Is cheating a mistake?
Or is it a choice?
Most people can agree that cheating is wrong. A lot of people get hurt, not least of all the person being cheated on.
Some say that cheating is always a choice. That people know better and could make better decisions so as not to hurt those they claim to love and care about.
But is there ever a scenario where cheating is just a mistake? After all, isn’t a mistake simply a bad decision?
Can cheating ever be called a mistake for the very reason that someone didn’t know how to handle the feelings they were experiencing or the situation they were in and ended up being unfaithful because of it?
This isn’t to say that cheating is ever excusable. Cheating will always be wrong because of the lack of respect it shows and the pain it causes others. But that doesn’t mean the steps leading up to it are always as clear cut as we like to think.
Do the lines ever blur between making a mistake and making a conscious choice when it comes to cheating?
We’re playing devil’s advocate today and putting some points to you that look at whether cheating is a mistake or a choice.
Keep reading to see if you agree.
Can someone just lose control?
Is it still a conscious choice if you don’t remember it happening? It’s tricky to distinguish between choosing to cheat and mistakenly doing it when you can’t actually remember how you reached that point.
Many people have experienced times when they’ve had one too many drinks and can’t remember parts of a night out. For some, this can go to extremes and turn into blackouts where they don’t recall anything at all.
So, if you cheat during an occasion like this, can you be accused of making the conscious choice to do so?
Making a choice suggests weighing up different options and choosing one of them, but if you don’t remember that process, chances are you were cognitively impaired to the point where weighing things up was simply not possible.
You can argue that if a person cheats while they’re drunk, then there must have been something inside them that would motivate them to be unfaithful in the first place, and therefore it’s still a choice in its own way.
But can you think of a time when you’ve done something that was completely out of character, that you would never do normally and can’t explain?
The line between genuine mistake and bad choice becomes hazy when the cheater themselves can’t remember it happening. It was a bad mistake to happen, and in this scenario, can it ever be just that?
What if they were seeking comfort?
At times, relationships can be lonely. As upside down as that sounds, if a relationship isn’t going well, you may miss the comfort of having someone to share moments of closeness with if you can’t do that with your partner.
If someone appears unexpectedly to give the attention and comfort a person has been missing, you can see how this could quickly escalate into a more serious situation without the original intention of anyone being unfaithful.
You could argue that a cheater knows what they’re doing is wrong and is therefore making the choice not to stop when they know they should. But if you’ve found comfort in someone else and never intended to be unfaithful but somehow got caught up in the connection you’ve developed, then is it a choice to cheat or has the cheater made the mistake of being naive about what would happen?
Enjoying the attention from someone else may not feel like cheating at first and could be hard to give up when the distance with a partner seems too wide to fix.
The right thing to do would be to work on bridging the gap in your relationship, rather than finding comfort elsewhere. But the choice to enjoy someone’s company, especially if it starts off innocently enough, makes the line between conscious choice and unfortunate mistake a little harder to distinguish.
What if you don’t know how to communicate?
Cheating can occur when there’s a lack of communication in a relationship. Talking through your issues and working on understanding each other better can feel much harder for some than burying their problems in short-lived enjoyment with someone else.
The hard task of communicating how you feel and listening to your partner might be too uncomfortable and too difficult for some. Not knowing where to start can mean it never happens at all.
Some people have never learned the skills to be able to identify and communicate how they feel. It doesn’t always come naturally, and if you’ve never been in a situation where you have to be vulnerable in that way, it can feel impossible to do so.
Not communicating might not feel like a choice for some. Cheating could become an inevitable outcome as a couple drifts further and further apart.
It’s certainly a mistake to end a relationship this way, and it doesn’t always mean that one half of the pair is consciously choosing to cheat. They’re making the mistake of burying their head in the sand rather than putting in the work to maintain a healthy, lasting relationship.
Pressure can make you do crazy things.
Stress and pressure can make people do irrational things.
Choices that they would never have made normally somehow feel reasonable when emotion clouds your judgment.
If one partner is feeling trapped by the expectations of their relationship, they could find themselves doing the opposite to what they know they should as a way of rebelling. In an emotional state, this might not feel like a choice but instead turn out to be a huge mistake.
They know what they’re doing is wrong, but acting on their impulses feels like the only way they can gain control of a situation where they feel out of their depth.
