Is Ignorance Bliss?
December 28, 2004 4:30 PM   Subscribe

If you were cheated on and broken up with, would you want to know that you were cheated on or would ignorance be bliss?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (36 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would want to know, but I would be MUCH happier not knowing.
posted by sic at 4:30 PM on December 28, 2004 [1 favorite]

Is this salt in the wound? If so, no. If you're a bandage, a care, then perhaps. Delicate.
posted by sled at 4:32 PM on December 28, 2004

Do you want to know the nature of the world around you and those who dwell within it, or do you prefer ignorance and illusion?
posted by rushmc at 4:48 PM on December 28, 2004

nothing ever good comes from knowing. It's kind of like science.
posted by dismitree at 4:52 PM on December 28, 2004

Had the cheating been with someone I knew I think I'd want to know that one of my acquaintances was untrustworthy.
posted by zadcat at 4:59 PM on December 28, 2004

Me personally? I would want to know. The feelings of pain and betrayal can be dealt with if both parties are committed to each other. The constant grinding discomfort of feeling that "something" was wrong without being able to identify it could lead to much more pain and even real damage long term.

On the Other hand. If the Cheater is so amoral that they don't feel any discomfort at the betrayal, you have a whole other set of problems...
posted by ad hoc at 4:59 PM on December 28, 2004 [1 favorite]

It happened. There's no denying this. Being cheated on is humiliating, and I speak of this from experience, but again from experience I can say that being the only person not to know you've been cheated on is far more humiliating. And rest assured, what happens on the road always comes home. Tell them.
posted by baphomet at 5:09 PM on December 28, 2004 [1 favorite]

Are you nuts? What are you going to do, call them up and say "Hey, you know when I broke up with you? Well, I was cheating on you! Haha!" The only reason to do such a thing is for the sake of your own guilt. The person in question probably realised anyway, and telling them would just be hurtful.

Of course, I'd want to be told if someone had done it to me, which is the inherent contradiction in this situation. People always want to know things that they'd be better off not knowing, daft creatures they are.
posted by reklaw at 5:15 PM on December 28, 2004

i was recently cheated on, and i had to ask, but i was told. sure, it's impossibly shitty to have it happen, especially when you're living with your SO.. but it is better to know, for the purposes of moving on.

to back up baphomet, i also had a best friend in high school (those were they days, eh) whose girlfriend cheated on him with a mutual friend. i was the only one of the group who would tell him (and i only found out after it had gone on for weeks). you can imagine his pain and frustration when he found out he couldn't trust any of his other friends OR his girlfriend. ugly.

on preview- if it's post breakup, then that is indeed murky...
posted by fake at 5:18 PM on December 28, 2004

There is always the factor that he or she may very well find out the long way around. I would say in general that honesty is always gonna be the best policy. You did something bad; own up to it. Hiding it for the sake of the other person's feelings is well-intentioned, but ultimately irresponsible, and if s/he finds out later, it will only be worse.
posted by mdn at 5:20 PM on December 28, 2004

How interconnected are the cheater and cheatee? If it's likely (or even possible) that the cheater will disappear in a tidy stinky *poof!*-- then just let it go. But if there are overlapping sets of friends, then the cheatee will find out sooner or later. Might as well spill now.

How close are you to the cheater? If a good friend had this info about my relationship, I would be royally pissed if he/she didn't tell me.
posted by vetiver at 5:23 PM on December 28, 2004

It depends. Does your friend harbor an illusions about his or her ex? If s/he doesn't know they are scum, it may help soften the blow.

If things have healed over, it might be better to let sleeping dogs lie. I second sic. I'd want to know, but I would be happier not knowing.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 5:35 PM on December 28, 2004

To the cheat-ee: it is far better to know than to believe 'oh, maybe I'm imagining things' or be told 'oh, you are crazy, you are just imagining things'.

To the cheater: the truth will come out, sooner or later.

To the messenger: the relationship with you will take a turn for the worse before it gets any better.
posted by seawallrunner at 5:39 PM on December 28, 2004

Do you want to know the nature of the world around you and those who dwell within it, or do you prefer ignorance and illusion?

Well, another way of putting that is "Is the enlightenment of this particular 'truth' worth the pain that knowing it will cause?"

which like all emotional questions, has different answers for different people in different situations.
posted by jonmc at 5:49 PM on December 28, 2004

I think if the relationship has ended and the person that was cheated on isn't likely to find out, then no, don't tell. What happened in a previous relationship should stay there, unless the not knowing is going to potentially hurt the person in the future.

