A very talented blogger, Surprised Mom, started a conversation recently which I found riveting. It involved infidelity, levels of cheating, forgiveness and honesty.

First of all, let’s get a few things out in the open. No I’m not cheating on my wife (which was the first question she asked me when I told her about this conversation) and no I’m not condoning infidelity. Got it? Good. Moving on.

The first question is which is worse: a one-night stand or a longstanding affair? Personally I think both are unforgivable and abhorrent. But for the purposes of discussion, let’s break this down. The one-night stand is, in my humble opinion, more forgivable than the affair. I say this because a one-night stand can involve intoxication, impaired judgment and heat of the moment actions. You’re in a fight with your spouse, you get wasted at a bar, you’re in a vulnerable state, you meet someone and — boom — you’re in bed. I’m not making excuses or saying that it’s acceptable. It isn’t, and there are no excuses. But now let’s look at a one-night stand compared to an affair.

An affair is carried out over long periods of time. Affairs involve forethought and planning. Affairs are intentional. And with a few exceptions, affairs often involve more than simply carnal pleasures. If you’re having an affair and seeing the same person on the side repeatedly, you are cheating emotionally as well as physically. Compare this to the physicality and impetuousness of a one-night stand and it’s crystal clear the affair is worse.

But then there’s another aspect to all of this that’s worth debating. Forgiveness. Can someone truly be forgiven after they cheat? Can someone really change or is it the old “once a cheater always a cheater” mentality? And then there’s the question of whether the cheater should disclose his infidelity to the aggrieved spouse?

I can only speak for myself, but cheating is an unforgivable act in my book. Those who know me well may find that amusing or even hypocritical, since I cheated on just about every girlfriend I ever had. I fully admit this. But at the same time, I wasn’t married to any of those women. There was no ring on my finger and I never took any vows. Call me old fashioned, but once you stand up there with your spouse and you promise to love, honor, cherish, etc then you need to stick by those promises. And if you sleep with someone else — one-night stand or an affair — you’ve breached a trust and broken a promise you can’t ever make again. If MJ cheated on me that would be it. I could never go back to her. Granted I’m not the most forgiving person on the planet and I hold grudges better than most, but this one is non-negotiable.

And I won’t even address the issue of open marriages. I know I sound like a prude, but I just don’t think marriages should involve multiple parties. If you still want to bang other people, then stay single.

That leads me to the question of whether someone who cheats should tell their significant other about it.

Surprised Mom said if it was a one-night stand where safe sex was had and the cheating spouse truly believed it was a mistake that would never be repeated, that the cheater should spare the other person’s feelings and not tell him/her. She said if there’s guilt, then that’s the price you pay for being a cheater. But in her opinion, confessing to your spouse is a selfish act because all it does is relieve the cheater of his/her guilt while causing the other person in the relationship massive amounts of pain.

Needless to say, I disagree.

Honesty is always the best policy. Even if it’s brutal truth, I think that truth is the only thing that can set you free. Besides, keeping that pain and guilt locked up inside of you will have unintendend and unanticipated consequences down the road. You can’t keep secrets like that bottled up, because all of those emotions will eventually manifest themselves in a negative way. Besides, someone who cheats and then doesn’t fess up is simply compounding one lie with another. And I can’t think of any situation where multiple lies in a marriage are a good thing.

I need a good discussion with lots of different viewpoints, so what do you guys think?

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19 thoughts on “Cheating

  1. Cheating, regardless of the extent, is wrong. And like you, honesty is the best way to go. What happens if the spouse finds out years down the road? That’s only going to make the problem worse.

  2. “If MJ cheated on me that would be it. I could never go back to her. Granted I’m not the most forgiving person on the planet and I hold grudges better than most, but this one is non-negotiable”… AG

    If knowing the spouse’s view was like yours, then honesty would come at a very high price. Living with the guilt would be a better option than a guaranteed divorce.

  3. Honesty absolutely does come at a very high price. But eventually that secret is going to get out. So better I find out about it right away than years later, because if I discovered I was lied to for years I’d be even more furious.

    When it comes to delivering bad news, it’s always better to “go ugly early” and get out in front it.

  4. Umm… I don’t know what brought this up. But.. I truly believe that the truth will ALWAYS come about in ANY relationship, be it an hour, one week – 6 months 5 years – the truth will always come out. Trust me. If you know anything about anything you know what I am saying is true. Daddyfiles, I hope you are doing homework for someone else. But, handsdown, what I am saying is right. So please use this as a reference file. Hope all goes well for the person inquiring about the unknown.

