Ah modern slang… 😀
Wifeys & Gentlemen,
As some of you might have noticed, I decided to skip writing last week’s blog. Because of the nature of my work, I am (usually) fortunate enough to have time, even during my workday, to write and research for my blogs. However, last week, I opted to use that time to study and prepare for a very important (albeit vexing) exam. As of Monday, 3/16/15, I passed! (Can I get a woop woop?) Now, I am back and ready to invade your computer screens with more relationship related jargon that hopefully makes you smile, or at the very least, makes you think! Thank you in advance for your understanding. As a reward, here is another long post! I know right, you’re welcome!!! 😉
This week, I have been considering the sobering and (sometimes) controversial topic of cheating and adultery. As a disclaimer, when I say “considering” it does NOT mean that I have personally been considering engaging in an affair of any kind! I just means that it’s a topic that has come up a lot this week in one way or another.
I know, I know, it’s a bummer, but sometimes I get inspired by the weirdest things in my environment and after mulling it over for the past 2 weeks, I’ve decided that my next couple posts will tackle different aspects of ‘cheating’ and the ways we deal with it in the modern age…or not deal with it, as some of us choose to do.
Now, in an attempt to be different and deviate from any other girly teen magazine you might pick up, I will NOT be listing out 20 different ways to tell if your man or woman is cheating on you. Frankly, I hate articles like that! Many times, I believe they cause more problems than they resolve and they prey on those of us who might be a bit more naïve, gullible, and insecure. You know those articles I’m talking about. Cosmo Girl says:
If she says she’s working late, she’s probably banging someone else! Follow her, follow her everywhere and try to break into her phone to find the nudes she isn’t sending you!
Ignorant, hilarity aside, I did ask myself a few very pointed questions when thinking about cheating:
- Is cheating ever justified? Is it ever okay?
- Can a couple ever really move on from infidelity? Can it truly be forgiven?
Unfortunately, in my attempt to answer these questions, I determined that I won’t be able to take into account all types of couples; those couples in open relationships, couples that swing, or ones that have differing ideas about gender and sexuality. This is not to say that there is no such thing as cheating in these types of relationships, or that gender and sexuality plays a poignant and meaningful role in factors that motivate or influence us to cheat. However, the amount of time it would take to qualify every assertion and assumption made in this blog as it caters to every single unique type of relationship is more than I am capable of at this point, so for my more unique wifeys, you’ll have to forgive me this go’round.
That being said, in today’s blog I’d really like to make my positon clear and answer the first question: Is it ever okay to cheat on your partner?
I suppose I could end the blog there and say “see you next week” but I think a little elaboration might be in order, especially for those of my readers who might seriously disagree! I know every couple is different and there is never a “one size fits all” when trying to find a resolution for a relationship or marital problem. Make no mistake, whether a person chooses to forgive their partner or forgive themselves for cheating is NOT what I am speaking about here. We all make mistakes of varying degrees and I would be the last person to judge you for cheating and forgiving yourself or for deciding to forgive your man/woman for an indiscretion of the past, but in my (not so humble) opinion, the answer will always be a resounding and unequivocal: NO! If you ever ask me for advice on this topic (as a friend or future client), I think it’s important to start by acknowledging the wrong doing. You can grow so much more positively from there, savvy?
Honestly wifeys, does this response surprise you? I know I just finished saying that each couple is unique, and I believe that whole heartedly, but I do think that we can all agree that indulging your impulses is (pretty universally) going to be an unacceptable excuse for cheating (ie: “he was just so hot” or “he offered me lots of money” and yes even “but it was Ryan Gosling!”). However, in spite of some instances of what might seem like black and white logic, some of us might argue justification in areas where others see none.
In that spirit, and before continuing with some examples, I’d like to also take this opportunity to say that my post is going to make some very general assumptions about personal judgement and morality. Today, we assume a “blanket” version of morals and consciousness.
