Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Let's talk about ... Cheating

I read an interesting thread on cheating on Facebook.
One reader made the point that cheating happens in real life, that life isn't perfect.
Another felt that if the relationship was bad, i.e. abusive, then maybe the idea of cheating was not so abhorrent. But if it was simply a case of one partner being unable to keep his hands off someone else, then definitely - no.
What amazed me was how vehement some people were about the issue. They might get all the way through a book but as soon as the element of cheating reared its head, they wouldn't finish, or, what was worse in my mind, give it a really low rating. Not because it was a badly written book, you understand, but because there was CHEATING in it.
I understand that cheating isn't necessarily sexual. You can cheat emotionally on a partner by longing after someone else, even secretly.
I have a couple of friends whose story I would LOVE to write, but you know what? It's not gonna happen. Because the way they live isn't 'conventional' and to many, all they would see is cheating. When First was released, I waited for the reviews with a mixture of anticipation and dread. I'd done my best to get across that Mike having sex with guys on camera was NOT the same thing as him being in a relationship with them, that this was his job. Okay, so he's chosen a job where he gets paid to have sex. Does that mean he's not entitled to want a loving partner too?
Let's go back to my friends. They're in the industry, and they are walking proof that, so long as they are first in the other's heart, they understand that sex elsewhere isn't an indication of anything other than two guys having a little social fun. It's all about what the "contract" the couple has (hopefully) talked through and set up. They made it clear that neither of them is quite monogamous in inclination; they are well matched that way. And because it's understood that sex outside the relationship is not forbidden, then it is no longer 'cheating' on the odd occasion that it does happen. And knowing them as I do? I don't doubt for ONE SECOND that they love each other and that they are indeed first in each other's hearts
Surely people are able to think past a simplistic pigeonhole box that defines something. Surely we can raise ourselves above that...
Having said that? Maybe not.
Okay, time for some home truths here.
Partners cheat on each other. They get found out. Sometimes they're forgiven, sometimes not. If they do forgive, they work through their problems, work on making their relationship better, overcoming obstacles... Surely these are all elements of a good story. Without some conflict - unless you specifically want to read something low-angst and feel-good - a story would end up being a damn sight shorter and a whole lot more boring. And if you're invested in a book, in the characters, why would you put it aside if one of them cheated? 
The story matters. How it's written. The language it uses. The emotions it evokes.
If you've had a bad experience with cheating, don't let that color your enjoyment of what might be a brilliantly written book. And don't let your emotional baggage color how others might view the book.
I'm sorry, but shit happens. That's life. That's real life. How many times have I read a comment that a storyline wasn't real?

Maybe some things are just too real for some readers.