“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:27-28)
The Kübler-Ross model or as it’s commonly known The Five Stages of Grief says that individuals go through five distinct emotional states when faced with the reality of tragedy, most notably loss from death. These stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance can occur in a predictable and logical order, randomly, or in other cases, though rarely, not at all. Anyone who has dealt with the loss of a loved one or family member can appreciate the painful truth behind this theory.
I can still remember when I first committed the sixth of Pope Gregory I’s seven deadly sins. I was in Mrs. Heath’s sixth grade class at Charlotte Elementary School in what is still a two red-light town. At this age I had began noticing the opposite sex, which prompted a new outlook about girls as something other than contagious. Midway through the school year Tammy Moneypenny transferred to Podunkville from somewhere up north, but to me she was sent special delivery from heaven. It was love at first sight and Farrah Faucet had now been replaced. As if only yesterday I can clearly remember my elation after discovering her desk would be across from my own.
The discovery of my ex wife’s affair wouldn’t have made for juicy Lifetime television. I never walked in to find the lovers in a pornographic embrace, this happened way before I could have hacked into her Facebook account, and sexting had not yet made it to prominence. It never manifest through a counseling epiphany nor was it part of some compulsory soul cleansing. In truth I was completely oblivious to it all. Even through the separation I viewed their entire relationship as nothing more than friends and close work acquaintances.
To this day my naivety, and denial, remain staggering.
When it finally sank in that their ‘friendship’ involved a bit more than simply work outs and lunches together our divorce was already finalized. This reality was eventually driven home one Friday afternoon as I picked the kids for weekend visitation. Noticing a strange car, convertible Corvette ironically, in the driveway I pulled up and was cordially introduced to the individual who had been a frequent topic of our conversations for year’s prior. Using only his first name “you know …”, he already seemed suspiciously comfortable in his new role. He and I maintained minimal eye contact, exchanged few words, and didn’t shake hands; the tension between us was unmistakable with far more of it being his making than my own. As I drove home I can still remember my amazement at her nonchalant attitude during the entire scene – as if I should have expected it.
The coming-to-terms with being deceived and traded in for someone new didn’t have the spirit crushing impact one might think. At this point the worse was already behind me and a therapist was managing my emotional chaos quite well, not to mention the 25 mg of Lexapro I was downing every morning followed by cocktails most nights. Interestingly the feelings I did harbor were less about betrayal or treachery and more anger and resentment. As the months and years carried on I just couldn’t move past the outrage at how she had traded-in everything and turned our children’s worlds upside down – for that. In my mind she carried the full weight of this new family dynamic. It was her fault we all had to downgrade our lives, that I was reduced to a father with visitation rights only, and my kids would, for their entire childhood, suffer a ping-pong existence – all so she could have a new plaything.
My indignation knew no bounds. Given the opportunity I would pour out my wrath on her with extreme prejudice. I was shockingly rude, flagrantly unsympathetic, and unabashedly condescending. I would randomly delay child support and alimony, routinely fail to answer calls or return messages entirely, and send scathing emails concerning any number of, what I considered, co-parenting fouls. And if we were in the same room together my patronization was borderline appalling. Given the slightest nudge I could easily become the Mr. Hyde that keeps divorce attorneys in business and single mom bloggers with material.
Time and age are most effective healers. As the years carried on my bitterness subsided and the more introspection I performed the more I began seeing the forest instead of just the trees. The moment I started looking outside my personal univerise is when it dawned on me that in my search for scapegoats and suspects to satisfy my wounded ego the one place I failed to look was my own mirror. Cheating, affairs, liaisons – even flirting – outside of a marriage doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Meaning there are behaviors and actions taking place inside the relationship which cause reactions outside the relationship. For example, the most common reason men give for cheating isn’t lack of sex or the wrinkles on her face, it’s that he feels unappreciated, unacknowledged, and disrespected. Routinely what ends in a sexual affair starts innocently with a friend, coworker, or customer showering him with the compliments and recognition he needs but isn’t getting at home.
Looking at my former marriage and its demise through this different point of view I finally came to understand, and even appreciate, that day in counseling when she emphatically stated she wouldn’t end their friendship because he “gives me what I need”. Only by looking beyond my pride and pity was I suddenly able to see the vital part I played in the affair. I could now observe, with perfect clarity, how my actions and behaviors not only kept their relationship aflame but was the fuel that caused it to grow. Like a door suddenly swung open my animosity and outrage finally had a chance to breath, and in so doing change was able to occur.
