Make it stop, please

I don't know why I do it to myself--I see a link with a stupid question and I can't help it. I click. Then I get pissed, usually at myself for clicking, sometimes at whoever posted the story. And then sometimes I blog about it.

The question that got me this time was Does flirting on Facebook count as cheating?" There's a very simple answer to this--it depends on how your partner feels about it. If your partner is cool with it, or even does it, then no, it's not cheating. If your partner doesn't like it, then it is. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question.

But that's not the real point of the article. It seems the main point of the article is to point out that men are all scurrilous dogs and that women on Facebook are all whores out to steal your man away from you, and most importantly, how you can defend against it. In fact, the end of the article has a heading titled "How to cope if your guy..." and then presents four different scenarios. It bugs me because it plays into so many stereotypes--the desperate clingy woman who snoops on her man to keep him close; the sneaky man who's looking for any opportunity to cheat; the ex who's always a whore looking to lure her man back into her clutches. And it's presented in such a simple-minded way--with an attempt to draw bright-lines for what's acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

Look, relationships are unique--you've got two (or more in some cases) individuals, each with their own personalities, trying to negotiate their way around each other, the world they live in, the social pressures of extended family, separate upbringings, disparate habits, taboos, religious belief (or lack thereof), and an array of other issues. Every combination of people comes with its own set of negotiations, and while there will undoubtedly be some broad areas of agreement, in others, it will really depend on the people involved in the relationship.

It seems to me that in any situation like this, if you have to ask the question (is this cheating), you probably know, subconsciously at least, that your partner won't like what you're doing and at the very least you ought to broach the subject. And if your partner gets upset, don't get defensive about it. Go into it acknowledging that your partner probably won't like what you're suggesting--then, if he or she doesn't care, you're pleasantly surprised. And most importantly, realize that whatever you're asking about you're also letting your partner know that you're cool with it. Don't have one set of standards for yourself and another for your partner.

I don't think these ideas are anything extraordinary. It's Empathy 101, treat others as you would be treated, Hippie Jesus stuff. Easier in theory than in practice, to be sure, but so are relationships.

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