This was trig­gered by rasilio’s post about cheat­ing. Trust is a real­ly big deal for me.

Betray­al dam­ages trust. Even lit­tle betray­als. I’m almost fanat­i­cal about telling the truth with Sam, even when I know it will be a hurt­ful truth. I need to know that he’d be just as hon­est with me, so I treat him as I want him to treat me. I’m very blunt about telling some­one “I feel betrayed due to X. That action vio­lat­ed our agree­ment Y.” I find that it great­ly improves the rela­tion­ship in the long run. And some breach­es of trust are so big that there are no sec­ond chances, no pos­si­bil­i­ty of work­ing things out.

I agree with almost every­thing rasilio said about cheat­ing, about what it is and what it isn’t. I dis­agree on one thing, though — no, we don’t all cheat. There are, in fact, peo­ple who are extreme­ly care­ful about liv­ing up to their com­mit­ments. That’s in spir­it as well as going by the absolute let­ter of any par­tic­u­lar agree­ments. It is unfor­tu­nate that peo­ple who are very care­ful about fideli­ty seem to be less com­mon than those who will betray their part­ners or busi­ness asso­ciates, but that does­n’t mean they don’t exist. 

Nobody’s per­fect, and I don’t know ANYONE who has­n’t at some point betrayed some­one in some way, big or small. But there are peo­ple who are real­ly con­sci­en­tious about it — often as a result of see­ing the harm even minor infi­deli­ty can bring.

Even if it were true that every­body cheat­ed, it would­n’t make it okay. It would­n’t excuse even one minor lie by omis­sion. Cheat­ing isn’t some­thing that’s okay if the per­son you’re cheat­ing on cheat­ed on you. Ever. And I seri­ous­ly believe that it is every bit as harm­ful to the one doing the cheat­ing as to the per­son who is being cheat­ed on and their rela­tion­ship, even if nobody else ever finds out about it. Some­one who is unfaith­ful will reap what she has sown. The uni­verse takes care of that, one way or anoth­er, with­out our help. It does­n’t mat­ter if you call it kar­ma or the rule of three or just “what goes around, comes around.” I’ve seen it hap­pen. Trust me here. Please.

While I know that it’s pos­si­ble for some­one to con­sid­er some­thing that hap­pened inno­cent­ly to be cheat­ing, I don’t think it’s com­mon. I can only think of two exam­ples of which I have per­son­al knowledge—and I find one of them ques­tion­able! When that kind of acci­dent does hap­pen, it’s almost always a sign that there has­n’t been enough clear com­mu­ni­ca­tion as to the explic­it agree­ments in the rela­tion­ship, and that the par­ties to those agree­ments just don’t know each oth­er as well as they thought they did.

Case in point (I can tell this sto­ry because the oth­er per­son in it is dead, and it can­not pos­si­bly hurt him or any­one else who is alive.) When I met my sec­ond hus­band, I was in a very social­ly active peri­od of my life. And while I’m an intro­vert, I man­aged to wear the extro­vert mask just about any time I was in a social set­ting. I flirt­ed with absolute­ly everyone—it was just my nor­mal way of inter­act­ing in those sit­u­a­tions. It was fun. I liked the atten­tion, the oth­er peo­ple liked the atten­tion, it was harm­less all around. While we were dat­ing, he nev­er object­ed in any way—in fact, he seemed to enjoy watch­ing, though he’d sel­dom join in. I act­ed exact­ly the same in front of him as when he was­n’t around.

The week­end after our hon­ey­moon, we attend­ed a par­ty. It was a gath­er­ing of peo­ple whose com­pa­ny we’d enjoyed many times in the past. I act­ed normally—for me. And he got real­ly, real­ly upset. We had to leave early—he was absolute­ly in a rage. I could­n’t fig­ure out what was wrong—had some­one said or done some­thing that I did­n’t notice?

In his eyes, I’d been unfaith­ful because I flirt­ed with an old friend (not even an old lover!). It was­n’t any­thing he had­n’t seen hun­dreds of times before, but now we were mar­ried. And as far as he was con­cerned, mar­riage changed every­thing. Com­plete­ly. I was no longer per­mit­ted to flirt. With any­one. Ever. Peri­od. It was not open to dis­cus­sion, com­pro­mise, noth­ing. I was not, in fact, to have more than very super­fi­cial conversations—much less friendships!—with any oth­er male. That’s just how it was sup­posed to be.

Do I think I betrayed him? No. But I know I hurt him, and I apol­o­gized for it. I changed my behav­ior after­ward, although it was not easy. Flirt­ing after I knew how he felt about it would have been infi­deli­ty. Despite the fact that I had no way of know­ing about his expec­ta­tions, my behav­ior dam­aged the trust between us. I was­n’t unfaith­ful, I did­n’t delib­er­ate­ly hurt him—but I did hurt him.

Yes, we should have had far more detailed dis­cus­sions of pre­cise­ly what mar­riage meant to us before we got mar­ried. Fail­ing to do so with as much my fault as his. And if I were a dif­fer­ent per­son then, maybe I would have insist­ed that we have those dis­cus­sions imme­di­ate­ly, and either come to some­thing we could both live with or end the mar­riage. I tried to do all the chang­ing, end­ed up severe­ly depressed, and the mar­riage end­ed sev­er­al years lat­er — but most of the rea­sons reached back to that fail­ure to make implic­it agree­ments explicit.

When some­one cheats on you—really cheats, does­n’t act in igno­rance like I did above—you have sev­er­al choic­es. You can for­give and for­get (I’m not good at that one any­more, at least part­ly because I don’t agree that for­get­ting is worth­while). You can work out the issue in ques­tion so that both of you can go for­ward. You can change the rela­tion­ship to some­thing else, or end it. But you can’t excuse betray­ing him or her in turn. There’s no amount of sophistry that will make it okay.

Cur­rent Mood: 🙁wor­ried
Cur­rent Music: Live — Moxy Fruvous
Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
Posts created 4255

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Posts

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top