You could argue that they are making a choice to act irrationally, but when it feels like it’s the only option and your judgment is clouded with worry, it’s only when that stress lifts that it becomes clear the decisions made at the time were actually mistakes you’d never make again.
It may not make the situation better or excuse what happened, but can a bad choice and mistake not be one and the same?
Can a person just be too selfish?
Cheating is selfish. It’s indulging your own needs without thinking about the impact it has on anyone else.
It’s a choice to act selfishly, but can it be a mistake at the same time? Yes, the cheating partner chose to act in their own interests, but they might not have fully thought through how their actions would affect anyone else. They may not be actively choosing to end their relationship or hurt anyone, but by prioritizing their own needs above anyone else’s, they end up hurting everyone.
Making the choice to cheat would suggest that it was premeditated, but if someone is genuinely wrapped up in themselves so completely, they may not have realized the impact they were having on those around them until it was too late. It might only be through hindsight that they realize the mistake they made by not considering anyone else’s feelings in the first place.
What if someone gets caught up in the moment?
I’m sure there are people out there who have been cheated on and have heard from their partner that they “didn’t mean to do it,” and that it just happened before they knew what they were doing.
Is it believable that someone can get so wrapped up in the moment that they end up cheating before they realize what’s happening?
An emotionally charged conversation or intense goodbye could suddenly lead to a kiss that was never intended. A meeting with an ex to clear the air suddenly turns into a regrettable one-night stand. One thing leads to another and before you know it, something that you never intended to happen happens.
You might be able to believe that a cheating partner never intended to end your relationship or that a one-time thing could be passed off as a mistake rather than a conscious choice.
But just because you can believe that they didn’t choose to cause the pain they have caused, it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to trust that they will make better choices rather than more mistakes in the future.
Can it ever be a one-time thing?
If a cheater says that what they’ve done was just a one-time thing and they’d never do it again, can you believe they wouldn’t? Does it make a difference to you if you believe them when they say their actions were a mistake?
Repeated behavior suggests that a person is conscious of the path they’re taking. They know that they shouldn’t be cheating, and yet they continue anyway. Does cheating suggest a sense of planning, whereas a mistake is more of a spur of the moment decision?
If your partner just cheats once and means it when they say they never want to do it again, could you argue that they meant what they said when they told you it was a mistake and nothing more?
If the person cheating didn’t mean for things to escalate the way they did and they’ve regretted their actions ever since and have never done the same again, would you consider this a mistake because of the regret they feel?
You can always argue that there must have been some level of conscious choice that would lead someone to end up cheating. But if mistakes are situations we regret, then what is there to regret more than unintentional infidelity?
What if someone doesn’t realize what they’re doing?
Different people have different boundaries when it comes to cheating.
For some, simply flirting with someone else could be considered cheating, while for others, it might be having sex with someone that they consider as the definition of actually cheating on a partner.
Deciding whether or not someone was making the choice to cheat would depend on what they class as cheating. Kissing someone might be too far for some, but others might argue that a kiss could have been an accident and isn’t serious enough to be counted as cheating.
Similarly, it might have been a mistake to get into the situation where someone offered you their number when you’re already in a relationship, but without the intention to follow up on it, does it still count as being unfaithful?
If a couple don’t have the same boundaries when it comes to being unfaithful, then ‘cheating’ for one of them might mean something entirely different to the other. In these scenarios, if one partner sees taking someone’s number or kissing another person as cheating and the other partner doesn’t, then does it just make the situation a mistake of not communicating with each other rather than a case of choosing to cheat?
You need to be on the same page with a partner to know where the boundaries lie between getting too close to someone and actively making bad choices.
Can chemistry override choice?
Most people can relate to the feeling of getting so swept up in a moment that everything else seems to fade into the background.
If you have this sense of excitement and sexual attraction to someone other than your own partner, the chemistry might be too strong to resist, but that doesn’t mean that you’re consciously making the choice to end your relationship or be with someone else.
It’s after someone realizes they’ve cheated that the full impact of what they’ve done to jeopardize their relationship becomes painfully clear.
Can you forgive someone for not being able to resist an impulse? Does it count as a mistake if a person only realizes the gravity of the situation after they’ve hooked up with someone else?
