Could You Forgive A Cheater?

At this point, it’s redundant to dissect the various political sexcapades of late. But all that talk of cheating has many of us civilians looking over our partners’ shoulders. I think every woman cringed a little at the thought that Elin Nordegren, Tiger Woods’ wife, might attend the press conference held by the man that publicly shamed her, and cheered when she didn’t. The same cannot be said for Silda Spitzer and, for a time, Elizabeth Edwards, both of whom “stood by their man.” Now comes news that “Lost” star Matthew Fox might have cheated on his wife of 18 years with a stripper. What would you do if you were one of these women?Most women swear up and down they would ditch that no-good, lyin’, cheatin’ dirty dawg and kick his ass on the way out the door. Would they really though? How can you know unless you’re in that situation? Maybe I ate too many crazy pills for breakfast, but in some ways, Silda had a perfectly rational excuse for forgiving her husband’s philandering. It’s not like he was having a full-on affair. He was paying money for a service designed to provide whatever sexual needs he clearly felt were lacking in his marriage. Doing it doesn’t get much more impersonal than that. I’m not saying he didn’t screw up, but on the cheating scale, some might consider sex with a prostitute merely one step away from getting a private dance at a strip club.

As damaging as any sort of infidelity—no matter where it sits on some imaginary scale—can be, far less forgivable is the premeditated cheat (this sexual encounter usually occurs soon after a couple has confronted the “but we’re just friends,” aka emotional infidelity, argument). The word “harmless” is often used to explain such affairs by the guilty party when they get busted. But no emotional attachment, no matter what the depth, is truly benign, now is it? I mean, Michael Douglas’ infamous character thought his dalliance with Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction” wasn’t such a big deal, but you bet he got the message when that bunny was cooking on the stove.

Of course, some cheaters argue that they’re just not monogamous — in fact, some argue this point for them, in the case of a few polyamory advocates who suggest Tiger Woods should stop pretending he can stay faithful to one woman and embrace open relationships. If this is the case, someone should point him in the direction of, an open relationship site started by Tristan Taormino, who wrote the open relationship tome Opening Up. Tristan, a journalist, sex educator and gay rights advocate among other pursuits, is incredibly articulate and even persuasive when it comes to arguing the merits of the polyamorous lifestyle. But as exciting as all that sounds (why, I’m imagining my potential harem right now), I’m positive that she would never advocate telling one partner you’re all faithful and then boning behind their back.

And as for the Sildas, Elizabeths, and (possibly) Elins of the world, holding their heads high? If I found out my partner cheated on me, I’d be furious at him for not being more honest about his sexual needs. Would I leave him for good? I’m not sure. Drunk make-out a party? Meh. But if he had sex with someone he was actually forming (or had a pre-existing) emotional attachment to? Now that sounds like a dealbreaker. What do you think?