Cheating

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 a proud Mommy & Mémé, professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
Posts created 4241

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