Dating Don’ts: It’s Not Your Fault He Cheated
It’s not your fault he cheated. (Guys, same goes for you. It’s not your fault she cheated.) Cheating is not the fault of the cheatee. Are we all clear on that? You didn’t cause it. There was nothing you could have done to prevent it. Yes, it was probably a symptom of a problem in the relationship, but cheating is not the appropriate way to handle such problems. People who cheat are selfish cowards.
I say this as a person who cheated once. I’m not proud of it. It happened when I was much younger, when I was too scared to talk about the doubts I was having about the relationship. It wasn’t my boyfriend’s fault. He did nothing wrong. I was the asshole with the bad coping skills. I’ve grown up since then. I’ve learned how to talk about my feelings. I would never cheat on anyone again because I understand why it’s not the right thing to do. It doesn’t solve any problems, it only creates more. I don’t consider myself a dishonest person for having cheated, but I do think I was a misguided person at the time.
I’m making this confession, not for sympathy, but in response to this article I came across called “10 Ways To Keep Him From Cheating.” Making it even more offensive is the fact that this piece was written by a licensed relationship counselor. She says:
“Most men do not cheat because they don’t love you anymore. Men cheat because they want more variety in their sex lives. Some complain of being bored. They want to feel adored by their partners; they want to assert their freedom; they are tired of disappointing you; they want a partner who places them at the center of their life, and they no longer feel like the priority in yours.”
The article goes on to tell women about all the things they can do to keep their man faithful — including “initiating sex,” not being “too controlling” and “learning his love language.”
Can I scream now? Can I throw something? How, in this day and age, is this shlock getting written? How can someone who calls herself a professional say these kinds of things when you can hear this garbage for free from your mean aunt (or whoever says dumb relationship stuff to you during family get-togethers). This is exactly the kind of hair-brained, relationship gobbledygook that gets me all whipped up.
First of all, it perpetuates the myth that men are cheaters and women are faithful. Obviously, we know that this isn’t true. Toward the end of the article, almost as an afterthought, she says: “If you have read this article and wonder, what about him? What does he need to do? I wanted to write an article for women. I encounter more women in pain over their mate’s infidelity than I do men. This is for you.” Oh, the cheater needs to do something? Ya think? What a pathetic disclaimer.
I hate the thought of a cheated-on person reading this and thinking, Oh my God, I wasn’t entertaining enough. I didn’t tap dance enough for him. There’s must be something wrong with me. There’s nothing wrong with you! And excuse me, but a relationship is NOT about entertaining your partner, staving off his boredom and slathering on the adoration so thick that he doesn’t get tempted by someone else. You’re not a fucking circus pony, you’re a person with your own needs. You should always take responsibility for your actions, for the role you play in the relationship, but you should never ever take the blame for being cheated on. Taking responsibility and taking blame are two different things. The difference is subtle, but insidious. Responsibility makes you feel empowered, blame makes you feel disempowered.
I’ve chosen to tear this particular article a new butthole because it was in the wrong place at the wrong time (on my computer screen while I was writing “Dating Don’ts”), but it’s hardly the only one of its kind. This blamey/shamey relationship “advice” is rampant on the internet and in the self-help section of Amazon. I know relationship advice-givers are always looking for new “spins” on a topic that’s been around since the cave man days. Trust me, I get it. I do that, too. But finding new ways to have conversations about relationships should not involve making anyone feel disempowered.
In my opinion, advice is not advice if it’s not helpful, uplifting, or if it’s detrimental to your self-esteem in any way. And shamey/blamey advice is based on fear — tapping into your fear of being alone, which is a small part of a larger existential fear that even if you’re not alone, you are still alone, but we won’t go there today.
I’ll tell you this with certainty: if you’re not empowered in your love life for whatever reason, if you’re doubting yourself, blaming yourself, if your self-esteem is in the shitter because you got cheated on, if you’re trying to tap dance your way to love, you’re going to have one hell of a hard time. The only way to be out there in the dating world is to feel good enough exactly how you are. So, I’ll say it again: You are not to blame for being cheated on. Hopefully, you will hear my voice in your head louder than any blamey/shamey idiot who says otherwise.