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In the beginning, infidelity almost always involves a predator and weakened victim.

The predator needs his/her victim to stay in a confused state.

 

Over compensating in the relationship achieves this goal.

This makes it very hard for the victim to see the predator as he/she is, and even harder to make the right decision.

 

The process can change a victim into a voluntary cheater, but two cheater "minds" will have trouble tolerating each other.

 

This is not always the case. Interestingly enough though, I know of two such cases, yet I do believe that the "victims" (both were women wildly pursued by married men) did make an informed choice. They both knew that this person was married hence, they had first hand evidence of his lack of integrity. If one knowingly enables a cheater at any point, imo, they lose the right to be called a "victim".

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Actually I’m surprised, there is a lot of differing opinions.

 

If they haven't already been mentioned in this thread, could you provide some examples?

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There are a large percentage of people who firmly believe life `happens to them' and things are just out of their control.

We see them all the time here on this forum.

 

When it comes to participating in cheating, I have yet to understand that level of denial, hence why I sometimes wonder whether I am too harsh in thinking that there IS a choice involved.

 

P.S. Everyone has contributed some very interesting points. I want to thank everyone for taking the time to share their thoughts and opinions!

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Apologies for misreading.

 

I agree with everything you're saying, particularly about there always being a choice involved when it comes to cheating. Always.

 

But like reinvent said, I think it's less about the difference of being "black and white" vs "lenient to the failings of human nature," which makes it a kind of conservative vs liberal argument, than having an attitude about life as something that "happens to you" vs something you "make happen."

 

Personally, I find few things as frustrating as the "it happens" attitude in general, with the peculiarities of where it can lead, from cheating to remaining in a stagnant relationship or job, aka cheating on yourself, to be little more than examples of where it can lead.

 

In the vacuum of my head and heart I have a large capacity for "understanding," but in my day to day life I'm pretty merciless when it comes to surrounding myself—and sharing myself with—those who have a more active life philosophy than a passive one.

 

Your point about denial is an interesting one. Denial is a coping mechanism, and a pretty universal one. I like to think of maturing as learning to get by while denying less, but a lot of people take a different approach to life and it can lead them down some awful paths, to make awful choices.

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If the cheating behavior was actually out of that person's control it wouldn't be cheating. The person who was drugged, for example and then had sex outside of the marriage wouldn't be cheating -she or he would be a victim of whoever drugged him/her. Obviously you can reach back a few steps "why was that person hanging out at a club at 2am" but you can always do that. Cheating is always a choice whether or not there are shades of gray and whether to choose personal accountability or rationalization is also a choice.

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whether to choose personal accountability or rationalization is also a choice.

 

While I agree with everything else you wrote, I have come across certain people who, when it comes to morals, they either had not been taught right from wrong e.g. due to corrupt parents, or they appeared to have sunk themselves in denial to the point of convincing themselves that black is white.

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It’s been written that attraction, infatuation, that “falling in love” feeling (the emotions that would typically trigger the desire to cheat if one is already in a committed RL) is a form of temporary sanity.

 

M. Scott Peck wrote this in his book The Road Less Traveled.

 

So yes while cheating IS a choice, the question might be is it a "conscious" choice based on a rational mind while in that moment.

 

And the justification for it by those who do cheat might be no, it wasn’t a conscious choice based on a rational mind, I was - in M. Scott Peck’s words – temporarily insane, I was not thinking clearly, my mind was clouded with thoughts/feelings of intense attraction and infatuation, etc.

 

I am not in any way suggesting cheating IS justified due to this, it’s not imo, but for many who have cheated, it’s their “out," alleviating any guilt and instead tossing it out into the Universe by deeming it a form of temporary insanity that they had no control over.

 

And I suppose their defense to those who deem them immoral or whatever is, don't make such judgments until such time you walk a mile in their shoes.

 

For me, I have never cheated and could never see myself cheating. It's wrong for the reasons everyone has stated.

 

But I try to not judge others for it until such time I DO walk a mile in their shoes, like perhaps my dad whom was a GREAT dad but a lousy husband, with good reason, which I don't have time to go into now.

 

I would also like to ask -- if the spouse or gf/bf is aware of the cheating but stays anyway, is it still cheating? I'm not sure. Cheating as defined is a form of deceit. So if the partner knows about it, how could the cheating person be deceiving them?

 

Questions I still ask myself with respect to my own dad's "cheating" on my mom, which I have posted about on this forum and frankly still struggling with to this day, even though he married the woman (my step mom) and remained married to her till her death 15 years later.

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I have come across certain people who, when it comes to morals, they either had not been taught right from wrong e.g. due to corrupt parents, or they appeared to have sunk themselves in denial to the point of convincing themselves that black is white.

 

I'm curious as to the kind of people you're describing, I have to say. Pathological cheats? Basically, what is the behavior you're describing?

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I've looked in the eyes of people who truly believe they have no responsibility for something they did. They are so invested into the lie, that to do anything otherwise would unleash a storm of other poor choices they've made and other scary character flaws. It's the weak minded with zero insight that fall along these lines.

 

`People do things that work for them' If it didn't work, they wouldn't do it. Somehow they are getting a payoff.

 

It's not that they are being stubborn or have difficulty admitting their mistakes. Being accountable and responsible for ones actions seem like a no brainer for most. For others it's the very defensive mechanism that keeps them safe. . .from themselves.

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It’s a choice. I have been a cheater and been cheated on. Both happened before I found recovery, aka when all of my behaviour was selfish and self seeking and lacking integrity. Today I choose to set boundaries and not put myself in a position where that can happen.

 

It’s not to say that someone can’t lie and catch a person unawares... but to carry on once you find out? Is just as lacking in integrity as the cheater themselves.

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It’s been written that attraction, infatuation, that “falling in love” feeling (the emotions that would typically trigger the desire to cheat if one is already in a committed RL) is a form of temporary sanity.

 

M. Scott Peck wrote this in his book The Road Less Traveled.

 

So yes while cheating IS a choice, the question might be is it a "conscious" choice based on a rational mind while in that moment.

 

And the justification for it by those who do cheat might be no, it wasn’t a conscious choice based on a rational mind, I was - in M. Scott Peck’s words – temporarily insane, I was not thinking clearly, my mind was clouded with thoughts/feelings of intense attraction and infatuation, etc.

 

I am not in any way suggesting cheating IS justified due to this, it’s not imo, but for many who have cheated, it’s their “out," alleviating any guilt and instead tossing it out into the Universe by deeming it a form of temporary insanity that they had no control over.

 

And I suppose their defense to those who deem them immoral or whatever is, don't make such judgments until such time you walk a mile in their shoes.

 

For me, I have never cheated and could never see myself cheating. It's wrong for the reasons everyone has stated.

 

But I try to not judge others for it until such time I DO walk a mile in their shoes, like perhaps my dad whom was a GREAT dad but a lousy husband, with good reason, which I don't have time to go into now.

 

I would also like to ask -- if the spouse or gf/bf is aware of the cheating but stays anyway, is it still cheating? I'm not sure. Cheating as defined is a form of deceit. So if the partner knows about it, how could the cheating person be deceiving them?

 

Questions I still ask myself with respect to my own dad's "cheating" on my mom, which I have posted about on this forum and frankly still struggling with to this day, even though he married the woman (my step mom) and remained married to her till her death 15 years later.

 

I also have read about how falling in love is temporary insanity etc. And I think people can choose not to interact with people -or to change the interaction -before those "insane" feelings happen and even if someone has those "insane" feelings that person is not mentally ill where they are not then responsible for their choices, actions, reactions. That is why the marriage vows don't say "unless I happen to fall in love with someone else'. But that is also why the marriage vows (as one example of a formal commitment) don't treat thoughts or feelings as a betrayal or inconsistent with being committed to someone else -it's the actions and choices that are the focus.

 

It's also why the marriage vows exist -because temptation and desire are part of the normal human condition and by committing to someone else you acknowledge that reality and promise not to give in to temptation. For each individual that means choosing whatever boundary works for that person to avoid playing with fire -so that might mean never having a friend of the opposite sex, or not texting with someone he/she has a crush on or who has a crush on her, or not sharing a room with a member of the opposite sex other than one's blood relative, etc.

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I think cheating is a choice in the same way as abusing alcohol is a choice. Some people would need really strong boundary control, or to abstain from relationships at all in order to structure their lives in such a way as to not cheat. Others may be fine most of the time - but in moments of weakness may still be at risk to abuse the drink.

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Bat or Clio (or anyone), I am super curious about this -- if the spouse is aware of it (as my mom was), and chose to stay regardless, would it still be considered cheating, in the same way cheating is being described here?

 

As immoral, lack of integrity, lack of boundary control, lack self-control, etc?

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Katrina thank you! That's actually my friend's point of view and the fact that I acknowledge the "not having walked in their shoes" part is one of the reasons I started this thread. I am actually the product of a perfect marriage, where my parents have been have half a century together and still genuinely love and cherish each other, which is probably one of the reasons why I have such a black and white outlook when it comes to cheating.

 

Regarding your latter question, I agree that on the one hand knowingly staying on with a cheater is indeed an informed choice, on the other hand, and imo, the person who cares less is the one who holds most of the power in such a situation. The fact that the cheated spouse may be too "weak" to leave does not absolve the "abuse" by the cheater.

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I'm curious as to the kind of people you're describing, I have to say. Pathological cheats? Basically, what is the behavior you're describing?

 

Cheating on academic evaluations. LOL. Reinventyourself beautifully described the kind of people I was trying to describe. They scare the crap of me because one cannot reason with that type of "zero insight".

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Regarding your latter question, I agree that on the one hand knowingly staying on with a cheater is indeed an informed choice, on the other hand, and imo, the person who cares less is the one who holds most of the power in such a situation. The fact that the cheated spouse may be too "weak" to leave does not absolve the "abuse" by the cheater.

 

Fair enough but imo there are so many different scenarios and nuances, not always so black and white; for example, after around five or so years, my mom and dad had a loveless marriage. Witnessing it growing up, it was actually quite abusive, my mom being the abuser. To not only my dad but to me and my brothers as well.

 

My mom didn't want divorce as she was a strict Catholic, so against her religion, plus she thought divorcing would be detrimental to us (myself and my brothers). When in actuality it would have been better for us had they divorced, as witnessing the dysfunction left a strong negative mark on me and my brothers.

 

In addition, we lived in an upper middle class area of New York, and socially, she did not want to be viewed as a "divorced" woman, whom were frowned upon. A value I do NOT share by the way, but that was my mom.

 

Anyway, they mutually decide that it was OK for my dad to see other women as long as he stayed. I even met some of them - he tried to hide the fact they were his "girlfriends," describing them as friends, but I was too perceptive for that, I knew.

 

So no my mom was certainly NOT weak, not in any way, shape or form, she was an abuser, and a VERY strong woman. And was actually the one who suggested to my dad he see other women, again as long as he didn't leave. Yeah pretty screwed up, I know.

 

As I said earlier, cheating as defined is a form of deceit, which there was none of, it was all out in the open.

 

So again I question. My dad has passed now, so has my mom, my dad and I grew quite close in his last years (he died after a bad fall in 2014), and while growing up he was an awesome dad, a very awesome human being, but yet I still struggle with this!

 

I appreciate your thoughts though, I for one am so glad you brought this topic to light, thank you for that!

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Bat or Clio (or anyone), I am super curious about this -- if the spouse is aware of it (as my mom was), and chose to stay regardless, would it still be considered cheating, in the same way cheating is being described here?

 

As immoral, lack of integrity, lack of boundary control, lack self-control, etc?

 

Yes, it is still cheating and the "victim" of the cheating is making the choice to stay -those are two separate events -the cheater still cheated, the person who chose to stay is weighing the pros and cons in favor of staying. But, if the couple chooses to have an open marriage or relationship and one or both have sex with other people it's not cheating -because they've decided that having sex with other people is ok.

 

For example, I don't condone cheating. And I've stayed very close -platonically- with people who have cheated or had affairs with married people. I feel in those cases I can compartmentalize. But there are other actions people can take which would be a dealbreaker to me. For example I have a friend who lied to his girlfriend about who he was going on vacation with. At the time she was serious about him but they hadn't yet had the "talk" and they hadn't yet had sex. He went on vacation with another woman. He never told her the truth. They've now been together almost 20 years and married for much of that time. One of our mutual friends stopped talking to him because of his lie. I chose not to. But, I am glad I never had to be involved in lying to his wife about that vacation. I'm not sure what I would have done in that case -likely refused to lie.

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Per the rational/irrational mind theory, I think one thing that hasn't been said here is that people don't always cheat in pursuit of pleasure, but often the opposite: to reinforce and prove "right" some deeply internalized idea—of being "bad," of being "trash," of being "worthless." Most of us reckon with those feelings here and there—some, of course, more than others, to the point where it too can become a kind of "temporary insanity."

 

That's not an excuse, just as being high on the drug of infatuation isn't an excuse. Still a choice, and a very selfish one. But I do think it's just worth understanding that cheating is often far more complicated than "this feels good, now, so I'm doing it." The drug of unresolved self-loathing, in other words, is just as powerful as the drug of hormones and infatuation. Often stronger, for many.

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Prefacing this by saying that cheating is certainly not okay. Anyhow, I am thinking of the film "Unfaithful" with Richard Gere and Diane Lane,

 

 

[spoiler ALERT in case you haven't seen the film] Where the husband chooses to work it out with his unfaithful wife as opposed to letting her go. [END OF SPOILER.]

 

 

 

What would you have done in the husband's shoes? What would you have done if you had been the wife? It's easy to say that we would never do this. But what would we actually do when push comes to shove? How strong are we really?

 

You need to have a really strong character to not cheat.

 

That is why characteristics like integrity, self control, self disciple, stability, etc. while boring to some, are the ones to look for. Yet how many people look for traits like "makes me laugh", likes the same things", etc.?

Completely agree with this.

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Per the rational/irrational mind theory, I think one thing that hasn't been said here is that people don't always cheat in pursuit of pleasure, but often the opposite: to reinforce and prove "right" some deeply internalized idea—of being "bad," of being "trash," of being "worthless." Most of us reckon with those feelings here and there—some, of course, more than others, to the point where it too can become a kind of "temporary insanity."

 

That's not an excuse, just as being high on the drug of infatuation isn't an excuse. Still a choice, and a very selfish one. But I do think it's just worth understanding that cheating is often far more complicated than "this feels good, now, so I'm doing it." The drug of unresolved self-loathing, in other words, is just as powerful as the drug or hormones and infatuation.

 

Yes but that is what feels "good" to the person at the time - maybe not the traditional definition of "pleasure" but it fills a need /feels "good" just like overeating can be the same way. My response -if I'm the victim of deceit I really don't want to hear about the sob story/the why -at least not most of the time. Maybe a therapist would be interested or a curious outsider.

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Fair enough but imo there are so many different scenarios and nuances, not always so black and white; for example, after around five or so years, my mom and dad had a loveless marriage. Witnessing it growing up, it was actually quite abusive, my mom being the abuser. To not only my dad but to me and my brothers as well.

 

My mom didn't want divorce as she was a strict Catholic, so against her religion, plus she thought divorcing would be detrimental to us (myself and my brothers). When in actuality it would have been better for us had they divorced, as witnessing the dysfunction left a strong negative mark on me and my brothers. In addition, we lived in an upper middle class area of New York, and socially, she did not want to be viewed as a "divorced" woman, whom were frowned upon.

 

Anyway, they mutually decide that it was OK for my dad to see other women as long as he stayed. I even met some of them - he tried to hide the fact they were his "girlfriends," describing them as friends, but I was too perceptive for that, I knew.

 

So no my mom was certainly NOT weak, not in any way, shape or form, she was an abuser, and a VERY strong woman. And was actually the one who suggested to my dad he see other women, again as long as he didn't leave. Yeah pretty screwed up, I know.

 

As I said earlier, cheating as defined is a form of deceit, which there was none of, it was all out in the open.

 

So again I question. My dad has passed now, so has my mom, my dad and I grew quite close in his last years (he died after a bad fall in 2014), and while growing up he was an awesome dad, a very awesome human being, but yet I still struggle with this!

 

I appreciate your thoughts though, I for one am so glad you brought this topic to light, thank you for that!

 

I would consider this more of an open relationship no? A relationship where both accept that one or both will be seeing other people, whether implicitly or explicitly isn’t cheating IMO.

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Katrina, once your parents mutually agreed on your father seeing other women, it ceased to be cheating. I would classify the situation you described as a dysfunctional open marriage. Given that religion was involved to such an extent, it's too complex of a situation to assess. Imo, the brain washing involved in a very strict religious upbringing (any religion) can make it difficult to discern what part was abuse and what part was religious "brain-washing", if that makes sense.

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Yes but that is what feels "good" to the person at the time - maybe not the traditional definition of "pleasure" but it fills a need /feels "good" just like overeating can be the same way. My response -if I'm the victim of deceit I really don't want to hear about the sob story/the why -at least not most of the time. Maybe a therapist would be interested or a curious outsider.

 

Oh, agree with you 1000 percent.

 

The inner therapist/perpetual outsider observer in me always finds this stuff curious, compelling, even easy to empathize with. But from a partner? No, not my thing.

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Katrina, once your parents mutually agreed on your father seeing other women, it ceased to be cheating. I would classify the situation you described as a dysfunctional open marriage. Given that religion was involved to such an extent, it's too complex of a situation to assess. Imo, the brain washing involved in a very strict religious upbringing (any religion) can make it difficult to discern what part was abuse and what part was religious "brain-washing", if that makes sense.

 

Yes it does, thanks!

 

And I agree about the religious brain washing too. In fact, I recall a time when I behaved "badly" and my mom cut all my hair off (it was down to my knees at the time). She chopped it to above my chin, around nine inches.

 

She quoted the bible and said that is how the nun's enforced good behavior in the private school she attended (Catholic).

 

I remember quite vividly when she came at me with the scissors, I said "are you gonna stab me mom"?

 

Much of what she did (locked me in closets, forced me to clean when I was home from school sick) was taken from the bible (most likely out of context) but that was the environment she grew up in, and how she chose to raise us.

 

Anyway, I apologize for the hijack, didn't mean to make this about me, just wanted to acknowledge your point about abuse versus religious brain washing, great point!

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Oh, agree with you 1000 percent.

 

The inner therapist/perpetual outsider observer in me always finds this stuff curious, compelling, even easy to empathize with. But from a partner? No, not my thing.

 

Yes, I am always curious too!! And yes I empathized with my friend who cheated on her husband and got caught. They are divorced now. During the divorce she found out he'd been cheating on her as well. I just feel badly for the 2 young kids but so far they seem fine.

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