Doing something once or twice doesn’t make you an expert. The cheater may have cheated, but that doesn’t make them an embodiment of their action.
Recently I was at dinner with a friend who exclaimed, “But you cheated! That means you can’t love him that much.”
It was as if loving someone and cheating are two mutually exclusive events, as if they are so bizarre and absurd, they must occur in separate, polar universes.
Her reaction clearly showed she believed these actions to be incompatible, that their simultaneous occurrence was impossible. But I’m here to say it’s possible to love someone and still cheat.
The moment you say you’ve cheated, everyone looks at you differently with covert, mistrustful eyes. People stare at you like you’re some pathogen, some sort of monster who doesn’t belong.
I know this is true, even if no one utters a word. Even if people say it doesn’t change their opinion, they’re just being polite. This misconception about someone who cheated has no place existing in today’s world.
Somehow, we live in a society where if we cheat, we suddenly become cheaters. We are branded like cattle to walk the rest of our lives in shame, to be caught in some repetitive cycle where all we do is cheat.
But that cannot be farther from the truth.
The perception that exists is if someone cheats, he or she will always be a cheater. This repulsive label follows you through future interactions, relationships and friendships. It marinates and only grows with age.
I am here to tell you I am not a cheater; I cheated. There is a big difference between these two statements, and it seems like a difference many people can’t wrap their minds around.
This colloquial expression has damaging effects, even if we do not realize them.
It stereotypes individuals into one confining box: as someone who is unfaithful, disloyal, malicious, evil, lustful, etc.
This individual becomes associated with negative descriptions, and this is wrong.
Cheating is not a black-and-white issue, and it is not simple or easy to understand.
The phrase, “once a cheater, always a cheater,” negates the complexity of the issue and discounts the external factors affecting the situation.
People never think about the why; they always assume their significant partner did it with the intention of hurting them. They don’t consider it from the other point of view, they only see it from theirs.
If the person who cheated offers an explanation, it becomes an “excuse.”
People become staunch enforcers of not listening to someone who’s cheated. All they see is someone who’s fallen to the taste of temptation. They do not think this person may be struggling with depression, parental divorces, anxiety, eating disorders, etc.
They don’t consider whether this person kissed someone, cuddled with someone or had sex with someone. In their minds, they’re all fused into one thing: plain cheating.
Not all people who cheated will be honest and tell their partners, but I appeal to those who have had the courage to tell their partners, not the ones who were simply caught in the act.
I don’t see myself as a cheater, and if you have also cheated, maybe once or twice, don’t let some societal expectation define you as a cheater.
Just because I’ve gone skydiving once doesn’t make me a skydiver. It’s the same idea: Just because you’ve done something once, doesn’t suddenly make you an expert or embodiment of that action.
Don’t fall in the trap of doing it again because people expect you to. Do not become a self-fulfilling prophecy. You know who you are, and one deed does not define you. It does not eradicate or change the person you are.
One mistake should not tarnish the rest of your life. It should not become a heavy burden you carry with you; rather, it should be a paperweight that reminds you of what you’ve done, but also how you’ve grown from it.
We are humans, not statues. We do not sit immortalized for years, incapable of change. Instead, we are volatile, carved by life’s trial and errors, mistakes and experiences.
We learn from everything we do and are constantly in a state of rapid development. People do learn from what they’ve done, and someone who has cheated remains just as compassionate, loyal and worthy of someone’s love and affection.
When someone asks about infidelity, do not shy away from the question. Do not be afraid or embarrassed to answer it.
Instead, firmly admit, “Yes, I have.”
What people tend to forget is that admitting to your mistakes takes a hell of a lot more courage than it does to admit to your accomplishments.
Everyone can stand in front a crowd and say, “Look at all the great things I’ve done,” but not everyone can have the ownership and integrity to admit to wrongdoings, even if it was in front of an audience of one.
People can take praises easily, but never admonishments. Be honest with yourself and others.
You are far more admirable to demonstrate responsibility and address repercussions than you are to sit back and pretend like it never happened.
To everyone else, don’t participate in perpetuating this misguided phrase because you become a part of the problem as well. People who cheated deserve to be heard, understood and loved.
Originally appeared in Elite Daily. Reprinted with permission.
Unedited Photo: Flickr/Ashleigh W