Hi Dr. NerdLove,
I have been a loyal reader of your column for a long time now and always think you give great advice and really get to the heart of things. My question isn’t really asking for advice so much as asking what your thoughts are on something I’ve noticed a lot in comment sections and online discussions, both on this site and lots of other places (and in offline life too)!
Backstory: Ten years ago, I cheated on my husband, which resulted in us getting a divorce. I had lots of reasons for cheating (my husband was emotionally distant, the thrill of something new, the fact that the other person was moving away and there was a heightened sense of “now or never” to it), but the bottom line is that I cheated, and it was a horrible dick move, and although I’m happier now that I’m out of that marriage, that was definitely not the right way to go about self-destructing it. I was entirely in the wrong and I feel bad about it, but at this point there’s nothing I can do to change what happened.
My question is that there’s this culture of unforgiveness when it comes to cheaters, and it bothers me. I know what I did back then was wrong, but so many people act like cheaters are irredeemable assholes who should never be trusted in a relationship again no matter what. Even outside of the dating world, infidelity is talked about like it’s something that is just a permanent moral failure that can’t ever be forgiven. I’ve had friends who pretty much dumped me when they found out why my marriage failed. I’ve had co-workers make snide remarks about me being untrustworthy. I haven’t really gone back out into the dating world (I’ve been happy to be single), but if/when I do decide to get back out there, I’m afraid I’ll be outright rejected because of it. I try not to really advertise what happened, but I live in a small community, so people tend to find out even if I don’t say anything.
Again, I take responsibility for what I did. I would never claim that it was a good thing or that it was justified, and if I could go back in time and change things, I definitely would. So I’m not asking you or your readers to say that cheating is A-OK and I didn’t do anything wrong, because it’s not and I did. It’s just kind of discouraging to think that I’m always going to be seen as untrustworthy and unforgivable for something that happened one time a decade ago that I realize was a mistake.
Is there any forgiveness in society for a cheater? Should there be? How can I address this when people find out about my past?
Thanks in advance for your thoughts. You rock.
Once a Cheater