His answer is “Yes.” It is not a word heavy with apology, but a simple and flippant admission. He cheated on someone he loved and wanted to be with forever because he could. Now, onto the next question.
Defined by a cheat, cheating is the “moment you choose to completely ignore your feelings for the person you are with.” It’s not the OED but perhaps the most useful definition. He ended his last serious relationship for “something stupid and meaningless” that happened with someone long forgotten.
But if that is the case, then why? Why do people cheat in 2018? When you can be in open relationships, polyamorous, friends with benefits and much much more, why bother being unfaithful? Research has shown in the UK 45 percent of men admit to cheating on their partner and 21 percent of women. The unsettling percentages tell us that people do cheat, it’s not something that only bad people do. The stats say it could be you.
He doesn’t look like one. Cheats don’t wear grandad shirts and cardigans. Cheats wear leather jackets and have separate phones to keep their life and lies apart, at least, that’s what television taught us. But as he earnestly tells me he is ashamed of his mistake, having “ruined a wonderful relationship for [his] own selfish needs” he sounds like anyone. Like a person who is confused, not condemned.
The cheat thinks it’s down to society as a whole who need to “re-evaluate” how we socialise and not only the fault of the individual. As most of our interactions stem from online platforms, he thinks because it’s been made easier it’s become more attractive. The constant access to “meeting new people and meeting them privately has made it as simple as ordering a takeaway.” You pick what you want and it can be at your door in 10-15 minutes. With a few personal details you’re on Tinder, and after a few swipes and you have a date.
But it’s not a new thing, always wanting more, always wondering if the grass could be greener. He adds cooly that “it’s something to do with never knowing if you’re with the right person as there are so many on offer.” There are always plenty more fish in the sea after all, and conveniently, dating apps position them in one net.
When he talks about the aftermath of his actions he is succinct, “If someone cheats on you, either leave them and make sure they know they’ve done wrong or find out why and resolve whatever the issue is. You have to forgive. Don’t pretend to and hold it over them.”
This gives agency to the person cheated on, it’s their decision to stick with the cheat or not. He brings it all back to decisions, the choice to cheat and to be cheated on again. He insists that cheating is something that happens, not something good, or to be done again, but something closer to us all than we’d like. The proximity is terrifying. But what’s more concerning is his lack of satisfaction. Will he, will we, ever stop looking?