Hot Button Topic: Cheating – Let’s Discuss

Posted October 2, 2015 by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction in Let's Discuss / 49 Comments


Those of you who read my blog often know that I have a hard time with cheating in books. It doesn’t automatically make a book unreadable for me (for instance, Maybe Someday deals with cheating and is one of my all-time favorite books), but it has to be handled really well for me to accept it, and even then, it’s sort of a niggling feeling at the back of my mind that won’t go away – a feeling of discomfort that makes me sort of cringe. This is especially true when I’m supposed to be rooting for the cheaters to get together. It just sits wrong with me.

This has made me think a lot about how our personal experiences affect the way we read. Some of you probably assume from my aversion to cheating in books that I’ve been cheated on – it makes sense, right? But that actually isn’t it. In fact, quite the opposite – I’ve been with my husband since high school (we’ve been together over 22 years) and there’s been no cheating involved. So, why do I have such strong feelings about the subject?

I think the fact that I’ve been in a strong, long-lasting relationship actually makes me more averse to cheating in books because I know how hard relationships can be, but I also know how rewarding it can be to stick the hard times through and get to the other side. My husband and I dated for seven years before we got married – many of those years were long distance because we went to different colleges. Trust me, I know what it’s like to feel tempted by someone who’s right there when the person you love is far away or when things get tough and this other person seems so fun and sweet and fresh and new.

Relationships hard

And we see that so often in books – the main character just doesn’t feel that spark with the person they’re with anymore and they meet someone new who ignites them and makes them feel alive! And we root for them, right? I mean, it’s hard not to when this new couple is the focus of the book and the “old” relationship is just background noise. But, for me, this is when my “real life” filter starts to kick in – I start to think about how this fresh, new relationship, this soul mate, is going to feel just like the background noise in a few years. Of course this new relationship feels amazing – it’s brand new!

But that feeling of absolute “in loveness” and adoration can’t last forever. Even when you have a fantastic relationship that newness wears off, and everything looks a little less shiny. You have days where you just want to shake your head and walk away because it would be so much easier than dealing with the fact that your relationship is no longer all unicorns and rainbows. And the fact is that, if you did walk away, you could probably find something that felt better – for a little while – but that doesn’t mean it would be better.

fairy tale romance

So, that little “real life” filter in my brain keeps whispering to the characters – But you have someone who you love, who loves you, who you share history with. You should put forth every effort to fix that relationship before you go off and start another one. You should think hard about the person that you’re hurting and the happiness that you’re giving up before you go searching out new happiness. Because the hard days will pass, and you’ll find yourselves stronger on the other side, and you’ll feel something deeper than that puppy dog adoration if you let yourself get there. (I guess I should point out here that I’m talking about people who had good relationships going in the first place, not really dysfunctional relationships – obviously I’m not a proponent of sticking with someone just because you’re with them, no matter what happens. There are plenty of circumstances where a couple should break up – I’m just talking about situations where the new, shiny romance seems more appealing than the old one.)


But obviously all of that is based on my own life experience. Other people have had contradicting experiences, and their internal voices could be telling them something altogether different. I certainly don’t judge anyone who holds another opinion because their life has taught them different lessons. This is why reading is so personal, why each story means something slightly different to all of us. We are made up of our own life experiences, and no one else has lived in the same way.

Anyway, this is where my personal feelings about cheating come from (at least partially – I do also have people close to me who were cheated on, and that informs my feelings as well). This is why this feels like a hot button topic for me.

So, what do you feel about cheating in books? Is it a barrier for you? I want to know!


49 responses to “Hot Button Topic: Cheating – Let’s Discuss

  1. I don’t like cheating in books either, most of my negative feelings of that come from the fact that i have been through it. i dont think its right to ever put anyone through it, especially if there is no “spark” in the relationship anymore. like you said, relationships are hard and instead of chasing something new why not do that with the person you committed to?

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  2. Interesting discussion! I have not been cheated on, and I don’t believe it’s right to do in real life either. If you need to get out of a relationship, then do it. Don’t cheat on the other person. However, I can see how it can work out in books (and I suppose in real life too) in different circumstances. So I guess it depends on how it’s portrayed, whether I will be okay with it or not.

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  3. It is not really a hot button for me. I have been cheated on, and my Miguel and I are not exactly monogamous, so that might be why I just don’t care about it. I know for me being cheated on was part of learning and growing up. I think being cheated on, or cheating itself, is a common issue for some people. That might explain why we read about it so often.
    Great topic!

