Art by Kailey Flora / Daily Nexus

Art by Kailey Flora / Daily Nexus

Like many others, I’ve had some up-close and personal experience with cheating. My parents’ marriage (and divorce) involved cheating, and lots of it. I was first made aware of my mom’s adultery when I was 12. Finding out this negative and damaging information without a doubt assisted in shaping my views on cheating. I had no sympathy or understanding toward anyone who cheated.

Once I became older and began to enter into my own intimate relationships, I carried with me an intense fear of being betrayed. Sure enough, the first guy I ever went out with cheated within the first couple of weeks of us dating. I couldn’t possibly understand how someone could so easily disrespect and violate another person like this. The answer seemed so simple to me: if you don’t want to be committed to one person, then don’t be in a relationship. To me, there was no excuse for it. Ever.

Over the years my experience with cheating has expanded and evolved. I’ve seen many others do it, go through it and I myself have even played a role in it. Up until recently I still had a pretty similar black-and-white perspective on it. Now, I think the issue might be a little more complex than I had originally thought.

Don’t get me wrong; I still think cheating is horrible and potentially one of the most psychologically damaging things that can happen to a person. It can lower a person’s self-esteem beyond belief, forcing them to question their own self-worth and value. I’m still a huge proponent of not entering any sort of monogamous or committed relationship until one is sure they are willing to put forth the effort to make it work.

However, I am now more understanding when it comes to making a judgment on someone’s infidelity. I no longer feel the need to say “once and a cheater, always a cheater” after hearing about someone’s indiscretions. I don’t think it’s necessarily right to label every person who falters with a giant, red “C.” I’ve realized life is more complicated than that. Relationships are more complicated than that.

When I was younger, I thought for sure love was the only thing you need to make a relationship work. I thought out of all of the factors required, love was by far the most important. Now, I actually think it’s one of the least. Loving people is easy. Falling in love is easy. Relationships, on the other hand, are hard. They require a lot of hard work and a lot of sacrifice. Above all else, relationships are a choice. You don’t really choose to love someone; you just kind of do it, sometimes even when you don’t want to.

When you’re in a relationship, you have to choose to respect that person. You have to choose to go home to them at night. You have to choose to forgo other options, options you might even think are better options. You have to choose them. Not everyone is in the position to make that choice. Some people just really can’t make that commitment, no matter how much they care about you.

If you’re one of these people who simply can’t commit, be honest about it. Accept that this is who you are, and don’t lead anyone to believe you’re different. Until you feel like you’re at a place in your life at which you are able to give someone the respect and loyalty they deserve, don’t try it. It only ends with dishonesty and disappointment.

Unfortunately, people with commitment issues are not the only ones with the ability to cheat and betray. One of the most influencing factors in cheating is without a doubt alcohol. No matter who the person is, or however loyal they may be, alcohol changes things. It puts you in an altered state of mind in which your thoughts and decisions are no longer coherent or clear. I truly believe anyone can have a slip-up while under the influence of alcohol.

If you’re one of these people who simply can’t commit, be honest about it. Accept that this is who you are, and don’t lead anyone to believe you’re different.

Anyone can say they’ll do their best to control themselves while intoxicated, but is that really enough? Does that really prove they have a true commitment to you? In my opinion, no. The real effort comes in the form of them choosing to not get so belligerent they put themselves in a situation that might jeopardize the relationship. The real effort comes in the form of maturity, when they choose to limit themselves out of respect for you.

At the end of the day, relationships are all about making choices. If your partner is truly serious about choosing you, they’ll choose to not black out when they’re not with you. They’ll choose to walk away from the bartender who’s flirting with them. They’ll choose not to answer that late-night phone call from their ex.

Cheating is a matter of choice as well, but it’s not just about choosing not to cheat. It’s about choosing to draw boundaries and not cross them. It’s about choosing to be honest with your partner and yourself, no matter how difficult it may be. And most importantly, it’s about choosing to be OK with losing your other options because you’ve found a gain who’s worth the loss.

Allie Lebos wants you to be honest with yourself about what kind of love life is right for you.