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love out loud: the time i (pretty much) cheated

Yep, it’s the week of Valentine’s Day, so I decided to get all celebratory and write two columns this week. But I still think it’s a pretty stupid occasion, even if I entirely support your decision to spend it as you will, and anecdotal experience tells me that this is a rather common sentiment. So I decided to write about the least Valentine-y thing I could think of; the time I (pretty much) cheated.

Saying I pretty much cheated sounds like something someone would say when they actually did cheat but are making excuses for themselves. I do sincerely believe, however, that there are people who would not perceive my infidelity as indeed infidelity, even though I do.

You probably know how this is going to start; I was in a bad place. The reason that seems like a clichéd and ridiculous start to a story about cheating on a partner is because it absolutely is, but it’s a cliché for a reason. Namely, that people who are in a good place don’t tend to cheat on their partners. They might not be happy with a relationship, but the decent and respectful thing to do is break up with that person, not to go scavenging for a bit action on the side.

But I wasn’t looking so much as it appeared on my doorstep. Rather literally.

This guy I somewhat knew through sheer virtue of both of us living in Adelaide suggested that we hang out sometime and make guacamole. I have no idea why the intention was to make guacamole in particular, but I like avocado so I was open to the idea. I also don’t generally assume that any dude talking to me has some kind of pants-removing agenda, so even though I was seeing someone, I was totally okay with eating guacamole with someone else.

The guacamole never came to fruition, but he ended up coming to my house every night for a time. My then-boyfriend (fine, it was Bon Jovi) went AWOL to the point that this guy didn’t even realise we were in an exclusive relationship, such was his absence (his dad was ill, which makes me even more of a jerk). It was also generally a fucked up period for me, and with my boyfriend telling me that he wouldn’t want to be around me anymore if I didn’t cheer up every time I mentioned how shitty I was feeling, he wasn’t offering the kind of support I needed (or any, really).

Anyway, I was on holidays and unemployed so I had a lot of time to entertain this guy’s vague interest in me, and he very quickly started crashing at my place, in my bed, creeping closer towards me until the crescendo of the story where I spent a couple of hours telling him I didn’t want to have sex while he tried to sway me towards doing just that. Which would have been a less suspect scenario had it not been taking place in my bed, and alongside a near-overwhelming desire to acquiesce (I was actually writhing. And I never use the word ‘writhing’). It required greater self-restraint than I had ever used before or have had to use since.

So, did I cheat?

Verdict’s out, but in testament to the fact that the only person whose judgment you ever really have to face is your own, this, in my opinion, feels like a definite black mark on my otherwise impeccable fidelity record. That’s because, to me, cheating is essentially anything that you wouldn’t be comfortable with your partner doing. And had Bon Jovi been engaging in some nightly canoodling with a girl who was a bit keen on him, I would have lost my shit (though it was when a friend asked me how I thought Bon Jovi would react if he found out and I responded that I didn’t think he’d care, that I realised I needed to break up with him).

But all my pondering aside, the truth is simply that I was in a bad relationship and I wanted to cheat (and pretty much did) because I was in a bad relationship. I suspect most cheating is likewise symptomatic of a bad relationship, and I’m not convinced that the cheatee should always be let off the hook just because their partner arguably did something worse (of course, there are instances when said cheatees are just dating an untrustworthy d-bag, and haven’t done anything to contribute to their partner’s desire to bang someone else), but why don’t we just end these unfortunate liaisons? Do we want our next relationship lined up before we bail? Do we fear that we don’t like the person we’re cheating with quite as much as those naughty thrills? Do we forget that being single is way better than being with someone who’s not treating you very well?

For my part, I felt like these were two guys, both of whom I thought I liked more than being single, who I needed to choose between. What I eventually realised was that neither of them were right, or even particularly good, for me, but I’m mostly disappointed in myself that I didn’t act in accordance with my values while I was figuring this out.

Cheating has a fuck ton of side effects and consequences, most of them unpleasant. And not hurting another person is a pretty compelling reason not to do it. But if you really can’t act selflessly and be true to another person, then be selfish and think about whether cheating is even being true to you.

(Image credit: 1.)

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