By getting caught up in a moment and the excitement of being so sexually attracted to another person, the physical and emotional need clouds better judgment and thought for how these actions could affect the bigger picture.
You could say it’s a choice that’s led by feeling rather than thought and soon becomes apparent to whoever has made it what a mistake it was.
What if the relationship was going to end anyway?
The end of the relationship might have been inevitable, but the cheating could have been an unfortunate mistake that became part of the process.
Although being unfaithful may never have been intentional, the breakdown of a relationship can push couples apart and find them looking for comfort elsewhere.
Pursuing something with someone other than your partner might be a choice, but when one or both of the couple has already mentally checked out of their relationship, the sense of loyalty that should keep us in check could get ignored.
The cheating itself may be a choice, but hurting their partner in the process is an unfortunate mistake. Being mentally and physically separated could lead a person to start acting like they are single without having officially ended their relationship. They’ve acted out of order and missed one crucial step, and that’s finalizing the end of a relationship before they seek a new one.
They may never have intended to hurt their partner by making the ending of the relationship messier than it needed to be, and that’s where their mistake lies in all of this.
Can a person be oblivious to being unfaithful?
Cheating can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and it can be when you don’t even see it happening that it takes you most by surprise. Both the partner being cheated on and the one doing the cheating may never have expected that this could have happened.
Rather than a whirlwind romance, cheating could stem from a connection that’s been developing slowly and inconspicuously over time. The connection could start out harmlessly, before suddenly crossing a line into physical or emotional cheating.
They didn’t see it coming and they never meant to cheat on their partner when they first started getting close to someone else. What if it’s the final move from questionable, but excusable flirting to actually acting on an impulse and cheating that is what it takes to put what’s been happening into perspective?
At that point, the partner doing the cheating might realize, too late, that what they have with someone else is another relationship, and something that could cause them to lose the relationship they already have.
Yes, it was their choice to spend time with and get close to someone other than their partner, but can it also just have been a mistake not to see how far and how deep the relationship was becoming until it was too late?
What if someone doesn’t know that emotional cheating is still cheating?
In the same way people have different boundaries for what cheating means to them, some people could place more importance on physically cheating than on emotional affairs.
If someone has never heard of emotional cheating or doesn’t consider it as infidelity, then is it still their choice to be unfaithful when they didn’t realize they were?
You could argue that you know if you’re becoming too familiar with someone other than your partner and you shouldn’t get into this position in the first place if you were happy in your relationship.
But relationships and friendships can be complex, and if someone doesn’t know where those boundaries are or what it is their partner would be uncomfortable with, then they may just be making a terrible mistake.
Cheating is wrong, and whether it’s a mistake or a choice, it doesn’t excuse the fact that it shouldn’t have happened.
A mistake suggests that there wasn’t an intention there from the start—that somehow whoever did the cheating never intended it to go that far. But some could argue that you’d never get into a position where cheating could occur without a level of choice allowing you to get to that point.
At its core, a mistake is something you regret or that has a bad outcome. It’s something you didn’t intend that happens through a series of bad choices. Can making a mistake and making a choice be seen as two sides of the same coin just viewed from different angles?
Either way, we can agree that cheating, in any form, doesn’t have a positive impact on many people. It’s better to be in control of the choices you make and to always consciously show respect to your partner and yourself by avoiding getting into situations where mistakes can happen and bad decisions are made.
But life isn’t always like that. It’s messy and complicated. If it were so easy not to cheat, nobody would.
If you are the one who was unfaithful, being able to view it as a mistake might help you get over the guilt of cheating. While if you were the one who was cheated on, doing likewise may help you forgive the infidelity.
And if you’ve never cheated or been cheated on, hopefully this article will have helped to clarify your views on the subject. You may think it’s immoral and unethical. It’s certainly harmful and destructive. It’s also often followed by remorse and repentance. It’s a multifaceted and endlessly debatable topic. On that we can agree.
You may also like:
- 11 No Nonsense Steps To Recover From Infidelity In Your Marriage
- How To Confront A Cheating Partner/Spouse: 11 Tips To Help You Through It
- Revenge Cheating Won’t Work: 14 Reasons You Shouldn’t Do It
- “I Have A Gut Feeling He’s Cheating, But No Proof” (14 Things To Do)