Emotional abuse, that is. Which is the worst kind some would argue. After reading this Vice article simping hard for cheaters, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth. What to do besides blog furiously into the ether about it, right?
We're living in an age of online dating, hookup culture & on-demand free porn of every variety. Relationships and fidelity have the deck stacked against them from the start, so to see someone--a woman at that--writing cheater apologist drivel like this is infuriating. I could tell you my personal story of being cheated on in a decade-plus relationship but that's a bit too personal to get into here. Let's just say it was the worst betrayal a human could experience short of being murdered or something. And I never saw it coming despite having massive trust issues to begin with.
Needless to say, anyone who's been the victim of infidelity in a committed relationship knows how sickening it is to have your trust broken in that way. The bottom falls out of your universe. It ruins your ability to trust people again and, depending on how long you've known your partner, it shakes your confidence in your ability to trust your OWN judgement of people's character. Like, I've known this person for so long, how did I not know this was going on? Am I capable of discerning good people from bad? It's crazy-making, yet people are out here trying to normalize & rationalize it. Let me say it again: Cheating is abuse and there's no excuse for it, period. It's cowardly, selfish beyond reason & deceptive. And it's often a sign of deeper psychological issues, whether diagnosed or not. It's certainly not something you should be expected to "work through" in a relationship--nay, infidelity is a deal-breaker like physical abuse or harming someone's child. Or at least it should be if you have any self-respect. I know that statement is gonna anger a lot of people who chose to stay after being cheated on but so be it.
People tell themselves 1,001 lies to justify staying with a cheater. Staying together "for the kids" is the worst because not only did the loser step out on YOU but they walked out on the entire family when they had the affair. Unless they're willing to let you do the same while sitting quietly at home, they have no right to expect you to put up with it. The reasons men give for cheating according to the Vice article? "Boosting their self-esteem" or "meeting their emotional needs." Riiiiight. As if that's a sufficient reason to destroy your partner's self-esteem and emotional well-being. Women apparently cheat primarily for sexual pleasure, which just means they're failing to communicate their sexual needs to their partner. Unacceptable.
To Victims of Infidelity
If you're a victim of a cheater, I say to you: pick up your things and leave as soon as you're able. Today is better than tomorrow but tomorrow is better than 5 years from now. Your time on Earth is finite and can't be gotten back. Just as abuse comes in many forms, so does murder. Your partner can kill you in ways other than physical murder. They kill you by stealing your time. When you stay with a cheater, you're enabling them to engage in the abusive behavior from the comfort of a stable relationship... to have their cake and eat it too while you pick up the pieces of your shattered trust. Staying together is not a neutral or passive act. You're sending a message that says "I don't deserve better." But you do. And you can do a lot better too, whether solo or with one of the 7.6 billion other people in the world. You're telling your partner they deserve more happiness than you, more freedom, more love/sex and the ability to deceive while you remain true in the relationship. And those things aren't true.
Aside from the primary impact caused by infidelity and deceit, the additional drawbacks to dating a cheater are vast. The majority of cheaters exhibit a host of other undesirable traits, including gaslighting, poor communication, lying, avoidance of responsibility, emotional withdrawal, withholding affection, impulsivity, selfishness, blame-shifting, immaturity & poor empathy. They have a unique gift for escaping responsibility for the act & making you feel like it's somehow your fault. If not you, then some vague trauma in their past, or it was actually the fault of the person they cheated with, or SOMETHING outside themselves. Point being, they fail to own up to it completely and instead spread the blame around. This predicts a bad outcome. RUN.
And don't think you can shame or punish them with your words. No matter how much you cry, sulk, give the silent treatment, withhold sex, throw their clothes on the lawn... none of that matters if you stay with them. Your actions are all that matter, and staying or leaving is the only action that counts here. You aren't "teaching them a lesson" with small gestures of displeasure. At the end of the day, they know you're all talk and no action. They got away with it and--even if they never do it again (honestly, why wouldn't they though?)--you'll forever have to live with the intrusive thoughts of your partner with someone else in the most intimate way possible.
|Cheating = a deal-breaker|
If you're a person who cheats or thinks it's not a big deal: Take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself why you feel it's okay and necessary to engage in something so dishonest & hurtful. If you're unhappy in a relationship, your two choices are simple: 1.) Stay and work it out with your partner and perhaps a therapist or, 2.) Go your separate ways so you can enjoy your tryst with the new person. Most relationship problems can be worked out with communication, thankfully. But they often require a neutral third party to mediate and guide the discussion. What will NEVER fix your problems is going outside your relationship & flirting with, bonding with or sleeping with another person behind your partner's back. Infidelity is a YOU problem, and the sooner you take it upon yourself to accept that, the sooner you'll be able to stop.
If you want an open/polyamorous relationship where you're free to have multiple partners, that's a different subject altogether. Be upfront about that and find someone who wants the same. If you want to be single and play the field with no strings attached, again, that's your right but you don't get to live that way while enjoying the fruits of a stable committed relationship. It's exploitative and abusive. Pick a lane and stay there or communicate when you're ready to CHANGE lanes. Be a goddamn adult about your feelings & realize that turning outside your relationship to address relationship problems is unforgivable. Therapy is where you take that shit, not a random hookup while in a committed relationship.
Stop Rushing Things
And that's the other thing--you don't always need to be in a relationship. Too many broken people jump from relationship to relationship, serial monogamy style, without ever fixing their own issues or growing up... that's at the root of a lot of this behavior. If people waited to settle down until they sewed their wild oats and figured out what they truly wanted in a partner, there would be less cheating and discord in general. Relationships are hard work once the honeymoon period wears off. Engagement rings, dresses & weddings are nice but being married is about as unglamorous as it gets. Parenthood is even less so. The pressure to meet marriage & reproduction milestones by a certain age needs to die. That's how you end up settling for less than optimal relationships.
Marriage should be for life; divorce shouldn't even be seen as an option when you get engaged. Introducing kids to multiple spouses, babymamas/daddies, etc. is fucking complicated. While it's better to leave an unhappy situation than stay, it's even better to avoid getting into multiple shallow, temporary relationships to begin with. Nobody's forcing you to commit to all these people in the first place. Don't take commitment lightly especially when kids are involved. When in doubt, stay single or uncommitted & focus on yourself. There's nothing wrong--and many things RIGHT--with being single. If someone is a Mr./Mrs. "Right Now," they're probably just in your life because you're scared to be alone. And that's a problem.
To wrap this all up, cheating bad. Real bad. Some behaviors need to be stigmatized & shamed. If your behavior hurts another person, it's not harmless fun or "just living your life" like some of the things people get up to for enjoyment (ahem, recreational drug use). Likewise, staying with a cheater is a mistake. While we stigmatize enablers of drug addicts, we often sympathize with those who enable cheaters by staying in unequal, emotionally abusive relationships after their hearts and trust have been stomped on. Infidelity is not a "personal issue" or relationship problem between two people--cheaters should be called out by their peers. Accountability can only come when the realization hits that something truly fucked up has occurred. When a guy's buddies let him know his actions are repulsive, he's more likely to feel the appropriate shame & make a change than if the backlash is coming from his "overly emotional" girlfriend, for instance. We don't laugh off other abusive behaviors; we shouldn't brush off cheating either.
If there's one thing I wished for during my breakup, it's that our mutual friends would've held my ex accountable for her disgusting infidelity & related lies instead of turning their heads like it didn't affect them. Because it kinda did. Dishonesty in one area of a person's life is a huge red flag, especially when we're all mutual friends and I'm clearly hurting so bad. But that's another story for another day.