For something so personal, cheating is in the news a lot.
It's in our politics, in our tabloids, on Twitter, on our favorite surprise albums. It hasn't happened to every prominent person, but it is common enough among those we deem headline-worthy to make it seem like an epidemic. And over time, enough versions of the same story are told so that they become part of the collective consciousness.
When a celebrity's relationship ends, after six weeks, six months or 10 years, the mind does head in that direction, wondering who messed up and when (and how many times)—though of course cheating isn't always actually a factor.
And whether it was or not, most of the time one ex doesn't accuse the other of cheating. The couple "amicably" splits up and goes their separate ways. Yet other times... the breakup happens and the cheating rumors follow. Or the other way around.
Often times there's no visible proof and there will never be any proof—only speculation and innuendo, bolstered by anything ranging from anonymously obliging insiders and eyewitnesses to the cheated-upon's own dance around the subject.
"If I could, I would just tell you everything, and you would just be in shock. It's a really good, juicy story," Gwen Stefani promised The New York Times earlier this year when opening up in depth for the first time about the spontaneous combustion ("My life was literally blown up into my face") of her 12-year marriage to Gavin Rossdale.
A few months later, the "Used to Love You" singer told Cosmopolitan, "Nobody would believe it if I could really say what happened. I went through months and months of torture."
And while Stefani answered a Vanity Fair question in which her ex's "alleged affair" with their nanny of many years was directly referred to, she never explicitly confirmed that was the case in so many words. But the working lore on Stefani and Rossdale's divorce is that the Bush frontman, who had denied cheating accusations a few years prior to the split, messed around with their nanny.
Which just seems strange because...
Have you seen Gwen Stefani? What child of the '90s (or '00s, or '10s) didn't want to be Gwen at one point, or at least dress like her, sing like her, rock red lips or platinum hair like her, just...anything like her?
She's a fierce and undeniably sexy artist and businesswoman who's had major success in her life... and whose dumb husband stepped out on her.
But she's in estimable company.
Just this week, People reported that Jennifer Lopezof iconic J.Lo fame—kicked longtime on-and-off boyfriend Casper Smartout of her house (there is no their there) in August because she caught him cheating. Again.
"She kicked him out because he cheated on her and he got caught," a source told the magazine. "It happened two years ago, and he promised he would never do it again and once he did, she was done."
But the takeaway is that Lopez reportedly forgave Smart's misbehavior at least once before. Just like a...regular person might do.
First of all, no judgment whatsoever for not dumping a cheater. Just as the cheater can come up with a dozen reasons/excuses why he or she strayed, so will the cheated-upon have twice as many reasons for sticking it out, love being just one. That's where the utmost personal aspect of this lies. Infidelity doesn't have to be a deal-breaker, and you don't have to be J.Lo or Hillary Clintonto decide it's worth giving the guy another chance.
Beyoncé and Jay Z, for instance, have continued to put up a fiercely united front since the release of Lemonade, which certainly sounded like an open letter to a cheater, be it Jay Z or Bey's dad (or both)—and it certainly seemed autobiographical. Throughout the critically lauded LP, Beyoncé tries to come to terms with what happened and emotionally labors over what to do—stay or go? Move on or fight? Maybe a little of both.
What a wicked way to treat the girl that loves you.
And while business-and-marketing genius Beyoncé has her own road to travel, be it with a possibly philandering husband by her side or not, the likelihood that yet another woman whom so many people look up to has been treated shabbily at some point in her life is just further proof that getting hurt can happen to anyone and blaming one's self should be forbidden.
There's also no such thing as being too beautiful, too alluring, too sexy, too smart, too funny, too patient or just too perfect in every way for a guy to cheat on you. (And, of course, women cheat too. Let's just say that for almost every scenario mentioned, it can go the other way around as well.) Nor is there such a thing as being a certain way, therefore you deserve being cheated on. (Unless you're also cheating, in which case... check, please!)
In fact, perhaps the more pulled together a woman is, the more a certain type of guy might be inclined to go out and find someone who makes him feel more important, or less inadequate. That's certainly not the woman's fault—it's his problem if he can't figure out a better, more respectful way to deal with his own issues.
Hypothetical case in point: Let's say Smart adores Lopez, but screwed up anyway because of [insert issue here].
Meanwhile, many millennials' hot-celebrity-grass-is-always-greener worldview was done away with decades ago, thanks to Hugh Grant.
Arrested after being caught with a prostitute, the repentant star of Four Weddings and a Funeral publicly apologized on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and went on to be the still relentlessly charming Hugh Grant. But on the other end of that betrayal was longtime girlfriend Elizabeth Hurley, in 1995 (and still today) one of the most stunning women in the world.
Now, no one knew that much about Hurley personally then, but on the surface at least, Grant's mistake seemed like a travesty of justice, a breaking of the rules of attraction. (When you're a teenager, anyway. Then you start digging into history and reading about JFK and Elizabeth Taylor and many, many other celebrities, and you realize spouses or partners mistreating the most iconic people in the world is nothing new.)
