I had an interesting conversation with my boss today at lunch. I respect him, and his marriage, a great deal. He's an individual who is extremely different from me, yet I feel that I can learn a great deal from him. And it's not so much what he says explicitly, so much as it is how I think about what he says in relation to my own life.
He's been married for about nine years now, and has a pretty solid marriage. Our discussion today revealed the fact that he shares my attitude towards the one sure-fire way to screw up a relationship: infidelity. I've long said that any relationship I'm in is over as soon as she cheats on me.
But I got to thinking - what is "cheating" really? Obviously having sex with someone else would constitute cheating. But then again, we're all human; and I know all too well that "the will is strong, but the flesh is weak." Is one physical indiscretion really a terminable offense? What mitigating cirumstance might exist that I could forgive someone I truly love? Is a drunken tryst something that would make me abandon someone I really care for? What if the situation were reversed, and I were the cheater?
And how does a non-physical, emotional connection compare to a non-emotional, physical connection? If my significant other were to feel a closer connection to someone else - to share some things only with someone else - how would I feel about that? Is that worse than a physical indiscretion? Can someone cheat emotionally?
I've traditionally been something of a hard-liner when it comes to "cheating". It's been pretty simple in my mind - you cheat, and you're out the door. But I'm starting to realize that of my past relationships, none were tremendously mature. I was never - in all honesty - all that close to them. So it was easy to walk away from the pain and difficulty of loss. As I get older and (hopefully) more mature, I begin to evaluate relationships with an eye towards a longer future - no longer just the college romance. How will I handle the difficult subjects with someone whom I truly care about? How would I like them to handle me, in the case that I'm the one who fouls things up?
I know a guy who was engaged. His fiancee cheated on him during their engagement with another guy we knew. It was a difficult time for everyone nearby. I sat up nights thinking about how I would handle the whole thing, were it me the one betrayed. Reflecting back on that now, I realize that my friend was far more mature than I ever was - because he knew that he loved this woman, and that her poor decision was something he was willing to work past. He never claimed that it would be easy - only that it would be worth it.
I think about that whole situation a lot. I think about how I would have walked away, and become a closed-off, bitter individual had that happened to me. I think about how unyielding I've been on little issues in the past. I think about the people who care about me, and hope that I can learn from them how to look past the little things, and see the true beauty and value of love.