Putting 'cheating' in it's place
In many of the discussions that that take place when venturing into 'poly territory', there's one in particular that always draws a lot of strong emotional reactions.
It's the subject of "cheating".
Now, like so many other terms, it's helpful to have an agreed upon definition in order to have a productive discussion. For the sake of this post only I'm going to keep it within the framework of "emotional or sexual interaction with another outside of an existing marriage or committed relationship".
Because this is where much of the problem lies. In many marriages and relationships there is an ASSUMPTION of emotional and sexual fidelity that was in fact never truly agreed on ! In fact, in many cases it's hardly discussed. Therin lies the danger of assumptions ! It's a cultural norm at this point that once two people declare themselves "in relationship" that fidelity is a built in part of that term. It again is 'assumed' that if there is conflict with this that there will be a parting of ways.
Polyamory, as well as other forms of AGREED non-monogamy of course, refute that principal. Then of course there is actual discussion that takes place, agreements are (hopefully) reached on how other loves will flow into the existing relationship.
But that is another subject.
Right now I'm trying to dig into the terrible scars that are often (or claimed) to exist from this 'cheating' - i.e. lack of discussion & agreement prior. Because these scars and bad history often make non-monogamous relations far more complicated than they need to be. And result in the failures of some.
But are these scars really justified ?
How many of us are truly scarred by the lack of Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy ? Or that we can blindly trust other human beings to act in OUR best interest ? For most, that 'awakening' happened in Jr High - or before. Hell yea, we look back on times of lost innocence and wish it could be otherwise. But it isn't, and for the most part we move on with our lives. albeit in a bit of a more defensive posture. It's ok.
Why do we assign this 'cheating' so much higher a status than the other discoveries we make about weaknesses in human nature ?
My belief is that it's just another example of the cultural definitions - especially that lay seed for potential 'victims' ! Everybody needs to be a 'victim' ! Think of the poor psychotherapy profession and the pharmacutical industry ! Millions could be affected !
But I feel it's only a choice - nothing more.
Sexual and emotional monogamy - especially without proper education, analysis and discussion goes counter to human nature for the most part. Given the right place and circumstances a majority of people will fail a test of monogamy. Especially when they believe no harm will come to anyone !
And in the majority of cases (there are exceptions obviously), any real 'harm' is little more than the popping of another cultural 'bubble'. Aother myth exposed. No more.
Yes, I've been 'cheated' on - and have 'cheated' by definition at some point in my/our lives. Difference possibly being is that we understand the root of this, cry foul only because of our prior inability to communicate properly about complex parts of a relationship. Wiser now, we see no need (or justification) for hanging on to 'mythical scars'. No going around cutting ourselves on a daily basis.
In hindsite, it seems the only real foul here was ignorance.
I believe ANYONE has the capability to move beyond that !
I think you have a valid point GS. It's a topic that is strongly addressed in the last half of the last book by Jean Auel. It's also something that I've considered. Because, I was cheated on, by my oldest daughters father. Repeatedly, painfully and ultimately got an incurable STD out of it. I was 14 when we started dating.
After growing up, it was just obvious to me that he needed something I wasn't prepared to give. The details don't matter, what matters is, that it didn't mean he didn't care; I know he did, he still does and so do I. It was SIMPLE-he had needs, I couldn't meet them and he found a way to get them met.
Lots of things could have been done different, but it is what it is and there isn't any healthy purpose in holding animosity over it.
What I've noticed is, people who hold tight to that "you fucked me over" attitude, are ALSO holding on to being miserable and creating a blackhole vacuum of pain and misery that no one else wants to be around.
The ones who let it go and move on-find happiness, joy and love.
We ALL hurt someone at some point, to make one type of pain "more important" than another, sets us up for more problems. The truth is-that it hurts when we don't expect something and it slams into our insecurities of not being good enough, not being loved etc. If we want that pain to stop, then we need to stop associating the action with our insecurity. They don't necessarily pertain to each other anyway!
I cheated on Maca. There's a lot of things I could have done differently-I do them differently now. It was NEVER about not loving him. It was about loving myself too. It was about fulfilling my needs. I didn't KNOW how to do it right. Just like parenting-we learn as we go, hopefully we improve as we go.
BUT, if we don't give each other grace to make mistakes, learn from them and then move on..... well, we don't get to experience the improved upon relationship that comes after a lesson is learned.
I agree with LR those who are able to move on, forgive and have that much strength are indeed better off.
I don't think that one should just simply let it all go though. As LR touched on, there is a purpose to holding on to anger, hurt and pain over cheating for a time, sometimes always, even just a bit. It protects and keeps a person safe. There is nothing wrong with that.
I have noticed that the most successful of those who get over cheating are those who have held that for as long as need be and then found it doesn't serve them any more and let go.
While its a good reminder to people who come here that they can eventually let it go, at least most of it, I don't think it serves to blow them off and not validate the HUGE pain that can come from cheating. I don't think blowing them off adds anything to their process of healing. Being patient with their process and allowing them to know that they might just be dealing with this for the rest of their life, I think, makes them realize that, shit, I don't want to deal with this for one day more, let alone forever; what shall I do about it.... it can have the effect of creating a catalyst to let go, where that might not exist if they are told to just let it go... does that make sense?
To me its like telling someone who is mono to just let their poly partner do whatever they want and to just let them go... it all takes time and work to get there. Doing that to early can have disastrous results I think, and cause MORE harm than good. To me the journey is the thing, not the end result.