"We all know I cheated. It was out there. It's a betrayal. But I never did have sexual intercourse with anyone while I was with Halle."
So said Eric Benét after his divorce from Halle Berry, another movie star whose physical beauty is the stuff of legend while her relationships have been so much headline fodder.
"We did get back together after that," the singer told People in 2005. "We tried to rediscover this groove of feeling comfortable and safe and trustworthy in the relationship. I was very much in love with my wife. But I personally could only contribute 50 percent. Ultimately what was the end of us was she just couldn't trust me anymore. You can't blame her for that."
Asked about Berry's 50 percent, he added, "Halle came into the relationship with her issues and I came into the relationship definitely with my issues. It was the perfect situation for it to be completely non-conducive to working this out. It was like the Titanic going down."
And it can take two to tango, such as if one person tries to communicate with the other before any cheating has occurred and the other proves resistant. Or if one person has cheated and the other decides to stay, quality of life is going to take a nosedive if you stick together and all the resentment, trust issues, anger and other fallout of a betrayal are just left to simmer rather than tackled head-on.
"The truth is, he was cheating and now that it's over he's been begging to come back," a source told People about the J.Lo-Casper Smart breakup. "He says he's changed and that he is a new man but recently, on a video shoot for Wisin in Mexico, he was posting videos with bikini-clad dancers and not acting like a guy trying to remedy old habits. He was kicked to the curb not because he did not attend a party with J. Lo but because he was caught having parties of his own. No one has time for that, especially J. Lo."
Nor anybody else.
Power to Lopez if she once tried to forgive, but if she came to the conclusion that fool her twice, out he goes... then it was the best thing for everyone that she end the relationship, figuring if he didn't make good on his second chance, a pattern had been born.
But looks and success entirely aside, considering the variety of people who've been put through the emotional wringer by a cheater, it also goes to show that there is no one personality type that attracts such behavior either.
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Lord knows why Tiger Woodsfelt the need to get married when he did, because his antics might have shocked people but otherwise amounted to a day's worth of headlines if he had just been unmasked as a womanizer rather than a serial cheater in 2009.
"I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves," the super-star golfer, who hasn't won a major slam title since, said by way of an apology a week after he suspiciously crashed his Escalade in their front yard, triggering all sorts of poking into his private life. "I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart."
Wife Elin Nordegren, with whom Woods has two daughters, was outta there and their divorce was finalized in August 2010.
"I never suspected, not a one," Elin told People at the time. "For the last three-and-a-half years, when all this was going on, I was home a lot more with pregnancies, then the children and my school." She also noted, "I am now going to do my very best to show [their kids] that alone and happy is better than being in a relationship where there is no trust."
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Barely a month later, Bullock had filed for divorce.
James hedged his apology though, admitting that the "only person to blame for this whole situation" was him, but the "vast majority of the allegations reported are untrue and unfounded. Beyond that, I will not dignify these private matters with any further public comment."
The former Monster Garage host certainly didn't dignify anything a year later when he told Men's Journal in 2011, while promoting his auspiciously timed autobiography, "I never shied away from anything I did. I took full responsibility. I cheated on my wife. Guess what? So do millions of other men."
Which brings us to the lesson to take away pretty much every time it's revealed that someone like Sandra Bullock, or Beyoncé, or Jennifer Lopez has been subjected to the most clichéd form of crap-husband or crap-boyfriend behavior.
While it would be nice if we could all do what Adele did—"This record is inspired by something really normal and everyone's been through it, that's a rubbish relationship," she said in accepting the Album of the Year Grammy for 21—it's paramount to remember that there's no magical potion of riches, fame, beauty or any other advantage (aside from psychic powers) that can ward off being cheated on if the other person is so inclined.
Maybe he (or she) is insecure, bored, drunk, a raging narcissist, or had no intent to be monogamous in the first place. And maybe you're too fierce, too successful, too independent, too awesome for them to handle. Or maybe, and most likely, it's just one of those crummy, sad things.
The especially personal part is how the betrayed person chooses to deal with the other's transgression. It's whatever works for the individual, for their family, for those involved. Staying is a choice, leaving is a choice, and either one could be the right choice, depending on the situation.
Meanwhile, none of this is to say, "if it could happen to J.Lo or Beyoncé, what hope is there for 'normal' women." Not at all. Rather, it's just a reminder that it has happened to the prettiest, to the fanciest, to the most talented, to the most successful, to the most famous, to the most envied.
And you can bet that they all went through the gamut of feelings when the other shoe dropped, just as anyone would.
Entertainment, politics and sports obviously provide their stars with more opportunities and temptation, not to mention attract a certain subset of people who might think that they can do whatever they want without consequence. On the other hand, neither in those worlds or in the real world is it going to happen to everyone, because there are plenty of partners who would never do such a thing.
But, for any of the ladies out there who happen to cross paths with a guy who doesn't prove faithful... Rest assured by now that it's not you. It's him. You may not have a Lemonade-style epiphany when all is said and done, but in that case, even if you were Beyoncé it wouldn't make him a better man.