    Karen Blue recently posted: Review: QUEEN OF BLOOD by Jill Myles
  4. I love this post. I completely agree and feel that same when we are set up to be rooting for the cheaters. It doesn’t feel right.

    I really liked this statement you made:
    I certainly don’t judge anyone who holds another opinion because their life has taught them different lessons.

    Our lives do teach us varied lessons from others, and our experiences shape a lot of things about our lives. I am completely against cheating, for every reason. I don’t think I’ve come across it much in my own reading very much, but the few times I have encountered it have made me slightly off about the plot and characters.

    • Yes, this is so true. I definitely do feel like often we’re led to root for cheaters. But even then I always have that little niggling sense that something’s wrong. And yes, our experiences inform who we are and what we do and how we live, so people doend up seeing things differently.

  5. Jen

    For me, I struggle when a person cheats on their partner in a book. In my eyes, if you don’t want to be with them, or try to work through any lags then break up with them first. And I will try to avoid this issue in books. I was cheated on once in my life, back when I was 16, but I forgave and we got back together and dated a few more years before I broke up with him because our paths veered apart. I’ve been with my husband for the last 14 years and he truly is the most amazing/trusting person I’ve ever met, yet that issue still sticks out to me in books. Such a great post!

  6. I agree with you so much about this. Like you, cheating has to be handled really, really well for me to like it. I have never been cheated on either and I have been married for over seven years. I think it’s natural for attractions to other people come up because everyone is human. But for someone to act on it is not right. And you hit the nail on the head when you said characters in books who cheat just go for the new, shiny thing. But that can’t last forever. It’s not even supposed to. But if you want someone else, then just break up with the person you are with. Or work on the relationship. But don’t cheat. In books, it would be really hard to root for a couple that starts because of cheating.

    Cynthia @ Bingeing On Books recently posted: BOOK REVIEW: Believarexic by J.J. Johnson
  7. So, basically, cheating in books doesn’t bother me. And I think you hit the nail on the head- for all the reasons you DON’T like cheating, I guess for me there just aren’t many reasons to care? I guess I have been quasi-cheated on, is that a thing? Like, if someone seeks out women online, and like, has dating profiles and stuff, that’s kind of cheating, right? I mean, for me it is. But it’s like, there’s a point where you just can’t care anymore, so I guess being at that point makes it easier not to care if book characters cheat. I mean, UGH this is hard to even talk about. It’s like- you see these characters in these crappy relationships, you know? And if you are IN a crappy relationship… you kind of get the cheating, almost? I don’t think this is coming out right. You don’t CONDONE it, but you understand it a little better maybe?

    Now, on the flip side, I DO think that they should really just end these crummy relationships BEFORE cheating. Obviously, that would make more sense, especially since most of the characters we read about aren’t tied down by much. But then again, they ARE generally young, and making mistakes. Like with 99 Days, I mean, TONS of bad decisions were made, but they’re young, and you live and learn, I suppose.

    Anyway, this is a great topic to discuss, it’s very interesting to see where everyone lands on this issue!

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    • Sounds like your life experiences have kind of numbed you to the issue of cheating – I agree that it’s easier to understand when you have some history. Obviously, there are times when people do things they end up regretting – that’s a part of life. But then 99 Days is one book that really bugged me because I felt like she didn’t try very hard to learn from her mistakes. I get making them, but when you keep repeating them, they start to look less like mistakes and more like choices (to me). But I know that this is just my perspective – and I totally get that there are plenty of people who disagree!

  8. Cheating in books bother me a lot, and no it isn’t because of any past experiences. In fact, I’ve only been in one relationship so far, which didn’t work out because of my battle with depression at that time, and not because any kind of infidelity. Rather, it’s a question of morality to me. Even though I am pretty open minded, I still am traditional, and cheating is one of the worst crimes you can commit to a partner, and I can’t understand why anyone who can’t respect the commitment of a relationship should or can be excused!

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    • Yeah, I think this is a case where I still feel pretty traditionally too. You’ve made a commitment to a person, and you should keep it. If you’re doubting that commitment, you should talk to the person and break it off before you “explore other options.” I do realize that life isn’t always so easy and black and white, but sometimes I wish it were!

  9. This is one great topic to discuss. I can’t stand cheating in books either. If a relationship exists, and it’s going relatively well, and it all goes down in a way that can only be described as ‘cheating’. It makes it really hard for me to support the new romance. It just feels wrong.

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  10. So, I am on the fence about this one.

    I’ve been with my husband for 14 years, so in that aspect, there has been no cheating. I have many friends that have cheated and been cheated ON – like a lot. Part of me felt for the longest time that it was NORMAL. That sounds weird, but when everyone around you is in that boat and here I was, still with my husband for x years at the time. Does that make sense?

