Ask Knox: cheating


mailboxDear Knox,

I’ve been dating a girl for quite a long time now; in fact, almost six years. We’ve lived together for half that time. I’ve never really been happy with her, but we get along well and things are usually pretty smooth.  I have a busy career and she’s working on hers, so we basically just keep the relationship going on the side.

However, ever since we started dating, it’s never been just her.  I’ve been cheating on her from the very beginning.  At first, I thought that I felt bad about it, but later I realized that I actually kinda like that I have this little secret.  Whenever our relationship starts turning sour, I find a new girl to cheat on my girlfriend with and suddenly the relationship I have with my girlfriend gets better.  I guess it’s guilt driven, but I treat my girlfriend better when I’m cheating on her.  Whenever I don’t have a girl on the side, I’m actually a real dick to my girlfriend. On the other hand, when I’m sleeping with another girl on the side, my relationship with my girlfriend is great!

So, my question is:  If I can only be happy with my girlfriend while I’m cheating on her, should I stay with her?

Honesty is some slippery shit, my friend.  Many people think it’s more straightforward than it is because they have rigid ethical structures that don’t account for any exceptions to The Rules.  This keeps things comfortably black and white but it doesn’t line up so well with matters of the heart.  Ethics have a guiding logic, sex and love do not.

Now, to simply answer your question as to whether you should stay with your girlfriend if you’re only happy when you cheat, the answer is obviously no.  That’s a no brainer. But I get the sense that it’s more complicated than you are letting on. I was once in a similar situation myself.  What I found was that every relationship has a kind of guiding narrative; it exists because of the stories you each tell yourselves about it.  And sometimes, depending on the unwritten and undiscussed by-laws of this sub reality, just doing your own thing on the side doesn’t really matter.  Other times, it really, really, really fucking does.

In the end, you just need to understand what the invisible laws of your relationship truly are—which is no simple feat.  Knowing this, however, you can do right by her within the parameters of the fucked up and backward reality the two of you created to numb the pain of feeling alone.  Jesus Christ—why do I feel like we’re just a bunch of chimps furiously masturbating in a zoo cage, waiting for our keeper to throw us a peanut?

Alas, I digress.  Do what you’re going to do, Hoss.  You know cheating is wrong in general and for so many other people and you’re probably an asshole.  But just do her a favor and keep to the rules for which there are no words, a kind of imaginary glue that holds it all together.  Shit, when I think about it, this is a sorta transcendent concept. We don’t need romance to delude ourselves and create justifications for the unjust—we do it every day just to keep from jumping off a bridge.

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