What is Cheating?

My Ex likes to quibble over little things that do not matter. He has done this throughout our marriage to deflect the conversation from any real understanding of feelings to arguing over semantics.  Think of Bill Clinton’s definition of what IS is and you will have an idea of what it is like to have a discussion with my Ex. Instead of tapping into what a person is feeling because of what they are saying, he argues over the words they use.  It’s very difficult to communicate on any meaningful level with this dynamic.  Connection is almost impossible.  So it is no surprise to me when we talked about his cheating, what that means for me, how it effected me in the past, and what it does to me now, that he just doesn’t get it. He is more interested in the definition of cheating than he is in what his cheating actually did to me.  It is as if he really believes that if cheating is defined a certain way then it really isn’t that bad.  But pretty much all addicts who are not in to recovery think in these black and white terms.  While the betrayed spouse is bewildered that this even needs to be discussed.  It shouldn’t be discussed.  Cheating is wrong on any and every level. Period.  Everything else is just semantics.  All the word twisting, mental gymnastics and fun house mirror contortions won’t change what it did to the heart of the betrayed.  Addicts would do well to understand this and just SHUT UP and LISTEN when their spouse tries to share how their actions made them feel! They shouldn’t try to defend themselves or try to wiggle out of their spouses pain.  They did it.  They should own it. This is what accountability is – owning your crap.  And that means owning what it actually DID to the other person, not what you think it did, or what the definition of what you did changes the impact somehow.  What you think about it doesn’t matter!!!

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My Ex likes to discount all of my feeling with one single sentence, “I guess you and I have different definitions of what cheating is.” This shows the depth of the lack of understanding he has for his actions.  It isn’t about definitions.  It never was.  The reason he wants to define it so he can find a loophole to escape the responsiblity and accountability of his actions.  If he can tell himself “it’s not so bad.” Then he escapes the accountability and, thus, the consequences.  This is why he continues to think that he can just say he is sorry and call it good. (But this issue is for another post.)

Luckily for me, Heavenly Father has done a pretty good job of defining what cheating means.  And his prophets and apostles have taken over to provide clarity, just in  case there are any misunderstandings.  Cheating is far more than just sleeping with someone. Once you have gotten into bed with someone who isn’t your spouse, you crossed the cheating line a long time ago.  Sleeping with someone is the last thing you do on the cheating timeline.

“Heavenly Father’s teachings on the sanctity of marriage, however, remain clear. “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” tells us that “children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.2

The scriptures declare, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14; see also Mosiah 13:22; D&C 59:6), and “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife [or husband]” (Exodus 20:17; see also Mosiah 13:24). Story after story—from David and Bathsheba (see 2 Samuel 11) to Akish and the daughter of Jared (see Ether 8:8–17)—warn us of the destructive results of lust and infidelity.”

When a man looks upon a woman he has already committed adultery in his heart.  That is why the Lord says to avoid the very appearance of evil.  With the advent of the internet it appears that my Ex isn’t the only one who tries to excuse his behaviors as “not really cheating”  so the church published an article in the Ensign to clarify it for these men who stray on the internet and in person and then try to rationalize it by saying they were not cheating. This article is so on point and so timely that it will save your marriage or convict you of your wrongs and get you back on track.  I highly recommend it! You cannot talk to members of the opposite sex behind your spouse’s back, try to hide it, and say you were not cheating.  You were. You absolutely were cheating.

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A friend posted this on Facebook yesterday and I think it gets to the heart of the matter:

“Just need to say my piece….. I am in no way perfect and in no way a saint…… But I have made many mistakes I had to learn from the hard way. I own every single one of my mistakes because I have nothing to hide ……. If you are in a relationship (committed), engaged or married…… STOP doing inappropriate things behind your partner’s back. STOP talking to members of the opposite sex in a manner you know you shouldn’t. STOP CHEATING on them. Have enough respect for the person who loves you too not be tied down by you. Give them the chance to truly be loved by someone who deserves their love. I am telling you the truth eventually comes out….. Always does. If you think this post is about you maybe you should ask yourself WHY you think that. If you have to hide your messages, delete them or sneak around…. You my friend need a wake up call. This is in no way directed at the people in open relationships or non-committal ones…… That is all.”   ~ Crystal Applegate

Speaking of looking.  My Ex looked at other women…a lot.  Right in front of me.  When I would protest he would say, “What?  I just noticed. I didn’t linger.”  But he did linger.  He rationalize. It hurt me.  Over and over and over.  He will never know the tears I shed over his “just looking.”  Hot tears raced to sting the back of my eyes every time I saw him do it. Tears he never saw me shed because he would ridicule me for them because he would say, “you have nothing to worry about.”  Turns out I did.

Had he really honored me or cared about my feelings he would have checked himself.  He would have said that if it bothered me he wouldn’t do it.  He would have said, “If you catch me looking at someone else and it makes you feel bad about yourself then tell me because I wouldn’t want to do anything to hurt you!”

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He flirted too.  Incessantly.  He flirted with women he worked with.  He flirted with friends.  He flirted with women at church.  When I would say something to him about it, he would blow it off as “I’m just being nice! What?  You don’t want me to be nice to people?  Ok, I won’t be nice to anyone.  I will just be all business.”  The problem with this is that he again discounted my feeling and refused to address the real issue. My issue was that he didn’t flirt with ME like that, so why wouldn’t I feel like I was being cheated out of something I saw him give to others?  So yes, sometimes cheating is just talking to other women!  Especially if it isn’t at least as nice or flirty as you talk to your own wife.  When I asked him why he didn’t talk to me like that, he would just say it’s not how really is in private.  But he could do it for them, why not for me? Isn’t it cheating when you cannot make an effort for your wife that you make for other people?  Maybe it’s just me, but I feel when you give someone else something you are not willing to give your spouse, you are cheating them out of the very best part of yourself.  Discounting my feelings was cheating.  He was disloyal in front of me, so it made it very easy for him to be disloyal behind my back.  The article continues:

“President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) said, “One might expect that every marriage in the house of the Lord would carry with it a covenant of loyalty one to another.”5 Renowned marital researcher John Gottman pointed out that “a committed relationship is a contract of mutual trust, respect, nurturance, and protection. Anything that violates that contract can become traitorous.”

Cheating can be something as simple as a disregard for your spouse’s feelings.  When you do not take them seriously enough to listen to their concerns and work to correct your offending behaviors, that can also be cheating.  The point is that anything that leads you to disconnect from your spouse and to move out of the space where you have more concern for their safety, wellbeing and comfort is the first step down the road to infidelity.  You cheat them out of your best self and you cheat yourself out of a healthy and faithful marriage.

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And this is how Satan binds us in flaxen cords and leads us carefully down to hell.  Here a little, there a little.  Step by step.  We don’t normally just jump into bed with someone else to begin with. My Ex’s ability to jump into bed with someone else started years ago when he thought it was ok to look and to flirt.  Sex addiction is usally a life long problem that started long before a marriage even happens. The way my Ex treated me in our marriage is a tell that he had hidden unhealthy behaviors about how to treat a woman long before he met me.

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So yes, dear Ex, you cheated on me for a long time before you got to the point that you were chatting with multiple women online behind my back.  I spent years and years crying tears over every slight given to me by your careless words and acts, which are all recorded in heaven.  One day you will account for every tear I shed. So yes, you did cheat on me more than you care to admit or own, but it wasn’t blindly.  I tried to tell you.  You were just too busy trying to define what IS is. You were not protective of me or our marriage…that is the definition of cheating.

Stay Sweet, Be Strong

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