  5. Having been on the other end as the “other woman”, I can say with complete conviction that cheating of any kind is a bad idea. And I consider it ALL to be cheating – one-night stands, long-term affairs, even sexting or phone sex. However, I do agree that affairs are worse than one-night stands because of the emotional element.

    In my case, the truth has not come out but I bet some day it will. And while I’ve moved on and walked away from a bad situation with minimal hurt (although inevitably there was some collateral damage), the scars that have been left on the other relationship are deep and permanent…and one of the parties doesn’t even know it yet.

    I think that if you cheat, you need to own up to it. Too much is at stake, not the least of which is the other person’s right to know if you have exposed him/her to a disease. It’s the old “you made your bed, now lie in it” cliche (pun intended). And while I don’t think I would be able to forgive, some people can and are able to come out on the other side stronger than before. Telling the truth is a risk you have to take to move on from the first risk you took.

  6. I don’t think I could ever forget about the cheating. There could never be full trust again and that obviously will kill a relationship in a hurry. I always believe in honesty as the best policy, but I certainly can see Surprised Mom’s view as well. The best solution is obviously not to cheat in the first place.

  7. I agree with ‘The Other Woman’ for the most part.

    I’ve cheated and been cheated on in almost every relationship I’ve ever had. The one thing I have learned is communication is KEY. If you and your committed partner make SURE one another knows they are loved and secure then cheating won’t happen. Perhaps I live in a fantasy world but that is what I believe. And if it does happen under those circumstances then the person is a dog and yes, I beleive the person would cheat again. Some people just can’t be faithful….

    5 years ago I was a total black and white person. Now I exist in shades of grey. I swear i feel as if I could be an expert on this subject not only personally but with the inner knowledge I have of my friends (I can keep a great secret so I hear a lot!) So in summary, I feel if two people are good to each other and keep communication open then there is little to no risk.

    BUT….I feel if someone cheats and the other person doesn’t know…it is better to keep it to yourself and live with the guilt UNLESS you are prepared to go straight to therapy and talk it all out. Some people who have known me in the past wouldn’t agree with me but I’ll say something honest here – I’ve never done anything I wasn’t prepared to be caught doing. I’m always prepared to take the consequence or I won’t put my foot into the action. I always think first. I’m rambling here…. Nice post. VERY intersting! Love your blog!!!!!

  8. First, I know I could not forgive enough to stay married to my husband. I wouldn’t crucify him and spend my days hating him, as I could forgive him as a person who messed up. I just know I would never be able to get past it enough that life wouldn’t be hell if we stayed together. I mean, every time I get pissed, I bring up the time he lied to me eight years ago!! Forgiveness is so much easier when you don’t live together and parent together and pay bills together 😉

    I definitely believe that one-night stands are more forgiveable if it was safe sex, but I’d still be done.

    Lastly, I know many cheaters, both women and men. For the women I KNOW (not women in general), it’s produced horrible guilt that takes away most of the thrill of a new man. Doesn’t seem all that fun to me, and I learn from others’ mistakes.

    The men I KNOW don’t seem to give a shit and can justify their behavior, because their wife is a bitch or she’s fat. I always tell them to be a man and get a divorce, and I secretly hope their wife finds out and takes them to the cleaners in court!

  9. I would have to say I agree with you when you say honesty is the best option. I know that I personally would prefer the pain of knowing the truth over ignorant bliss any day. Plus, it may take a while but the truth will come out, and when it does your spouse is not only still oging to be hurt, but they are going to be embarrassed as well knowing that this had gone on, other people knew, and they did not. You said you would never forgive, and Beachdog brought up a good point when they said that that fact might make being honest difficult, but there are consequences to every action, and if you cheat, then you have to deal with what ever may happen afterwards.

  10. I just found out two months ago that my husband had been cheating on me for almost a year. He didn’t tell me, I found out. I have kicked him out and we are getting a divorce. Infidelity has always been a deal breaker for me. Our relationship was already going down the tubes, but I was desperately trying to fix things for me and for our three kids. Obviously he had another agenda. But he lied to me every single day, about our future, about working through our tough times, about everything. Now that he’s gone, I’m angry. And I’ll be angry for a long time. But you know what hurts the worst? Is that he’s still with her. That makes me feel like a worthless piece of shit, honestly. I wasn’t good enough but his homewrecking girlfriend is.