Bottom line: there is always going to be an exception to every rule. Always. For me, I am basing my thoughts and opinions on the general rules of dating and relationships, not the exception. My hypothesis? 95% of the arguments and justifications I have heard about cheating simply aren’t good enough.
& I can hear the chorus now…
I’m scared to imagine what some of my readers are thinking. Raise your hand if you have a friend of friend of a friend that cheated on her boyfriend or husband for a very good reason. Maybe some of you are justifying your own reasons and actions? That’s fine. Perhaps you are the 5%? The exception to the rule?
Either way, I stand by my hypothesis for 3 outstandingly simple reasons. Cheating is wrong and can (almost) never be justified because:
- It hurts your partner
- It involves the breaking of a vow or promise
- It takes a toll on the cheater
Dr. M White, a PhD and top researcher of infidelity in marriages asks this simple question, “no matter how you feel about your ex or current partner today, how would you feel if you’d found out they cheated?” Ego aside, close your eyes and really think about it. Be it your last significant partner, your current partner, the last person you dated that you actually liked…what would it have felt like to learn that the love of your life (at the time) had willingly been with someone else?
I hate to overdramatize almost as much as I hate to oversimplify, but being cheated on is one of the worst feelings I have ever experienced. Even when I was beginning to realize how much I didn’t like my ex, finding out about infidelity is like having the wind knocked out of you. Your confidence, your trust, and your sanity come into question, and it takes a while to pick up all the pieces and move forward, even if you try to tell yourself how little you care, it still sucks. Your partner, with whom you’ve shared a closeness, has chosen to seek intimacy (in one type or another) with a person that isn’t you and it sucks. It sucks a whole lot!
But Ms. Renai…my wife is cold and emotionally distant. She doesn’t touch me anymore and since the baby was born, we haven’t even kissed. I’ve tried to reignite the spark, but she doesn’t want to. I crave contact and I need to feel loved and needed. She probably wouldn’t even care if I cheat. We’re so unhappy.
But Ms. Renai, I honestly wouldn’t care if my girlfriend cheated on me! It’s just sex. If it bothers me, I’ll just dump her.
I know that these are pretty classic scenarios and responses to cheating. I’ve actually heard these very comments in passing before. It changes nothing!
Whether seeking a physical release or an emotional/romantic spark, if you still love your partner, there are far more productive ways to attempt to restore intimacy and romance in your relationship than cheating. Even in unhappy relationships, one must assume that at some point, there was mutual love and affection. Would the aforementioned circumstances suddenly mean that your partner just doesn’t love you anymore? Have you asked them? Unhappiness does not, in any way, justify cheating. The actions still hurt your partner and in turn, are likely hurting you as well.
Even when we say “whatever, I don’t care!” in our subconscious, there is damage being done. Some of us are stronger than others. Some of us are able to understand that having a partner cheat on us doesn’t change our value as people…that’s great! I LOVE that. But it does not change psychology of it. The average person, no matter self-assured or well adjusted, takes a ding on their psyche. Maybe, without even knowing it, they are less trusting than they were before it happened. Maybe they’re slower to say “I love you” until they are 100% sure they can trust their partner? Maybe their sense of “awareness” or attachment to their new partner is subtly heightened?
Furthermore, even if you are not yet married, entering into a committed relationship is a promise. Unless you are in a unique relationship (which we won’t address here), a new relationship is like a contract, outlining the things you will and will not do during your time together. This contract almost always has a fidelity clause!
Although some studies have shown us that our basic animal instincts are not wholly monogamous, humans still seek love, loyalty, and emotional intimacy from others. If you are the type of woman (or man) who gets enough intimacy from friends and family, be mature and know that monogamous relationships just aren’t for you. That’s 100% fine. Own it! Celebrate it. & know that you have the right to change your mind whenever you want!
But Ms. Renai…what he doesn’t know, won’t hurt him? So what, I might have hooked up when traveling to Europe or on a weekend trip with my girls! I’m sure he does the same. As long as no one is getting hurt, what’s the harm?
