Infidelity and Karma

by Dan on July 20, 2009

infidelity2

On this blog, I do my best to avoid moral issues, ethical judgments, and telling people what they must do to be a good person.

Every suggestion on this blog is to help you live a better life, not make you fit my own or society’s ethical standards.  It just so happens that doing the “right thing” is usually more helpful to your own happiness, peace, and productivity than doing something “bad” or “evil.”  However, you get the maximum benefit of these right actions if they come from holding the right thoughts and right emotions, as the Buddha would say.

This is why I seek to show the practicality of thinking, feeling, and acting in a loving manner, rather than with a win-lose, mercenary attitude.

I had a good friend recently let me know about his involvement in an affair.  He asked me to blog about it, so here it is.

In short, infidelity hurts everyone involved, almost every time.

Let’s say Isaac and Amanda are in a committed relationship.  At a company party, Amanda meets Tony, and they begin to fool around.

More likely than not, Isaac will find out. If he finds out during the relationship, Isaac may be devastated.  If the truth is revealed after the relationship has already ended, Isaac will be likely be saddened and angry, but not experience the heartbreak of finding out right away.

In future relationships, Isaac is more sensitively on guard.  He trusts his girlfriends less.  When his girlfriend says something that reminds him of Amanda, he immediately gets defensive and starts probing his lover for where she was the night before.  He is angry, insecure, and paranoid for several relationships to follow.

Depending on the long-term status of their relationship, Amanda may lose Isaac over her actions, or may not.  However, no matter who finds out, Amanda has now taken the identity of a cheater.  Cheating is a lot like bankruptcy and divorce.  You grow up thinking you’ll never experience it.  You fear the possibility as much as death, because your life is imagined to be over once you have crossed that line.

Once you live through getting divorced, committing infidelity, or filing for bankruptcy, there’s a strange liberating feeling, as you realize you are still alive.  The ground didn’t swallow you up whole, and your family and friends did not desert you.  This makes you significantly more likely to repeat the experience. Your fears that were keeping the event away are assuaged, and each time you cheat on your partner, you think, “Well one more time won’t hurt, I’ve already done it a couple times.”

This is why some say, “once a cheater, always a cheater.”  I don’t think the statement is true, but I do think it takes an extremely strong woman or man to only make the mistake once and never again.  Most will be repeat offenders.  Some women have cheated in every single relationship they’ve ever had, and keep “trying to be good” for the next one.  Much of what keeps people honest is in the first place is wanting to maintain their self-image as being loyal and dependable.

Since Amanda now identifies herself as a cheater, or even a past-cheater, she now sees all her new relationship partners as potential cheaters, as well.  She can’t trust her boyfriend to go to Las Vegas for a bachelor party because she knows what could happen if she went there with the girls.  This creates control issues, oppression, and jealousy in the relationships to follow.

Finally, let’s see what happens with Tony, the man didn’t cheat on anybody but was just as responsible for the affair’s creation.

On a semi-conscious level, Tony always felt a little funny about what he was doing.  He might have rationalized that if Isaac and Amanda truly belonged together, then Amanda wouldn’t cheat.  He reminds himself that Isaac doesn’t own her; it’s her choice as a woman.  He also considers that he doesn’t know the status of their relationship and shouldn’t put his own values on Amanda if she wants to have fun.

Somewhere inside, he knows better.  It’s a myth that you can sell your soul.  You can try give it away for emotional or financial gain, but you always have a conscience and a heart, it’s just suppressed and buried.

However, let’s pretend that Tony doesn’t know better, that he’s completely calm with the idea of sleeping with another man’s girlfriend.  He still has a price to pay.

Tony is now acutely aware that there are good men out there who will sleep with women in committed relationships.  These men are not cruel bastards or evil sleazeballs, but everyday kind men like himself.  These are men who could shake his hand at a sports bar, buy him a drink, and truly care about how his day went, when in conversation.  These friendly, amiable men will then go to another bar and be comfortable with interfering in someone else’s loving relationship, maybe even his own.

This realization is all too much for Tony, so in his future relationships, he is perpetually on the lookout for another man like him who is pleasant, good natured, and all too eager to ruin Tony’s relationship for his own personal gain.  Cheating is not a bad event, but a normal fact of life in relationships.  You’re either the guy girls cheat on, or the man they cheat with.  Now that he’s in a relationship, it’s uncertain which category he falls into.  He cannot go back to the time when he thought cheating was rare, as he now been a co-creator of infidelity himself.

Everyone has been hurt on some level by this infidelity.  Curiously, the person who is least damaged by this event is Isaac, the only one who didn’t contribute to the betrayal.  He will have the easiest time moving on and assuming that this was a problem with his trust in Amanda, not with people or relationships as a whole.

Amanda and Tony have created internal karmic consequences that will be much more difficult to rectify.  Since she and he are the doers in this affair, they are far more likely to have a global shift in their worldview, which will make their new perceived earth less comfortable to live in. The longer the illicit relationship goes on, the worse it will be on both of them, whether they realize it or not.