Is it possible that cheating is SUCH a big deal because being married is the ideal to which we "should" strive in our society? When someone cheats, they undermine this "achievement".
Perhaps if we didn't tie our identity so closely to our marriages/relationships/etc. cheating would not be such a slap in the face?
About six months ago, a friend of mine told me her husband had cheated on her. She was a wreck. I realized I really couldn't relate to her. I was very sorry for her pain, but I couldn't think of anything Indigo could do that would cause me that much hurt. Other friends were making rumbles that she should leave him, but I mentally shrugged it off and wasn't surprised when she did decide to work things out.
I'm amazed at how much my perspective has changed on this subject in the last couple of years. I used to think anyone who didn't immediately split up with their cheating partner was a moron and just asking for more cheating. Now when I hear about it, I wonder how they can work on the underlying cause and move past it.
Not sure how much of this is poly, and how much is just growing up. ;)
I know for me personally the pain from the cheating wasn't in the sex with another person. I'm good with that. :)
The pain came from the lying about it, the saying they were in one place, when they were another. The loss of trust when all of a sudden you can't believe anything a person says because they aren't being honest.
I think if there hadn't been sex involved, yet I found out my SO was lying to me on a regular basis I would have been just as hurt. The pain for me was even worse because we had an open relationship and I had been blatantly clear from day 1 that I didn't expect monogamy, but I did expect honesty. I made that VERY clear. And I guess I felt like since I had required so little, to have that one little thing that I asked ran over was like being told I wasn't allowed to ask for anything. That my needs weren't important at all. That the other person would do whatever they wanted to get thier way without any regard to me.
Again, to me, the issue isn't about sex with someone else. It's about lying. And honesty is the one thing I am very serious about.
If you are with somoe one who values sexual fidelity, cheating is flat out the most selfish act through which you can inflict pain on a person you supposedly love. It's indicative of a lack of self control, weak character or a general lack of human concern; all of which I have exhibitied in the past. The inability to control ourselves in the moment and not seek a better path to those sexual/emotional goals reflects a person who is trapped, broken, or has very little empathy.
The inability to control oneself "in the moment" is also an indication that we are more influenced by our reptilian brain than our thinking one. I hold people above all other types of life when it comes to being self aware and possessing the ability to reason beyond getting our own needs met.
For some people robbing a bank, or breaking into a persons house is not a big deal. I don't have the same values as those people.
Opinions on cheating should probably be discussed when relationships are developing so that all partners can avoid dissapointing each other with thier different values.
That's all I'll say about cheating...I own my opinion and don't expect anyone else to accept my views. I also wouldn't engage someone in a relationship who doesn't share them.
People all make mistakes....and if you are healthy you learn from them. When you repeat mistakes, seek treatment because you are broken.
I totally get that to some people sexual cheating is the worst of lies.
What I don't get is why some of these same people can excuse cheating (the breaking of vows) in all other arenas EXCEPT sex.
I find it very.... two-faced that one can break ALL of their wedding vows except having sex with someone else, adn that is "not as bad" as if their partner has sex with someone else, but keeps all of the other vows....
I tend to agree that there's something about the way we prioritize THAT vow over all others, instead of prioritizing all of them.
I read an interesting book last week (funny as hell) about French women and she made some HUGE points on the differences in how the French view marriage and fidelity versus the way American's (US) view those things. It was VERY enlightening (sorry, can't recall the name of the book at the moment).
Thanks everyone so far for weighing in ! Some good stuff coming........
Exactly my point ! We, in the beginning, don't KNOW any better. It's what we are taught. We're taught that monogamy is easily managable. Key word here "easily". It isn't. Most everyone over 15 knows that now. But we AREN'T taught how to manage it - or dispose of it in a kind, responsible manner. And so we have what we have.
LR also keys in on this.......
I can think of any number of things I'd consider more selfish and potentially damaging ! We can just start with driving drunk with the kids in the car. I'm sure you can think of 100 more too :)
I think TruckerPete asked the relevant question also. How DID sex - or even emotional connection get put on a pedastle so far above so many more obviously damaging things. The damage done by the reaction to the 'infidelity' generally far outweighs the damage from the infidelity itself.
How does feeding negative emotions - giving them power - which DOES affect our daily lives (and health) and interaction help ?
Or is it the lesson we hope we've learned that can protect us from future pain ?
Ahhhhhhhhh........and now we have it !
Because isn't this REALLY what's at the bottom of it ? Any violation of our trust cuts deep. Our relationships with other people are the framework of our lives. We're a social species and highly interdependant. Trust equals safety (in theory). Violate our trust and you violate our safety (in our minds).
Our "trusts" are violated from the time we are young children. But it's often the case that what we "trusted" was mostly a creation of our own mind.
It's the picture WE painted about how life is/should be. And maybe we had some 'assistant' painters along the way. If we are wrong about that interpretation, eventually someone/something is going to burst our bubble. The latex paint won't hold up to the salt atmosphere of real life.
Is it time to stop blaming the paint ? Or the salt ?
any violation of trust hurts, this is true. I think sex is put so high on a pedestal because it's such an interpersonal thing. even in a monogamous relationship, I don't believe there is anything saying that you can't love other people. you love your friends, you love your new extended family, etc but it's a different kind of love. sex is something that is supposed to be an exclusive thing. in poly you are extending full love, sexual and emotional, a whole different kind of relationship with others. cheating in a poly relationship would be crossing any number of boundaries that were set I think, violating the trust of your partner. maybe I'm way off the mark but thats how I look at it.
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