Cheating is one thing, but what if you’re not actually the one doing it? What if you’ve met this great person who just happens to be in a relationship with someone else. Is it just as bad to be helping someone else do it? Does that make you a cheater too? Or are you in the free and clear?
What’s a woman’s responsibility as far as “home wrecking” goes? I have a huge crush on this guy and we’ve really connected. I knew he had a girlfriend, but he told me things were essentially over with them. We’ve (happily) since gotten together, but now his ex is saying I ruined their relationship. Am I at fault?
What She Said:
You only have to look as far as the headlines to get some real time examples for your question. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie anyone? Heck, even Jennifer Aniston, the “wronged” party in that “bizarre Bermuda triangle,” has recently been accused of home wrecking antics.
My question? Where does the responsibility lie for the person actually in the relationship? To continue with the high-profile celebrity example: Angelina has worn the man-stealing crown for over six years now, but Brad was the one who was married and chose to cheat. Yes, Jolie is insanely gorgeous – but Pitt is a grown man, capable of making the decision to remain in a monogamous relationship.
What’s your responsibility? It sounds like you knew there might be cheating going on – but it also sounds like your guy was fully complicit. Maybe you knew he was fudging the facts as far as his relationship status – or maybe you chose to take him at his word. Either way, you were operating off the fact that things were over.
Do you have anything to feel guilty about? Only you can know for sure. Did you flirt, regardless of his living situation? Did you make yourself available as a friend and confidant, knowing that the two of you growing closer might jeopardize his relationship? Did you mold yourself into the image of his perfect girl? Of course his ex is going to be pissed at you (and maybe she has reason to be) – but it was ultimately her partner who acted dishonestly.
There are obviously a myriad of combinations, but at the end of the day I still believe this: Anyone can be tempted to cheat and everyone has a choice as to whether or not he or she follows through on that action. I’m a fan of clean breaks – if the relationship is truly over, end it before starting something new. That’s the real way to take responsibility.
What He Said
I don’t know the specifics, but if he wasn’t 100 % free and clear of his ex (as in totally broken up with her), then yes, you’d be a factor. But after that, it gets grey. Many marriages, for example end long before one of the parties files for legal separation or divorce, and then in that situation, you could have come into the guys life before he officially pulled the plug on his relationship, but after it had died. It had needlessly been hanging on via life support until someone finally showed some compassion and pulled the plug on it.
In that situation if you entered his life after it died, but before the cord was pulled, would you be a home wrecker? Technically, no. But everyone will judge you as such. Why? Because people don’t know what goes on behind closed doors and so they would have no way of knowing the relationship had died a slow, painful and often sexless death before you showed up. It would just look to the outside world like you showed up and stole that poor woman’s man away.
He will be needlessly judged and persecuted as well (see my colleagues aforementioned judgment against Brad Pitt for example). It’ll look like he was some mindless hornball who cheated on this poor, defenseless, woman who is a paragon of virtue, and walks little old ladies across the street, goes to church on Sunday, etc. That happens, yes, but that doesn’t happen in all cases. You don’t know and you shouldn’t be judging (COUGH! JENNA! COUGH!)
It doesn’t matter any more, really. You’re in a relationship with him and what happened, happened. At a certain point, even if you did steal him away, she just needs to get over it and move on. There are other men out there and if he was cheating on her with you, why would she be upset anyway? She should be glad to get rid of him, after all, he’s your problem now, right?