The Cheater's Guide To Self Serving Flimflam
The Unreliable Narrator: Lessons Learned
Over the years, I've ignored dozens, possibly hundreds of articles on why someone cheated and how much they, the cheater, have learned from destroying the trust of a person who loved them; how much better a person, spouse, partner, friend or human the cheater now is and how much they truly appreciate the person they betrayed. Endless justification of the unjustifiable, all written with a side order of fake humility. Seen one, seen 'em all.
There's one simple reason why cheaters cheat: Because they want to.
I think of these articles as "The Cheater's Guide to Self Serving Flim Flam".
As previously, I'm discussing relationships into which both parties have entered voluntarily, with clear boundaries in place. This is not a discussion of someone in a dangerous relationship trying to escape, or any other whatabout you can imagine.
An ugly side effect of the cheater is the enabler. I've written elsewhere:
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 of course, when they also start writing self serving flim flam explaining why their case is totally unique and the person they supported to cheat had a right to abuse their partner, you know that they and the cheater were well met.
Now, they are no longer just enablers, they are parties to the offence. Arseholes of a feather flock together. I treat these articles the same way as the Cheater's Guides - I won't give them the reads.
I've written about what cheating is, and how it's just not that complicated here:
Although I won't give page reads or credence to a cheater who wants to explain why they're so special and unique, or an enabler doing the same, I do often flick quickly to the comment section to clap the hell out of anybody else who's seen through their malarkey and has the patience to address them.
I'm a natural skim reader, and therefore to avoid every sentence would be impossible. The sentences I catch in passing inevitably confirm I was right to dismiss them. Sometimes, as a form of mental self flagellation, I read the cheater's replies to their own replies. So much ghastly fakery, passive aggressiveness and self justification all wrapped up in a pretence of zen.
Abusers can afford to be zen.
But because I do have a natural ability to quickly skim and accurately assess the tone of the article, I did stop and read precisely one article where the cheater in question seemed to actually feel sorry for what she'd done. One of her sentences stuck out and I went on to read the rest. She seemed genuinely sorry - not "clickbait self justification so I can make some money out of this sorry - for what she'd done. One person and one alone that I've seen of all the cheaters inundating the internet seemed to have some actual understanding of the life long damage she'd chosen to inflict upon her husband.
In her case I commented to say perhaps letting the guilt go might be appropriate, since guilt is all about learning something, and she had obviously learned all she could and was doing no good to herself or anyone else by continuing to berate herself.
Aside from that, I've always learned everything I had to with one quick skim and a glance at the comments. Thus hopefully avoiding giving the cheater further encouragement to write about it.
But mostly I no longer even skim these articles. I'm not one for hate reading and their words aren't worth wiping my arse on, let alone reading. Still, there are a lot of them all over the internet. A preponderance of abusive liars who feel that their cheating was different from every one else's cheating. And it's that which I am responding to.
The Unreliable Narrator
You don't need a lie detector test - they've offered you one for free.
I mean, who wouldn't find a self confessed liar and abuser credible?
If they have lied to their loved ones they are certainly capable of lying in an article, to gain page clicks or re-write history, or set themselves up some plausible deniability for future relationships, or just to make themselves feel better.
Even abject liars generally prefer to be liked and not painted as the bad guy - especially when they are.
But do you know what would paint cheaters as a better person? Not cheating.
And if you've aleady done that? Not trying to excuse cheating.
Cheaters like to witter on about the lessons they've learned.
But the very act of writing about how they've gained something from cheating proves they've learned nothing. If they feel they have the right to make the claim that something positive has come out of their behaviour, ipso facto their learning curve is completely flat.
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 long term misery inflicted on those who loved and believed in you could have been achieved by other means. And 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.
The damage done to the relationship and the other partner cannot be justified by any gains you feel you have made.
If you are one of those who offers solace, sympathy or understanding to cheaters in their comment section, have a think about who you are choosing to believe.
It is not normal behaviour to lie to and betray a person who loves and trust you. No matter how normalised these people seek to make it. A person who can do this repeatedly is not a trustworthy person. You cannot trust their point of view. The cheater telling you about their "reasons" for cheating is, at best, an unreliable narrator.
For the person who was cheated on, these are the lessons learned:
Lesson 1. We learn to never truly trust our own judgement again. If the person who shared your life could lie straight to your face and you didn't see it, your judgement must be off. You must be too trusting. The problem is that basically honest people are naturally trusting. That's how cheaters often get away with it. If you're not yourself a liar, your world view and personal prism tends to assume that others are generally honest too. That point of view is discarded, once we learn we've been cheated on.
I certainly was too trusting. I never once questioned, never looked at a phone or checked an email. I believed all his bullshit and was fine with him going for a couple of drinks with workmates, including a woman he claimed was a work friend. She was only one of several I found out about. Because I was far too trusting, there was quite the history in the end.
Lesson 2. As a result, you learn to be more distrustful of everyone, forever. Having been so duped you realise you are simply too gullible, so you stop and analyse situations through the lens of "even the ones you love are liars and that's a proven fact".
