I am in the midst of a month-long Netflix binge.
My current indulgence is the second season of Never Have I Ever (disclaimer: this post is unlikely to be a spoiler because the season came out many moons ago.) Devi dates both Ben and Paxton, thus cheating on both boys. As predicted, when they eventually find out about the “betrayal”, both boys are upset, as most people would be, and make her “pay” for it.
This got me thinking, as do most conversations about infidelity, what makes infidelity hurt so much? Does revenge really make up for pain?
Conversations with clients, deep diving into literature on infidelity and many movies have their own theories (which are all valid) on why people feel hurt when they’re cheated on. This ranges from a broken promise, being let down, not being the chosen one, and being left in the dark. Each reason plays havoc on one’s mental health. The one that hurts the most, as reported by clients, is “being left in the dark’. The phrase itself gives rise to feelings of being in the shadows/ not seeing the light (truth).
Like Paxton and Ben, most of us operate with the natural assumption that we know what is happening in our relationship - we are operating from a place of assumed awareness. As both Ben and Paxton found themselves in Devi’s room and thought it was perfectly fine to be there and weird that the other person was there too. We all go about with this “natural” assumption that we know what is going on in our relationship. We take actions, make decisions, adjustments and comments in social situations based on this.
However, the cheater denies their partner respect by intentionally misrepresenting or hiding the truth - which is a betrayal of respect. Usually, this betrayal is out of self-protection/ getting away without repercussions for actions that are hurting someone else; just as Devi manipulated both Paxton and Ben to protect herself. This left them both angry and hurt. The disrespect shown by keeping your partner in the dark negates almost every thought based on which actions and decisions were taken by them.
Finding out about the cheating makes one feel really hollow, as it strips away their perspective of reality - almost like changing the colour tinted glasses through which they see the world - sometimes, making one feel rather clueless. Needless to say, these feelings send one on a spiral of self-doubt where they begin to question almost everything, but worst of all, they begin to question whether they can trust themselves/ their perspective of the world and their intimate relationships.
Even though some people struggle to claim back their sense of self by daydreaming about and sometimes executing revenge. The truth is, the hurt caused by the betrayal and disrespect cannot be undone. Infidelity is uncool - it is hurtful.