How to Be a Cheater

When I caught him red handed, I didn’t leave. Instead, I cheated, too.

I cheated on my husband.

This happened even though in my family, we were raised to believe in commitment. Particularly when it came to marriage. Barring the three deal-breaking A’s—abuse, adultery & addiction—you stuck it out, no matter what.

And until recently I reasoned away the infidelity: we were separated. He’d been cheating on me for our entire three years of marriage. I was mad. I was hurt. I was drunk. I wanted to see if he was capable of feeling the type of pain he’d forced me to live in for so long.

As a yoga practitioner and certified yoga instructor I believe in the yamas—a series of guidelines for ethical living. I believe I’m a good person, kind and loving, generous and loyal. But by sleeping with another man while married I broke all of these rules. I cheated.

  ♦◊♦

Our marriage was only three months old when I found out about my husband’s affair. When I saw his email account left open on our computer and a bunch of emails from my best friend in his inbox, I couldn’t help it, I clicked one open. A picture popped up. It was her, facing a bathroom mirror, lifting up her shirt to expose a tan, flat belly, holding a sign that said, “I miss you.”

In that split second, my life bottomed out. The only thing I knew, the only thing that mattered, the only thing I wanted anymore was to make things right with him.

Two things usually happen upon a revelation of infidelity in a relationship. Either the cheater begs forgiveness or leaves. Neither of those things happened. He didn’t want to stay and he didn’t want to go. So I begged him to work things out with me and he tried, a little. It’s difficult to balance a wife and a girlfriend, I imagine. But for an entire year he continued to date her while married to me.

I quickly found out that infidelity can make you crazy. Extreme bouts of paranoia, insecurity, rage, grief, pain and loneliness pressed down on me until I could no longer walk through my day as a normal person.

But beneath all that my guttural instinct still screamed, “You love him! You can’t leave!”

Now, what I didn’t hear that voice say, in much quieter tones was, “You’ll never find anyone else. Who else would want you?”

Had I heard that voice, had I really listened, I may have seen that I was so intent on loving him through the cheating that I was cheating on myself.

It wasn’t until he did it again that the facts started to chip away at my resolve to fix my marriage. This time he was cheating on me with ayoung woman we’d both befriended, taken in as our little sister and welcomed into our broken family. She acted as my support system throughout the first indiscretion and I leaned heavily on her, pouring out every thought and feeling into her open hands as I worked through my grief. I believed if I could trust anyone, it was her. Yet once again, this nagging feeling in my gut that I’d become accustomed to ignoring kept piping up, “Be careful!  Watch out!”

I turned my back, unwilling to believe that anyone could witness the pain of a friend and voluntarily hurt them. Unable to believe that my husband could ever betray me again, after witnessing me collapsed on the bathroom floor, arms wrapped around the toilet, throwing up in the wake of the first betrayal.

But he did. Only this time after I found out, he meekly fought for me. Lifted an arm in a half-hearted gesture to stop me from walking out the door, and that was all I needed. I folded myself into him and let his lip service, his apologies born from being exposed, drown out my voice from within that was now screaming, “You stupid fool! When will you learn? Leave him!”

We disintegrated in baby steps.

 ♦◊♦

I moved away, but we stayed married. Some time apart would do us good, we both said. And I was faithful, stood by him through continued lies and broken promises, until my pain was so omnipresent, my rage so terrifying that I wanted to scratch my way out of my skin. Somehow I had to feel okay again. So I cheated—with an old boyfriend. He was someone who’d always loved me, exalted me, made me feel beautiful and smart and funny and talented and all the things I’d stopped believing about myself. I grabbed for him and held on. I cheated.

I couldn’t hide it. Couldn’t lie. When my husband and I saw each other again, I cried and confessed. With a little smirk on his face he said, “I knew it.”

I knew it too. I knew it was over. He’d make a mistake in cheating on me instead of leaving. I’d made a mistake in cheating on him instead of leaving.

I surprised myself by filing for divorce. He surprised me by begging to begin again. The hardest thing I’ve ever done was turn my back on the man I fought for and loved fiercely for many years. I knew though, that every moment we stayed together we whittled away our ability to love.

We both cheated out of fear—fear of being alone, of losing the love we knew was there, of making a huge mistake and fear of leaving the comfort and routine we had as a couple. Mostly though, we cheated because we were terrified of loving. For him the fear was in loving someone as much as he loved himself. For me, it was in loving myself as much as I loved him. But for both of us, it was all about fear.