I would want to know, but if I was the cheater I'm not sure I would tell. I like to think I would, but I'm a big wuss about that sort of thing.
posted by eatcherry at 5:59 PM on December 28, 2004

The health risks outweigh just about anything else. Tell. One never knows what nastiness may have been passed on.
posted by oflinkey at 6:47 PM on December 28, 2004

I'd want to know. Hell, I'd still like to know the reasons for the demise of a relationship that ended in 2001. I have my suspicions. Infidelity (and not wanting to own up to it) is but one theory as to why she suddenly split, and I've had time to come up with other plausible scenarios too. I can't believe she's fine with me having the wrong idea about her, if I do.

Anonymous, assuming you're the cheater and not the cheated, wouldn't you want to clear the air?

So, have any MeFi couples broken up recently? Heh.
posted by emelenjr at 6:56 PM on December 28, 2004

Having been in this situation (live-in boyfriend cheating with one of my best friends), it made my life a living hell for a few months, but much better off in the long run. I'm now completely free of two albatrosses and so much the stronger for having lived through it.

The truth hurts like hell, but it will free you.
posted by MsVader at 8:06 PM on December 28, 2004 [1 favorite]

As I have seen this exact situation from afar, I without a doubt say that it needs to be told. Cheating is a failure of integrity- persons in that situation are taking someone's trust and ripping it to shreds.

That's enough right there to warrant the truth.
posted by id at 8:20 PM on December 28, 2004 [1 favorite]

Apart from the potential health risk argument, I say don't ask, don't tell if that is ruled out. Nothing good will come of it. We cause each other enough pain as it is, betray each other three times before the cock crows day in and day out. Nobody needs a complete set of emotional Green Stamps to cash in on judgement day.
posted by y2karl at 8:32 PM on December 28, 2004

I think I'd want to know just so I'd have some sort of understanding about why the relationship ended. It would hurt like hell, but I still think I'd rather know.
posted by whatideserve at 9:12 PM on December 28, 2004

A friend of mine just went through this exact situation... the break-up, which was mutual, happened at the beginning of the year, and just last month he confessed to having cheated on her while they were still together. My friend was livid. She'd been on good terms with him prior to his revelation, but after she found out she wanted nothing to do with him. All the trust she'd had in him vanished.

If it were me ... as others have said before, even though I'd be happier if I didn't know, I'd still want to know the truth. If you're keeping it secret to protect the cheatee, you're really not doing him/her any favors. I'd like to think that someone I cared for, whether it was the ex or a bystanding friend, would have enough respect for me to know that I could handle the truth. (Of course, I'd also like to think that someone I cared for would have enough respect for me not to cheat on me in the first place, but I digress.)
posted by Aster at 11:09 PM on December 28, 2004

It's the difference of how much you want to kill the ex that counts, I sppose.
posted by pemdasi at 11:17 PM on December 28, 2004

tell. please tell. if you cared enough about them to be in a relationship with them, you should care enough about them to let them know what actually happened.

Well, you should have cared enough about them to let them know when it was happening, but that's water under the bridge by now, it sounds like. You owe them the knowledge at the very least. Pain is not necessarily bad, nor is it always inappropriate. Some things are painful.
posted by dkg at 11:21 PM on December 28, 2004

Perhaps my circumstances were unique in some way, but for a year I suspected my fiancee was cheating on me. When confronted, she had every lie in the book available and would go to great lengths to prove to me she was not cheating, including involving accomplices that I trusted a great deal.

When evidence surfaced in the form of pictures, receipts and missing bondage gear, she accused me of trying to nail her to the cross. The pictures were of a cousin I had never met or heard of in the five years of our relationship. The receipts were from work. The missing bondage gear was my fault.

By this time, we had broken off the engagement, but were still dating and living together. You may be thinking "Why?", but the answer is simple. Though she was on the lease, she had never paid a single bill, never seemed to have the money when bills were due and threatened that if I ever left during the lease, she'd ruin my credit by not paying for a single thing and dragging my name through the eviction process. We fought fiercely like this as things got worse.

Her behavior had become increasingly suspicious. I realized she had closed an account that was in both of our names with a significant amount of money in it. She played ignorant. Her cell phone bill was ridiculous, but she never called me, her family or anyone else. They were work related, but she never expensed a single call. At her salary, she simply couldn't afford not to. (Oddly enough, I never found it suspicious that the only bill she paid during the entire time this was happening was her cell phone bill.)

During these twelve months or so, I lost it, completely and totally. I was certain something wasn't right, but I didn't know what. I quit my job. I tried and failed to bury my misery in other women and friends. I stopped taking phone calls for months. I stopped leaving the house. I stopped eating but a few hundred calories a day. I was a wreck and she knew it.

