Monday, October 02, 2017

The Cheating Game: A Single Person in a Romantic Relationship Has No Legal Obligation to be Faithful by Miss Know It All

Miss Know It All
 It never ceases to amaze me when I hear a single person say the following: “I broke up with him or her because he or she cheated on me.” But what exactly does the word cheating mean when it relates to unmarried couples? Cheating is defined as acting dishonestly, being deceptive or committing a fraudulent act. But cheating has a different meaning when it happens in a legally committed union as opposed to an unmarried liaison.

How does a relationship develop between two people, and what are the differences when it comes to unmarried and legally married couples. I am using the word legally because very few states recognize common law marriages. For all purposes, I am differentiating between the words legally and unmarried. Let’s look at the following situation:

You’re at a party; you see a person standing in the corner of the room and immediately your eyes meet. Sparks begin to fly, and you both envision that it’s definitely love at first sight. You then exchange telephone numbers, call each other every day, discuss how much you have in common and decide it’s time to start dating. After several months of courting and getting to know each other, you both decide to make a private declaration of your love for each other, and now you’re in an exclusive relationship. Neither one of you will date or see anyone outside of this union.  Even though the bond has been going strong for several months, getting married is not in the cards for neither of you. You may or may not decide to live together. But for now, the both of you are happy as two peas in a pod.

However, somewhere down the road, you discover that your significant other has been cheating on you. Now you’re angry because you assumed you were in a committed relationship. You believed that this person had no right to deceive you in such a way; after all, you gave your heart and soul to this person, exchanged gifts and contributed financially to support the relationship. And to add insult to injury, you never so much as looked at another human being, much less went behind his or her back to be with another person.

Several years ago, I saw a program where unmarried couples were upset with each other because someone strayed in the relationship. The injured party felt the cheater was unfaithful because as a couple, they were in a committed relationship.  However, a woman in the audience got up and said, “There is no such thing as a commitment until you say I do.”  I will take it a step further and say, “There is no such thing as a commitment until you legally say I do.”

The affirmations made by an unmarried couple do not have the same connotations as the promises made by a legally married couple. When a couple obtains the marriage license and makes a public declaration to each other, then you have a committed relationship. A married person no longer has the entitlement to wander outside of the marriage, because each person has made a promise to be faithful to each other in the eyes of the state and in accordance with the state’s official matrimony decrees. And if that trust is broken, there are legal and financial ramifications and usually grounds for a divorce.  On the other hand, a single person who is in a relationship may have a moral duty to be faithful but has no legal obligation to be committed to anyone but his or herself. As a single person, you have the privilege of playing the field. 

Even if you’re engaged, there are no assurances that an individual will be loyal to his or her partner. An engagement is a promise to marry not a pledge to be faithful. So as the saying goes “There is no such thing as a commitment until you legally say I do.”

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