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Author Topic: What is Cheating (and when is it justified)?
Jeff C.
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I've recently encountered a situation that has left various individuals associated with it divided. Who's right, who's wrong, etc. I'd like to present both sides to you guys and see what you think is morally acceptable and what is not.

So my roommate and his wife recently separated and now they are planning on getting a divorce. It began because the wife began to think that she didn't think her husband was the kind of guy she thought he was when they married. Mind you, they got married after dating for only 2 1/2 months, which is hardly enough time to get to know anyone. She wanted him to go out to clubs, go dancing, party more often, send her flowers, call her and text her at work just to say he missed her. She also wanted to go on trips overseas, like visiting Ireland or going on a cruise. She enjoys the finer things, and tends to spend more than she has. I will not bother remarking on whether or not these were justified reasons for a separation (or what followed). Instead, I'll leave that to you.

The husband's perspective is this: he is the head of a call center and works ten hours a day, five days a week. He is not, nor has he ever been, much of a "clubber" or party person, nor is he much of a romantic. These actions have always been consistent. He is arrogant, quick to get frustrated, and refuses to admit when he is wrong.

A few months ago, the wife told her husband that she was unhappy and that she was frustrated with how things were going. They had been married for two and a half years. They both agreed they should start seeing a marriage counselor, and the husband said he would start working on being a better spouse.

Shortly before they started going to the counselor, the wife began going out of town almost every night to hang out with a female friend. The problem was, of course, that no one, including her husband, had ever met this person. As it turns out, she had met a young man and had been spending her evenings going on dates with him. The man gave her flowers, took her to dinner, treated her nice, and paid her many compliments. She said it never got physical, but admitted that the man wanted it to.

The wife's excuse was simply that her husband had not been doing all the things that he should have been, like going out with her and being the kind of guy he should have been. The husband never cheated, nor did he physically or verbally abuse her. Instead, he simply refused to do what she wanted him to do.

Also, before they were even married (yes, in the ten weeks they dated before they eloped), she physically cheated on him twice. He forgave her both times.

So my question is simple: is cheating on your spouse ever justified? When is it not? And in this particular instance, who's fault is it? His? Hers? Both?

The wife believes (and freely tells people) that the entire thing was her husband's fault and that she did nothing wrong. She didn't physically cheat (this time), so she therefor did not cheat. Do you need to physically do something for it to be cheating?

I'd be very interested to hear all of your thoughts on this.

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Threads
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There are no universals for relationships but by and large, if you're in a relationship and want to start seeing someone else then you need to be upfront and honest with your partner about it. Deception might be warranted if your partner is abusive, but in this case I think it's pretty clear that the wife is at fault for lying to her husband and seeing another man without telling him. If she was unhappy enough with the relationship to date another guy then she should have told her husband. I think it really is that simple here.
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Hobbes
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No, it's never justified and yes: what she did was cheating. She thought it was wrong when she did it too, and the way you can know that is that she lied about it.

Hobbes [Smile]

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Aros
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It's never right nor justified. She either thought she could get away with it (and is not trustworthy) or wants to end the marriage. Either way, the man deserves better.

Cheating is less of an offense for some people than for others. But it sets a dangerous precedent. Once someone cheats, you know they're the type of person who would / could cheat. I would find it impossible to ever trust someone again if they cheated.

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Hobbes
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quote:
So my question is simple: is cheating on your spouse ever justified? When is it not? And in this particular instance, who's fault is it? His? Hers? Both?
To answer the second part of your question: both of their faults, but she's the one who cheated. Marriage is an agreement and a contract, and part of being married means agreeing that there are certain needs that can only, now, be satisfied by your spouse. Sex is the most obvious one, but it is not the only one. Emotional intimacy, romance, etc... When one spouse refuses to provide it and the other needs it an unsustainable imbalance is created that will resolve itself one way or another. He signed up to provide for her, and if romance and emotional closeness is important to her it was hist duty to provide that. Claiming that "I was never like that before" or "That's not really my thing" is not an excuse.

All that said: cheating is never justified, and the correct response on her end would be to try to work it out together and probably with a counselor. If she feels she's tried everything, or is convinced nothing will work: then they need to split up.

Hobbes [Smile]

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ambyr
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I've never found definitional arguments (or questions of fault) all that useful. She did something that he felt was not within the bounds of acceptable behavior for someone with whom he was involved; as a result, he is now choosing to end that involvement. Whether anyone else thinks the behavior was acceptable is pretty much irrelevant. He gets to decide what he needs in his relationships (as, I suppose, does she).

As to who's at fault: if you're going to try to keep the relationship going, I can understand trying to work out what happened and why to prevent repetition. But they're getting divorced. There is no more relationship. So why does it matter?