I’ve sat in numerous divorced men’s groups and listened as others ferociously condemned ex-wives for rejecting the sanctity of their marriage all the while implying their spousal perfection. When asked if there is anything they could have done which may have driven her into another man’s arms they respond with embarrassed indignation.
I don’t know when, or if, I’ll completely snuff out my resentment; that which was taken from my kids and I, never to be reclaimed, is a persistent and powerful thorn. And while I’m not the spiteful prick I used to be I continue to treat the relationship as a strictly sterile business and have no intention of doing otherwise. For me, this way just works better. Nor have I become any more sympathetic to the adulterer, and the outcome that ultimately befalls them. But through my discovery I’ve learned that in any affair – everyone involved is the victim and the culprit. And when fingers start looking for someone to point blame, it’s usually a good idea to begin with the one doing the pointing.
Blogger note: this post also appeared in the Huffington Post.
There’s a bit of buzz going around regarding a new book written by a sociologist at England’s University of Winchester titled The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating.
I’m not going into detail concerning Eric Anderson’s hypothesis surrounding why men cheat, only to say that he came up with his findings from studying 120 undergraduate males. His observations found that 78% of them admitted cheating “even though they said that they loved and intended to stay with their partner.” The subject base alone warrants a complete disregard for his entire argument. A 19-year-old undergraduate boy can appreciate the importance of ‘commitment’ as profoundly as I can grasp string theory in quantum mechanics.
Yet from the research he was able to assert the reason men cheat isn’t that they don’t love their partner. They cheat because they want hot freaky sex with someone else.
The fact Oxford University Press published this garbage with such limited evidence makes me seriously question the quality of the educational materials today. I’m not certain if Mr. Anderson was hoping to provide a better understanding on the inner workings of men’s minds or if he just needed a peer reviewed excuse to step out in his own relationship. Either way according to the research cheating isn’t the real issue anyway; it’s society’s draconian and outdated view of monogamy, especially marriage, and the need for those perspectives to dramatically change.
Contrary to popular belief men do not think with their penises. We have a brain and we occasionally use it and whether admittedly or not men experience many of the same emotions their fairer partners do. We are acutely aware of rejection, undesirability, disrespect, and loneliness. We know what it’s like to look in the mirror and hate what we see. Men have felt the sting of being unappreciated for their contributions. They too have wondered if they’re even in love with their partner anymore and have asked “where is the person I married?”. But just because he doesn’t curl up on the couch with a bottle of merlot and box of tissues crying his eyes out for hours to a buddy doesn’t mean he’s totally insensitive or oblivious what’s going on around him. While men don’t express emotions exactly the way women do doesn’t mean we don’t have them – and it’s high time that worn out brush gets put away for good.
I’ve known several men who cheated on their wives and girlfriends. Some were in relationships for years while for others the ink on the marriage certification wasn’t dry yet. From the outside each of these men would be considered “a really good guy’. They are awesome dads, great providers, and responsible neighbors and quality friends. But something remained absent within each of them. One had become so detached from his wife due to his constant business travel they had grown to be little more than roommates. For another the children became the wife’s entire world. He sat on the backburner so long he didn’t even feel he mattered anymore. And one felt so unappreciated he started seeing himself as nothing more than a cog in a wheel.
I say all of that to state this fact – emotionally stable men in happy, wholesome, fulfilling relationships will not cheat. I’ve yet to find even one instance of a guy who cheated because he could and it was put in front of him. In each case these men had created a rationale, regardless of how wrong, for their actions. Yet there’s this notion whereby men don’t need a reason to cheat, all that’s required is a warm body and five extra minutes. And this propensity to stray starts on our wedding day when it’s believed we’re sizing up which bridesmaid to bag in the restroom during the reception. But I’m here to tell you that a man in healthy relationship possessing mutual respect, admiration, love, and understanding will not run the risk of ruining it for a tawdry roll in the hay.
