Saturday, January 12, 2008

Cheating 101

Here’s the why. This is the how.

Husband and are coming up on fourteen years together, thirteen of them in a legal tax-sharing agreement recognized by our state and celebrated drunkenly by my dad, angrily by my mom, and privately by us in our home a month before the big day when, after the Reception Location Skirmish, the Battle of the Invitations and the Mother of the Bride’s Dress Melee, we realized that getting married and having a wedding are two only coincidently congruent events. I have cheated for at least ten of those years, maybe twelve, had permission to do so (of which I nonetheless violated both the spirit and the letter) for two, campaigned for that permission for six or seven years, and prior to that, just slept around.

He almost always knew. He almost always knows. I’m not that good a liar. But I’m a damn good cheater. Which brings us to our lesson for the day.

There’s no point in hiding your cheating if you want out – use it as an excuse, or better yet, pack your bags and leave the key behind. Sometimes cheating is an outlet, a vent, or a window through which to step back and view your full-time relationship. Ex-Lover was much kinder to his wife once he started sleeping with me. Their relationship got better. Better enough that he realized, even when it’s good, I don’t want to be here.

And your fulltime partner must want to keep you. It’s very, very easy to get caught, unless your partner has a vested interest in the status quo. When they want to believe you, to believe that things are okay, they will wrap their minds around excuses and alibis you wouldn’t buy from a class-cutting ninth-grader.

Yeah, people were running around with water balloons at the barbecue lunch today, James got me right in the head.

I got pulled over for not having a headlight, I think I should stay in Next State Over tonight and come back in the morning

I’m just a little edgy tonight, I’m gonna go for a drive.

Try to pick someone who has as much to lose as you do. At that early stage when you notice you really like them, that’s a good place to say to yourself, will this person lose their marriage, their job, their image, their security if they tell about me? If the answer is no, it’s worth turning your attentions elsewhere, filing them under Would’ve Been Nice.

Establish and maintain a reputation. I’m flaky about some things – I can leave the house for milk and come back three hours later with a new couch – and rock-solid on others. My friends all joke about how Husband and I talk on the phone nine times a day. Which means anyone I’m with has to be okay with me ducking into the bathroom, the other room, or the car to make call number eight. If I can’t take his calls because I’m fucking, I turn off the phone so I can claim bad reception later. Likewise, make your alibis realistic – if you’re in a restaurant, be in a restaurant. If you’re out of town, be in the same town you said you were. The easiest alibi is the whole truth minus your lover’s presence. And making your friends lie for you is hard to control, difficult to get the details straight, and rotten to your friends, who shouldn’t have that burden.

Lying to two people is hard, so don’t cheat with someone if you can’t tell them the truth. Why deal with angry vengefulness because you forgot to mention your fulltime partner? Why hurt someone who thinks you’re a potential permanent relationship if you don’t have to?

Finally, keep something sacred. Beyond health and safety (duh), if your partner is really worth keeping, it’s good to have something or things that keep you mindful. After our private wedding, Husband and I went for sushi, the food we love, the food we eat wherever we can. I do not eat sushi with lovers of any stripe – not takeout, not happens-to-be-at-the-Chinese-buffet, not one tuna roll from the grocery store. I have eaten sushi with ex-Lover once, before he was my lover. It was the night he became my friend.

It hurt me more when Husband took his girlfriend for sushi than that he had a girlfriend.

Ex-Lover still refuses to eat sushi with me.


Autumn said...

The truth minus some crucial details. Oh so true, ain't it?

Randomly, the sushi significance especially strikes me. I find things sacred-- then run into the small matter of something resembling but a little lower than miscommunication, where the other party involved /doesn't/ find it sacred, and I'm backlashed by my own assumptions. Gaaack. Not-smart little leaf learns as she goes.

<3 as always, and random provider of cheer~

Anonymous said...

Cheating is cheating is cheating.

And it's SUSHI that's your specialness,luv? Wow. Sacred & profound connection here.

Yeah. Right.

After the 1,000,000 you do to Husband (lie, cheat, deceive) - YOU'RE hurt that he had fucking SUSHI with someone else??


Hello? Is this thing on?

