I’ve mentioned my love for my stories over at Captain Awkward and Ask A Manager. One reason I’m addicted is because I don’t interact with the world at large very much, and it’s a way to gauge how weird I am against two communities that are more similar than not to my personal leanings. CA is way more left-leaning than is AAM, but both are more progressive than the country in general. In addition, both are filled with passionate, thoughtful commenters (and have strict commenting rules), and even when I don’t agree with someone, I can usually come away with something to think about.
What do I mean about the weirdness? I’ll give you an example. There was a letter at AAM from someone who played a ‘prank’ of locking her (AAM uses the generic she/her unless otherwise noted in the letter) coworker on a balcony right before an important meeting in which the coworker was presenting something. He was let out (phrasing hers. It appears she didn’t let him out), and he waited until after the meeting to go ballistic on her, pulling her away from a client and telling her he would kill her if she ever did that again. The OP (original poster/letter writer) took great pains to say that they had a jokey relationship before this, and asked what she should do now.
My immediate reaction was that it was a malicious thing to do, especially before a presentation, and that she should take her blaming tone and shove it. She was framing the letter as if she had done this silly little thing and look at how he overreacted!!!!! Now, him grabbing her and threatening her is not cool. At all. I am saying that upfront. However, what she called a prank is not cool, either. She locked him on the balcony, not knowing if he might have issues with being out in the open for a long period of times, heights, or not having an escape. Two, she did it right before an important meeting in which he had a presentation. He might have been thinking he would miss the meeting, and that would have been an unpleasant feeling as well. Three, apparently, she wasn’t the one who let him in.
I was really disturbed by how she minimized her own behavior only to focus on his. There were plenty of people on my side, but there were also plenty of people saying the prank was probably innocent, and the coworker really overreacted. I’m not defending his behavior because there is no place for grabbing/threatening, but I can at least see where that behavior is coming from. I have much less sympathy for the OP because who the hell pulls a childish ‘prank’ like that? Apparently, many people, according to the comments.
An interesting difference between the two commentariats is that there are several ‘out’ polyamorous people at CA, and it definitely puts a different spin on relationship-related woes. The commentariat at AAM is very harsh against people who have affairs–both the partner who is married and the other person. Over at CA, the common belief is that it’s the person who’s married who has the contract with their partner, and they are responsible for keeping it. The other person isn’t obligated to honor the marriage and as people are not possessions, should not be the target of anger/ire. At AAM, there is a sizable portion of the commentariat who believe that if you help someone cheat on their partner, you are a terrible person, period. They liken it to being the driver of a getaway car for a bank robber–yeah, you didn’t rob the bank, but you’re helping the person who did.
You can probably guess on which side I am. Full disclosure: I have ‘helped’ other people cheat, once unwittingly and more than once wittingly. In the first case, he lied to me, so I have no guilt about it at all. In the second case, well, it was complicated, and I felt some guilt, but I also was pissed that the other two people (I was involved with both at the same time, so, yeah, complicated) didn’t own their own shit as well. In the third case, I didn’t actually have the sex because after flirting with him for some time, I found out he was married because someone else mentioned it (at a party), and I was mad he didn’t tell me. Had he told me, I might have slept with him, but by him not telling me, yeah, no. Last case, I had an affair in the classic sense of the word, and while it was not a great choice on my part, I don’t actually feel guilty about it.
I wouldn’t do it again because it was hard on me in the end, but I don’t think I’m a terrible person for choosing it. I get that it hurts to be cheated on. I’ve been cheated on (probably. Ironically, by the first person mentioned above, and doubly ironically, with the person I unwittingly helped him cheat on), and it’s not a great feeling. I’ve also been party to an unwanted opening of a relationship. I agreed to it even though I didn’t want it, but I wanted to be the Cool Girlfriend, and, yeah, it was hard when he dated another woman. No, it wasn’t technically cheating, but it felt like it to my heart*. I was never mad at the other woman, however, because I realized it was the choice of my partner to go elsewhere.
I do know there are some people who pursue taken people really hard, and I know it can be difficult to turn down someone you think is hot if they chase you. I know about chemistry that is sizzling and it’s all you can think about it. So, yeah, it’s not always a question of the committed person making a deliberate decision to cheat. However, it is always possible to say no, no matter how hard it is. And, you’re always going to have people with whom you have this amazing chemistry. There are billions of people in the world–the likelihood that you’ll be attracted to more than one is, well, pretty high.
Now, I’ve decided that I don’t want to be involved with taken people, but that’s more because it’s difficult on me rather than I have a moral distaste for it. Here’s the thing. I don’t want someone to be with me if they don’t want to. If I choose to intermingle my body fluids/emotions/life with someone else’s, then I want them to be enthusiastic about it. I want them to be all up in my hoo-ha because they want to be there and not because I’ve chained them down by my words, deeds, or a piece of paper. It’s why I don’t understand coercing someone into staying with you–why would you want a reluctant partner?
I am firmly in line with the thinking at CA on this subject, and it makes me feel better that there are other people who feel the same way I do about a contentious issue. I know the people at AAM would probably think I’m just trying to justify my bad behavior and disdain me ever more for it, but I really don’t think I’m a terrible person for what I’ve done. To be clear, I would have no problem with the spouse of the married person hating me for what happened. But, I would have a problem if the spouse made it their life’s mission to ruin my life. That’s actually something I strongly disagree with the commentariat of AAM. A boss was cheating on his wife in a most flagrant and disrespectful manner. The wife responded by emailing all the friends, family, and coworkers of the mistresses, including an escort, exposing the mistresses. There was a sizable portion of the commenters who felt the women got what they deserve. One person even said that the victim of the cheating (the wife) got to react in any way she wanted, and nobody had the right to police that. Someone else rightly pointed out how specious that argument was, and I would add, what if the wife murdered all the mistresses? Would that be OK?
Bad behavior doesn’t excuse further bad behavior. Or, to put it tritely, two wrongs don’t make a right. Some people rightly pointed out that if they were the coworkers of the mistresses, they wouldn’t want to have to deal with all that personal drama. The amount of people who thought the revenge was justified was depressing. As yet another commenter said, revenge fantasies are best left as fantasies. I also can’t help feeling the response was gendered. Most of the people cheering on the wife were other women, and many of them had been cheated on as well. I can’t help thinking, “What if it was a man who caught his wife cheating with another man? Would you be OK with him beating the shit out of both of them or killing them?” I’m sure the response would be of course not, but anything legal is acceptable or something like that.
Bottom line: If you have a contract with your partner, it’s on them to uphold it. It’s not on other people to hold your partner to the contract. To put it bluntly, your partner is the one with a wandering eye, and they’re the one you need to pissed at.
*Ironically, when I had a chance to sleep with someone else but didn’t, my partner went ballistic that I had even considered it. Yep. It was the classic case of HE wanted to be able to fuck anyone he wanted, but he wanted ME to sit at home twiddling my thumbs, waiting for him.