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Samprimary
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quote:
The wife believes (and freely tells people) that the entire thing was her husband's fault and that she did nothing wrong
In her mind, was lying about what she was doing in order to conceal it from her husband a-ok

orrrrrrrrr what

it seriously just sounds like she's got this huge entitlement complex that she uses to excuse her behavior. when the issue IS her behavior, she shifts it to the husband and blames him for her emotional infidelity. essentially, 'don't make this about how i was dishonest, or was going on dates with a wannabe ashley madisonizer, my husband wasn't giving me what i need!' ok sure thing lady

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Hobbes
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quote:
essentially, 'don't make this about how i was dishonest, or was going on dates with a wannabe ashley madisonizer, my husband wasn't giving me what i need!' ok sure thing lady
Right. If she wasn't getting what she needed from her husband she has 3 options: decide she can just live with it, try to work it out, leave him. One of the options is never cheating on him.

Hobbes [Smile]

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by ambyr:
As to who's at fault: if you're going to try to keep the relationship going, I can understand trying to work out what happened and why to prevent repetition. But they're getting divorced. There is no more relationship. So why does it matter?

it probably matters none at all to this ex-relationship that was probably pretty much doomed to begin with, but people love to muse and do postmortems on relationships and wrestle with the bounds of the idea of "cheating" in partnerships or in the traditional conceptual bonds of marriage. sometimes people are learning things that they are applying to how they process their own relationships and how they compose themselves as a partner.

in this case, I think the issue over whether or not what she was doing is cheating is of secondary importance. it was all dishonest anyway, so.

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ambyr
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
it probably matters none at all to this ex-relationship that was probably pretty much doomed to begin with, but people love to muse and do postmortems on relationships and wrestle with the bounds of the idea of "cheating" in partnerships or in the traditional conceptual bonds of marriage. sometimes people are learning things that they are applying to how they process their own relationships and how they compose themselves as a partner.

Yes, I know people do this; my point is that I think they shouldn't. People who get hung up on trying to decide whether a particular behavior pattern matches some general socially acceptable definition of cheating tend to be doing so to avoid asking the hard (and, really, the only relevant) question of whether it's acceptable to them. It's like trying to crowd source your definition of happiness.

I understand why people do it. It is hard to do the self work of "this makes me happy, this doesn't. this part of the standard social model of relationships works for me, this part doesn't." It's much easier just to embrace the standard model wholesale. But it doesn't lead to healthy relationships. And it does in my observation lead to an awful lot of people staying in relationships that make them miserable because the other party is not doing anything that they can define as cheating or otherwise wrong.

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Samprimary
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we're mostly in agreement, i was just answering the question about why it matters. and it's more than just an issue of it being easy to embrace the standard model wholesale, it's that society (especially more traditional society) really pushes the standard model onto people hard and tries to make itself an arbiter of under what circumstances you should leave a relationship. it's really easy to feel stigmatized for not staying in a relationship that doesn't work in the sense that it doesn't make you happy, when it's 'supposed' to be worked on because fidelity or marital obligation or 'but your partner is willing to try to work things out' or whatever.

where it gets dicey for me is where the partner who was being dishonest blames her dishonesty on her partner, effectively.

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scifibum
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She's obviously trying to get out without it being her "fault". I'm impressed that she could brazenly rationalize going out on dates while pretending to do something else as being her husband's fault.

He might not be a good husband (for her anyway) but it's immature and dishonest to sabotage the relationship instead of working on it or ending it.

*Said with some amount of rueful awareness that I failed to follow this advice to the fullest in the past. I identify more with the husband here which means that I know that he might have been unwilling to really work on things too, and may have rested too much on the basis that as long as he wasn't cheating or actively trying to get out then he was doing okay. In other words there could have been some amount of sabotage on both ends, but with the available facts there's worse on one end.

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scifibum
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I hope they don't have kids and they should cut their losses and try to be more careful about future attachments.
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advice for robots
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quote:
Originally posted by ambyr:
quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
it probably matters none at all to this ex-relationship that was probably pretty much doomed to begin with, but people love to muse and do postmortems on relationships and wrestle with the bounds of the idea of "cheating" in partnerships or in the traditional conceptual bonds of marriage. sometimes people are learning things that they are applying to how they process their own relationships and how they compose themselves as a partner.

Yes, I know people do this; my point is that I think they shouldn't. People who get hung up on trying to decide whether a particular behavior pattern matches some general socially acceptable definition of cheating tend to be doing so to avoid asking the hard (and, really, the only relevant) question of whether it's acceptable to them. It's like trying to crowd source your definition of happiness.

I understand why people do it. It is hard to do the self work of "this makes me happy, this doesn't. this part of the standard social model of relationships works for me, this part doesn't." It's much easier just to embrace the standard model wholesale. But it doesn't lead to healthy relationships. And it does in my observation lead to an awful lot of people staying in relationships that make them miserable because the other party is not doing anything that they can define as cheating or otherwise wrong.