Are these consequences irreversible?  Of course not.  There is little in life which is permanent, aside from an incurable disease, losing a limb, or having a baby.  While two of these are possible in an affair, they can be prevented, assuming both partners are careful.

Emotionally and spiritually, Amanda and Tony can all make it back fine.  It will just take longer and be more effortful depending on what role each has played in the relationship.

Each party on their own, has to recognize that they have lost their way, before making the return home.  This might require Amanda ending the relationship, or Tony telling Amanda she has to make a choice between him and Isaac, or just ending the affair himself.  Since a voluntary choice is much more empowering than a forced choice, whoever decides to draw the line first will have the easiest time getting back on his or her way to personal power and freedom.

If Tony waits for Amanda to make the choice for him, he loses out.  However, if Tony takes matters into his own hands, and stops this, he grows stronger and may even be more powerful than before the affair started.  A walk through darkness can bring greater life into your life, as long as you are the one to realize when the time has come to leave the shadows.

As a final thought, it should be said that not everyone belongs in a committed relationship at every point in their lives.  There are other options available if you prefer to have more than one sexual or romantic partner at a time.  The problems are only created when you have a commitment, break it, and then lie about it.  If you’re having an affair, you inevitably create a handful of lies to protect it, which leads to harmful incongruencies in your heart and mind.

I have not explored this area so much, but famous married blogger Steve Pavlina has, and written a great deal about his experiences.

In addition, two books which have been well reviewed, but not read by me, are The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures, and Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships.

No matter how you feel about non-traditional relationships, I can comfortably say you’ll be better off in an open relationship where you’re honest, than in a committed relationship where you’re lying, hiding, and feeling guilty.  Figure out what’s best for you, and let others judge themselves.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 mike February 29, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Karma does not work, my family was destroyed by infidelity, and there is no amount of karma or manner to balance the pain they have caused to me, and also to my children. those two cheaters don’t even have the capacity to feel or care in the way I do. There is nothing karma or anything could do or happen to them that would be as bad as what they did to me. I was a loving, caring, involved partner, never had hate in my life or heart for anyone. Now it is holding me non stop, and it has been over a year…

2 Dan February 29, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Hey Mike,

Very sorry to hear about all of that. Good luck to you.

–Dan

3 Bolo June 6, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Hi Mike, sorry to hear what happened to you. Let me tell you my story in hope you can have another point of view:

I was cheated on as well. I was a devoted husband, caring for her every wish. To make a long story short, we got divorced after I found out of her infidelity, and her father (who is also my friend) was so upset by what she did she cut her off of his life completely. She lost both her husband and her father in 2010, her Grandfather (who was the one who brought income to her house) in 2011, and her mother last friday.

It´s obvious things didn´t work out the way she planned, now she´s suffering terribly. I have to admit my first reaction was: “Yeah! there´s divine justice! You got what you deserved for cheating!” But now (2 years have passed), I understand that kind of resentment is not good, not good for you or anyone.It´s completely sterile…

We all have to let go of the past to keep on going with our lives, but, Mike, trust me on this, you can be a 100% certain that she´s gonna pay, one way or another, for what she did to you.

Best.

4 Becky December 5, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Dan,

You take a lot for granted in this article. In order for there to be “Karma” for the cheaters, there must be a conscience. For some people, they just don’t have that. Narcissists and those with narcissistic disorders won’t have the little “tug at their soul” you speak of, because they don’t have a soul, empathy, or anything to tug at…

As for your assumption that the betrayed partner/spouse is the least damaged and hurt by them…wow, you must have never been on the receiving end of infidelity. This isn’t a “pick up yourself and dust off your pants” kind of event in a betrayed person’s life…it completely changes your view of the world! You *DO* view people and relationships much differently. You don’t trust yourself to know when someone is telling you the truth. And, even though there is *nothing* wrong with the betrayed partner and the infidelity lays squarely on the shoulders of the wayward partner…that is all we can think about: “What should I have done different?”; “What could I have said or done that would have kept him from cheating?”; “Was I too fat, tired, (insert adjective here)?”. Absolutely nothing the betrayed partner could have said or done would have stopped the wayward from cheating – as it is something broken in them!!!

Oh, and you also forgot very important persons affected by adultery/infidelity – the children. They deal with scars for life by parents who abandon them for an other person. Talk about Karma – and they did nothing at all to deserve it.

So, unfortunately, for many wayward people, I don’t think there is “Karma” ever. That is saved for those in the relationship that actually have a conscience, feelings and empathy.

5 Dan January 3, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Becky,

You’re right, I did take a lot for granted when writing this article. If I were to write it today, I probably would have taken a modified stance if I dared to write my thoughts on this at all. It is a complicated issue and I did over-assume how much I understood about it.

That being said, I have to disagree with your opinion that cheaters are most likely people with narcissistic personality disorder or without a soul at all. I’d say sociopaths and people with clinical disorders are probably in the very percentage of cheaters… even if only because cheating is so common we would have a way more messed up world if this were the case.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You’ve helped me reconsider some opinions with your post.

–Dan

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