by Admin on June 18th, 2010
filed under Wide-Eyed and Musing
In my previous post I explored some of my own thoughts on cheating and my experiences as the “other woman”. But that’s an incomplete picture on a hot and complex topic. So I turned to others, some who have been cheated on, some who have cheated, and some both, starting with this seemingly simple question:
When it comes to cheating, where do you draw the line?
Some people, like my friend Ryan, think that even emotional cheating is bad. He’s been burned a few times by an unfaithful partner, and has since adopted a zero tolerance policy. If his boyfriend puts himself in a position where he can potentially start to feel attracted to someone else that’s almost a deal breaker, let alone if he should make out with him. Even drunkenly. At that point, it’s over.
And then there are guys like Jason who’ve been in very lengthy relationships and give a little wiggle room when it comes to cheating. His relationships were always “monogamous” as far as he’s concerned, but if something happened, as long as they were honest about it, it wasn’t like it was the end of the world. He’d cheated on boyfriends a couple times, been honest about it, and believes that they were able to learn and grow from it. Cheating doesn’t necessarily take away from the love that might be there in the relationship, or so he says.
And I’ve heard everything in between, from “it’s ok if you just make out and grind on the dance floor”, to some who say to hell with forgive and forget…it’s all about an eye for an eye. Or a fuck for a fuck, as the case may be.
I accept that monogamy is never monochromatic. It comes in many colors. Every relationship has its own special set of rules and circumstances that cast a particular light on the act of cheating.
Like me, my friend Alex is not that judgmental with regards to cheaters. “I just don’t villainize them,” he says. “It’s never a straight line. The betrayal of (cheating) is never all that clear.”
And Alex isn’t just speculating. He speaks from experience. He’d been in a relationship with his partner for four years, and toward the end of that relationship the terms of their monogamy just got looser and looser. “We were having threesomes and dancing with guys and making out with them and having that be ok. Letting my partner go out on dates with other people,” he said.
Being new to Chicago, Alex felt that he was giving his partner the space in their relationship that he thought he needed, and that in return he might get his own space to make new friends. But in the end it was all a deception. “I convinced myself that it was ok to allow him to do this…it’s really the dishonesty that fucks it up.” Dishonesty to his partner and to himself. In retrospect Alex realizes that if he’d been more honest about what he was comfortable with then things wouldn’t have gotten as bad as they ultimately did.
It’d be easy for Alex to point to his partner’s cheating as a betrayal and the main reason why they broke up. But is it really? “Cheating ends up being just an excuse for someone to be the hero of the story,” Alex says. And he definitely doesn’t think of himself as a hero. He doesn’t want to walk away from his relationship with a false sense of a clear conscience, knowing that there were most likely problems with the relationship that led to the cheating, on both sides.
And that’s just the thing. I’m the last one to make excuses for bad behavior, but nothing ever happens in a vacuum, especially not cheating. If someone cheats, it doesn’t just reflect their character, but the state of their relationship as well. Some homes are already wrecked, and it doesn’t take cheating or the help from anyone else to make that happen. Most likely the relationship was over before the cheating ever started. And I for one am not going to make a villain out of anyone who cheats, nor a hero of anyone cheated on. At least not without looking at the context. Because there’s almost always some shady ass grays that play a part in there. It’s never just black and white.