1. “It just happened. We didn’t plan it.”
Every excuse for cheating sucks, but this is my “favorite.” For people in monogamous relationships, this is the cheater’s equivalent of “Oops!” or the Steve Urkel catchphrase “Did I do that?” Yes, you did do that, and it doesn’t matter if it was planned, a space shuttle launch or the Normandy Invasion. Lots of things that aren’t planned still happen — like Kimye — and that doesn’t make them morally inculpable for being spontaneous. (Besides, it’s not like you slip on a banana peel and into someone’s vagina.) Yesterday, I ate three microwave dinners and a reheated hamburger out of my fridge, and I didn’t plan that. No one ever expects binge eating. But I still ate them and the food is still gone — just like every relationship that ends with this statement. The best you can do is recognize that unplanned actions still have consequences and own up to your mistakes. Next time, you’ll shoot that spontaneous infidelity in the head before it ever happens. Mazel tov.
2. “If you’d had sex with me more, I wouldn’t have had to cheat.”
This is a classic Cheating Excuse, a veritable Hail Mary of post-infidelity douchery. The logic is that because this person hasn’t has sex with you in X number of days, that entitles them to have sex with whomever they want. They feel like someone in a Volkswagen commercial. If you really wanted that car, you would have licked its handle to mark it as being yours.
And reader, I’ve actually heard a version of this one. It was at the end of my longest relationship, and when he cheated, we hadn’t had sex in some time. He was working all the time, and I’d foolishly enrolled in all the hardest undergrad classes I could think of — all at the same time. In full-on Rory Gilmore mode, I was always studying, thinking about studying or passing out from studying too much. I gained weight from consuming my feelings in junk food form, and we both became irritable all the time — due to our respective miseries. Of course, the sex was the first thing to go, but that was a symptom of our larger problems, ones that aren’t solved by cheating. That’s like putting out a fire with napalm.
When we eventually broke up because of his infidelity, he used the sex as the straw man to argue against. But how’d the straw man get burned? All this excuse does is show that you’ve got problems, and rather than fixing them, you were boinking other people. It’s hard to fight for your partner if you have your dick in someone else.
3. “Our relationship’s been terrible for years, anyway.”
Of all of the cheating excuses, this is the one I have the most sympathy for — because I know firsthand that bad relationships can be lonely as hell. You feel like you’re alone, and you don’t know why. You’re always with this other person, but their company doesn’t make you feel less alone. It makes it worse somehow. They’re okay and they’re not a serial killer or anything, but you always fight and you don’t seem to make each other happy. People stay in these kinds of situations because they, deep down, care for and respect this person and don’t want to hurt their feelings by breaking up with them. They don’t want to be the bad guy, and being sexually and emotionally dishonest is the path of least resistance.
But the thing is: you’re not doing someone a favor by staying with them, and, by trying to protect their feelings, you’re doing them more damage in the long run anyway. Look at all of those people who told Scarlett Johansson she could act, and the monster they’ve created. It might be painful in the short term (and it’s certainly worse than ripping off a band-aid), but you’ll feel a lot less bad than when they find out you’ve been lying to them. Watch Fatal Attraction and learn from Michael Douglas’ sexual misadventures, young grasshopper.
4. “We were drunk, and it was a mistake.”
I’ve seen Flight, and I know a lot bad decisions happen under the influence. If everyone made great choices when they were smashed, Mel Gibson would have a much better public reputation right now. But contrary to popular belief, when we are drunk, we still have to live up to certain accepted norms of behavior. You aren’t allowed to punch anyone, kill someone, run someone over with a car, operate heavy machinery or unzip your fly and play Willy Banjo in public. All of these things will still have real-world consequences when you are sober — like death, prison or a coveted spot in the Sex Offender Registry — and it might have been a mistake, but it doesn’t let you off the hook for the damage done.
5. “You wanted to. I just beat you to it.”
I don’t understand. Is infidelity a race? Is there a way to win at cheating? Do you get some sort of prize or gold metal when you win at being a douche? If so, great. You win. You’re the champion of being an asshole. Let the bells ring in your honor and confetti fall from the skies, O’ Douche King.
And yes, I want to cheat all the time — not in the “actively-seeking-to-have-sex-with-other-people way,” but in the “hey-they’re-cute-but-darn-I’m-taken” way. I look, even when I say I’m not looking, but looking doesn’t mean touching. We’re human, and we’re tempted by other possibilities, but exercising our humanity means not taking every single opportunity that we come across and respecting the people we’ve chosen to stand by. What makes you better than your basest instincts is realizing you could cheat five ways to Sunday and not doing it.
6. “It didn’t mean anything” or “I’m not in love with him/her/gender neutral pronoun.”
This is a ridiculous statement that boggles my mind — because it equates having sex with blowing your nose or accidentally ordering a Coke when you meant a Diet Coke. Sex means something, even if it’s just a fling. Sex communicates a desire and a message to another person, and sex outside of your relationship absolutely means something to the person who is still in it. Just because your coitus wasn’t a grand declaration of love besotted with Shakespearean sonnets doesn’t mean it wasn’t meaningful.
7. “It’s your fault, because _________.”
No. No. No. No. No. Repeat after me: “Someone cheating on me is never my fault, ever.” There’s no excuse for cheating, and you can’t force someone to cheat, unless you chain them to Beyoncé like in a pornographic redux of Black Mama, White Mama. Cheating is never the fault of anyone but the person who is doing the cheating. (Would you blame an old lady for getting her purse stolen?) You aren’t someone’s Mom, you don’t pick out their clothes and you don’t make their decisions for them. It’s no one’s mess to clean up but their own.
8. “Everyone cheats. I just got caught.”
One half of this statement is true, and the other one is an oversimplification. Yes, an alarmingly large percentage of people cheat, and a majority of people will be unfaithful at some point in their lives. But that’s like saying, “Hey, that guy over there shot someone in the face. Where’s my Uzi?” We shouldn’t aspire to the lowest behavior of other people or use their poor judgment as a blanket for our own — or Michelle Bachmann would have been elected president. We should learn from the decisions of others and hold ourselves to a higher standard. Gandhi once said that we should “be the change [we] want to see in the world.” I’ll counter that. We should be the change we want to see in our bedrooms.