In the spirit of #MeToo, should we ‘out’ relationship cheaters and liars? I mean, sometimes they can do just as much damage emotionally and mentally as someone who sexually harasses or assaults a woman physically? And like those kind of predatory, abusive men, liars and cheaters often repeat behaviours, so should we share our knowledge with the sisterhood? Or leave the next woman to walk moth-to-a-flame like, into a relationship which is doomed to hurt and pain?
On a recent trip, one of our group was experiencing the raw hurt and healing the wounds from the actions of a cheating, lying man. It broke my heart living this experience with her - she used to be such a happy, positive and confident woman and in her place was a broken and lost little girl…. It reminded me that it was the actions of a cheater which led to one friend taking her own life, another who ended up addicted to alcohol (thankfully now sober) and a third ended up on anti-depressants for five years. It got me angry and it got me thinking...
Actions have consequences, so when will it be ok to call out the cheaters & liars of this world without looking like ‘a woman scorned’? (Which, by the way, shouldn’t be a bad thing).
In the spirit of #MeToo, will it one day be ok to go against the accepted norm of staying quiet, ‘moving on with dignity’ and essentially letting him get away with his mistreatment, only to see him repeat the same behaviours with the next woman in the sisterhood? (*Or man in the brotherhood, I’m just using one person’s story here as my basis, but of course I know that this behaviour happens across all sexualities/genders).
Cheating, constant lying and the dismissal (or labelling as crazy) of those who find out about their partners’ infidelities can cause emotional turmoil and mental distress. Heck, I’d go so far as to say it’s verging on narcissistic behaviour and a form of abuse - and someone needs to be held accountable. Or at the very least, prevented from repeat behaviour in future if possible. Should there be a sisterhood duty to help women in the future? Because all the clichés (and loads of science) show that leopards don’t change their spots.
But no one likes a tell-tale. And of course it’s not illegal - although it is grounds for divorce of course - it’s just incredibly wrong and damaging in a consensual relationship.
Naming and shaming can be dangerous - potentially just as damaging to the original perpetrator - if misplaced, however it can also be a great weapon in protecting others from the anguish of betrayal. I realise that in ‘outing’ an ex partner, we could do more than just ‘punish’ him. We can punish ourselves. We punish our families. We punish his/her children. Friends and family members might lose respect for us. Heck, we may even lose respect for ourselves if we try to avenge the wrongs in this way (if we haven’t lost all self-respect and self-worth in the process of his lies). But it’s important not to debase ourselves as we heal from these kinds of wounds. The perpetrator still deserves respect as a human being, no matter his/her actions. He or she isn’t completely soulless or subhuman, however it’s not the victim’s job to understand or heal his behaviours. Just to escape them.
Nonetheless, when I shared this conundrum recently with a group of strong females, I was astonished to learn that so many of them reacted with eye rolls and voiced a worryingly normal acceptance of cheating and lying as something which ‘happens to the best of us’.
Really? Is that it? Is it ok to normalise your partner (or an ex) choosing strangers, prostitutes and/or quasi-acquaintances for intimacy than reaching out to his/her partner? Repeatedly. Choosing to keep secrets and tell multiple lies to cover his external relations under the guise of charm and friendliness? Betraying his partner on so many levels to cause hurt and anguish so deep that it causes feelings of worthlessness and despair, no matter how many people tell the victim that it’s not her fault.
It is fundamentally wrong when these behaviours are normalised and accepted - heck I’ve even heard stories where the (repeated) cheating was labelled as an ‘accident’. No sir. Falling off your bike is an accident, falling into another woman’s vagina is pretty pre-meditated and involves several layers of conscious decision-making.
The damaging impact of cheating behaviour goes way beyond songs about broken hearts. Trust is irrevocably damaged - and not just with the cheater him or herself, but with any future partner until it is gently built back up. I've personally witnessed suicide attempts, and long periods of depression and complete personality changes among my female network following a lying, cheating man's behaviour. I’m no psychiatrist, so I can't diagnose a narcissist/co-dependent relationship or other psychological labels... and of course every situation is different - some couples even survive infidelity - but in my mind, this is not a mental health issue on the part of the victim, it’s a dealing-with-a-C-Word issue. And I flippin’ loathe people like that.
So in the meantime, here’s to winning by loving ourselves and reclaiming our identities; and by realising and repeating that we deserve better. We need to learn to never stop putting our own truth first and, once anger is spent, we should use any leftover rage from the revelations to propel us forward. In acknowledging our own truth and in putting it first, we realise that with it, comes a responsibility to help others.
So I say, call them out. #MeToo