Your Cheating Story Isn't Special: It's Just Commonplace Abuse
Decent Behaviour Just Isn't That Complex
Important Disclaimer: As I state in the video and PodCast - I might have been a Counsellor, but I'm not your Counsellor. These are my opinions only. Please don't make major life decisions based on my opinions!
I've seen one article that was a genuine mea culpa for betrayal over the last year, and countless others trying to pick the bones out of "reasons" and silver linings, desperately grasping for something positive to emerge from their choice to lie, abuse and destroy human trust.
There are no positives to come out of cheating. Not one. Assuming you're not a psychopath that is, and have the ability to feel normal human empathy.
Any good that might emerge after the ruination of trust and sometimes lifelong misery inflicted on those who loved you could have been achieved by other means.
Cheating is absolutely never the result of an unhappy relationship. It is the result of a choice to lie to someone who has faith in you.
If your marriage is unhappy, talk about it or leave. Don't cheat.
Let's be very clear: it's poisonous, aberrant behaviour to repeatedly lie to the face of someone who loves you and trusts you. And it's time we acknowledged that.
As I've said elsewhere:
"If a man will lie to and about his wife and kids, he'll lie to and about you as well. What makes you so unique, special and deception proof? Remember that particularly the next time you're listening to a cheater trying to justify themselves. If you want people to trust your word, don't cheat.
Because cheaters are liars. And liars are dangerous."
Degrees of Dishonesty
Is there a spectrum of cheating? Well, yes, of course. Blatantly lying for weeks, months or even years is clearly worse than lying once.
But there's a reason why we use the word cheater when we talk about unfaithful partners. To cheat is to act dishonestly and unfairly to snatch an improper advantage.
Lying and refusing to honour commitments and promises is not decent, honest or fair.
If you do that to someone close to you, who trusts you, I'm afraid that shows your character in stark relief.
Rationality and Logic
Obviously, I can't cover all the stories of enforced marriages and coercive relationships. I am discussing here relationships entered into with the agreement of both parties. In addition, where I say "married" for ease and flow of writing, of course I'm including any monogamous relationship agreed to by both parties, whether legally binding or not.
Instead of relying on the obfuscations of self-entitled liars, here's my reasoned description of what cheating really is.
In the context of a relationship chosen by both parties, if you wouldn't do it in front of your partner, you're cheating. On truly rare occasions it might be acceptable to do something you wouldn't do in front of your partner, with their absolutely explicit agreement first. If you're not sure if you have their agreement or they'd be ok with it, you already know you haven't and they wouldn't.
Stick to whatever boundaries you have drawn up for your relationship. And now nobody has to pretend they didn't understand that they were cheating.
Honesty and decency just aren't that complex.
What about the Enablers?
Unlike those choosing to cheat, the enablers - the third vertex in the triangle - can sometimes claim mitigating circumstances. They didn't know he was married, or he claimed his marriage was over. They were gaslighted by the cheater.
But let's face it, there is an entire world of people who aren't married out there. So make it your goal not to date any of the ones who are, and if you find out he or she is married, move on. A nice, simple solution to what some would prefer to frame as a more complicated decision.
Sometimes we want things that we shouldn't have. It can be hard to say no, lust is a strong driving force. But it is always a choice. So exercise a little self-control and say no to yourself. Integrity might be an old fashioned word, but it's not an outdated concept. I guarantee your self-esteem will be thank you for it in the long run,
Once again, it's quite simple. If you find out he or she is married, end the relationship. Even if it's really hard. Even if you don't want to.
You will never, and can never be judged as harshly as the cheater. But it's not honourable behaviour. Do better for yourself, even if you don't care about the other people you're involved in harming.
What About Reciprocal Cheating?
I do think there's a case to be made for having some sympathy for reciprocal cheaters. If you've been cheated on the marriage vows are already in the dustbin, the relationship is already tainted, and you're not the root cause.
It's still better though, for your own integrity, dignity and self-worth, not to cheat. But of course it matters if you are the injured party who is retaliating, or who feels their relationship is no longer to be revered because of the betrayal, rather than the liar who chose to destroy the integrity of the union in the first place.
Or to paraphrase a friend of mine "If you've been cheated on your marriage is already fucked, so you might as well be."
But really, if this is how you're feeling about your relationship, in my opinion it's irretrievably tainted and tarnished anyway, and you'd do better to hold your head up high and hang on to your ethics.
