Call it precocious or developmentally-gifted, but the first time I cheated on a boyfriend came long before the first time I had sex. I was 14 and had been "going out" with a boy from school for three or four months when I let Matteo kiss me on a beach in Bodrum. On the way back to the hotel room, without the slightest twinge of regret, I texted my boyfriend to tell him I missed him.
Ever since that afternoon, I've thought of cheating as a kind of necessary evil, a part of life everyone will inevitably experience on both the giving and receiving ends of the spectrum – kind of like compliments or STDs, only inevitably more damaging. And let me save you the trouble of fuming over that last sentence, like you're totally impervious to this particular strain of selfish greed. You know it, I know it, your dad and mum know it, all your friends know it and every partner you've ever had knows it. We're all guilty of both of these things, but lying to yourself is worse than cheating.
Despite the fact that hooking up with someone other than the person you've sworn allegiance to can suck for every party involved, it still happens every single day. So I thought I'd share what knowledge I've gathered in my time as a scumbag to help you out when you find yourself on Adultery Avenue and start breaking into sweats about what a despicable human being you are.
THERE IS NO DEFINITION OF CHEATING
For some reason, women and men's magazines have sought to codify betrayal by obsessivey helping couples recognise what constitutes cheating on a case-by-case basis. Some might argue that it only counts as cheating when genitals interact with other genitals, that you can't really define texting multiple pictures of your erect penis to someone as "cheating". "I only had cyber sex with her!" I once heard my sister's boyfriend cry as he was shoved out the door of our parents' house.
This is all bullshit. Anything involving a third party that points out the gaps in your relationship (porn and masturbating are yours to abuse endlessly) can be considered an extracurricular activity. This can include but is not limited to: sexting, phone-sexing, grabbing a boob, grabbing a butt, peeing on someone, anything sexy involving hands or going in for a kiss, being rejected and coming away with an image of a confused, repulsed face and an instant pukey feeling of self-disgust trying to escape from your aching heart through your mouth.
And the fact that you did these things while drunk doesn't make them any more forgiveable. Sure, each on its own might not make you a cheater, but they all mean you're well on your way and essentially that's completely the same thing.
CHEATING ON SOMEONE MEANS THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOUR RELATIONSHIP
When you're in a happy, sexually content relationship, you have no business hunting for fun in other people's underwear. Looking back on the times I've been unfaithful, the only distinguishable behavioural pattern is that they all happened at a point when I was semi-consciously struggling to maintain a relationship that was making me eternally bummed out. Sometimes I wasn't that into the guy I was seeing, sometimes the guy I was seeing had moved country to become a Scientologist. Whatever your reason, cheating can actually be a good thing, because – unless you have absolutely zero scope for self-reflection – it can function as a pretty effective gateway to clarity. As soon as you find yourself aggressively scouring the room/street/gym/toilet for the sweaty body parts of complete strangers, you realise that being used to the way your boyfriend holds you at night doesn't really mean you're ecstatic with your relationship.
DON'T BE AN IDIOT
That means don't tell your friends and don't perv over any of your partner's friends, unless you actively despise the person you're with and your only wish is to humiliate them into a state where all they can do is listen to Nick Drake songs and rarely wash for a month while constantly refreshing your Facebook profile.
All that crap about how the truth always manages to get out is only based on the assumption that all people are idiots who share their indiscretions with other idiots. I have cheated on all my boyfriends. Oh wait – have I? I have? Is there a way for any of you to find out? No, because I'm not an idiot. So don't be an idiot, either. If you have to vent, tell your mum (she has to love you and ignore the shitty things you do because she made you) and if you absolutely have to fuck someone from your shared immediate environment, fuck their best friend in the whole wide world. They always have more to lose so they'll keep it on the DL.
Photo by Flickr user Den Harsh.
DON'T EVER TELL THEM
You're barfing up shameful chunks of guilt and the only thing you can think of to make you resemble a functioning person again is to tell the truth, bow your head and await your sentence (which you secretly hope will be the termination of the relationship because if you liked them enough you wouldn't have cheated in the first place). This way you can move on with your life, safe in the knowledge that you're a decent, responsible human being who might have slipped up once but at least has the guts to come clean.
You are such an arrogant fuck. The only person who can benefit from the truth in this situation is you, that way you can exorcise every trace of guilt by convincing yourself that the only way to achieve closure is to make your lover hate you. Only that doesn't work. They'll never hate you, they'll remain deeply in love with you for years to come and they'll hate themselves for it. Congratulations, you have ruined a life.
THERE IS A MINISCULE CHANCE THAT CHEATING CAN BENEFIT YOUR RELATIONSHIP
Your relationship sucks, but you've both been too busy farting silently into your shared takeaway-covered duvet to notice. Granted, what you've done is wrong, but it's also much more exciting than grumbling at each other throughout weekend Curb Your Enthusiasm marathons and gives you a sneak-peek into what promiscuity tastes like without having to go the whole hog and fuck a bunch of different people.
It slowly restores a sexual confidence in yourself that you knew was there but has just been dampened by years of solely dancing with each other at parties, and helps you feel more comfortable in your relationship. Now add all that newfound guilt and the sexual tension that stems from it into the mix and you're looking at a sure-fire way of stopping yourselves from morphing into a slightly younger, marginally less depressing version of your parents. At least for a while.
IT'S UNLIKELY THAT YOU'LL END UP WITH THE PERSON YOU'RE CHEATING WITH
It really is, so snap out of it. You might be swept up in a typhoon of oestrogen, testosterone and all the other 'gens and 'ones that make people want to do things like present their mouths to other peoples' crotches, but the problem is that all this emotion is blossoming in the driest of climates. It's not love that's driving your hormones, it's boredom and a niggling fear of being forever alone. Plus you're far too crazy during that stage to create anything of note that isn't just going to implode a couple of months down the line.
Similarly, don't ever fantasise about someone who is nearing the end of a relationship. It's just never going to happen. Move on and find someone else to help you fuck your way out of the chasm of monotony and self-pity you've found yourself in. The good news is there's always someone out there. Primarily because everyone in the world cheats.
(Photo by Flickr user Den Harsh.)
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