There are rules for everything including breaking the rules, so it should come as no surprise that for people who choose to cheat on their spouse or partner, there is still a code to be followed. Some of these rules are just about basic human decency and respect, while others are about covering your butt and keeping from getting caught.
Not everyone follows the cheating code, but the smart people who manage to not get caught and actually keep their primary relationships intact and thriving generally do. The code varies from person to person and situation to situation, but here are 20 key elements that are often included:
1. Do Not, under Any Circumstances, Fall in Love
Love is a wonderful thing, but that’s not what this is about. You can like the person you’re cheating with, and you can certainly lust after them, but the minute that love creeps into it you have big problems and big decisions to make. Nobody needs that.
2. Avoid the Crazy Cheating Partner
Yes, it would be much easier if crazy people were forced to wear name tags that identified their level of craziness, but in most cases you will know early on if you’re dealing with a true nutcase. Crazy people eventually snap and tell your spouse everything. Always.
3. Deny, Deny, Deny
The song by Shaggy, “It wasn’t me,” pretty much sums it up. There is never a time when you should admit that you were cheating. If you are caught buck naked, deeply involved in the act, and there were cameras and witnesses, you still say it was a trick of the light or it was your evil twin or something. Once you admit to cheating, there’s no going back.
4. Keep It Clean and Safe
First off, don’t book your trysts in the seediest hotel in the bad part of town—neither one of you may make it out alive. Beyond that, get tested for STDs before, during, and after the affair, and use protection at all times. There is no easier way to get caught than when unsightly bumps or peculiar discharges start to appear, and nothing says “sleaze” quite like bringing an STD home to your loving spouse.
5. No One Needs to Know Right Now
While you are fervently denying your cheating heart to your spouse, you shouldn’t be bragging about your conquests to your friends at work. People talk, and what you say to one person can easily travel around the world to land right on your beloved’s Facebook page before you know it.
6. Never in or near Your Own Home
There’s wrong and there’s WRONG. You should never drag your illicit activities into the dwelling you share with the love of your life. Even if the moral implications don’t bother you, think of the practicality. What are the odds that your friend is spotted by a neighbor or leaves something incriminating behind? You might even want to have your get-togethers in another town, or at the very least another neighborhood.
It is a small world, and that world gets even smaller if you’re going to bars, restaurants, and hotels where your friends and neighbors hang out. A good cover story might bail you out once—after that, you’re busted.
7. Never with a Friend or Family Member of Your Partner
It doesn’t matter how hot your husband’s brother may be, once you go horizontal with him you have opened a can of radioactive death worms that will slowly eat your brain. Even if you lack the basic decency to see the problem with this, think of the practical side. When two people who know your spouse have a secret to keep, you’ve doubled the chance that somebody slips and says the wrong thing.
8. Don’t Do It if You Can’t Afford It
Cheating is expensive. There are the costs of hotel rooms, travel expenses, and gifts, plus whatever you need to buy to keep your cover story intact. If you try to go cheap, you will mess something up and get caught.
9. Be More Affectionate with Your Real Partner
You have no intention of leaving your real partner, right? Then act like you want to keep them. Take the joy and elevated mood you have as a result of your extra relationship and use it to strengthen your most important relationship. Make it a win-win. As an added bonus, your partner is less likely to suspect an affair when you are extra affectionate with them.
10. Spend More Money on Your Real Partner
This is another one of those moral issues, but if you’re buying a diamond necklace for your booty call and you got your wife a pair of slipper socks for your anniversary, there’s something wrong with this picture. Again, having an affair costs money—enough money to keep both of your partners happy. Whatever you spend on your play partner, you should spend double for your real partner.
11. Don’t Share More Information than You Need To with Your Lover
If you could go into this wearing a mask with a completely different identity like somebody from “Mission Impossible,” that would be ideal. At the very least, avoid giving away extensive information about your kids, your spouse, or your workplace.
12. Don’t Get Too Rough
There are only so many times you can get mugged on the way home from work, so if you are constantly showing up with bruises and scratches, eventually you will be asked some tough questions. If rough sex is your thing, you might want to join a rugby league or take up martial arts to explain your constant state of injury.
13. Don’t Get Nostalgic
When you’re married or in a normal relationship, you’re usually expected to save cards, love notes, and gifts for a reasonable amount of time. In a cheating situation, the opposite is true—save nothing. What passes for a nice gesture one day can be used as evidence the next.
14. Be Paranoid
If you think the new clock has a camera in it, if you think your GPS is set to track your every move, if you think the car following you to your nooner is a private detective, there’s a chance that you might be right. You can’t afford to assume that you’re not.
15. Find a Partner Who Has a Life
The last thing you want is to be with a lover who has nothing better to do but think about you 24/7. How long do you think it will be before they start feeling jealous of your wife or husband and wanting to maybe take their place? Having a life in most cases will also include having a job. This not only gives them something to do, it also means that they are less likely to expect you to support them.
16. Find a Partner Who Has as Much to Lose as You Do
An ideal partner would mirror yourself—if you’re married, they’re married; if you have kids, they have kids. This way, nobody has unreasonable expectations, everyone has similar external demands on their time, and everyone knows that there are bigger issues than this relationship.
17. Clear Computer Records
In this day and age, the computer is the ultimate spy tool. If you fail to clear your cookies and erase your emails, you are leaving a pretty clear electronic trail to whatever illicit activities you’ve been involved in. If you need any more motivation to clean up your computer act, keep this in mind: Computer records are admissible evidence in divorce court and a computer or email account can be seized as evidence.
18. Keep an Eye on Your Cell Phone
Most people wouldn’t be caught dead without their cell phones these days, and you might want to hold yours a little bit closer if you’re cheating. No matter how meticulously you delete those sent and received texts and suspicious phone numbers, you just might miss one. If your partner sees your phone lying around, they will pick it up and go through it—it’s human nature. Next thing you know, you could be struggling to find a weak alibi on the spot; a situation that usually ends in disaster.
19. Be True to Your Cheating Partner
Not everyone follows this one, but it really is the best policy. Keeping multiple cheating relationships is just too risky and too much for one person to handle. You’d need to hire an assistant just to keep you from being double-booked for sex–unless two of your partners were into each other, but that’s a discussion for another time. In addition to the logistical issues, it increases your chance of being caught or worse—of catching a sexually transmitted disease.
20. Have an Exit Strategy
All good things come to an end, and how they end will determine whether or not your spouse or partner finds out that you cheated. The ideal would be to set a pre-determined limit before the affair begins, saying that it will be a summer fling or that you will be together for a year and then reevaluate. If you’ve followed the other 19 rules of the code, the breakup will be easier, but in any case, you need to be honest and forthright and talk things out so that you’re not blindsiding your play partner—that will only lead to problems.