Top Five Lessons Learned From Cheaters That I Have Known and Loved

After a certain age we have either been the victims of cheating, perpetrators of cheating or observers of cheating. As Eliot Spitzer recently showed us, the cheating eventually comes to light. Although most of us are fortunate enough not to have our indiscretions publicized for the world, we generally don’t want them publicized for our beloved either…

I don’t approve of or condone cheating. However, since I pride myself on being smart, I am always appalled when people get caught because they were just really stupid. It’s as if we learned nothing as children when we got our hands caught in the cookie jar. We generally got caught then because we broadcasted our guilt. We made too much noise; left a pile of crumbs on the counter or got greedy and went back for one more cookie. Despite getting punished, we failed to learn our lessons.

We attempt the same misdeed as adults without any more finesse. We got caught then and we get caught now, mostly because we are simply not that clever. Desire makes us stupid.

Recently, while riding the train, my friend overheard a couple who was embroiled in an affair. The couple laughed and joked about their last rendezvous. They vilified their spouses. They made plans for their next encounter. They simply shared with one another, like lovers do, with free flowing dialogue and lightness of heart–in full ear shot of everyone on the train. Because of their carelessness, my friend and I became convinced that they are bound to get caught sooner or later.

As that scenario demonstrates, most cheaters inadvertently confess and get caught. Once I was dining at a local Chinese Buffet and went to say hello to my uncle who was dining at another table. As luck would have it, he was dining with a woman who was not my aunt. Had he not looked so damned guilty, I probably would not have thought twice about it. However, I later learned that the family suspected that he had been cheating “for years”. Like Columbus, I was simply lucky enough to discover it.

Another time, a significant other and I were on the freeway a couple of exits from his uncle’s home. As we drove, we noticed his uncle’s distinctive personalized license plates. We sped up to say “hello” only to find his uncle in the car with a woman who was not his wife. Again, we wouldn’t have thought twice about it, if his uncle hadn’t looked so damned scared. My confirmation came the next time I saw his uncle. He was sweating bullets and begging me to “keep my mouth shut”. I guess it’s too late for that now. (It’s a good thing the significant other is history!)

Last year, there was a very public scandal involving a Wal-Mart executive who disputed her termination only to learn that the Wal-Mart had a detailed record of her dalliances with a co-worker. The “love” between the executive and her co-worker was exposed in the paper for all to read. Wal-Mart proved that they are not to be played with. They had photographs, testimony, and emails. One email read, “I miss you ridiculously”, kind of hard to justify that as work related. Not only was the relationship against Wal-Mart’s policy, both parties were married. Wal-Mart’s methods notwithstanding, the case is instructive.

1. Email is not your friend: It is impossible to engage in “harmless” flirtation on email. Emails have a way of getting forwarded around the planet and before you know it, you too will be either divorced or on Inside Edition.

2. Discretion is a virtue: Discussing your affair in public is simply a don’t. You do not know who your partner knows. Don’t be surprised if you see someone who overheard your conversation at your spouse’s office Christmas party. You might as well invest in an “I am so stupid that I discuss my affair on the train fund” so that you can pay off the harmless eavesdropper.

3. Infidelity is the Mother of Imagination: Each time that I have caught people cheating, I have been amazed that they were either near home or in a restaurant frequented by family and friends. Find a new routine, a cheater’s routine. While I do believe that all cheaters will be caught eventually, I believe that the aggrieved spouse will feel somewhat better if they don’t find out that you took the person to the local restaurant around the corner.

4. Stupidity is the gift that keeps on giving: Unless you are intent on being caught, do not try to save gas by cheating in the neighborhood or in your own bed. You will get caught faster and feel doubly stupid.

5. Don’t Cheat at Work: I used to be chummy with some security guards in my old building. The confessed to me that they had caught numerous people engaged in compromising behavior in stairwells, conference rooms, and the parking garage. As the ole adage goes, “get a room!” For the record, unbeknownst to all of those cheaters, their acts are preserved on film. If you are engaged in this practice, STOP and become very generous with your security guards at Christmas.

6. Bonus: Simply Shut Up: If you are intent on engaging in infidelity, keep it to yourself. By sharing your story with your friends, you are compromising their integrity and increasing the likelihood that you’ll get caught. So, don’t do it.

For the record, I believe that cheating is immoral and bad practice. However, I recognize that I can only influence my own relationship. Still, I firmly believe that cheaters ought not compound the sin by engaging in stupidity. That’s just insulting…