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Can you be in love and still cheat?

Posted on Monday, November 1, 2010 in Affairs/infidelity, Honesty, Kat, love, Relationships, Sex/sexuality

I’ve been thinking of Garrett lately.

Garrett, the guy I dated for a long time.

Garrett, the guy I thought I would marry.

Garrett, the guy I loved so much.

Garrett, the guy I cheated on.

I hadn’t thought of Garrett in a long time, but while watching the World Series (go Giants!) and seeing more of Ian Kinsler than I ever had before, I had an eerie feeling. Ian and Garrett look a lot alike  — probably not anymore, of course, because Ian’s 28 and Garrett’s a middle-aged man now, maybe even a bald and fat middle-aged man for all I know.

But, back then? He was tall and hunky and sweet and had a gorgeous smile and he loved me and … and I was sleeping with him!! Know how many girls would have loved to have slept with him? Pretty much everyone in college.

So, why did I cheat on him?

How can you cheat on someone
you love?     

It’s a question I’ve pondered quite a bit since doing the nasty deed.

That I cheated is always something that surprises me, like I didn’t even know I
had it in me, like, “Really? I did what?

Another thing that surprises me still is how easy it was to cheat. There weren’t any cell phones or sexting or a lot of other technie gee-gaws that have since tripped
up many a man (women, too, probably,
but we tend to hear about the high-profile men). No, all I had was a phone (at work),
a guy I wanted to sleep with (and, since he pursued me, obviously wanted to sleep
with me) and a plan.

I always had a plan; If Garrett gets suspicious, who could I say I was with? What could I say I was doing? Where could I say I was?

It worked for about a year, and that’s when I ended the affair. Because I wasn’t in love with my paramour (ever notice there’s no 100 percent accurate name for the male equivalent of mistress?); I was just in love with having sex with him. It was exciting and dirty and I knew I shouldn’t be doing it, but I found a lot of ways to justify it.

And I still loved Garrett. At least, it felt that way.

But by the time the affair ended, I had made myself feel so bad about myself — What a horrible girlfriend I am! Garrett deserves someone so much better! — that Garrett and I were over, too. He never found out (or, if he did, he never said anything to me or anyone else).

Did I really love him, then?

Can you cheat on someone you truly love?

Sure, you can lust after someone and fantasize about him and still come home at night and tell your partner you love him — and mean it — and then bang him like crazy. Is that cheating? I don’t think so, but a lot of people  have some odd ideas about what “cheating” is.

But, if you act on that lust, knowing how much it would hurt him, knowing how it may irreparably damage your relationship (although some relationships can survive an affair, I suppose), knowing it could mean that he kisses your cheatin’ butt goodbye (and deservedly so!) … can you really, truly say you love him?

Unless, believing you’re not going to get caught means you’re not actually hurting him/her. Or, you think that it’s “just sex,” not “love” — whatever that means.

Now, I would never cheat on anyone ever again; although the thrill of an affair is undeniably intoxicating, the fallout is ugly and I just don’t want to be that kind of person anymore. Honesty and trust matter too much to me now; I want to give and receive that.

So, can you cheat on someone you truly love?

Have you?

photo © Andrius Grigaliunas –

And, on a totally different note: I know it’s easy to get cynical, frustrated, angry and apathetic, but, people, your vote counts! Tomorrow’s Election Day. Please, vote as if your life depends on it, because it does!

Bring on the comments

  1. brian says:

    No you can’t
    A large component of love is respect
    Not only for the person you say you love but for yourself
    The women I’ve encountered who dabble on the side usually suffer from low self esteem
    Either its been done to them in the past or daddy issues

  2. T
    Twitter: tsquest

    Well, you know the answer to this question, for me, is unfortunately yes.

    I also had an affair and felt very much in love with my husband though I was cheating on him. It does bring you down. It is exhausting and in moments, exhilarating. But then it broke me into such tiny pieces…

    I was droolin’ over Ian Kinsler too. (Go Rangers! PLEASE!) Now, I’ll be seeing him and thinking of your Garrett.