For six years we walked the tightrope of love and fear and never found our balance. We fell. And only when we picked ourselves up and walked away—each in our separate directions—did we truly start down the path toward love.

 

Why Do Good People Cheat? is the result of a joint call with elephant journal love and relationships. Begin reading their series with  the hit first piece, How to Be a Cheater.)

Read more on Why Good People Cheat on The Good Life.

Image credit: denharsh/Flickr

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About Lindsay Timmington

A recent graduate of the University of Hawaii at Manoa with a Masters degree in acting, Lindsay Timmington is also a writer, director and yoga teacher. Lindsay believes in the transformative power of truth and strives to tell her own whenever she can. She writes at www.shattertheshouldbe.wordpress.com.

Comments

  1. The Wet One says:

    Not to disparage your story, but what the heck has this got to do with being a good man?

    Editors, are you guys still awake or what? Try and keep to a discernible direction please.

    • I believe that men would benefit from understanding what women experience when their men cheat, and why they stay, and what finally compels them to leave.

      • @Justin- men would also benefit from advice on “How to Cheat”- there for a sec I thought we were going to get tips on renting rooms without a credit card…. Or better yet tell tale signs that our SO is cheating on us…

      • Mr Supertypo says:

        I agree Justin Cascio, the life’s of men and women are entangled, one person action influence another. So I find important to see and understand the what women experience when their partner cheat. But I like next time to see also what men experience when women cheat and perhaps even better post a gender neutral article where we can read (some) of the experiences coming from women, men and gays.

        • In order to publish these stories, someone has to write them and send them in. I say this just about every week in the calls for submissions. If you want to see it in the world and it isn’t out there, then it’s on you to make it happen.

          • Mr Supertypo says:

            wish I could do that….

          • Justin Cascio

            You are right, but I feel that you’d judge male infidelity much more harshly than women’s.

            • On what basis? Your hunch is not the basis for such an accusation, and it’s not an argument.

            • Men who pay for sex are looked down upon by feminists.

            • You can’t make a blanket statement like this about “feminists” and it be true of all people in the category. There are sex-positive feminists and feminists who do sex work.

            • The sex-positive feminists who do sex work or support sex workers STILL hate men who go to them. They think paying for sex is unnecessary in this sexually permissive age and the men who do so are misogynists. Even noted authors on this website have expressed their contempt for them.

    • Well Said..

      if you are looking for a conservative voice for men.. i recommend mgtowforums.com. They can be a bit extreme in their beliefs (bitterness) over there, and no women are allowed to post, but there are many intelligent and open conversations available. Give it a look.

  2. Honestly it seems you & the little man were made for each other…
    Hmmm how to say this without possible hurting a third party? , Just for the record how did your ex feel about being repurposed?. Did he feel manipulated and used to be the means of your revenge?
    Were you up front with him vis what your plans?
    Did he feel that sex with you, again, was worth being objectified?
    And if not, what would you call your coercion of his affections?
    Is it appropriate for women to use any old Man who is handy to wreak payback on Men?

  3. @Wet One…My understanding is that the GMP is not just “how to be a good man” but also how we can grow together as PEOPLE and couples; many experiences are not gender-specific.
    @JA…speaking from experience, there are plenty of people–men AND women–who are available for a quick hook-up.
    Lindsay’s essay is about one way that one person managed infidelity, and how that worked out. There are always other players and in the space contraints here, a writer cannot possibly tell every part each person plays.
    Lindsay, thank you for sharing.

  4. @Felicity- yes there are round heels, needy soles, adventurous types and chumps of all sexes.
    I’m looking to learn here…
    A few weeks ago it appeared that the consensus, a GMP, was that coercion, that anything less than complete transparencies vis intent, was being defined as a type of rape….
    Oops but then rape is binary…

  5. @JA…I am not going to engage in the current flurry of debate about the definition of rape and the ongoing attacks on Tom Matlack.
    I am willing to discuss THIS article. You say “I’m looking to learn here.” I don’t know about you, but I learn from my mistakes. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I learn from others’ mistakes. If “others” don’t put their mistakes out there for my perusal, how would I learn from them?
    Additionally, I *feel* that seeing, hearing, knowing, others are working on difficult stuff, alleviates my isolation as I continue to work on MY difficult stuff.

    • Amen, Felicity.