    I suppose my ideal situation for this would have been him leaving me BEFORE he decided to cheat. At least I would have had a tad bit of respect for him. But now having had the year of “ignorant bliss” and then finding out the truth I just feel dumb and used.

    So first, don’t cheat. But if you do, tell your spouse so that they can make their own decision about whether or not they want to work it out with you. I wish I’d had that chance. It would have saved me months of grief trying to save something that could never be saved.

    (sorry about the rant!)


  11. Most of your replies have been in agreeance with you, and you requested different view points. Here’s mine.

    “And I won’t even address the issue of open marriages. I know I sound like a prude, but I just don’t think marriages should involve multiple parties. If you still want to bang other people, then stay single.”

    I’m on the other side of the coin on this one. I think open marriages are great, as long as all parties involved are honest and have great communication. If one of the parties is doing something behind their spouse’s back, it’s lying and a very bad idea. As long as both husband and wife are aware of the activities, and are honest with each other, I say why not?

    I’ve known of couples that swing, where both the wife and husband have partners they visit separately and partners they visit together. If the wife or husband wasn’t comfortable with their spouse seeing one of their separate friends, most of the time the spouse was compliant and respected the other’s feelings. (In times they did what they wanted to anyway, it ended badly.) Plus, I believe that having a marriage that’s open can only promote trust and respect and love for each other.

    Maybe I’m more open-minded or comfortable with sexuality than most, and I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but just felt like throwing my thoughts out there. 🙂

  12. DifferentView: Thanks for your two cents.

    Just to be clear, my opinion on open marriages is just that. My opinion. And when I give it I’m speaking for myself, and saying I could never do it and I think it’s a bad idea for me. I know for a fact other couples do it and it makes them happy. And I’m in no position to tell them what to do. But in my mind, when you commit to marriage you commit to one person for the rest of your life. That monogamy and lifelong partnership is what makes marriage special and sets it apart from simply dating or living together. And in my mind, when you continue sleeping with other people — even with your spouse’s blessing — it just cheapens things.

    But to each his own.

  13. I guess I see “Marriage” as just more than sex. I believe that people in those relationships are, in fact, committed to their spouse for life. If your spouse truly wanted you to enjoy the company of another person, be it sexual or even friendship, would you decline just on principle? Who is to say that someone else can’t fill in the gaps where your spouse lacks? [PLEASE don’t take that as me degrading your amazing wife, I’m speaking hypothetically. I have mucho respect for both of you!]

    Some people have the ability to separate the emotions from sex… I guess making it more of a mechanical / purely physical act. Others can’t, and they are the ones that end up falling for the “other person” therefore screwing up the great thing they had going. But sex with your spouse is supposed to be both emotional and physical. I hope that makes sense…

    I also hope this (and my first repsponse to your blog) didn’t come across as me talking down to you, that’s really not what I was doing! I respect that people have their own opinions on the subject and wouldn’t try to change your mind at all. I was simply throwing my own thoughts out there since you asked for discussion. 🙂

  14. DiffView: Not at all condescending. I asked for opinions and debate and I’m glad you chimed in. Disagreements are a good thing in BloggyLand.

    I, too, see marriage as more than just sex. And I’ll even go so far as to admit that human nature leads us straight to multiple partners. It’s inherent in our DNA, and you could argue that repressing those urges goes against every instinct we have. But at the same time, maybe the beauty and the payoff of marriage is being able to sustain that intense physical and emotional connection with one person, despite our own human nature and temptation screaming at us to sow our wild oats.

    Thanks for sparking some good discussion.

  15. I’ve been cheated on twice, and both times it was extremely painful (so I think it’s wrong whether it’s a one night stand or an affair, although an affair would be worse since you’d feel like your whole life was a lie.) The first guy I forgave…in theory, but it’s not as easy as that. I WANTED to forgive him. I wanted to just pretend it never happened, and continue with our relationship but it doesn’t work that way. We started arguing constantly after he cheated where the 2 previous years we never argued once. I couldn’t forgive him or trust him. I knew it was over even though I didn’t want it to be. I was heartbroken and that’s why it’s unforgivable. Even the nicest person on the planet with a forgiving heart of gold can’t deny the fact that their loved one just cheated on them, destroying the trust. You just don’t look at them the same after that. Whether to tell someone if they’ve cheated?…Yes, tell them. Living with bottled up emotions will give everyone heart attacks early in life. Tell them, and be faithful to the next person you date, as a lesson learned.

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