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?