Cheating is par for the course in Hollywood, right? We've come to expect that very few celebrity marriages will last, and that when relationships ultimately go south, infidelity is often the culprit.
As a society, we love a good cheating scandal. It allows us to condemn the cheater and praise the victim. Brad Pitt, Tiger Woods and Jesse James play the heartless scoundrels, and Jennifer Aniston, Elin Nordegren and Sandra Bullock become our wounded victims.
The latest cheating scandal to surface is, of course, Ashton Kutcher's alleged hot tub romp. Rumors are swirling that Ashton hooked up with not one but two women, including "hottie" (I'm failing to see it) Sara Leal, in a hot tub at the Sand Diego Hard Rock Hotel on the weekend of his sixth wedding anniversary.
Since the incident, Demi Moore and Ashton's relationship has seemed shaky at best. The pair "unfollowed" each other on Twitter and have yet to be spotted out together, albeit they're still wearing their wedding bands.
In the midst of passive-aggressive Tweets that have been funneling from the pair was this quote from Greek philosopher Epictetus, offered up by Demi: "When we are offended at any man's fault, turn to yourself & study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger."
Is this a sign that Demi is blaming herself for her husband's (assumed) infidelity? Does she believe that something she did, or rather didn't do, led her husband to cheat on her?
To this, my most philosophical response is: Bullshit.
Let's be clear: Cheating is a choice. It doesn't matter how bad your marriage is, how poorly you communicate, what your failings are, cheating is still a choice. And because of that, no matter how bad of a person you think you are, and no matter what you think you did that may have prompted your spouse to cheat, it's still not your fault. They have a brain, a conscience, a way to tell right from wrong. They made the decision to cheat, and that's totally on them.
That doesn't mean that the non-cheating spouse is totally innocent. We all have failings. We all struggle to be better people, to make better decisions. None of us are perfect partners or perfect spouses, and a lot of us have a great deal of shit to work through. But your imperfections don't validate your spouse's infidelity.
It's dangerous to blame yourself for your spouse's cheating ways, because it creates a potential pattern that's extremely difficult to break: When you blame yourself, you take responsibility for someone else's actions. This means that they don't have to take any of the responsibility for the pain they caused you. You internalize that blame, which makes you feel less confident and self-assured in your marriage, which makes you the weaker party. Now, they're more powerful AND don't feel responsible, which leads them to cheat again.
Demi Moore, it doesn't matter how you think you could have improved as a spouse. You deserved respect, and for your husband to not stray from your marriage. Those are basic things that every person in a marriage deserves, without having to ask for it. Own your problems, sure. But don't own his problems, too!
What do you think, TMR readers? Are spouses somewhat responsible for their cheating partners' trysts? Or are they blameless victims?
Each week in "Relationships by Rachel," TMR columnist Rachel East tackles relationships in all their blissful, heartbreaking and mind-boggling glory.