“What is your take on cheating Greg?” was the rather provocative question I received on Twitter yesterday.
“It’s bad,” was my less than enlightening response.
“Would you forgive?”
Now I was getting the real question and frankly the answer is a lot more complicated.
First off, I’ve been really pondering what it means to forgive. It isn’t as easy to define as you might think (see the discussion topic “What is forgiveness?”). Similarly, there are definitely degrees of cheating (physical, emotional, drunk-once, long term, passively permitted, etc.).
So would I forgive? Yes. Would I stay together? That depends.
You see, for me, cheating is less about a physical, observable act and more about a loss of trust and transparency in a relationship. If you feel you have to hide anything from your SO, especially because of guilt, shame or fear, you are setting yourself up to fail – period. Maybe I watched too many episodes of The Brady Bunch growing up, but I am of the persuasion that the longer you stay together, the more likely a lie will be uncovered: either explicitly or at least “felt.” Cheating – that kept secret – is a ticking time-bomb waiting to go off and level everything to below the foundation of the relationship.
In addition, the fact that the cheater is keeping that secret means they are not being true to their own feelings. Integrity is about making choices that you can stand behind.
So, by my definition, a cheater is basically behaving like a liar with no integrity. Is that someone I could forgive? Yes. Is that someone I would stay with? Not necessarily.
If I was just dating the person, and they cheated on me, no. Cheating is a sign of a deficiency in the relationship. Selecting a lifelong mate is about making wise choices and there are plenty of fish in the sea. Why settle for second best? (And frankly, why hold them back from their other “love.”) I am worth more than that.
The situation changes for me drastically though within marriage. I would definitely try my hardest to stay together as long as there was a commitment to counseling and rebuilding trust and honesty. I see marriage as a covenant; a contract in today’s words. If there is a way to keep that contract intact, it is my responsibility to try. Given that there are two people involved, there is no guarantee it would work, but I would try. This is not about being a doormat. Rather it is about sticking to my end of a bargain – it’s that integrity thing again. Cheating is still a sign of a deficiency but, in order to stand behind my commitment, it is now my responsibility to try and repair that deficiency.
So would I forgive and stay together if my Mrs. cheated on me? I say “Yes, with counseling.” My Mrs. responded “Yes” and then jokingly reminded me of the established offer to remove parts of my anatomy if it ever happened. LOL. We are together for the long haul. Transparent. Honest.
It is one of the reasons I am such a big fan of romantic gestures. I’ve always said that affairs don’t happen because the other person is richer or more beautiful. Those are just outward expressions of a deeper truth. I believe that affairs happen because of how the “other person” makes them feel. It is my job as a husband to make sure that my Mrs. feels the safest, the most taken care of and most loved in my arms. She needs to feel secure in her decision. But that’s a discussion for another topic.
I realize my views are more than a little counter-cultural. Also, I have to acknowledge that, like with anything human, there are shades of gray here. What is your take on cheating? I’d love to hear your comments.