    Honestly, I think when things are going good, we subconsciously look for ways to screw it up. I think we’re scared of “good” and don’t feel worthy of it. Thankfully and hopefully, as we get older, we know better.

  3. Chopper Papa
    Twitter: chopperpapa

    I have to agree with Brian, no, at least love in the way that we inherently in our souls know that we should and can love someone. Just as there are societal definitions to “cheating”, there have also become multiple definitions to “love”. We throw that word around as loosely as we do “yes” or “no” these days.

    I was cheated on while I was married and have been cheated on twice while dating. Though I have never cheated on anyone myself. Therefore, my opinion on the whole topic of it is a tad bit slanted.

    Nonetheless, if love, honesty, and respect, to the commenter’s point, are related then it is impossible to lie to someone and profess that you are in love with them at the same time. Especially if it is crashing into your conscious like a car into a brick wall at 60 miles per hour.

    And I think the ramifications are far more deep than just the end of the relationship. I believe that, many times, the guilt is carried for years and into other relationships.

  4. Honey
    Twitter: honeyandlance

    I think when you’re young and consequences don’t seem real it is easier. I haven’t cheated since I was in college and in retrospect I wouldn’t say I had good relationships with the guys I cheated on (though I did believe I loved them at the time). Now, the idea of potentially catching an STD (or giving one to my partner) would stop me from cheating if I were so inclined – which, fortunately, I am not…

  5. Steve says:

    Kat, I think you have to distinguish between types of love. I don’t think someone head over heels, neck deep in “romantic love” would even think about cheating.

    I do think that people can be in other types of love and be capable of cheating.

  6. KC says:

    I used to think that “Love” meant that you didn’t look at anyone else. You didn’t talk to members of the opposite sex. Blue house, white picket fence, dog running around the yard, 2.2 kids, blah, blan, blah… but since my divorce in 2003, I decided that I must be doing something wrong… Love wasn’t about possessing someone, it wasn’t about controlling someone’s activities so that they couldn’t Cheat. If someone is inclined to cheat, then they are going to cheat. They can say the LOVE word until they are blue in the face. My GF and I LOVE each other. We also love to have a LOT of fun together. One of those things we like to do includes a little extra fun with others… it’s not about LOVE, it’s about having FUN… We don’t have to worry about cheating…
    We love each other… She turns me on… I turn her on… together, we’re like kids in a candy store… So much fun!

  7. fred says:

    I don’t think there’s an easy answer here because “love” is many feelings, for different people and at different times in their lives. It’s a sometimes-silly, sometimes-hurtful exercise to decide for others whether they were “in love” or not when they behaved in ways that you don’t believe you would behave.

  8. The Observer says:

    Please define cheating. I am married to a fun, tragic, adored woman who through no fault of her own is without a trace of libido. For her nothing in any way would entice her to engage in deep passionate, lustful sex with me. And since she tells me that I should find a “girl friend” if I want to partake in sensual erotic involvement–who is being unfaithful to whom? I still honor and cherish my spouse. I haven’t slept with any other woman–but I have given myself permission to do so (as has my wife). So would that be defined as cheating? If it fits, then, yes, you can cheat on someone you love. And still love them endlessly. How that other relationship would look is still unknown. Life is about choices. Cheers, T.O.

  9. Steve says:

    @The Observer

    Cheating would be having sexual or romantic relations with someone other than your partner without them agreeing.

  10. Steve says:


    That seems like a really sane solution, but a tough one for many people to do.

  11. Kat Wilder says:

    Brian — Hmm, well I didn’t have low self-esteem back then nor did I have daddy issues nor was I cheated on (then, that is). But I do agree that respect is an important part of love.

    T — “Honestly, I think when things are going good, we subconsciously look for ways to screw it up.” I do think we are often ruled by reactions, behaviors and patterns deeply ingrained in us from childhood. Too bad we’re no longer kids, though! Sorry about the Rangers, BTW. But, OMG, those Giants! 😉

    Chopper Papa — “if love, honesty, and respect, to the commenter’s point, are related then it is impossible to lie to someone and profess that you are in love with them at the same time. But, don’t we lie, or lie by omission, almost all the time?

