If you knew someone was cheating on their partner, would you tell?
There are pros and cons for both sides of the debate – I think I’ve heard all of them, but feel free to scroll down to the comment section if there is some epiphany you think I’ve missed – the more voices on this issue the better. Here’s my take on things, having been both the “cheated on” and the best friend of a woman who was cheating on her husband.
Firstly, it’s worth noting I was the innocent bystander to my best friend’s infidelity BEFORE the tables were turned, and I became the victim of the infidelity. This is significant because I believe the way we view the situation is tainted by our own experiences when it comes to moral obligation and empathy. In my younger days I saw things in black and white – if you cheat you are a liar and you deserve to be caught and your partner deserves to know and the relationship is over. THE END.
But some grey areas started creeping into my thinking when I was about 13 years into a shit fight of a 15-year marriage. Let’s just say some “propositions” were put to me and the temptation was… well… very difficult to resist. I was no longer in love. I despised my husband. I was there for the kids’ sake and every day was a torturous existence that was killing me. I was desperate to escape. I most definitely fantasized about taking up the offer from the well-built, well off, younger man. But my conscience would never let me get away with it. No matter how horrible my marriage was, no matter how depressed or sad, or beaten down I felt – I knew finding solace in the arms of another would only make me feel disappointed in myself. Damn my mother and the well-intentioned moral hardwiring she encoded me with!
So I had a cold shower, reminded myself I had taken marriage vows and graciously declined the invitation from my then-husband’s mate. And even though my marriage ended a few years after that I’m happy I can say I never cheated despite my relationship being dead and buried long before. It’s all about the karma people, it’s all about the karma – apparently one day my good works and monogamy in the face of adversity will be rewarded with 72 virgins… oops wrong manual… I mean a key to the pearly gates. I mean surely being a saint trapped in hell has to get me brownie points in some dimension of this damn matrix.
Anyway, back to the topic. A few months ago I ran into a couple at a social function whom I knew through an ex partner* and with whom I had previously had a reasonably long and close association. I had not spoken to this couple since leaving my ex partner but I knew that they knew that he had cheated on me. We made small talk. It was pathetically awkward. No one discussed the elephant in the room. I smiled politely but felt disheartened by their indifference. Not even a “sorry to hear what happened with (insert ex partner’s name here)”?
And I started thinking… “I bet his mates probably knew he was a cheater all along.” But they bought into the mate code that forbids them from speaking up if a friend fucks up. Like the time one of my ex partners took a trip to New York with “the boys”. I’m told he disappeared for two days. No one knew where he was and he made no contact with the rest of the group during that time. The other guys were apparently worried he was dead and debated at what point they should notify the authorities. But at the time not one of those men thought to tell me – the ignorant other half, waiting patiently at home, keeping all the balls in the air – while he was missing feared dead. Why? Because deep down they all suspected if he wasn’t dead he was cheating on me and mates don’t snitch on mates. Right? Or am I confusing their silence for loyalty to a cheater? I suppose I should appreciate at least one of “the boys” cleared his conscience and confessed all that he knew. Not that it makes any difference now… the guy is an ex after all, but there is something about knowing the truth that makes you feel somehow better or wiser. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but never a more definitive phrase has been spoken than “the truth will set you free”.
Rewind 100 years when my friend cheated on her husband (I know because she told me). After negotiating the landmines of psychological warfare over a long period of time, I made it clear to her we were no longer friends as I could not be a party to her lies (there’s that black and white mentality I was talking about earlier). I removed her as a friend and consoled her husband who was now battling both the pain of infidelity and betrayal. I’m proud of the fact I can say I’ve never compromised my morals. Not for anyone. Even when my own loyalties were tested.
But here’s the clincher. I’m pretty sure a male acquaintance of mine is a cheater and if he hasn’t crossed the line yet – he will, or at least he’s made it clear he wants to and I reeeeeeally want to tell his wife. Should I?
*legal disclaimer: I may or may not have been married more than once. I may or may not be referring to any one of the hoards of ex partners I have had throughout my life.