Dec 052012
 

Lately, I’ve been observing – and feeling – all sorts of judgment.

Now, when I’m at my best, I’m almost entirely non-judgmental. I don’t like judgment, don’t like judging people, don’t like feeling judged. The truth is, I think it’s rarely possible to judge someone fairly without walking a life in their shoes (forget a mile). And, what’s more, generally speaking, judging people ends up making me feel worse about myself, not better. So the fact that I’m feeling judgmental is a tell that something’s not right with me.

But lately I’ve been feeling really pissy about two sorts of people. I’m only writing about one sort here – maybe I’ll do the other in a day or two.

I’m unhappy right now with those who judge others. Yeah, yeah – I see the irony. I’m sitting here judging those who judge. I get it. And still…. I had a little back and forth the other day with a blogger whom I like – not a close friend, but someone whose blog I read, and who, I think, reads mine fairly regularly. I think we are sort of simpatico. I like this blogger, like the blog, find it intelligent and hot.

But on this one issue, we come apart. This blogger said something to the effect of, “If I found out you’re cheating, we’re through.” This was a Twitter ultimatum. I won’t follow anyone I know to be a cheater, so much do I disapprove of cheating. And I found myself judging this person.

Now. For years, I was a CPOS. I don’t really have much to say in the way of my “defense.” I was a cad. I misled my wife. I lied, cheated, stole. You will not hear me for a minute defend what I did.

But.

But.

The world is big. Circumstances are varied. And the ways in which people can be bad – and good – are infinite. I’m a little puzzled by a radical, hard, line-in-the-sand kind of stance on this one (or, to be honest, any one) issue. And I said so. I tweeted (twote? twat?), “Not trying to be contentious, but… why judge? Can cheating never be OK for anyone? Many non-CPOS’s still are POS’s.” One hundred forty characters wasn’t enough for me to communicate what I really meant, but I thought I did ok. This other blogger’s answer was, “No I can’t think of a reason to ever justify cheating aside from a multi-year coma.” I read this twice, and thought, “Wow.”

There are so many pieces of shit who don’t cheat, and there are so many people who cheat out of misery, or sadness, or illness, or… mammal-ness, or whatever; there are so many different configurations of relationships. It just seems a weird proxy for basic acceptability to me. And, as the hottest girl in the world (THGITW), other than my wife, said, “Who says [cheating on someone in a multi-year coma is] not just as bad?” I added, “Or worse!”

When I was telling my friends my story, some years ago, I was surprised (and at the same time not so surprised) to learn that virtually all of them had cheated – or been cheated on – once or more in their marriages. These are all people I would describe as fundamentally good, loving, caring people – even good, loving, caring partners for the most part. And marriages that have stood the test of time. And that’s not just me talking. That’s their partners talking, after learning of, in many instances, and pointedly not learning of – and maybe trying pretty fucking hard not to learn of – their partners’ cheating ways.

THGITW had a long list of objections. “What classes as cheating?” “What about the personal differences that make up relationships?” “What about when a man beats his wife?” What about “a wife who has no interest in sex, ever?” She concluded, “The point is, nobody apart from the people in the relationship know the answers.” And this is the point.

I’m baffled – just baffled – by the alacrity with which we feel entitled to judge others, to deem acceptable or unacceptable what others do. Was Bill Clinton a bad man for getting a blowjob from Monica Lewinsky? Do you know what the deal was with Hillary on extramarital sex? By all accounts, Bill and Hillary have a visible, profound affection for one another. When my friend had a retaliatory affair with the wife of the man with whom his wife had had a fling, was he “in the wrong”? Blameworthy? (Incidentally, my friend and his wife are still together and, by all accounts, happy.) How the fuck dare you, dare I, judge them?

So – my fellow blogger with whom I had this back-and-forth, I don’t judge you, exactly, though I find your point of view on this inconsistent with what I think of generally as your intelligence and thoughtfulness. (Is that too harsh?)

To all of us, in the words of some famous dude, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” (I almost promise that that will be the first and last ever biblical quote on this blog.)

