Wednesday, January 7, 2015

There's Black & White, but Also Grey

Have you ever been asked to define cheating?

Until last week, I hadn't either. And until I was asked, I really hadn't ever thought about it. But being that it was my homework from therapy, I have been thinking about it a lot. 

What is cheating

For me, part of the definition of cheating came easy. Is intercourse cheating? Yes, of course. Is oral sex or erotic touching cheating? I believe it is, yes. Is kissing cheating? Yes, I think it is. 

Is flirting cheating? What about texting? What about hanging out? Is spending quality time together cheating? What about paying someone's bar tab, or dancing with someone at a club? Is letting someone buy you a drink cheating? What about snuggling through a movie?

Lines. Officially. Blurred. Open for interpretation, right?

Not all relationships are the same. Some of you reading this may have even already disagreed when I said I thought sex was cheating. Maybe you're in an open or undefined relationship; maybe you're in a non-traditional one. So maybe intercourse with other people isn't cheating for you. Basically, we're not all the same, and we're not all in the same relationships, so it's unfair of me to make assumptions and it's unrealistic for me to pass judgment.

I'll give you an example. I once (not too long ago) made out with a man who is in a relationship. *gasp* And I didn't feel bad about it because at the time, I actually didn't know about the girlfriend. But later, after learning of her, I still really didn't feel bad. But then I felt bad for not feeling bad - like I should have felt some guilt but didn't. So I chatted with him about it, and he explained that between the two of them, they don't have the same boundaries I would expect of a relationship, so I didn't need to feel bad. After all, he sure didn't. This was new for me, so I brought it up to my therapist, who validated that I had no obligation to feel guilty, or to feel responsible for feelings that weren't my responsibility. I'm single. I can make out with whomever I want; I don't need to feel any obligation outside of that. And honestly, I don't. Nobody was lying, nobody was acting shady; everyone had told the truth, so really, why would I need to feel bad? Her words were very validating: You are not responsible for the behavior or the relationships of anyone but yourself; you don't need to feel any responsibility for someone else. Touche.

I bring this up because people tend to get extremely judgmental of other people's relationships, and it's not a fair thing to do, because there is no set definition of the word relationship. What is appropriate to me in a relationship is not a universal or gospel truth. As I have written in the past, I tend to be relatively jealous, and therefore I may believe that lines are crossed at a much more innocent level than other people. And that's fine. It's also nobody's business outside of the people who I date, with whom I need to have that level of trust. The same is true both ways; I need to remember that it's not my place to judge, nor is it my responsibility to feel guilt, for someone else's behavior. The boundaries that you put in place for your relationship are not up to me, and I don't need to have an opinion of them.

People have tendencies to be very firm in their opinions, and to argue that they are right and if you disagree with them, you're wrong. It just isn't like that. Relationships aren't like that. Life isn't like that. Personally, I think sex is cheating - but I do know people who don't think so. Would I date someone who doesn't think sex is cheating? No, because I think it is. But I also don't need to debate with them about why I'm right and they're wrong. In their life, in their relationships, they're right and I'm wrong. Why fight about it?

Besides, shouldn't we really all just be having a little bit more sex anyway? It's more fun than arguing...