Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Infidelity: Why I tell on cheaters.

You found out that you have been a participant in infidelity.

Do you speak up or back off?

Before I dive into this tricky situation, I want kiss the ass of my favorite podcast host, LGBT activist, and sex columnist, Dan Savage.  I'm bringing him up because, based on what I've read and listened to, this is typically the only topic we differ in opinion on. 

I'm a regular listener of the Savage Lovecast and I recommend it to anybody with sex or relationship questions. Dan and I have met a couple times: once when I was chucking my book at Aziz Ansari  and again when I cornered him after interviewing Roberta Kaplan so I could give him a copy of Just Another Number. 

All Dan knows of me is my hungry new author, my guerrilla marketing tactics and my clumsy, fangirl nervousness in meeting one of the  few role models I've had.  Dan is a wise, articulate, witty, and boldly unapologetic journalist whose work promotes equality, diversity, fair, humane, and compassionate treatment, as well as free, ethical, consensual love and sexuality. His podcast has taught me so much about organized my thoughts and emotions and handling my relationships. I have felt myself mature into a better person since discovering him a year ago. 
As the feminist offspring of the patriarchal south, Dan is the cool gay uncle I desperately wish I had growing up. He recognizes the entitlement, invasions, and sexual assault that women have been brainwashed to normalize and shrug off and encourages women to stand up for themselves. 

About two months ago, I was sexually assaulted. And about a month ago, unbeknownst to Dan, I was one of his callers. I had just found out that my assaulter had been released the day after his arrest with a slap-on-the-wrist harassment Misdemeanor. I was in this angry, helpless, frantic state. Reaching out to him was a comforting impulse.

To my surprise, I heard my voice on the next episode. Dan's advice was for me to contact the media- to bring the corruption of our justice system towards sexual predators to light. This had been my instinct, but his encouragement was my trigger. I contacted the local news and wrote an intense article about the incident, using my writing skills to personalize my story and guide readers through my journey. Despite the bit of slut shaming, victim blaming backlash, airing the truth was cathartic and empowering. I am now pressing charges and intend to file a lawsuit after trial. The publicity also connected me with other victims, many of which will be joining with me to bring attention to the frightening frequency of unpunished sexual abuse. Although I cannot speak for him, I believe his point was that there is power in publicity. This means that keeping corruption private is a detrimental enabler. 

However, when it comes to a role as the "other man" or "other woman" in cheating, Dan seems to have a different stance. I've heard several people call into his podcast that have found out that they have been the "other" in infidelity. Dan is very ethical with lying and deception. He does not condone cheating.  Like him, I support poly, open, and "monogamish" relationships. I think that monogamy is for far fewer than the people who practice it. I also think that "cheating" should not necessarily have to end a marriage. In fact, I think that one or two cheating incidents in a 20+ year marriage requires incredible restraint and commitment. What I disagree with is his usual policy of leaving a cheating situation, without letting the partner who is being cheated on know. He gives great reasons for it. Somebody's marriage isn't an outsider's business. The discrepancy could be one slip-up that's not worth destroying a family or life built together. The third party doesn't necessarily know all of the details and it is best to safely remove oneself and let people work their own union out.

I want to acknowledge that he is older than I am and has acquired a lot more wisdom and experience. He's been through a marriage and has raised a son. Especially with love, lust, and relationships,  I am open to being wrong. 

However, I have a solid snitching track record. 

I do not participate in cheating. However, I have been lied to and have later found out that I was the other woman. Every man who has involved me in cheating or has attempted to do so has been told on. I track down his significant other, approach her in a kind, empathetic manner, inform her of what's been going on, and offer to show her any evidence (photos, texts, emails) she needs. This has happened a handful of times. It never makes a difference right away. The pattern is that the woman will appear understanding with me until her boyfriend comes home to her. Then he tells her whatever lie he can muster. She stays with him. They break up about a few months to a year later, likely because I was not an isolated incident. She had suspected his infidelity long before I was in the picture. 