    • @Felicity-
      i’m not trying to be difficult, can’t see why you would engage in a debate w/ me vis this article- it is not yours. The article I recall by you was succinct and unambiguous. in this case i’d be able to come to an opinion if I had a clue as to the ex’s role.
      in re the attacks from the hyper-feminist sector on Tom Matlack & GMP, i’m not going to participate either- I don’t understand it ….
      In re rape- well my beef the past month has been the ambiguity and lack of hard facts in the rape allegations. (that and my suspicion that the prime problem was controlled substances in too many of the stories0
      Because, and this may be a reflection of my age or lack of schooling, my biggest worry with GMP is knee jerk male apology and that a free fire zone of misandry is acceptable. And this is my opinion, not my attempt to stir the pot.

      • Drew, you’re a friend, which is why I’ve tolerated your blanket attacks on the GMP so far, but I need you to explain yourself. You said the same thing on the call last week as you’re saying now: that we’re engaging in “knee jerk male apology.” For what, and where? I don’t understand this accusation because I don’t see it. So show me.

        Likewise your accusations that we’re “hyper-feminist” and “that a free fire zone of misandry is acceptable.” These are attacks on the GMP and in violation of our commenting policy. We want your criticisms, not your labels and attacks. Let’s have a conversation, not lob hand grenades at one another.

  6. @justin- I’ll try to explain when I can not do so on a smartphone. & again my perception isn’t necessarily written in stone..

  7. When women cheat there is always a good reason why they do so. Its usually the man’s who is neglecting her. It usually has less to do with sex and more to do with finding a shoulder to cry upon and fulfill unmet emotional needs.

    • Please tell me you are joking. Tell me you don’t really believe in that Disney-fed, pure innocence of the feminine crap.

    • Come on Alia, do you really think you can say “all women do x” and explain it all? It’s so much more complicated than that.

    • Alia

      Interesting then that women almost always cheat with men much hotter than their husbands.

      If its not about sex, then why this pattern? Why do they always have to cheat with a much better looking, sexier, hotter, sexually virile and desirable men?

      You women folk tend to attribute noble intent to your actions You love to pretend you are morally superior. You have this great need to feel good about yourself and your decisions. And you just lurve sympathy.

      • You’re making blanket statements about women, and you aren’t backing it up with research. How do you know that women almost always cheat with men much hotter than their husbands? Knowing a few women who have is anecdotal, and doesn’t count.

  8. Surprisingly obmon, I actually support Alia….married and having been cheated on chronically until we had to separate for close to a year, I still feel misunderstood. Yes I forgave him and got back with him, but somewhere inside me I feel like I made it too easy for him. Maybe I should have ended the whole marriage altogether so that he learns his lesson, but it’s another woman who would now be benefiting from my generous teaching. So we got back, and I still feel shortchanged. And so I’ve been thinking, maybe it’s MY turn to cheat. Morals, religion and conscience aside, I’ve come to a (disturbing) conclusion that maybe I take this marriage too seriously. And now so many men look attractive potentials to me…this isn’t about revenge, it’s about me healing from HIS cheating…….

    • What the hell is wrong with people.. or is it me? Am I insane for thinking that cheating is a betrayal not of your partner of yourself as well? Am I crazy to think that cheating is a weak answer to a difficult decision?

      Just. End. The. Marriage.

      When is the higher function of human brain developing going to kick in and people put aside pride, vanity, and even love to do the right thing?

      Cheating to heal from cheating is one of the most ridiculous things I have read in my entire life. And I read The Second Sex, so I know crazy when I see it.

      Just end the marriage. Stop playing yourself for a fool and move on. I feel really stupid for having to say this but… two wrongs do not make a right.

    • And quite honestly, think about it properly. Do you really think cheating is going to make you feel better, to heal?

      You will feel worse. Dirtier. Guiltier. Hollow-er. More lost than before.

      • Agreed… Alia, if you feel shortchanged, that your husband doesn’t treat you right, and he cheated on you, GET OUT. It’s foolish to sit around on him because you feel you’ve got an investment in him. You could waste your time, or you could find a man who you don’t think of as a home improvement project that you must jealously guard from the next female.

    • Mr Supertypo says:

      ” And now so many men look attractive potentials to me…this isn’t about revenge, it’s about me healing from HIS cheating…….”

      If you cheat the blame is solely on you. There is no such thing as…he made me do it.

      Beside that I think the feelings you have is possibly one of the reasons some people who got abused, abuse. That what is called the circle: she/he did this to me, therefore I do this to others…..

      Obmon have a point. My advice (you can take it or leave it if you dont like it, but i say it anyway, it may help some others)leave him, if you can stop thinking about it or go to a therapist. Dont ruin your life with cheating, you wont find healing following that path. Others have tryed and all have failed, some even became serial cheaters, and I dont think you want to be one.

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