What constitutes cheating?
My friends and I have tried to answer that question for years. I think we were in our teens, all bright-eyed about first loves and delusional about thinking our first love will be our last. Maybe for some, but that didn’t ring true for most, if not all of us.
We’ve posed questions: What if my love cheats on me? What if I am tempted to cheat? What would make me cheat? (For the record, none of us believed we were capable of cheating. We were teenage girls who were dazed by romance. Why would we ever want someone else?)
Mostly, as a way to reach a level discussion, we always challenged each other: Define cheating. Is it as straightforward as sleeping with someone else, having an affair? Or do people cheat already with the slightest touch of a hand? A meaningful look? Sleepless nights thinking about someone else other than who you are in a relationship with?
When does it start so we can nip it in the bud early on? If I exchange a flirtatious smile with a guy I know, is that cheating? I would probably say it’s harmless, I love my man and that it was just what it was, a smile. But then again, God forbid my man exchanges a flirtatious smile with some other woman (who smiles flirtatiously back), there will be consequences.
It was good to talk about it. Quizzing each other, romanticizing imaginary situations, asking “What would you do if–” questions. How silly. Until some of us were able to live through the pain brought about by cheating, we never truly understood. No amount of preparation can ever get one ready for having your heart destroyed by a promise broken. The promise of loving only you, never wanting someone else, never leaving. All of the above, coupled with the unanswerable question, “Why?” Why would you choose to be with someone else, hold someone else, love someone else, instead of the one you swore to love no matter what? Just, why?
Sometimes you get answers. Truthful, hurtful, like a knife stabbing your chest. Sometimes you get more lies. Other times there is just silence. No explanations, no reasons. Just that you were cheated on. That is the worst excuse. And even after all is sad and done, can you honestly figure out what to do when you get cheated on? Or when you give in to cheating?
Love is still blind, people are hopeful. We can always declare that if we are cheated on we will get up and leave, we will never become doormats. But words are just words. Martyrs are a dime a dozen and a lot would forgive, and forgive, and forgive. Love comes at a high price.
But how can you look at someone, continue living with someone without ever remembering that at one point, that someone who swore to love only you, consciously chose to disrespect that promise? Go on, answer it. There are no right or wrong answers but whatever you contend with, you live with.