When the news hits the media, there’s a good person, a bad person and a bitch. It’s black and white. The cheater is a dick, the victim is the one who’s cheated on and the bit on the side, well that prick ruined everything.
There is no grey area, right?
But no one ever talks about the relationship. No one ever talks about the fact that someone didn’t just wake up and say “I’m going to start cheating today”.
Yes, cheating is a choice. Whether a conscious one or not, somewhere along the line caution is thrown to the wind along with the amount of fucks to give about the relationship. But no-one ever said that it’s an easy decision to make.
Whether it’s a one-time drunken endeavour fuelled by a lack of sex and the prominence of someone willing or an ongoing secret love affair, infidelity doesn’t just happen.
In the aftermath, it’s easy to point the finger, to place blame, to question. Did you not know how much you would hurt your partner? Did you really think they’d never find out about it?
The risk was weighed up. And in a lot of cases, the harsh truth is, the transgression was worth the risk.
Because cheating isn’t the problem.
Cheating is a symptom - not the diagnosis. Infidelity, in any of its forms, is not the source of the issue but it’s a red-hot, smoking alarm that’s alerting you to a much bigger dilemma. The relationship, in its current form, isn’t working.
Everyone points the finger at the act and says “this is why the relationship is broken” but I disagree. The relationship may be physically over because of infidelity but was it a full, healthy relationship before the cheating happened? I highly doubt it.
The person who was cheated on may say that their relationship was fine but the cheater clearly didn’t believe the same. The transgression was easier than facing the problem or the issue wasn’t being seen by both partners. Whatever the case, the reality is, there was an issue that wasn’t being resolved.
It started long before the cheating began. A breakdown in communication, a lack of feeling heard, being taken for granted, no intimacy, sometimes people drift apart for no apparent reason and are stuck.
Sometimes someone arrives in our lives or someone who has always been there is seen in a new light. Chemistry, sexual or not, just makes us feel seen, sometimes it just makes us feel.
And we can’t define or create chemistry. If we could, we’d build fountains of it that just pour a never-ending stream into our relationship.
The patriarchy, society, the church, all have conditioned us to believe that we have one person, one soul mate. You may only marry one person and once you do, you should stay with that one person for the rest. of. your. life. Period. Full stop. Don’t ask any questions.
But the patriarchy, society and the church also told us that that one person should be of the opposite sex, the same religion and the same colour as you. We’ve questioned these “acceptable conditions”, pushed for change, but not the rule that there should only be one.
Maybe it’s because we want to believe in having a soul mate. Maybe we want a forever person, someone to share our lives with. While it’s a beautiful idea it may not be the truth for everyone.
It’s hard to believe that there is only one right way for 7.53 billion people to form a relationship.
Science and statistical analysis are pointing away from monogamy. History shows that our early ancestors had multiple partners. Men and women. Somewhere in our genetics is the code to stray.
And it’s across the board. Millennial women are more likely to cheat and on the whole, men are more likely. Both sexes cheat, at all stages of life, so it’s not defined clearly on one side of the spectrum.
Polyamory is a thing. Open relationships are a thing. Inviting people into your marriage or relationship is a thing. Maybe it’s time to start looking at these options instead of losing our shit because monogamy doesn’t always work.
It’s a moral quandary
We’ve decided as a whole that cheating is immoral and we all like to think we’re moral people but cheaters don’t expect themselves to cheat until they do.
Pretty much everyone has experienced cheating in one form or another whether it be as one of the 3 key players, having a friend confide in them or having a family member cheat.
It’s everywhere and we just condemn it. So it proliferates in the background away from prying eyes. Maybe if we shine the spotlight on the actual problem we can expose the multiple shades of grey that exist and maybe, just maybe, stop a lot of unnecessary grieving at the loss of a trusting partnership.
It’s not necessarily the end
For many, cheating is a deal-breaker, signalling the end of the partnership and if that’s you, that’s 100% your decision. Transgressions can also be seen as an unwanted sidestep that has both parties delve deeper into their relationship through counselling or a startling reminder that they’re not meeting their partners' needs.
Whatever the next step, cheating plays a pivotal role that generally leads to something more positive. Either people split and move on to a better life or use the experience to strengthen the now-strained relationship.
I’m not saying cheating is right but neither am I saying it’s 100% at fault. It happens. That’s an indisputable fact.
What I am saying and I suppose my hope in writing this article is that it will effect pause. Have you think about infidelity, open your mind around it and maybe see it in all the millions of shades of grey that it really is.
And before I’m bashed for my opinions, yes I’ve been at all corners of the triangle. I’ve watched cheating destroy broken marriages, used it as an outlet to seek something better and had my heart broken by a man I trusted more than I trusted myself.
I don’t think cheating happens off the cuff and I really don’t see it as the main problem. I believe cheaters are seekers. Searching out something that no longer lives in their relationship.
Maybe there are better ways of dealing with the original issue but as human beings not one of us are infallible. Relationships are complicated, intricate and full of enigmas that we may never understand so to tar any person who cheats with the same brush is wrong.
We can’t help who we fall for, so can we really help it if we fall for someone who’s not our partner?