Anonymous said...

they (whoever 'they' are) always say that the one who raises their voice is the one who loses the argument. when one is guilty of bad behavior in the course of an argument, it renders their argument essentially null and void to the person hearing it- as soon as one yells, one proves oneself to be irrational, over-reactive, and ignorable.

given the audial limits of the internet medium, rude or mocking behavior seems to me to be the equivalent of a high-volume foot stomp. if i were able to read what you say without rolling my eyes at your childish display, anonymous-but-presumably-kallista, your point might be better received. for pointers on debating and rational presentation in argument, check out the section entitled 'emotionalism' at truthtree.

good luck with that.

Anonymous said...

Sorry - not interested in the polite forms of debate. Only interested in voicing my opinion in my own way.

Glad you had the time to respond to it!! Made my day.

Tom Paine said...

Anon 2, the debating advice you link to does not support your point. I read the advice (and am myself a former high school debate team member with excellent credentials). What's more, while Midwesterners don't raise their voices, Easterners do yell, and society here hasn't ground to a halt, nor has the art of persuasion been obliterated.

Cheating and adultery are topics that cut to the heart of the question whether human behavior can be judged with moral absolutes. There is, of course, a whole school of thought that advocates moral relativism, while most of the world's great religions (and some minor ones) insist that human action can - AND SHOULD BE - be held up to precise and inflexible standards of right and wrong. Mandy's supporters have usually argued against absolutes, though she herself has been willing to shoulder a lot of self-criticism, saying in essence "when I do wrong, I accept the blame and responsability."

The key question in all this isn't whether cheating is wrong; most people accept that it is, even the cheaters. We hide it because we know it's wrong. Mandy and I are both big fans of "Law & Order," and she'll confirm that one of the tests on the show whether a psycho is fit to stand trial is whether he hid his crime(s), indicating a knowledge of right and wrong.

I'm particularly fond of the actress who plays Dr. Olivette, but I digress.

The issue here isn't whether cheating is wrong, or that readers are angry and upset at Mandy for laying bare her cheating with seeming cool detachment. The detachment is heightened because her words focus on her feelings, not her husband's. This is, of course, the problem with any text, not just a blog: the details are selective, the POV particular to the writer. Even when I write about what my wife, C., says or does, it's still my words describing her, not her own words. And even if she were to start her own blog, the things she would write about would still be a distillation of reality.

Instead, I think the issue is whether any justification makes any difference. No amount of arguing will change anyone's mind about infidelity. Mandy and I had words on the subject this past Summer, and nothing really came of it. We agreed to disagree and be friends anyway. My takeaway from that is I don't take sides any longer, since cheating is too widespread and usually condoned. Opposing it just kills most conversations. People cheat because the result justifies the risk in most cases (at least until they're caught), and those who are cheating mostly think it's either OK or they're too weak to stop.

Yet there is no getting around the fact that those who are cheated on, for the most part, are harmed, whatever the rationalization. That Husband chooses to remain in a flawed marriage is another topic, but doesn't change anything about Mandy's betrayals, which by her own admission have gone beyond even the leeway he gave her. Is the net-net of the marriage enough to overcome this? Evidently not. Was he already "damaged goods" when she married him as Beautiful Girl and others who know him have maintained? To me, that's beside the point.

That readers are taking his side is not surprising, since everyone has been cheated on at one point or another, and I suspect the majority identify with him on some level, as betrayal is a deep-seated fear.

The "bottom line" for all this is that Mandy has made herself a target, and those who are angry about betrayal and infidelity, for whatever reason, whether personal, moral or simply because their logic leaves no "out" for fucking around on the side are going to take shots at her.

I apologize for the long peroration, and return you now to your regularly-scheduled blog.

Anonymous said...

When I was about 12 and had a girlfriend and was seen by an old man maybe 70 he told me .......Always pick someone who has as much to lose as you do.
The cheaters creed.
Some choose to judge without walking in you boots, I am not one of the.
Carry on.