I don't know if it's really possible to ever be "post" expecting certain things out of an exclusive relationship. If you enter an exclusive relationship with someone, you expect it to remain exclusive and entrust quite a bit of your emotional vulnerability to the other person. If one of you cheats, then at that point, it doesnít matter what the societal definition of cheating is, or the stigma placed on that behavior: if you break the agreement you made, youíre doing harm to your partner and your relationship. They donít get hurt just because theyíre conforming to a social modelóthey get hurt because you betrayed their trust.

If youíre in a relationship where you feel like your partner isnít holding up his or her part of the bargain in some things, then you might consider the relationship defunct at that point and look for fulfillment elsewhere. However, if your partner hasnít consented to this, youíre still breaking that trust and causing harm. While Iím not necessarily advocating staying in a relationship thatís not working out, I am saying that in most cases, part of committing to an exclusive relationship like a marriage is trying to work things out with your partner when you're not content, rather than simply going outside the relationship for fulfillment.

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Jeff C.
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quote:
Originally posted by ambyr:
People who get hung up on trying to decide whether a particular behavior pattern matches some general socially acceptable definition of cheating tend to be doing so to avoid asking the hard (and, really, the only relevant) question of whether it's acceptable to them. It's like trying to crowd source your definition of happiness.

I'm not sure why you are trying to psychoanalyze the reason behind my asking the question, but okay. I certainly have my own opinion on it. I didn't come in here trying to form an opinion through other people's viewpoints. I believe she cheated and I believe they both made mistakes, but I wanted to understand the situation and her perspective (I am certainly open to being wrong about it, given that I have never been married and I am only one person). They are both my friends, but I do not agree with her that she is justified.

This situation is divisive among the people involved, although most of her friends say she didn't do anything wrong. Of course, I disagree, but as I said before, I wasn't sure if I was in the minority. After all, I've been cheated on and I am a little biased on the subject (zero tolerance and whatnot). However, my friend was quick to forgive her the last two times, so he is obviously a little more lax about it than most people.

I normally wouldn't care so much, but I am surrounded by this situation and the people involve. I live with both of them, and they each come to me for advice. I'm not sure what to say, so I just tell them they need to figure it out for themselves. Still, the situation is interesting and I find myself wondering what other, more objective people might think about it.

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DustinDopps
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If my wife was going out with a guy every night on "dates" that didn't involve physical interaction, I would consider her to be on the razor's edge of cheating. I would not tolerate it. She would stop, or I would leave.
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scifibum
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She may be need various things he's not providing. If he's not trying, he's at fault too. But fault doesn't excuse fault, really.

A separation where they both still live together sounds like an awful mess. I think they should physically separate.

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Jeff C.
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They are. She's still on the lease, but she just left yesterday to live at a friend's house. And this isn't just a separation; they are definitely divorcing. It makes me kinda sad, but I guess that's how it goes. She wants to work it out, but once he found out about the other guy, he was pretty much done with it.
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Stone_Wolf_
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Good for him. Cheating isn't just about not effing other people, but more about trusting that your partner doesn't betray you emotionally.

Of course it's different for everyone but sex is only part of what makes cheating cheating.

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theamazeeaz
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What I don't really understand is how this woman managed to fall in love with this guy after a two and a half months of wooing and agreed to an elopement if she wants "romance" and "dancing" and "trips" and he claims he's not into that stuff at all. Yes, 2.5 months isn't a lot of time to get to know each other, but isn't that what people who date do?
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Samprimary
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some people just are very prone to blindsiding by new relationship energy or an expectation that their presence as a married entity in someones life will change more than it ever will
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scifibum
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I wonder if anyone has ever cheated in the belief that doing so was going to prevent small children from dying. I'd probably give them a pass. Although they'd have to explain to me in pretty exhaustive detail why they believed that.
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Stone_Wolf_
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Sure...-those- are the details you want.

I once complained to my grandmother that my wife was bossy, she asked me "Did you know she was bossy before you marred her?"

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Chris Bridges
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Cheating is never justified. Not all extramarital sex is cheating.

The question is, were they open with each other? In this case, no, she tried to hide it from him. That makes it cheating.

If she had told him she wanted to see someone else, being totally open as to what that might involve, and he said OK, it would not (to me) be cheating.

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Geraine
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I think she cheated. Whether he knew about it and was ok with it or not, if she made a promise when they were married that she would be true to him, and she wasn't, that's it.

When my wife and I first got married we had some of the same issues. She wanted to party and go to clubs, I was more of the "Get home from work after a long day and relax then sleep" type of person. It was pretty damn rough for a couple of years.

We came to sort of an agreement. She said it was fine if we didn't go partying or to any clubs, and I said we could go out more for other activities. We started taking walks, miniature golfing, basically ANYTHING that was outside the home and didn't cost much.

It's worked for us for the past 5 years (We've been married over 7 years now). I think part of it was age, as I am six years older than she is. My partying days were over by the time we got married, and she was in the middle of hers [Razz]

Now that she is pregnant with our first child, it is her that wants to stay home, which is A-OK with me!

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