Here are the reasons I tell on cheaters: 

1. We should treat others the way we would want to be treated. 
If it were me, I would want to know. Would you? 

2. The worst case scenario far outweighs the best. 
If the relationship is open, then the information of infidelity won't destroy it. If the cheating is not worth destroying the union, then it will most likely survive a bit of infidelity with some counseling. In fact, it may bring them closer together. But relationships, especially marriage, require a great deal of sacrifice and compromise. A faithful partner who wants monogamy may be devoting the best years of his or her life, sacrificing time, money, travel, or career decisions for a person who is not upholding their trust. The cheater is being cruel and selfish. In no way is it fair to indulge in infidelity while their partner is robbed of the opportunity to be with somebody who shares their value for monogamy. 

3. Health risks.
There have been many circumstances in which a person assumes they are in a monogamous sexual relationship and then catches an STI because of a partner's infidelity. Although there is an outrageously  negative stigma towards them, STIs like Herpes and HIV are permanent. 

4. I would behave the same way in any other situation. 
If I saw a guy drug his date's drink at a bar, I would tell her and prevent her from leaving with him. If I saw somebody vandalize property, steal a purse, or kick a dog, I would confront them, capture footage, call the police, or do whatever it took to stop horrible things from happening. Sitting back and allowing somebody to be fooled into a false life with somebody is no different to me. If I see somebody wronging another person, I am proactive in defending the victim.

5. The end of a marriage is no longer the end of a life. 
The biggest worry I hear expressed about telling on a cheater is that it will ruin lives. If a life depended on a marriage, I doubt infidelity would end a marriage. Marriage was once essential.  Men married to reproduce and women married for economic survival. In modern western society, people can go there entire lives unmarried and still live happily. Today's greatest motivation for marriage is emotional support and gratification. If partners are not getting that, maybe notification of infidelity is the push that they need. 

6. We need to stop victim blaming. 
I am really fed up with people blaming the ending on a marriage on somebody for presenting the truth. The cheater is the only one to blame for his or her actions. The "other" did not sabotage the marriage. The person in the marriage did. 

7. The silence of corruption enables it. 
I think we all subconsciously know the real reason we don't want to get involved. Confrontation is scary and unpleasant. We want people to like us. We don't want to be a punching bag. I get it. But that's an incredibly selfish mentality to have. A unified silence protects corruption and allows the perpetrator to continue with destructive behavior because they don't see repercussions. Even if you leave the cheating situation, the perpetrator will likely continue the same behavior long after you. Why not present the victim the opportunity to rescue himself or herself? 

8. The truth always reveals itself. 
Although there are always exceptions, most likely a cheater will not get discovered through a one-time slip up. Most likely, the behavior is a pattern and getting caught is inevitable. Perhaps cheating is a much needed relationship self-sabatoge or the catalyst for some much needed couple's therapy. The sooner everything is out in the open, the sooner the necessary healing can begin. I feel like it's better to get everything out in the open than to let stressful suspicions drag.

9. It is your business. 
Another common argument I've heard about this subject is that somebody else's relationship is not the "other woman's" or "other man's" business. If you are inside of me, your marital status is my business. It's expected for one to disclose whether or not they are committed to somebody, just as it is expected to disclose whatever STI they may have. That is why one can file a lawsuit against a sexual partner for transmitting an STI if they knowingly withheld that information. 

10. Privacy is just an illusion. 
People talk. Stories unravel. The majority of rumors originate from truth. If you are doing something you are ashamed of, you probably shouldn't be doing it in the fist place.
Take some personal responsibility and stop being a shitty person.


  1. Great post, Maggie. You make a great case for publicly disclosing cheating. (7) and (3) are ones I haven't thought of before, as the consequences are societal and go far beyond the individual people involved. Thanks for organizing your thought so well!

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