She finally took it upon herself to tell my family that I was falling apart. Instead of taking any responsibility, she basically told them I was their problem. While it wasn't her intent, according to her, this is what she said. She didn't say it in person or on the phone. Instead she wrote an email. I've since read the email. She blamed my sister. She blamed my mother for playing favorites. She blamed my step father for not sticking up for his step son.

And then one day she left her email open on my computer. The open email was from her lover. It contained conclusive evidence of the affair, but I read every email she sent and received during the period in question. When I was sufficiently motivated, I walked into the bedroom, where she was watching television and informed her in a calm voice that she had exactly thirty seconds to get out of my life entirely.

Come to think of it, I don't think I even told her why, she knew from the moment I opened my mouth.

Since that day, I have been in regular contact with my family, am working again, developed a healthy relationship and have even learned to forgive my then partner. Finding out that I was lied to for a year in the most disgusting of ways freed me from a mental prison. I had spent most of the year believing I had become clinically paranoid, that I was hallucinating and hearing voices. I spent a great deal of time with specialists to help me deal with what seemed like schizophrenia. Since that day I have not had a single symptom or anything resembling a relapse.

Finding out she was having an affair was the single most powerful and impactful thing that has happened in my adult life. Without a doubt, I'd want to know if it ever happened again. It didn't hurt to find out, it felt good.
posted by sequential at 11:37 PM on December 28, 2004

If there's a health risk, tell him. If there's risk he'll hear the story from someone else, tell him. If it's water under the bridge, however, let it go.

Both the relationship and the affair have ended. It's no longer a question of keeping a secret. It's a question of exposing a secret. Ask yourself what's to be gained. If you genuinely think the knowledge will benefit him, that's one thing. But folks in your position usually confess to assuage their own consciences. That's not honesty. It's selfish cruelty.
posted by cribcage at 12:04 AM on December 29, 2004

Don't tell me. I have a bad enough body image already. I don't want to see what you found more attractive than me. Seriously. This is the only reason I don't want to know.

Now, if you think you have possibly exposed me to HIV or some other disease, tell me that, and that ONLY.
posted by pieoverdone at 3:41 AM on December 29, 2004

Yes, I'd want to know. Ignorance is not bliss.

Bliss is trusting. [among other things]
posted by kamylyon at 5:48 AM on December 29, 2004

As much as it would hurt, I would want to know. Especially if he broke up with me for no apparent reason or worse, did the old now-you-see-me-now-you-don't thing. It would give me some feeling of closure and I wouldn't have to speculate.
posted by SisterHavana at 6:57 AM on December 29, 2004

We cause each other enough pain as it is, betray each other three times before the cock crows day in and day out.

Speak for yourself.

Bliss is trusting.

I like that.
posted by rushmc at 8:34 AM on December 29, 2004

If you broke up with the cheatee, and won't have them in your life again, what's the point? Don't rub it in, unless you need to unburden yourself. Which some people do.

If you want to maintain a relationship with the cheatee, you have to decide whether you can live with the secret. Some people would find it constantly hanging over their heads.
posted by sacre_bleu at 9:16 AM on December 29, 2004

Get tested. Worse than knowing, worse than not knowing, is getting infected. The news that you are not infected helps you feel better, and if you learn that you are infected, you need to get treatment.

Don't fuck around on your partner. It's just such a shitty way to behave.
posted by theora55 at 10:09 AM on December 29, 2004

I would want to know.

This happened to me and it was one of the most painful experiences of my life. It left me depressed for a long, long time. All the same, I wouldn't choose now to have not known. Its important to know the truth about these things.
posted by xammerboy at 10:10 AM on December 29, 2004 [1 favorite]

Bliss is getting over it quickly. If I'm well on the way there myself, knowing about infidelity will be meaningless, I just won't care. But, if as is so often true, I'm wallowing in despair borne of hope and denial, then knowing I was cheated on will make finding acceptance of finality that very much quicker.

It'll make me lower, too, but the rollercoaster will be faster.
posted by bonaldi at 6:17 PM on December 29, 2004

There are so many variables in the situation, it's difficult to answer.

Personally, I would *want* to know, but I'd be better off being blissfully ignorant.

I'd say that the only reason to tell would be if it is likely that your ex will find out anyway or if you may have passed along a disease. Otherwise, what's the point?
posted by Juicylicious at 7:18 PM on December 29, 2004

Tell me. I need more reasons for my friends not to like you.

That, and the truth is good, I promise, and maybe I'll respect you for that.
posted by redsparkler at 11:21 PM on December 29, 2004

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