Sigh. Harm comes from the possible damage you cause if your secret gets out. Harm comes from breaking a promise to someone who has assumed, up until this point, that you always have their feelings and best interest at heart. I agree that we all have secrets, and again, we all make mistakes, but if you are the kind of person who can’t live without having a hook up when you travel, maybe speak openly to your partner about your needs and work from a place of honesty? No?
Dr. M White writes:
Virtue ethics focuses on those qualities of a person—the virtues, naturally—that make her a good person, or that contribute to leading a good life. As opposed to utilitarianism and deontology, virtue ethicists don’t provide formulas or rules for determining which qualities count as virtues and which as vices; most of them are pretty common-sense. Honesty, obviously, is a virtue, as are kindness and trustworthiness. Fidelity would be another—we normally think of faithful people as good. Likewise, if you want to be a good person, and you think that fidelity is a virtue that contribute to a person being good, than you should aspire toward being faithful. Virtue ethicists (especially those who draw their inspiration from Aristotle) also emphasize moderation in all things, especially when defining virtues. For instance, it is possible to be too honest, if you end up saying things that hurt people unnecessarily (“you know, Jim, you really are putting on weight”), or too kind, if you give away all of your money and end up needing financial help yourself. Virtues can be considered the “mean” between two extremes, which implies that any good quality can be taken to the extreme. Likewise, fidelity can be taken too far.
See, Ms. Renai! The doctor even says it too! What if a man is in a broken relationship? His partner neglects him and abuses him, he’s been cheated on several times already, and he is so miserable that he’s thought about suicide? He knows someone at his office who has a crush on him and would LOVE to get to know him better, what then? Is cheating okay then?
She cheated on me! I know it! I have the proof. At this point, I deserve to cheat. We’ll be even.
No! Being in a neglectful, abusive, and terrible relationship is still not a reason to cheat! As the good doctor points out, things like fidelity can be taken too far! Anyone who stays faithful to a relationship that isn’t faithful to them is making a huge error in judgement! In these cases, it is important to feel empowered enough to know you deserve better, end your harmful relationship, and then begin a new one with someone who values you.
This goes for revenge cheating too. Either decide to forgive them and move forward, or decide it isn’t acceptable and walk away. Ask yourself this: how does cheating undo the damage done? How does this make my current situation better?
I know this might be easier said than done and I can appreciate that on multiple levels, but it still would not justify infidelity as a solution to what is ultimately a much larger problem. No therapist would tell an abuse victim to cheat in order to feel better or balance things out, right?
Real talk: If you aren’t happy or fulfilled, it is your duty to talk to your partner or end things with your partner if you feel you can no longer keep the promises you made.
Look, I’m not naïve! I know we’ve all been there. You’re in a happy relationship with someone you love and then all of a sudden…BOOM! Doubt begins to trickle in. You start to look and them and wonder if they truly are the person you’re supposed to give your all to for the rest of your life. This is normal. No one person is ever going to be 100% of what you need 100% of the time (yes, I know I’ve said this exact sentence before, and believe me, I will say it again). It is up to us to make sure we are sure, and be brave if we decide that it’s time to move on. Yes, it sucks to dump people, it sucks to be dumped, but it sucks worse to lie to someone and make them believe you feel are loyal to them when you aren’t. It sucks worse to be lied to and have to face the sting of being emotionally manipulated.
We all have crossroads in our lives and (again) we all make mistakes. Sometimes we think we know what we want and it’s hard to admit we are wrong. Sometimes we had what we wanted all along and it’s hard to admit to what we lost. Either way, it is possible to recover. Please know,I do not think cheaters are scum! I believe, when people are willing, infidelity can be resolved. I also believe in the power of choice, and the meaningful impact of communication & at the end of the day, that’s what I am promoting. You have to talk to your partner.
Next week, on the heels of all the reasons why we shouldn’t cheat, we can talk about what happens if you do (or if you know your partner has) and if there is a way to fully recover from the damaging effects of an affair.
Until Next Week,
Carry on Wifeys