I watched the documentary (Dis)Honesty and had the urge to talk about it – why do we lie? If you haven’t seen the documentary, watch it. It highlights some great points about rationalization, cheating, dishonesty and to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror. One of my favorite authors, Joan Didion, said, “we tell ourselves stories in order to live, ” but I do believe that some stories people throw out there are exactly those things that keep them from living. A good example is Facebook posts and tons of pictures and videos that mask insecurity, try to impress, pretend or show people what a wonderful life one is living and in the meantime their life is empty, filled with sadness, lies, and dishonesty.
I can pretty much map the trajectory of certain people’s lives building a huge mountain of lies and uncertainties, and every single time I discover a new lie, it feels like another push to move forward and away to a better, happier life.
I told myself a couple of years ago that certain decisions I made were the smartest choices but in hindsight, they were rather the dumbest. Rushing into things, trying to have everything at once never works. When I applied to become a police officer, I told myself that I like this kind of work. I liked the paycheck, but many times I did not really stand 100% behind what I was supposed to do. When I applied for my Bachelor to get a degree in Forensic Psychology I thought I would end up studying psychology in depth and become a therapist. I didn’t. When I told myself I can make this marriage work, it was already over a long time ago.
Strangely, the older I get the more I believe that (mental) growth is simply dismantling lies I previously believed. I used to believe certain lies about myself or recent ones I just discovered because someone told me it was true, such as that I agreed to certain things or I forgot X, Y, and Z while I initially doubted my sanity. I even told others (or myself) certain lies about someone over and over contrary to the evidence but to simply make them look good and pretend I am in a “good relationship”.
Another example I heard of is that someone who was committed elsewhere fell in “unconditional” love (faster than the speed of love) with someone and decided they cannot live without each other. They started to write a book together. They traveled and spent more time with each other which lead to a romantic crescendo of delusion or illusions and eating sausages (duh!) and drinking wine together. To justify their actions and to simply enable both of them to remain secure in their “logic”, they said they are not technically cheating because they tried to change things in their marriages with their partners many times. Those partners, however, did so many things wrong and treated them badly over the years that they simply fell in love. Does this justify cheating?
I have not been surprised that many modern love stories within my circle of friends dance around the same issues; sort of as if sexual contact is unquestioningly more serious than everything that precedes it. By now, I am not trying to analyze marriages or commitments through the detective lens of loopholes since love, whatever this is and means, is not a contract. People change. Emotions change. All this is normal but people should have the balls to talk about those things before they cheat. Another example is a father I met at the playground who told me that he loves to take other mom’s out for drinks with “open end”. “Is this considered cheating?” I asked packing my book and bag to put my feet in the sand somewhere else. He replied, “I don’t think it really matters because it is not cheating in my mind. Plus, we have not been together recently in thought or action”. I left.
However, this sentence stuck with me strangely like annoying heartburn. He simply believes that everybody should just live by his or her own moral compass; easy as that. While I built a sandcastle with my son I thought about how under-examined this grey area of cheating in our culture really is. I want to find passionate, honesty, monogamous couples who really believe in love and stay together while making the relationship work no matter how difficult something seems to be. Talking about issues that bother the partner is important and so much better than having to debate those bounds in the aftermath of a betrayal.
My friend told me not too long ago that it is not important to put a label on a relationship. He said, “We get to decide what does and does not define us. That is totally up to us.” For me, I never thought of it that way because I simply accepted, without question, what I thought it means to be together. Rushing into things, moving in together too quickly, making promises. Shouldn’t a relationship be more like an emotional yet mutual contract that the partners map out together? Being cheated on hurts. Trust and honesty are gone. These days I focus on what I want and need. I will be okay. I hope he finds what he is looking for – with someone else.