THE CHEATER'S BLUES

If you’ve been cheated on, one thing that can help you recover is to consider that the cheater often does not emerge unscathed. You can also gain perspective by looking at both sides of a story, as we did with the process of breaking up. So let’s enter for a while into the cheater’s fate.

Now it’s obvious that garden-variety two-timers, when they get nabbed, can lose a great deal. They may be ejected from a whole life that they didn’t want to leave: may lose partner, friends, good name and various other assets. But even what I called the “well intentioned” cheater—the one who stumbled accidentally onto a new relationship, and left voluntarily—can sustain serious losses.

And of those losses, the ones that interest me right now are emotional and spiritual.
So here are a few reflections on the surprising price paid by the unfaithful.



The Lover’s reward
Unfortunately, when you cheat you draw your lover, even if he is unattached, into the same now-tarnished universe that you share with your spouse.
Firstly, when you “lie” with the other man, he is drawn into the same lie that you are telling. And from his point of view, he is betraying another guy. Usually he doesn’t hear that guy’s side of the story, and he may not want to, because we can more easily ignore feelings that we don’t directly witness. The people we interact with are real, and everybody else somehow isn’t.

Secondly, cheating inadvertently demonstrates the same thing to your lover that it will eventually demonstrate to your spouse, if and when they learn the truth. It embeds in your lover’s mind a perfect movie of your ability to stray and lie about it. He now has road-tested your unreliability, as if to prepare himself for the time when he will be the one flung out of the car.

The general effect of both these points is that the one you cheat with may have more trouble in the future trusting either gender, and in particular, you.
And that’s your first problem: you’re responsible for that.

The cheater
Now what are the direct effects on the cheater?
Just to spread blame around evenly (and to keep the pronouns simple), let’s make it a guy this time. Assuming he has half a heart, he is going to have a truckload of ills.
Beginning when the affair is still a secret, he will feel guilty.

When he is with his lover, he’ll feel guilty because he has to leave her too soon. When he is with his partner, he’ll feel guilty because he is holding a secret she doesn’t know. This will be especially bad when his partner is behaving really well, when she is being loving or playful or in other ways trusting. Even though she isn’t damaged yet in her own eyes, she is damaged in his, and this is an awful thing for him to carry around, a strange kind of sad horror. He may also feel weak and cowardly, because he hasn’t told her, because she doesn’t deserve such treatment.

And after the split hits the fan and it’s over, he’ll have plenty more reasons for guilt, especially if there are children involved.

Then there’s strayer’s remorse. This happens when the blush comes off the new rose and suddenly a fella realizes that the old rose was rather nice. The old rose didn’t have so many thorns as this tangled new one, and it had a pretty amazing red color that, come to think of it, endured through the years and reblushed itself often.

The grief of a man who sits in a parking lot in the rain because he doesn’t want to go home to his new love and can never go home to his old love, is a fine thing to contemplate.
The thing is, the person he wants to return to has done no wrong.

Like a screen idol who died young, she remains unsullied forever; she reigns in the memory and is burnished by the rag of his own mistake. No distance is so cold and unconsoling as the distance one created oneself.
How about trust? Oh yes, the liar’s blues are all about trust.

Deep down, the poor rogue has to doubt himself. Every time he gets involved with a new woman, he has to wonder in his bones, “Do I really mean it? Am I going to leave this one too? Do I buy my own line of malarkey?”
In his own eyes he has become a slightly shoddy product, a tarnished gold piece.

Plus he has begun to carve a groove in which he now can more easily skate. The term “karma” is often taken to mean that what goes around comes around, and the guilty will be punished, if not in this life (where it seems a lot of them thrive), then in the next. But there is a more profound, and more chillingly plausible, sense of karma. That is, that the actions we choose in our lives make it more likely that we will choose similar actions in the future. If you drink alcohol in a moment of despair, you make it more likely that you will
drink again, and deeper, when you’re down. If you shy away from the thing you really want to do, if you balk because it is too scary, you are more likely to chicken out in the face of the next challenge.

If you compromise your integrity in little things, you are more likely to compromise it in big ones.
If a man leaves a worthy woman for someone else, if he breaks someone’s trust, he is more likely to see himself as someone who does that kind of thing, and that will make him less convincing in the nobler
role he may want to play. Less convincing to himself, and therefore less convincing to the one he may need most to impress, the worthy woman down the line that he is most desperate to win.

If he can’t trust himself, imagine another problem his karma may bring him in the future—how is he going to trust any woman? Lastly, in our inventory of the cheater’s problems, we can’t neglect our old friend the ego.

The ego may well have seconded the cheating.

Cheating avoids the risk of commitment. And it resets the meter of intimacy, by which I mean that a new person doesn’t know you yet, and you escape from the growing knowledge of the old person. All of which the toad applauds. (To be known, it likes to say, is to imperil one’s dignity.)

So at the big meeting, the toad voted for making a break and seducing a new person; and therefore the toad may be feeling his oats, or his dead flies, and may get a little swelled up. He may congratulate himself on having the power to hurt other people, the blade to cut a wide swath through the trusting population. He may whisper in his owner’s ear: you are the Lothario, you cain’t be tamed by no woman, you can do as you please. “Guard your daughters,” he croaks in the night to all the farmers whose houses lie by his swamp.
Then we get a small-time felon, a man who cheated, who is no longer in charge of his own life. He has a new, badder boss: a toad dressed as a buccaneer.

And if anything is bad karma, that is.




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