Every three months or so we seem to learn of another celebrity caught cheating on his or her spouse. To say adultery is an epidemic in our current culture is an understatement. And it doesn’t seem to be a respecter of position. Regardless of what we do for a living (politician, pastor, teacher, athlete, actor, musician, etc), cheaters are in our midst. The question isn’t who is cheating, but rather who isn’t?
Cheating: a price tag you cannot afford
Our thirst for affairs has become so culturally acceptable that throughout most television show episodes, infidelity is mentioned. Not to be outdone, we even have a reality show, Cheaters, designed to reveal an indiscretion and exploit the humiliation on national television. The fact that the series is in its 14th season is an indictment against us. I’m not sure which is more devastating – discovering your lover’s unfaithfulness, or discovering the crushing news at the same time as the train wreck-watching public. We live in a very sad day and age.
I have seen firsthand the destruction of adultery. Cheating devastates relationships and shatters dreams. If you have entertained the idea of cheating on your spouse or significant other, let this serve as your official warning. Your handsome boss, cute office secretary, or sultry neighbor down the street comes with a price tag you cannot afford.
14 things you really need to know about cheating
- You will become a liar. It’s bad enough to bear the title of “cheater,” but if you cheat, you will also wear the hat of “liar.” Cheating cannot occur without deceit on some level and normally the white lies in the beginning become full-fledged lies at the end. “I’m working late at the office tonight” may be a half-truth, but you’ll need to redefine the word “working” to silence your compromised conscience. Cheating and lying go hand in hand.
- You will get caught. It may not be today. It may not be tomorrow. But eventually, your affair will come to light. Your world will come crashing down on you. If you are fortunate, the story of your indiscretion may avoid the evening news or your local paper’s front page, but your circle of friends will know your deeds. And everyone likes to share juicy news. Your poor decision will become as public as a billboard. It’s not a matter of if but when. As the Chinese proverb goes, “If you don’t want anyone to know it, don’t do it.”
- You will disappoint everyone. Everyone. Your spouse. Your friends. Your co-workers. Your God. Your parents. Your nephew. Your children. Yourself. The disappointment you cause will be like the stench of skunks and it will take a long time to remove the smell.
- You will be a bad example. In everything we do, we’re either a good example or a bad example. Cheating in a relationship not only is a very bad example but brings with it a cloud of doubt that hovers over you in other areas of your life. If you cheated in one area, would you cheat in another? Cheating communicates to everyone that you took the easy road, that you were willing to cut corners in your most primary relationship. It reveals that you were not willing to do the hard work and get the help you needed. No one ever admires a cheater. No one looks up to an adulterer. Even if you did a lifetime of good, this one bad deed can erase it all.
- You will lose your moral authority. It’s hard to tell your children (or others) to do the right thing when they know you didn’t. Saying “Do as I say, not as I do” is the fastest way to lose the respect of others. Not only will you lose their respect, you’ll lose yours. Every moral judgment you make in the future will be weighed against your adulterous action of the past. It doesn’t mean you can’t speak the truth in the future, it just means that few will listen to you.
- You will create trust issues for your spouse. Forever. You will single-handedly damage the precious self-esteem of the one you promised to love. Every relationship he or she has after you will be one that they struggle to trust. If that were not enough, you will rock the world of your children and cause them to question the stability of every meaningful relationship they have. For children, their parents’ relationship is their anchor – and cheating cuts the line.
- You will lose your standard of living. Depending on what you do for a living, you may lose your job. Many lose their home. Most end up with enormous court fees since cheating is usually the precursor to divorce. A betrayed spouse has a way of making you pay and that payment is always expensive. Every check you write is a constant reminder of your foolishness.
- You will spend years trying to rebuild your life. Literally years. Even if you somehow weathered the storm financially, you will find it takes years for you to recover emotionally. It takes years for you to restore certain friendships, if you even do. It takes years for you to rebuild your character. It takes years to rebuild trust. It takes years to truly forgive yourself.
- You will lose relationships. Lifelong friends will walk away. Close friends that you have helped countless times will not be around to help you. Even some family members who are supposed to love you no matter what will vanish. A cheater can end up living a very lonely life. It’s hard for many people who used to call you friend to get past that skunk smell of disappointment.
- You will increase your chances of getting an STD. Sexually transmitted diseases run rampant among promiscuous people. But your paramour is “clean,” right? After all, she/he told you so. And if there is one thing we all know – we can trust a cheater and his/her word. As the saying goes, “There is honor among thieves.” One helpful thought may be to assume that everyone but your spouse has an STD. That should curb your appetite for destruction.
- The grass is not greener on the other side. The “grass is greener” idea is a common misconception. Because we have never been on that grass, we assume it must be better than where we currently stand. It’s not. In fact, though it may look greener from a distance, once you get there and make yourself comfortable, something interesting happens: The grass changes color. This usually happens soon after you get caught. You will then see that patch of land differently. You will also have a strange desire for the green grass you left . . . except now it is burned and won’t let you back. The best way to enjoy green grass is to water your own yard.
- Would you want this done to you? Thieves like to steal wallets but hate when it’s done to them. If we all lived by the Golden Rule (“Treat others the way you want to be treated”) most of life’s problems would be solved overnight. Think about this action as if it were being done to you. The problem is that it requires thought, and thinking is often the last thing a cheater has on his/her mind.
- You will eventually regret this decision. In the heat of the moment, cheating appears to make sense. It feels good and sometimes even feels right. Feelings are deceitful. Soon afterward, your eyes will be opened and you will regret that you ever partook of the forbidden fruit. Don’t we all have enough regrets in our lives? Why add another one – particularly one that can only destroy everything you have worked so hard to build? Your home may not be perfect, but it sure beats living in a tent.
- The pain outweighs the gain. No one ever says from his/her deathbed, “I wish I would have had an affair.” No one ever leaves his/her lawyer’s office with a smile, grateful for the experience. No one loses dear friends and is glad to have one less Christmas card to receive each year. The loss is immeasurable. The pain can be unbearable. Entire kingdoms can be lost for a few minutes of pleasure. It is just not worth it.
The 14 points above came from an extremely painful personal experience. In November 2008, I confessed to my wife, children, and church that I had been unfaithful during my marriage. Needless to say, it was the most difficult series of conversations I have ever had in my life. There is no pain like watching people you love sob in tears because of your selfish actions. Within one year, I had lost everything dear and precious to me. As a result of my actions, I have accumulated many scars. But I have tried to learn from each and everyone of them. And I hope I can help you avoid the same painful experience.