Cheating: What is it?
Kitty and Ritchie had a typical Bowdoin relationship. They
had been hooking up pretty regularly for two or three months, usually
once a weekend when there had been a party at Ritchie's house. They had
pleasant conversations during the day and no awkwardness the morning after
a sleepover, although they had never been on a date and didn't refer to
each other by any sort of label like "boyfriend" or "girlfriend."
But after the night that Kitty walked in on Ritchie hooking up with another
girl, he could not understand why she was so upset and accused him of
cheating. Unfortunately, what is and what is not is often unclear. So
this week, I investigate WHAT IS CHEATING?
In many cases, cheating is easily defined. Jackie called
herself Frank's girlfriend, so when she slept over at another guy's house,
it was clear she was cheating. On the other hand, when Dave went home
with someone else, Lily couldn't call it cheating because she and Dave
had really only hooked up a few times and sporadically at that.
But what about more ambiguous circumstances, such as Kitty
and Ritchie's? The two hadn't discussed the parameters of their relationship,
or whatever it was. At the same time, the fact that they had a routine
established over a significant period of time means that Ritchie's actions
would certainly affect Kitty.
Does merely "affecting" someone constitute cheating?
Because if this were the case, whenever a person hooked up, he or she
would be cheating on anyone who could have a crush on him or her at the
time. Knowing that another person likes you can't be called cheating.
However, it is pretty clear that Ritchie was, in some form,
disrespecting Kitty. If trust and respect are the foundations of a true
relationship, then cheating is an act of dishonesty and disrespect. Too
often such actions are excusable under the auspices of an "undefined
relationship." But regardless of definition, if two people have any
sort of understanding, even if it is only based on routine, breaking it
is a breach and is cheating.
Caitlin comments, "If you hook up with someone four
times in a row, it's definitely something. Three times and it's still
random, but four means that it's known you will go home together. It doesn't
have to become a relationship after four; it can stay as just a hookup.
But there would have to be a definite end before one person could really
start with someone else."
Dave agrees. "Yeah, after three it's just like I know
I can go home with her. So if she left a party with some other guy I would
be upset, no doubt. I know she's not my girlfriend, but that's still not
okay- I still expect her to respect me."
Research and experience have yielded some more truths about
cheating. First of all, it is impossible to cheat on an ex-boyfriend or
girlfriend. Of course it is certainly possible (and quite tempting, really)
to break bonds of trust and respect once a relationship has ended. But
when a relationship is over, it's over. The people who look upon their
ex-boyfriends' consequent hook-ups as cheating are slightly delusional.
That said, there are a great many ways to disrespect an
ex, especially by badmouthing them to consequent hook-ups and significant
others. This is really quite un-called-for and the fact of the matter
is, it's just plain cruel. People who do such things should probably be
punished by lethal injection.
I have also found that it is extremely possible to cheat
on someone with an ex. For unknown reasons, some people believe that once
a relationship has ended, the exes are free to hook up with each other
indefinitely and without consequence. This is wrong, especially in the
case of people with a relationship at Bowdoin who hook up with ex-boyfriends
or girlfriends from home. It is not all right to claim that hooking up
with an ex-boyfriend is not cheating. It may, in fact, be far more harmful
to one's current relationship than if it had been an utterly random hookup.
If one wants to get back together with an ex, he or she should break off
the current relationship cleanly and honestly before going back. Doing
otherwise would be unnecessarily hurtful and unfair.
Cheating doesn't usually happen without involving a hookup.
As Carrie says, "You can't really cheat by just talking to someone
else." She is right, except that relationships do have a sort of
intimacy that goes deeper than sex. Achieving that sort of familiarity
or confidence with someone other than one's boyfriend or girlfriend may
be construed as cheating, and in some cases, it is rightfully so.
Consequently, while we all know cheating is bad, we may also find ourselves guilty of it by lack of clarity. So here it is, spelled out again: cheating may be defined by a display of disrespect and/or dishonesty towards someone who is not wrong to expect you to privilege them over another person, for whatever reason. It is never warranted and rarely justifiable. In keeping with the spirit of the holidays, I will conclude by reminding you to do unto to others as you would have them do unto you.