Normalising The Abnormal
Cheaters are the ultimate gaslighters and emotional abusers.
Let's stop trying to normalise this sort of abuse. It is not normal to choose repeatedly to lie to someone who trusts you.
If you cheat, then day in, day out, for the rest of your life, you will know you did something rotten to someone who trusted you. At best (for the cheater) if you don't get caught, you have to live with what you did to someone who believed in you, forever.
If you think you can live with that, good luck to you.
It taints everything.
You have other options. Don't lower yourself to cheating.
If you feel the relationship is at an end and you're very strongly drawn to another person, give the person whom you promised to love and care for the respect and kindness of leaving them first, before you choose to cheat. Let there be a gap, however small, between the leaving and sharing fluids with the next person.
Or talk to your partner, let them know your plans. Yes, it might cause you some strife, and will likely end the relationship. But at least you're offering them the same opportunities you are grabbing for yourself.
I would never try to convince anyone to stay in an unhappy marriage. We get one life, and we all deserve the chance to seek happiness. But when you seek that happiness at the expense of others, you cross a line that changes everything, forever.
Allow the person whom you promised to love, support and share your life with to retain their dignity and offer them basic human respect by not cheating.
Rationalising The Irrational
I wrote about cheating long ago, but took the article down due to issues with the site. But from that article came a PodCast and Video which I feel clarify a great deal about cheating - and I touch on polyshaggery there too.
I've skated up to the edge of cheating a few times, after being cheated on myself, and I wish I hadn't done that, though I'm glad I had the decency and self-respect not to go further.
What we do to our significant others matters. Or nobody and nothing matters. Choose one.
We rarely discuss the ethics of cheating, we don’t make it clear what cheating is, and we no longer seem to admonish cheaters much at all, accepting instead vagueries and justifications. I think that’s a mistake. Being clear about what cheating really is and what it really does might not change a thing — but obfuscating and condoning cruel practices certainly normalises abnormal behaviour. It’s not natural and it should not be considered normal to betray people who trust you, people you’ve made promises and commitments to. And it’s sad that I have to actually point that out.
Clarity and rationality are two things cheaters would prefer to avoid. They prefer not to face the harm they've inflicted and would rather view themselves through a kinder lens than they deserve.
Crime and Punishment
I’m not trying to punish anyone, and I’m not interested in punishment for cheaters, though I fully understand the individual need for that for some who have been betrayed. My entire intent is to fashion a clear, rational statement in response to seeing a lot of hypocritical bulldust spun around the subject of betrayal. We’re all the protagonist in our own stories. But no matter how you spin it, or wish it, you won’t ever reinvent yourself as the hero if you cheat.
I am interested in making a clear, logical statement about cheating, as an argument against the vague justifications that are so numerous.
Cheaters are liars, and liars are dangerous. Yes, there is a spectrum of cheating, but the ethical and decent stance is to try to stay off the spectrum altogether.
You always have the choice not to cheat.
Nothing positive comes from deceiving and emotionally abusing people who trust you.
You're not an exceptional case. You don't have special dispensation. You don't have plausible deniability. But, like every one of us, you have choices.
Choose not to do the wrong thing.
Choose not to cheat.
Sometimes people will claim my words sound angry. However, what they usually mean is I sound assertive, but they’re not used to reading the words of women who don’t apologise for having opinions, and who don’t use a softly-softly approach.
No, there’s no anger left regarding my ex, we get along fine. All the misery he caused ended years ago. I wish him well and I am re-marrying in a few weeks. I wrote this article in response to reading someone trying to justify cheating.
Once again, a disclaimer: As I state in the video and PodCast - I might have been a Counsellor, but I'm not your Counsellor. These are my opinions only. Please don't make major life decisions based on my opinions!
Feel the need to try the Don't Judge Me approach?
I already have that covered:
Can't wait to burn some straw men in your comments and argue with something I didn't say?
Please read this first:
Alison Tennent, Queensland, Australia, May 2021
Copyright Alison Tennent 2021, all rights reserved. Scottish by birth, upbringing and bloodline, Australian by citizenship. If you’re reading this anywhere but The Garrulous Glaswegian, Vocal+ or Medium, this work may have been plagiarized.
Wishing you, fellow traveller, fair winds and a following sea: