It’s unforgivable, unforgettable and it forever remains on that list of regrets. But regardless of all the tears, the hard feelings, the guilt and the repercussions, cheating happens.
When I heard that not one, but two of my good friends had cheated on their boyfriends, my once firm conviction that cheating was a bad act committed by bad people, no matter the circumstances, began to falter.
Brooke and Rusty had been dating for over a year when she cheated on him. The “other guy” was a sexy Brit with an accent that Americans go ga-ga for and a refreshing attitude that distracted Brooke from her flailing relationship. A once playful companionship based on a shared sense of sarcastic humor and a love of poking fun at the mundane had soured into something that Brooke wasn’t so sure she wanted anymore. Rusty’s sarcasm became increasingly biting and his snarky comments and overall offensive disposition convinced her friends and family that he did not take their relationship or Brooke seriously.
Beth cheated on Eric after more than three years together. It was a relationship they believed would be headed for marriage, and I believed it to be a testament to the fact that long-term, long-distance relationships could work. The summer before they broke up, Beth shared with me Eric’s incessant sensitivity and touchiness, and how she felt suffocated by his constant need for reassurance. Qualities that were once tolerable for her drove her to contemplate ending the first and only relationship she had ever been in.
When Brooke and Beth told me about their indiscretions I wasn’t shocked or horrified. I understood that both of their relationships were drifting towards an inevitable ending. They were obviously tired and less forgiving of the imperfections in their significant others. If their relationships had been perfect, their boyfriends loving and compassionate, their time spent together pleasant and happy, they would simply not have cheated.
Brooke only saw Rusty on the weekends, and he was becoming overwhelmingly possessive. She cheated on him as a way to get back at him, as an easy way out of something she did not have the courage to finish by simply saying she wanted to break up.
Beth became bored and frustrated with her tedious relationship, one that she had been in during the significant transition from teenager to adult, high school to college, girl to woman, and her feelings changed. She started to like a guy she worked with, and she kissed him. I don’t remember her crying uncontrollably or making grand apologetic gestures, and I think she did what she thought needed to be done. Perhaps she could have waited to break up with Eric, but perhaps cheating on him gave him that dose of reality that she, without a doubt, wanted to put an end to their relationship, despite his reluctance.
The fact that two of my very good friends cheated, girls who I always knew and still know to be genuinely good-hearted, kind people, enlightened my previously naïve notion that only bad people do bad things. Yes, I do believe that cheating is unforgivable, and if my boyfriend cheated on me, you better believe I would be ripped to shreds.
However, I also believe that certain scenarios, certain emotions and dissatisfactions breed this kind of behavior, and though it doesn’t make it right, it does make it understandable.