Dear Chump Lady,
Why are people still friends with a cheater after knowing they deceive/lie, cheat, and steal from their spouse/partner/family? In my mind, once I know someone is a cheater, I would not want to have that person in my inner circle.
Why? Because, hell, if they could treat their loved ones with such disregard, ruthlessness and disdain, what would stop them from treating me in the same manner?
What type of traits does a cheater exhibit? Dishonesty. Lack of integrity. Selfishness. Greed. Thievery. Disloyalty. Disrespect. Who wants to lean on a person like that? Would they really have your back when the chips are down? Don’t bank on it.
Care to weigh in, Chump Lady?
Well, in the wise words of Sister Rosetta Tharpe above, good friends are hard to find. I think most people require some maturity and wisdom to differentiate between people who are good friends and people who aren’t worth warm spit. It’s a youthful mistake — it doesn’t take much for folks to gain access to your life. You share a dorm, an office, a sport and consider that person, by reasons of proximity and history, a “friend.” With time, I think some people learn to edit better. That might be because of painful experience, being burned by a user. But some people don’t learn to edit, or they edit for the wrong reasons (i.e., you’re not part of the Cool Kids Club).
Look, if you got tangled up with a cheater, you liked sparkles. Other people like sparkles too — especially as friends. It’s easier to manage without the deeper commitment. Sparkles reflect well on us. We want the charming dinner guest. The person who projects themselves as the “winner” in life. When the darker side of sparkly is revealed, well, people often buy the excuses that are peddled. They were in a sexless marriage. Their needs weren’t being met. It’s true soulmate love and it Just Happened.
I once bought such bullshit. Until infidelity happened to me, I was very ignorant about cheating. I had a very fuzzy notion of what it all meant. I don’t think I’m alone in this. I was able to watch stupid romantic comedies and root for the star-crossed cheaters. I didn’t think of cheating in terms of shattering betrayal and pain, I thought of it in terms of naughty, edgy sex. Or revenge on a Bad Partner. Popular culture is chock full of this WTFever, Mistakes Were Made attitude towards infidelity. You got cheated on? Big shrug. What did you do to make that happen?
Many people don’t feel terribly conflicted about being friends with cheaters, because infidelity hasn’t happened to them. (Well, at least not that they’re aware of. That “friend” may be boffing their spouse as I type.) They weigh the good qualities against the bad, and if they haven’t been personally affected by the “bad” — they may come down on the side of friendship. Also consider, many people reconcile after infidelity. If the chump can eat that giant shit sandwich? Well, it sets an example for the other people in that couple’s orbit. Shit must be pretty tasty!
I should also add that some people do reform, do the requisite hard work on themselves, and don’t reoffend. Not everyone wants to shun such a person, nor should they.
The most painful issue around friendship, IMO, is when your marriage breaks up and people either side with the cheater and believe the character assassination or they want to remain “neutral.” This is when you find out who your true friends are — the ones who have your back. The folks who have a clear moral compass and aren’t afraid to call a shit sandwich a shit sandwich. Hold these people dear, and fuck the rest.