Cheating. Where do you draw the line?

Controversial. Even the very idea that complete and utter fidelity isn’t where the line is drawn can illicit rebuke of the strongest kind and absolute consternation. To many, even the thought that their partner might cheat is so repellent that they dismiss the idea entirely as something that would never happen; the kind of thing that happens to other people. For the purpose of this piece, I’ll need you to come out of fairytale land for me. In the real world, people get cheated on. It happens. It doesn’t happen to everyone and it may never happen to you. But what if it did? What could you accept? What could you forgive? The question is, where do you draw the line?

Now amongst the incredulity some people will be feeling that we could even be having meaningful discourse on the topic of how much infidelity a person can endure, let me be clear, this is not a discussion about whether cheating is acceptable. This is not an article about morals or why people cheat, but instead a look at the way in which different people view infidelity.

So what is cheating? How do we define it? This is the crux of the matter, because although on the surface it seems like a pretty clear-cut subject, It’s actually not. Cheating = bad = unacceptable is a simplification that we all use which is framed by our own views on what cheating is. Talk to people though, and you may find that the definition of what cheating is and how bad one act is compared with another, varies greatly from person to person. I have always viewed cheating as very much something that exists in the physical world, never really giving much thought to the mental/emotional side of it. If I have sex with someone while in a relationship, or something sexual happens, then I have cheated. If someone has sex or something along those lines with someone else while with me, they have cheated. It’s pretty simple for me, and most people will agree on that point. But It get’s murkier from there. See I could forgive a kiss. If a girl I was with had a drunken kiss on a night out, I’m confident I could get past it. Likewise, if I had a drunken kiss with someone (and obviously I mean this as a one-off) I don’t think that in reality, it is worth throwing away a relationship over something so small. That’s just my viewpoint. Now of course there are people who would find this totally unacceptable! A kiss?!? How dare they!!!! But again, this is where the differences in how we view infidelity come into play. Some people may be outraged at something like a kiss, but not bat an eyelid if there partner was enjoying some alone time on the laptop with some porn. I mean it’s just porn right? Wrong. At least in some eyes. I have known some girls who hate the idea of their man watching porn and feel that, if not quite cheating, it is some kind of betrayal.

To me that seems extreme. But it brings to bear the idea that maybe cheating isn’t always physical, at least in some people’s minds. What about if your partner is on a night out and is lusting after someone else, but never acts on it. Is that cheating? Is imagining having sex with someone else being unfaithful? What’s worse, your partner cheating physically on one occasion, feeling bad about it and never doing it again, or your partner never doing anything physical with anyone but lusting after someone for a long period of time? Really think about it. Which would be more hurtful? Are satisfying the needs of the flesh more hurtful than a physical fidelity masking a mental desire for another?

I hope by now we can agree that though most people would agree that cheating is wrong, that fact does not mean it is a simple subject. I knew a girl once who told me that as long as she didn’t know about it, it didn’t bother her. I’ve known more than a few people who have said that if it happens on holiday, as long as it stays there, then it doesn’t matter. Conversely I’ve known people who say that anything, even flirting with someone else is paramount to cheating. The contrast is massive.

I remember having a conversation with a girl and talking about what would be acceptable on a Las Vegas stag night. I started high and said would you expect the guy to have sex out there, even if he said he didn’t? To cut a long story short, she wouldn’t even consent to her man getting a hand job from a stripper whilst the stag party watched on laughing. There was no leeway at all. I was shocked because I had just assumed something like that would just be expected on a crazy stag night. Turns out she wasn’t alone as many other girls felt the same, but then to contrast, quite a few girls I spoke to just rolled their eyes and said that obviously something like that would happen and it was just boys being silly boys on a stag night. Views on infidelity really are completely different depending on who you speak to is my point!

So to finish I shall pose a quick question. If you were approached by a genie or something like that who offered you the following, what would your answer be? You can have the person of your dreams, you will have the happiest life together that will remain so until the day you die. Kids. House. Money. Love. Lust. The whole nine yards. A perfect life. But you are told beforehand that at some point in your life together, the other person will cheat. You won’t know about it, and it will only be once. Does that one time have more importance in your mind than the lifetime of happiness? What would your answer be?

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