Lesson 3. We learn that nobody gets caught the first time. What are the odds of that? Of course he or she will say it's the first time. They'll also lie about how far it went and what they really did. Liars will lie, after all.
Lesson 4. I also learned that if someone isn't totally and completely transparent with their partner, with absolutely nothing hidden, if they don't leave free access to their phone, computer, socials lying around without thinking about it, they're hiding something.
Lesson 5. I learned that there is no such thing as a friend of the opposite sex. And anybody who tells you otherwise is a liar who is cheating, or hopes or plans to cheat.
Lesson 6. I learned that all your memories are now tainted. Because you know they've cheated, you wonder always were they cheating then too? If you're rational and think logically, you cannot help wondering if all the times you had to be apart, maybe when they were working away, all the times you were thoughtlessly trusting - were they already betraying your trust then? Every memory you have of that person is slightly soiled.
Lesson 7: You learn that your mental health can be affected by cheating. You realise the person you turned to to help you in times of trouble is the one who has abused you. This is a mind fuck for anybody, of any age - and in extreme situations can even cause dissociative behaviour. Your mind turns around on itself in a grieving circle. You need comfort, you reach to the person who normally comforts you,but they are the one who has harmed you, you draw back. Around and around. It's a deeply harmful and painful cycle.
I was fortunate, I had friends. Many don't. Cheaters torture their victims in this way, amongst others.
Lesson 8. You learn that cheaters are abusers.
Lesson 9. The final lesson. I have learned that cheaters will pretend to feel sympathy for you, while trying to invalidate and further abuse you.
I have actually seen cheaters tell commenters that they're sorry it ruined that person's life, but perhaps that person has some underlying issues as it's not a big deal people. I've seen cheaters try this line on their own partners too.
For those who might want to try spring this nonsense on me:
No. It didn't ruin my life. It caused me to change, permanently, and not for the better. It altered my world view and it ruined my marriage. It caused me quite a lot of pain for several years.
However, even while within the marriage I still had lots of happy moments. Once I let go of caring for him, I was happier still. And once the marriage ended I spent a couple of peaceful years without a relationship, enjoying my friends and my children. After that I also met and married my "twin flame" if you believe in that sort of thing, a few years later.
So no, it didn't ruin my life and in the end, all is well. but thanks for your clearly genuine concern.
But all of this could have been achieved without torturing me. Because that is what cheaters are choosing to do - torture another person who trusts them. If my ex had simply said he couldn't be faithful, we'd have split. If he'd just left me, I'd have coped.
Cheating is a form of emotional abuse. Repeat cheaters are making a choice to emotionally abuse their partner.
Can you imagine any other type of abuser writing about the lessons they've learned from being abusive and expecting to be well received?
Imagine this article title: "Confessions of a serial wife beater".
You'd be outraged, and rightly so.
So the next time you read any article by a cheater, try replacing the word or notion of cheater with "abuser" "wife beater" or something similar. How does it read to you now?
The only lesson a cheater can possibly learn is not to do it again. And the only lesson a person who's been cheated on can learn is to be less trustworthy. Those are not lessons worth learning, and they certainly do not merit never ending screeds on why, where, when and what in an effort to make the tawdry and unexceptional sound exceptional.
And as for writing about it - did you ask them first? Did they agree to have their dirty laundry aired in public? Did they get to write their side of the story? Did they want their humiliation written about by their abuser? Who are you - the abuser - to write about the abuse you chose to participate in?
The Only Lesson A Cheater Needs To Learn
YOU are the abuser. Don't write about how abusing someone taught you life lessons or in some way improved matters, because that makes you sound even more like a self entitled, compassionless shit. Don't tell everyone your partner is just fine and dandy, that's not your right.
It might be worthwhile outlining in full the harm you did to the person you abused and the deep regret you feel about it if you can manage to do so anonymously, provided you don't try to wrap it all up in a pretty bow of positives. Because there are none.
The availability heuristic might lead you to conclude it's acceptable to cheat.
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 pretty sad that I have to actually point that out.
It's easy to extrapolate - and I do - that when I see someone giving comfort, credence or sympathy to a cheater they too are a cheater, or at least an apologist for cheating.
But if, like me, you believe in personal responsibility and are not keen on encouraging liars, you should try doing what I do. Ignore them. Vote with your page clicks.
And there's no need to worry about me making anyone feel guilty. Sometimes guilt is earned. And if they've reached the stage of writing about finding something positive in the abuse they inflicted on another person, they've overcome their well-earned guilt quite nicely, without my intervention.
Obviously, I can't stop cheaters from writing about themselves in rose coloured terms, nor would I wish to exercise that level of control. I believe in free speech. You're entitled to claim it's cathartic for you to write about being abusive. Everyone is entitled to write what they choose, however self serving and brimming with bullshit.
But I can certainly offer this riposte.
Articles written by cheaters about the lessons they learned or the positives that came out their abusive behaviour are worthless for two reasons.
1. The article is being written by a self confessed, proven liar. And 2. Can you imagine the level of self entitlement you'd need to betray someone's trust, ruin a chunk of their life and then write an "Oops my bad but here are the positives and at least I took a life lesson from it?" article?
I certainly can't.
But then, I'm not a cheater.
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.