  10 Responses to “Judgment”

  1. I might once have felt like the person you had that exchange with. I know that at some point I thought cheating was the most horrible, awful thing. Now I realize it’s a thing. And it happens. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. Sometimes it works out for everyone involved. Sometimes it doesn’t. But I don’t think it’s an unforgivable act or character flaw. But, I do find myself wondering about the adage “if s/he cheats with you s/he’ll cheat on you.” A friend ended her marriage to be with the guy she was having an affair with. Who had had at least one affair before. And they just broke up because he’s having another. I know it’s anecdotal, but it made me think.

    • I think cheating is like anything else. Some people a re pathological cheaters, because they’re scared of intimacy, committed to novelty, or whatever. Others cheat in an otherwise uncharacteristic moment of weakness. And still others cheat because they encountered a genuinely unique, irresistible opportunity, whether long-term (love) or momentary (lust).

      We all know happy, long-lasting marriages that began between adulterers. Why would we think all cheating is, all cheaters are, the same?

      The suitable aphorism isn’t “once a cheater, always a cheater,” but instead, “you can’t change a leopard’s spots.” And then, you need to identify just what the spots are.

  2. No judgement from me! However , I don’t think I could be able to be intimate with someone that cheated on me. I think remaining friends would be an option for sure but I doubt I could get myself to fuck them again. But people change and you never know what life is going to throw you so…
    I think the blogger in question is probably threatened by the sex blog culture (?) , they probably have to reassure themselves that they’re different. That they’re different from the people that get cheated on. That their significant other is different than the people that have cheated and blog about it. My two cents.

  3. I’ve now written my own post further explaining my POV on this. (140 characters does not do this topic any favors).

    http://bilikesscifi.blogspot.com/2012/12/cheating-isnt-sex-positive-activity.html

  4. My feelings on this have evolved over the years. I still have very strong personal beliefs about cheating within a committed monogamous relationship: if you give your word that you’ll be monogamous, then you should keep it. I now understand that there are all sorts of reasons why a person might not keep his or her word, and the reasons are valid for those who have them; for me, however, what you promise is what you promise. If you change or your circumstances change, then re-negotiation of the social contract for which you signed up is needed. Which, again, I fully appreciate is easier said than done.

    But your post was not really about cheating. It was about judgement. If there is one thing I have learned about relationships through years and experience, it’s that no one, absolutely NO ONE, knows what really goes on between partners but those partners. Not their closest friends, not their colleagues, not their siblings or parents. Not even their children. Therefore, I don’t (or in some cases, try not to) judge an individual’s overall worth based on whether s/he has been faithful in marriage, because I can never know the whole story. So also, whatever my personal beliefs are regarding infidelity, I don’t seek to evangelize them, nor – more germane to your post – do I use them as the sole or even important criteria for the value of a friendship.

    The only caveat I would add, though, is if it’s concerning an individual in a position of leadership or trust, and the cheating is impacting his or her ability to the job. If so, the infidelity does become an issue, but only insofar as it effects his/her performance.

  5. I may not judge someone as a line in the sand of good/bad, but I do believe in honest communication with your partner. If a fear of being honest is there, it isn’t a healthy nor matched relationship to be in.

  6. I too used to pass that immediate Black/White judgment on cheater, until I found myself in a marriage with a wife who decided I wasn’t worthy of her time or attention except on her terms. I found myself trapped in a depressive cycle that was exacerbated by her indifference or rebuke to any effort I made to try to discuss my feelings, desires, wants, and needs. I found solace in the arms of others, in the beds of others, and in the attention that I could get from other people wanting me — even if only physically, even with no strings attached, even with no chance of ever seeing him or her again. I almost always felt more lonely after those flings, or perhaps the loneliness felt more acute because I’d had a connection with another person, if only briefly, and I was going back to a situation where I knew that connection had dissolved.

    I’m far more likely to postpone judgment and look to the circumstances of the reason for the cheating now than I am to issue a proclamation and walk away. Learning comes from understanding, and I cannot understand if I do not take the time to listen.

    Stay SINful
    Mr. AP

  7. […] we don’t always see eye to eye on topics. (See his blog post on my harsh line on cheating here). Was I being too […]

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