. It’s a give and take, not just the illusion of your girlfriend trying to ctornol you. Everyone should feel comfortable in a relationship, and boundaries exist for comfort and peace of mind, not to be negotiated or to find a loophole for. If you don’t agree with the terms of cheating then don’t agree to them and then break them, just end the relationship, save the heartache.

No-one deserves it. Trust me.

Loyalty, therefore, is defined as open communication and being on the same page as each other. Even if it’s fun, if you don’t both ultimately want the same thing, then that will result in frictions, cheating and microaggressions that the relationship should not be full of.

Loyalty is all about understanding your partner and anticipating their needs, not trying to just do the bare minimum of not actively doing something bad. It’s about adding to the quality of your relationship, and thinking of ways to improve people’s day, just because you want to. You didn’t need to be told to like a little schoolboy to send the ‘good luck,’ or ‘good morning’ message, but you know it will be appreciated, along with the flowers and the home cooked meal and interesting date night suggestion. It keeps things interesting in a wholesome way, not going out to the pub with the lads on a Friday night in search of something ‘new’ when you are ignoring your relationship at home.

It’s 2020, guys and girls, we can do better. Much better.

The thing with cheaters is that we have to teach them that what they do – while it may occasionally have reasons and excuses that track – can’t be sustained. It’s not right. End the relationship and pursue your new love if you must, but don’t string along a relationship because it will end up hurting more parties than it should. Maybe it’s because we’re all taught that we’re the worst person in the room and that because – finally – one person loves us despite all our flaws, we believe that we have to love them above and beyond their toxic behaviour. That’s not how it works. You don’t owe anyone anything. 

If this is something that you recognise in your life, or in your friends’ lives, say something.  A cheating spouse or significant other is something that can truly derail a person’s approach to relationships. It can fracture their ability to trust another person. Or it may have them believe that they deserve to be treated that way. Or that it’s inevitable. It happens to everyone.

No it doesn’t.

Most importantly, if you recognise this emotional carelessness in yourself, there is time to try to change. Or communicate if you are unsure of boundaries. 

If you’re feeling guilty, it’s because you know you’re doing something wrong.

There’s no excuse. 

Redefine loyalty in your relationships, and communicate about boundaries with cheating and general expectations within the relationship.

It’s in everyone’s interest.