Anonymous said...

hi tom, my point was not that mandy was right or wrong and i was not casting any value judgments about whether she should or shouldn't cheat. i was merely stating that nasty behavior renders the perpetrator of said behavior easily dismissed, even when their point is valid. but then i also find that i am more interested in discussion than in name-calling, and i really suspect that a-b-p-k is just bucking for the attention, any press being better than no press. how dull.

and that is as far as i wish to indulge my own tendencies toward the bad behavior about which i speak.

anon 2

ps- the debating advice i was referring to was the section entitled 'emotionalism', which discussed the logical fallacy of ad hominem attacks ("Personal attacks on your opponent are an admission of intellectual bankruptcy."). yes. well.

New Diarist said...

I have a somewhat simpler set of rules. Perhaps it comes from having been caught once, perhaps it comes from being too predictable in my schedule for far too many years, I don't know.

What I do know is that I stand by the 300-mile rule. What happens more than 300 miles from home won't follow me back. It acts both as a natural limiter, and it allows me to avoid having to come up with alibis.

As for why, I am with Mandy. There are far more reasons to cheat and stay married than there are to leave.

Anonymous said...

The commenter before New Diarist states that "nasty behavior renders the perpetrator of said behavior easily dismissed..."

If I was so easily dismissed by you & the others, there would've been no comments to my comments or, at the very least, they would've been short comments.

Clearly my writing style hits nerves & I'm delighted! Delighted to see how the commenters stoop to respond to someone who is "intellectually bankrupt"!!

Numi said...

It's interesting how food can be such an intimate thing. Your any-and-all sushi clause isn't that different from the more common 'that particular restaurant on that particular day' that is such a common occurance amongst couples globally. I've got that with my SO, we go to a specific restaurant on our anniversaries and Valentines. But with a previous lover I had a Thursday-nights-always-
this-pizzeria unspoken deal. :-)
Same thing with how people can get outright teared up about foods from their childhoods: grandma's cookies, mom's chicken noodle soup, dad's pancakes, chocolate malts/bubble teas from that one diner.

Penny said...

Your "Why" reflected my marriage painfully closely, though I argue with myself on some of the points, and I'm not as much of a risk taker. Your "How" reflects my philosophy, too. I try not to lie at all. No broken headlights. "I'm sorry, I was having a good time and decided to stay longer." Like you say, your partner will believe what he wants to. It all makes me terribly sad. Not in a judgmental way. In a "we're so far apart from each other despite real love" sort of way.

Your point about not lying to your lovers is important. At some point I realized I wasn't giving anyone the close-to-full-truth. It's important to find some people to be open with, I think.

Emma Kelly said...

Hi Mandy,

Having cheated through my first two marriages and suffered the consequences, you would think I'd be negative about cheating. I am in a way. If cheating is a result of a problem in a primary relationship then it is not really the problem, just a symptom. If, on the other hand, one cheats because monogomy doesn't suit them then I think a couple needs to talk. You suggest that your hubby knows and accepts your nature. That's good enough for me. It sounds like you've passed through the difficult aspects of working it out, so more power to you.

As you probably know, I'm strung together a little differently. If only I'd realized how much fun it is to be married to an openly unfaithful wife my early years might have been less self-destructive.

Em is free to have relationships with anyone, male or female. I relish the times when she has done so without telling me and encourage her to do so even more.


Mrs. Kelly's Playhouse

Nadine said...

I have to add my .02 - It is so very easy to judge others...there was a time when I swore I would never cheat...then I found myself in a sexless marriage with a depressed and impotent husband (that I do love) who being older than myself - has actual visions of retiring. So my choices were clear - leave him and he won't be able to retire because the child support would make that impossible...leave him and hope he doesn't decide to take his depression to a new level and off himself...leave him and hope for the best? That seems cold and callous for a man I've been with for 2 decades...who is the father of my child. So I cheat. I am the proud (yes proud) participant in a 12 year affair with one man, that I also love dearly. Perhaps one day we will be together...I hope so...but my choices are made for well thought out reasons. And they are after all mine to make...and not for anyone else to understand. I'm sure if he knew for certain about my affair he would be the same token...I'm sure he knows I'm getting sex somewhere - he does know me after all. It is a quiet push pull game that we play and it works as well as it can. Bottom line - it's best to mind your own business, let others mind theirs, and keep your opinions to yourself until you've lived the life you are judging.