What is cheating? In my over 40 years of practicing family law, I have seen just about every reason under the sun for a divorce. I have seen many cases where people reconciled after an affair or more than one affair. When I am representing a person who is the alleged cheater, the argument, of course, is that a bad marriage caused the affair. If I am representing the victim, the innocent spouse, of course, the person having the affair, is cheating. The issue is whether it is the chicken or the egg. Which came first? The bad marriage or the affair?
Let me pose a question to all of you -- what is cheating? I recently saw a movie called Disconnect, where the impact of the Internet on the lives of people, including cheating in various aspects, is very important. It is a movie well worth seeing but this is not a movie review, it is really a blog of what you might consider cheating.
1. If you or your spouse is having an affair, is this cheating? The answer is obviously, yes. It is the worst kind of cheating. To some it may be but to others, not. Every situation is different.
2. If your spouse has an affair and you have one in retaliation are you less guilty than your spouse? Two wrongs do not make a right.
3. What about an emotional affair? There may be no sexual involvement, but an exchange of emails, phone calls or texting are frankly considered cheating. If you are spending time leaning on the shoulder of someone else, this could be an emotional affair. If not, it could lead to one shortly. What is your view?
4. Pornography is everywhere on the Internet. Is a spouse who is addicted to pornography cheating? Is this an addiction or is this cheating? Arguably it is cheating. What are your thoughts?
5. Gambling is a huge issue on the Internet. Now Internet poker is legal in Nevada. What if your spouse has a gambling problem and hides this? I have had cases where thousands of dollars or even hundreds of thousands of dollars have been lost through gambling online. Isn't this another form of cheating? I have seen many cases where a marital estate has been dissipated, if not wiped out, due to someone's gambling problems. I believe it is another form of cheating. What is your view?
6. What if your spouse has an addiction to credit cards? What if he or she is constantly running up charges and hoarding items for no reason other than, perhaps, a compulsive addiction. If it is being hidden, isn't this another form of cheating? I believe so but what are your thoughts?
7. What about someone who is just spending his or her life online? Being on the Internet can be an addiction. It can be internet games or just being online constantly. The result is the other spouse and children are being shortchanged. Isn't this another form of cheating? What are your views?
8. What if your spouse is addicted to alcohol or drugs? Aren't the other members of the family being cheated? They are clearly being cheated monetarily and by the loss of a loved one. They are being cheated by the loss of a normal relationship. It is also a sign of a very dysfunctional marriage. These are some of my thoughts, what are your views?
9. What about abuse? Physical and psychological abuse are huge issues in many marriages. This is not really cheating but it is a situation where the relationship is unhealthy and the other spouse is being cheated out of his or her right to live a normal happy life and receive fulfillment from the marriage.
These are some examples of cheating whether cheating through deceit or lying, or cheating because one spouse is being cheated from the right to his or her happiness. Cheating can mean many things. Of course, the first thought is an extramarital affair but my view is it can be much, much more. Think about some of these examples and decide whether or not these are all some form of cheating. Maybe not in the technical affair sense but in a situation where the other spouse and family are being cheated out of happiness, support, and security. These are some of my thoughts. If you have other examples, please share them with us.
Henry S. Gornbein
Family Law Attorney & Legal Correspondent