It is common for a person who is already being cheated on by their partner to feel like they have a free pass to cheat also. They think it is not really cheating since their partner is already cheating on them. While it might feel like the fair choice, it is still cheating.
Infidelity in any form is a violation of a couple’s relationship agreement. So, yes your partner may have violated that agreement but do you also want to violate this contract? It is about being a bigger person. That (written or unwritten) contract was created because you and your partner had a connection and while that might be on the rocks currently you have to ask yourself which path you want to take. Would you rather contribute to the dysfunction by committing infidelity yourself, or would you rather take the high road and end the relationship with your partner (or take steps to try to fix things) before pursuing other relations?
Infidelity hurts. It creates wounds in relationships that are difficult to heal. But just because someone hurts you does not give you the right to hurt them in return. It might feel good for a minute, like payback or revenge, but in the end, it will only lead to more pain and suffering long term.
Even though your partner did not respect your relationship agreement, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. Confront your partner. Have a conversation. Seek counseling to determine next steps. But, don’t stoop to the level that got you into this mess, to begin with. Don’t add insult to injury. Just because you may have been the second one to commit the act, doesn’t mean it doesn’t count.
You are walking down the street with your partner, having a conversation, and you notice their eyes as you pass another woman. They move up and down, maybe you even spot a smirk on their face after they are done checking out the other woman. How does that make you feel?
You might brush it off and laugh about it, or you might internalize it. You might start to think— what makes her so special? What am I missing that she has? Why is she better than me? You might let it take a toll on your self-esteem. The reality is this other woman says nothing about your identity, about who you are as a person, as a partner, as a woman. She might be attractive, which is why your partner is checking her out, but that does not mean that you are any less attractive.
You also don’t need to condone this behavior from your partner. It can be hurtful and bothersome. Stand up for yourself. Tell him/her/them how you feel when he/she/they checks out another in front of you. Explain that while you understand they likely do find other people attractive, when they acknowledge it openly in front of you it can be hurtful. Depending on your comfort level, you can also present it in a jokingly way, for example say — “hey I saw that, you think she is pretty huh?” At least that way you open the doors to communication.
Regardless, the bottom line is the way you talk to yourself is crucial. Stop putting yourself down because of others. Stop letting other people impact the way you see yourself. You are your own beautiful self, no one can take that away from you.
Have you ever caught your partner checking out another woman? How did it make you feel?