“Once a cheat, always a cheat,” is a mantra that feminists, my mother, my friends and the media have told me time and time again.
When my friend was cheated on by her long term boyfriend eighteen months ago it was a statement that I heard myself telling her in an attempt to persuade her not to go back to him.
When the parents of a girl I knew at school divorced a couple of years ago because of his infidelity I heard other kids at school cruelly say her mother deserved being cheated on as she had lured him away from his first wife. Again that mantra was thrown around left, right and centre. “She should have known better- once a cheat, always a cheat.”
In the wake of the discovery that my own father cheated on my mother ten years into their marriage. I wondered if this saying also applied to him.
Now, only now, am I wondering how much truth, if any, lies behind this saying. Is it something that we just say? Nobody wants to feel that they are in any way responsible for their partner’s straying so do we tell ourselves “once a cheat, always a cheat” to affirm that infidelity is an innate flaw in the personality of our cheating lovers? Is this a means of self preservation to absolve ourselves entirely from blame? I suppose it also makes any infidelity less personal. The problem is theirs not ours.
But what if it’s bullshit? There’s no black and white here, surely? Just because a partner cheats on one person, what is to say that it will happen time and time again thereafter? What if it was just a one off?
It’s only occurring to me now because I am my friend’s boyfriend, I am the now divorced father of my friend, I am my own father. Actually that is incorrect, I was. I have been that cheating scumbag. But I know and I truly do, that I would never do it again.
Can I possibly be the exception to the rule? The once a cheat who was only a cheat once and not always? Or am I living proof that this mantra is flawed?
Can’t infidelity be relationship specific rather than a personality flaw in some?! In a bored marriage. A sexless relationship. In love with another person. Revenge for the other partners infidelity.
It isn’t black and white.
Sometimes there are reasons- which incidentally, by no means do I condone- but they are reasons nonetheless.
My ex and I dated for a year. We weren’t really compatible, he was socially inept, I’m a social butterfly. The sex was below average. He was uptight and cared too much what the world thought of him. I’m comparatively carefree. We had a laugh and he was nice to me and well, well I was bored. That is why I ever even indulged in the relationship to begin with. I wanted some excitement and I supposed that he, would do.
My boredom is also what ended the relationship. We said we loved each other. But I didn’t mean it. I wanted more excitement. I strayed. I’m not proud of it, but it was what it was. A cuddle, a kiss, fumbling, a taxi home, a shared bed, sex. One thing lead to another.
Because my heart wasn’t really in the relationship, I assumed that his wasn’t either. I told him that I had strayed. The look in his eyes told me that his heart had been in it. His big, deep brown eyes, started to cloud with the beginnings of tears. His expression is imprinted in my mind, forever.
The sex had meant nothing but in this moment it meant the world. His world was crumbling as I told him what I had done. He turned his face away from mine as the tears spilled down his cheeks silently. But it was too late, I already knew he was crying.
In that second I knew that I would never walk this road of infidelity again. I haven’t and I won’t.