    Anyway, I don’t mind cheating in books. Maybe this is because it’s always been around me? In some aspects, it’s apart of life. It’s real – it happens. That doesn’t mean I seek it out – and it has to be something well written for me to “like/love” the book.

    • I understand what you mean. Actually, when I was growing up there were certain people around our family who talked about cheating like it was just something normal. But then, I didn’t see many of those as particularly healthy influences. For a long time, I honestly didn’t think I wanted to get married and have kids because I didn’t see very many examples of good marriages – so it’s kind of ironic that I ended up meeting my husband my senior year of high school. He obviously changed my perspective. 🙂

  11. I feel the same, in my opinion if you are in a relationship with someone and want to be with someone else you break up first. I have read books withc heating that I did enjoy, but like you said it does keep nagging a bit, it just doens’t feel right.

    I have read a few books where the old guy or girl wasn’t right for the character, but even so I think breaking things up before you move to a new one is the best things to do. I also believe that trying to fix your current relationship first is a good idea, if it still doesn’t work you can always break up and give another relationship a try, but often it feels like they don’t even give the old relationship a try.

    So all in all I don’t like cheating in books, I can still enjoy them if the rest is done well, but it still feels off to me. I don’t mind it if characters move on to another relationship, but at least break up the previous one first, that’s the right thing to do.

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  12. I feel cheating is the worst betrayal. I mean intimacy is the greatest gift we have. it brings so much into our lives that is special and cheating takes it all away. Walk away from me if you have to but don’t cheat on me. I mean i prefer you attempt to work it out first, but cheating is the worst. Its not happened to me either and I have been married for 15 years together for 17 and I am still very happy. It would super crush me if he cheated on me. so I stay away from those books altogether. I can’t handle it.

  13. I’ve been cheated on twice and it SUCKS SO BAD that I could never have a beloved character in my own books or in books I read be a cheater or be in a cheating relationship. Just no. BUT, I could have a character be cheated on and that spurns a storyline (because sometimes a bad relationship leads to a better one with someone else) or I could have cheating happen to secondary characters and have a lesson come out of that. But I have a real problem with romance being between people who cheat. That bugs me so much. Sigh.

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  14. I’ve been cheated on more times than I’ve had relationships with people who HAVEN’T cheated on me. But even before all that nastiness, I didn’t like cheaters. So I definitely don’t like to read about it or watch movies/tv shows where the main character is a cheater.

    Now if they realize they’re falling for someone else, and do the decent thing and either tell their current significant other and or break up with their current person? That’s not as bad. But dating more than one person with the first person (or all the people) not knowing? I’m very unlikely to finish the book.

    On the other hand, it does give the character a bit of more three-dimensional-ness if the character is the one cheated ON and not the one doing the cheating. Gives you a reason to root for them and cheer when they find the better person to date and all.

  15. I don’t like cheating in books just as much as I don’t like cheating in real life. I know what you mean about feeling off when the other relationship sort of fades into the background and becomes something which is not a big deal. I don’t mind hearing about conflicting feelings and all that, but I really don’t like when they cross the line and the actual action of cheating happens.

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    • This is me exactly – I don’t mind talking about conflicting feelings, I just don’t like when it crosses over into cheating. Now, I will say some books handle it well and I end up still liking the overall book, but it takes a really special book for that to be true.

  16. Ooh, deep. I’ve never been in a romantic relationship or felt like I might be cheating on someone, or other. I think I’ve read a book where someone cheater, but I can’t remember. I can’t even begin to imagine how it would feel like to be in that position, so I kind of do want to read stories with cheating plots so I can understand why they do it, how they feel about it, etc. I’ve seen way too many TV shows with cheating people, but they just annoy and frustrate rather than educate.

  17. Your comment about “sparks” and “fire” reminded me of a book I read once (I think it was C.S. Lewis?), in which the author talks about how falling in love and being in love are two different things. I remembered it because I love the way he described it. I’m paraphrasing, but I think it went like this: “Being in love is the engine on which a relationship is run. Falling in love is the explosion that started it.” I felt like that was a perfect way of explaining how the extreme thrill is sort of meant to be temporary and eventually settle into something more constant.

    I may only think this because I’m a married lady, but I think it would be fun to see more books with people working to maintain long-term relationships rather than just showing the thrilling beginning of the relationship (or cheating when it’s not thrilling anymore). Most of the fiction I’ve seen that includes marriage/relationship maintenance almost always has it as the main theme, but I’d like to see it in more action books.

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