Why Is Infidelity Easier To Forgive On TV?

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Anger. Hurt. Betrayal. 

These are the feelings one experiences when they realize the person they love has been unfaithful.

Historically, a woman had little choice but to stay with her husband if he cheated. We've moved past that now. Modern cultures give women the freedom to leave their husband or boyfriend with their head held high. They will be encouraged to leave their lover, and slightly judged if they don't.

After all, is there a betrayal worse than infidelity? 

Stand Up Midge - The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Apparently, there is.

From the perspective, a shipper, not forgiving the other half of your ship for their infidelity is grounds for fandom hatred.

Cheating on television is a plot device; it is not an insurmountable obstacle. If the couple is highly shipped, if the cheater is sympathetic and attractive, shippers will root for everything to be swept under the rug. 

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Can cheaters change? Possibly.

Once a cheater always a cheater is a good rule, but every rule has exceptions. Cheating can be circumstantial. Sometimes people screw up, realize their mistakes, and make strides to be better. People are capable of change and growth.

However, that does not make cheating okay. It does not mean a grand romantic gesture equals a person actually changing their ways. In real like we (hopefully) realize this. If we don't see it on our own, hopefully, our friends will help and protect us from cheaters begging for another chance. 

On television, time and/or a grand romantic gesture are usually enough for a popular ship to reconcile after infidelity. 

Zoe and Wade On The Road Again - Hart of Dixie Season 2 Episode 24

On Hart of Dixie, Wade only waited a few months after cheating on Zoe to proclaim his love to her.

When she was not ready to forgive him, she ran away and tried to move on, and he acted like the injured party. Then when she decided she loved him, he put her in a situation of winning him back, saying he couldn't trust her not to hurt him. 

I'm sorry, WHAT?

You cheat, but you can't trust her?

But did fans side with Wade or Zoe? Poor put upon Wade, of course, with the puppy-dog eyes, the hard childhood, and the abs.

Mostly the abs.

Wade Kinsella Shirtless

People loved Wade, and they loved him and Zoe together. They want Zade to live happily ever after, and they want Wade, the underdog, to get the girl.

So Zoe gets blamed for not saying "I love you" back and for trying to move on with Joel. Some fans even went so far as to blame Zoe for Wade's cheating, because she did not support him enough. 

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In the end, the couple reconciled without Wade ever really addressing the insecurities and abandonment issues that led him to do what he did.

Fans loved the fluff, but did Wade ever really prove he changed? 

Ross Begs Rachel To Stay

Sometimes, the guy or girl in question has a good reason for why they cheat. Maybe he thought they were broken up a-la Ross Geller or Logan Huntzberger.

Maybe he had trouble choosing between two women he loved and didn't want to hurt either, like Schmidt on New Girl. Maybe he never felt like he deserved the girl, like Joel on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or Wade.

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I guess there is this idea that love can conquer anything. If they truly love each other, which their avid shippers will swear on their respective deities that they do, then what should one little indiscretion matter?

Except it does.

Television would have us believe love is all grand gestures and off-the-wall chemistry but isn't love also trust and getting through the hard times together without taking the easy way out? 

Midge and Joel Stammer

Cheating is a violation of trust. People who cheat do it for a reason and that reason needs to get addressed in a real and constructive way to rebuild trust.

If it is just swept under the rug, the foundation of the relationship becomes faulty, and there is nothing to say history won't repeat itself.

Let us not forget all the times cheating was used as a lever in television to end one ship and start another.

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The popular Nate and Serena ship from Gossip Girl started when Serena slept with her best friend's boyfriend.

In this situation, we see that clearly Blair and Nate should not be together. Nate's straying gets highlighted, but he is not made out to be a bad guy. He is just with the wrong girl.

That makes it okay. Except does it?

Serena and Nate Cheating

What if Blair and Nate were the main ship? They do give it another go later in the series, and a compelling case gets made for them as a couple. 

By compelling, I mean, he's a good guy, and aren't they just so cute together? If fans found Blair/Nate as shippable as Nate and Serena, his infidelity would have been forgiven and forgotten. 

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A cheating storyline is often meant to cause drama and forgiven to appease fan and reestablish a status quo.  It makes sense in fiction.

In reality, there are dangers to sweeping it all under the rug though, and maybe television should show that more.

Should people learn how to act in relationships based on the latest CW show?

Probably not.

Do they?

Sometimes, yes, they do.

So maybe a healthier way of dealing should be presented.

Good fiction allows us to be sympathetic to all characters, including the cheater. It is not bad to see the shades of gray.

However, just because we understand why somebody became a serial killer and we sympathize, does not mean we should condone it.

Cheating is not killing, but it does kill trust, and it can kill a relationship. 

What do you think of how cheating gets portrayed on television? Is it accurate? Does it send the wrong message? Is it okay to give a cheater another chance?

Let us know in the comments.

Leora W is a staff writer for TV Fanatic..

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