The word, not the accusation…
NOTE: This blog is being written about the word itself and to people who accuse others (not their spouse) of doing it. My perspective on a marriage relationship is in a following blog.
CHEATER! The world sends chills. Send him to prison! A person under indictment for this offense suffers a fate similar to those accused of murder. They’ve committed all seven deadly sins at once! It’s the most horrible accusation anyone can have thrown at them. Unfortunately, virtually all of those hurling that word don’t even know what the hell it means. Moreover, ninety-nine percent of the time it’s not any of their damn business.
The word cheating has become cliché. It’s a banal expression flung around by judgmental people prone to jealousy and/or by religious prudes. It’s a label used to condemn any person who even looks at a member of the opposite sex (or same sex if they’re gay) for more than a passing glance when they are committed to someone else.2 It’s time people stop mangling the English language by using the wrong words. It’s also time people stop making assumptions, placing blame, or throwing their moralistic bullshit upon everyone else.
What is cheating?
Dictionary.com gives these definitions of cheating:
verb (used with object) 1. To defraud; swindle: He cheated her out of her inheritance. 2. To deceive; influence by fraud: He cheated us into believing him a hero. verb (used without object) 1. To practice fraud or deceit: She cheats without regret. 2. To violate rules or regulations: He cheats at cards. 3. To take an examination or test in a dishonest way, as by improper access to answers. 4. Informal, to be sexually unfaithful.
None of those definitions refer to relationships. Cheating is fraud, deception, violation of rules. The rules being violated are formal rules, established rules, laws. They are not moral viewpoints nor even religious rules. (Item 4 is an “informal” definition which means it’s a “common” definition, one assigned to it by society, not convention. Society is using the word wrong.)
Not a Synonym
Cheating is not a synonym of “unfaithful.” If someone is actually doing something harmful to a spouse by spending time with another person then the term is unfaithful, not cheating or cheater. If someone is unfaithful to their significant other then it is up to the couple to deal with it. It is not an accusation that should be tossed around by third parties just being obnoxious.
What Is Unfaithful?
Once the word “cheating” is discarded and properly replaced by the term “unfaithful” then that term needs to be defined. Let’s look at dictionary.com again:
adjective 1. Not faithful; false to duty, obligation, or promises; faithless; disloyal. 2. Not sexually faithful to a spouse or lover. 3. Not accurate or complete; inexact: an unfaithful translation. 4. Obsolete. unbelieving; infidel.
This term hits much closer to home than cheating but only in a general way by the first definition and directly only in the strongest use of the word, sexual activity, in the second, (even the word “lover” in definition 2 might not apply. The lover could very well be the person someone is being unfaithful with.) The third and fourth definitions do not apply at all. Being unfaithful, then, is being “false to duty, obligation or promises; …disloyal.” When someone says a person is “unfaithful,” the next question is “how” and “to whom?” Common assumptions about unfaithfulness are usually wrong. “Unfaithfulness” within a particular relationship is defined by the partners of the relationship and no-one else. Society at large and certainly people who do not know the couple have no right to make assumptions or condemnations.
It is not anyone else’s business to judge either the couple’s relationship with each other or the actions or activities of either one of them. People have a very bad habit of judging and expecting others to live up to their own standards. This is where the ugly epithets and cruel retribution comes in. It’s where the word cheating flies around as if the person was a scoundrel, murderer or thief. Being judgmental, butting in, being busy-bodies can destroy relationships when it causes someone in the relationship to develop doubts.
A spouse who has friendships or relationships outside the marriage, sensual, sexual or casual, and does not share the fact of those relationships with their spouse is being dishonest. Dishonesty is surely a home wrecker. Couples should not be dishonest with each other. They should also tell their spouse about their friendships. When they don’t they violate the ground rules the couple themselves have established. If the root of a relationship is love and devotion then couples will trust each other and be honest with each other. Whether or not a person is being dishonest and/or unfaithful, however, is not the business of the community.
The word “cheating” is an improper term. The word unfaithful is better but still should not be tossed around capriciously. If someone is actually being unfaithful it is between them and their spouse. It is neither the duty, obligation nor business of anyone else to throw stones. Either a couple has a healthy relationship or they do not. No-one should interject themselves into that relationship. The least that could happen is to create doubts and the worst would be to destroy a relationship altogether. It is time people started being responsible for themselves and staying out of other peoples business.
Postscript: The Other Person
I have not addressed any statements to “the other person.”: I’m referring to the person a spouse is being unfaithful with. The Other Person is condemned for having a relationship with a married person. Even if that relationship is friendship and companionship and not sexual or sensual such a relationship is frowned upon. This is, of course, absurd. Nevertheless friendships and marriages are destroyed when meddling morons stick their nose where it does not belong. People need to keep their trap shut.
Because of the moralistic nonsense and judgmental attitudes many of you who read this have you will no doubt avoid relationships or even speaking with a married person. You don’t want to be a “home wrecker” or get involved in some kind of “love triangle” even when there’s no love involved. When a person is being dishonest to their spouse and you know it then there are risks. It makes sense to be cautious. But when they’re not being dishonest then there’s no reason you should not have a conversation with them at the very least. See how things go and what someone is looking for before simply taking the bigoted view and labeling someone a “cheater” off-hand.
I tend to think differently than most people, or maybe everyone else. I do not understand how the vast majority thinks at all. The precise world to describe me is anomic, but that’s a fancy word. It’s not even in the reference dictionary. It means “a state or condition of individuals or society characterized by a breakdown or absence of social norms and values, as in the case of uprooted people.” I feel as if I’ve been uprooted from another planet and dropped here without a handbook. That is why I analyze and review what people say and try to understand why they said it. In this essay I have tried to share what I’ve found and at the same time express my never-ending frustration at being judged by people who do not know me and do not ask.
If you have a question, comment, suggestion, rant or whatever, write me. Just ask. I’m happy to answer the best I can. I may not change your mind but I will definitely give you a new perspective.
1 For the sake of brevity I use the common two-gender expressions, ie., male and female. I speak of marriage but consider this a generic term referencing any kind of close personal relationship based upon love and trust and dedication.
2 Committed can many things. In this blog committed means either a married couple or a couple who live together as if married.