    “Honey, do I look fat in this dress?”

    Answer that one honestly when she does look fat!

    Honey — I hope that you’re not inclined because you have a better relationship with your sweetie than with guys in the past, and not just because you’re afraid of getting an STD! But, yes, I think hindsight allows us to see more clearly how truly in “love” we were — or not.

    Steve — Sure, there are varying degrees of love, and I think that happens when we’re with someone for a long time; we move on from that infatuation love to (hopefully) a deeper love, with a lot of fluctuations in between. It’s at those vulnerable parts of a relationship when we’re at risk of cheating.

    KC — “If someone is inclined to cheat, then they are going to cheat.” You said it! And, if both parties agree to what’s cheating and what’s not, as it seems you and your GF do, then there’s no problem.

    Fred — True; “love” has as many variations as “cheating” does.

    The Observer — Gotta agree with Steve; it’s cheating if your partner does not know what’s going on and does not say it’s OK.

  12. Jake Barnes says:

    I’m confused. Why was sex “dirty” when it was with one man and “clean” with the other? You broke up with Garrett because he deserved someone better. Really? Is that you told him at the time? If so, that may be the only occasion in recorded history when that line was delivered in earnest. So Garrett never found out? How do you know Garrett wasn’t cheating the whole time and you never found out? Maybe you left Garrett because he didn’t “sense” that you were having an affair, because in your over idealized conception of love the perfect lover would be able to read your mind. You felt guilty and it didn’t feel nice. Guilt is not always healthy. Sometimes it is just a remnant of an antiquated social structure. How would you like to live by the love standards of Sharia law. In other words, it is a whole lot more complicated than you make it sound.

  13. Henway says:

    Love is a feeling, but it’s also an action. Did you love him when you were cheating? The answer is Nope. Did you have love for him when you were cheating? The answer again is Nope, you didn’t care at all about his feelings, you were more concerned with your own pleasure.

    Love is also something many ppl feel they are in, but truthfully it’s something only a few couples experience.

  14. Kat Wilder says:

    Jake — You bring up some interesting points, but I need to clarify; I didn’t break up with Garrett; the relationship dissolved because, well, I wasn’t present (obviously) and Garrett (no, I didn’t tell him that he deserbved someoen better; what a bunch of crap that is, if someone says that. I said that to myself) was smart enough to know that.

    You’re right; I have no idea if he was cheating. I’d guess not but, well, it never even occurred to me at the time.

    As for guilt — when is it ever healthy?

    Henway — Yes, I was concerned with my own pleasure. I think at the time I thought since he didn’t know about the affair, that I wasn’t hurting him (because I didn’t want to hurt him). I feel differently about things now, which is why I say I’d never cheat again; I’m not that person anymore.

  15. Lindsey says:

    Well, I think we all make mistakes in our lives which we regret in hindsight. But I have to agree with the others…for me, if you really and truly love someone, you don’t cheat. But that’s just me.

  16. Miriam Martin
    Twitter: youshouldknowca

    It all depends on how you define love! There are as many different approaches to romantic (and sexual) relationships as there are people. I think an important key is being honest about your needs and expectations in a relationship, and how you define the “love” or lust or whatever that exists in that relationship. Of course you can love one person and have sex with another … you can even love both … or you can have sex with both, be married to one and love neither! The goal shouldn’t be to fit into some little box of “normal” but to do the best you can to make sure whatever you’re doing works and is healthy and safe for you and your partner/s. Yes, that includes making efforts not to hurt them, which brings us back to being honest about expectations …

  17. alley` says:

    Showing up late to this party, but I’ve been thinking (always dangerous for me). I can’t speak for all cases, but the one you talk about sounds like self-sabotage. I know you say and probably think you had great self esteem, but you also said how great he was and how many other women would have liked to be with him.

    Is it possible that you were a bit intimidated by the idea of forever and so set about sabotaging it?

  18. @KC That seems like a really sane solution, but a tough one for many people to do.

  19. @The Observer Cheating would be having sexual or romantic relations with someone other than your partner without them agreeing.