Cheating Is Not An Inevitable End.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 6.03% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

“People who cheat lack morals. Ethics. A soul. Legal rights. They strangle kittens at pet shelters. Cheaters are as loathsome and repellent as worms, and should be left to drown in the street whenever their dark crimes are discovered.”
…which is an only slightly overblown summary of what some people told me in response to yesterday’s post on why I don’t date cheaters.
But I think branding cheaters with a red letter doesn’t actually help.
Let me be clear: Nobody should cheat. If you think I am espousing cheating in any form as opposed to, you know, being honest with your partner, then refer back to those three words in bolded text.  But I consider “cheating” (defined here as “breaking the agreed-upon rules of your relationship, usually via some form of violated intimacy”) to be merely one form of potentially-dealbreaking stupidity that people shouldn’t undertake, but frequently do.
Cheating is something bad that needs to be addressed in a relationship.  And a relationship that has constant cheating cannot sustain itself well.  (For one thing, if you’re constantly cheating that means you’re not getting some pretty fundamental needs met back at home, and that’s usually bad, mmkay?)
But relationships can, and do, recover from cheating partners.  And not in that sense that people bandy about of “Oh, he cheated, and she’s pathetic for staying, this tattered shamble of a relationship stumbles on,” but with partners actually acknowledging the mistakes on both ends that led to this horrendously stupid incident, and becoming stronger than ever.
Some of the best relationships you know may well have endured some cheating in the past.  When I’ve asked around, I’ve been surprised at who’s been through what.  It’s just, you know, that happy couples don’t typically share their experiences with you, in part because you probably consider it to be such a damaging thing that no one could possibly recover from it.
And again, let me reiterate: Cheating is bad.  It hurts like hell when you find out about it, it forces you to question everything about the relationship (because if they lied about what they were doing, maybe they’re lying when they say they love you), and surviving a relationship that involves cheating is a hellish, hellish time for everyone as you take stock of everything that’s left and decide if you want to stick around.
I would not blame you if you left.
But I would not think less of you if you decided to stay.
And I think the people who go, “Cheaters are amoral scum who have nothing good about them!  Nothing!” are simplifying life a little overmuch.  Yes, some cheaters are habitual scumbags who will fuck anyone over in sociopathic ways.  But others are people who got in over their heads, and did something horrifically stupid and for a long period of time, thinking they could have it all, and now – perhaps unwillingly, but still – they’ve realized the error of their ways.
Some percentage of those people stop.  They arise from their mistake.  And they become genuinely better people.
I’m not going to discuss how you can tell the difference, mainly because I’ve written about that before.  If you’re curious, you can read about The Four Types of Cheaters and the followup piece Infidelity: A Deeper Analysis of the Desperate Housewife (Or Husband).
If you’ve been cheated on, and are considering continuing the relationship, then I’d encourage you to read both those pieces.  Because figuring out what kind of cheater they are is key: some you can heal from, and others will just keep shredding holes in your self-esteem.
And I’m going to close by making a fine distinction here, because this is the sort of tricky thing where people who’ve been hurt jump to stupid conclusions.  If you’ve been cheated on and left, that’s perfectly fine.  If you’re reading this as me saying “You were wrong to not forgive more,” then you are misreading me.  Being cheated on is a tremendously hurtful thing.  It is not wrong to look that in the face and go, “I do not want to deal with the pain this is going to cause me, continually second-guessing myself on whether s/he is still being faithful to me,” and just get the fuck out of dodge.  That’s policing your boundaries.  I support that.  I always support that.
What I am saying is that people make dumb fucking mistakes.  And while I don’t disagree that cheaters lack integrity and purpose and ethics, I think that everyone lacks integrity once in a while.  I think that people all too often get off on the moral superiority of going, “Well, I would never commit that moral failing!” and forget all of the other stupid shit they’ve done in their past.
And most importantly, I think that people can often transcend their darkest mistakes.  That doesn’t mean you have to stay with them when they do, of course.  It just means that you shouldn’t say that redemption can’t happen, and shouldn’t imply that those who stay with those it happened to are living lesser lives.
Some people who cheated can become not-cheaters.  And given how harshly you judge them, well, I don’t think it’s all that surprising you wouldn’t have heard about the success stories.  And that’s all.

2 Comments

  1. n
    Sep 25, 2014

    the second article you linked to, a deeper analysis of the desperate housewife/husband, at the end of it, it promised to in the next article outline the various types of desperate housewives/husbands that you’ve seen. I did look to see if I could find this on your livejournal, but no joy. Could you provide a link, please – and given that you’re focusing so much on cheating at the moment, and given that (as you said today) you write all over the place, a page with links to all these relevant articles might be useful! (although I’m sure you’ve vastly better things to do)… !
    But I will be honest. I am a desperate housewife, according to your definitions, although I claimed to be a wildoat sower – and i think there may have been some elements of wild oat sowing in my actions. I have been extremely lucky in that my partner has seen fit to forgive and to work through these issues with me, and reading the desperate housewife description was just ridiculous. you could’ve been describing me to a T, so *not* funny! but we are trying to understand and address the issues that led me to the cheating, and hopefully we’ll wind up one of those couples that are the stronger after all is said and done.
    but yes, anything further you have written on the subject would be very very useful.
    many thanks –
    n

    • TheFerrett
      Sep 26, 2014

      It’s the next link after this one, in this article.

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