Because the man in a strong relationship will not put himself in a position to even be tempted to cheat. And I’ll give you two examples from my own life. I’ve been in an amazing relationship for three years with the love of my life. To respect her and what we’ve got I’v placed barriers, guardrails if you will, in my life. One is that I never ride alone in cars with women. The other is never going to lunch or dinner alone with a woman. When I travel for business I either have lunch with a man or in a group. The reason for both is quite simple; I never want to give the Queen a cause to ever question my actions. Some will immediately roll their eyes and say that’s way to Leave it to Beaver for 2012 – but she’s never once had the slightest reason to doubt me. Who doesn’t want that level of assurance in their relationship? Just to note, this isn’t a habit she suggested nor have I expected it in return it’s just two of the ways I’ve chosen to honor our relationship.
But let me ask this, would I go to such extreme measures if our relationship was unhappy or unfulfilling?
I find it interesting to read stories from women who’ve been cheated on and pour over the reasons why their husbands had an affair. While each man is different his motivation always seems to be the same. In a nutshell, he’s a loser who had the chance and took it. But have you ever paid attention to the reasons women give for why they cheat? – “He wasn’t emotionally there for me”, “he was insensitive to my needs”, “he didn’t want to have sex with me anymore”.
Let’s put it out on the table right now – there is no more of an acceptable rationale for women cheating than men and we all know it. So if the man is to shoulder blame for his wife’s affair why is it any different for her? I think it’s become far to easy to make excuses and assign blame when doing so absolves the victim of any and all responsibility. But if the person being cheated on, man or woman, thinks they don’t have a part to play when their partner has an affair – they’re delusional, in denial, or both
The point to all of this is twofold. First, Mr. Anderson is getting nowhere in his quest to explain the logic behind cheating and men, though he may have finally scored that threesome with the waitress at the cafe. While the second point is to understand that infidelity never happens in a vacuum. Men and women don’t simply wake up one morning and decide to start having an affair over their Fruit Loops and coffee. Circumstances, events, and environments always precipitate and at the least greatly influence such decisions. If you’ve ever read accounts of cheaters and the reasons why they did it more often than not they express how much they agonized over their decision often for months and even years before they actually committed that first fateful sin.
People cheat; it’s terribly wrong and arguably the most horrendous breach of trust that can take place between a couple. But reducing infidelity to no more than the fulfillment of some bestial urge or a self centered attempt to put another notch on a belt is completely wrong and says little about men and arguably less about the women who love them.
To read a more detailed article about the book you can go to The Huffington Post.
We’ve all heard the saying “a leopard can’t change its spots” which intimates that people will be who they will be and can’t or won’t change. That a person’s character or nature, much like the feline’s conspicuous spots, is life long.
Where you to have asked me after my divorce seven years ago I would have readily agreed that cheaters will always cheat given the opportunity. I would have said you’re crazy to be romantically involved with a known cheater and that you’ve taken your heart and self-worth into your own hands and you’ll have no one to look to but yourself when that inevitable day comes and you’re left to admit “I should have known better”. But this is today and in general I’ve softened my cut and dry approach to life as well as my opinion on the intracacies of infidelity.
Coming from someone who’s been cheated on several times by different women I think I have the bandwidth to speak on the subject. For those cheated on to confront what has happened to them they must first accept their role in the affair. That idea may come as a shock, but I’m convinced we aren’t born with a desire to cheat. When all else is equal the majority of us yearn for meaningful, committed, and lasting relationships and not secretive carnal trysts. To prove this one need look no further than their own desire for a fulfilling romantic relationship. And affairs don’t happen in a vacuum because I believe that emotionally healthy people don’t wake one morning and say “I think I’ll have an affiar today!”
In my former marriage the man with whom my ex wife was involved became for her something that I was not. Whether I couldn’t, wouldn’t or was unaware, he gave her some feeling of belonging, passion, attention or desire that was lacking at home. I’ve willingly taken part of the blame for the demise of that marriage, opposed to most divorcees who direct all the guilt on the other person as if they were the perfect spouse who did nothing wrong. I’m sure my inability to meet her emotional needs helped ease her conscious regarding actions she would ultimately take. Yet my admission to this guilt certainly isn’t an excuse for those actions.
Quite often the motivations behind an affair are driven by temporary but intense emotions or knee jerk reactions stemming from chaos and difficulty in the current relationship. The new father who’s been accustomed to having all of his wife’s attention must now compete with his child and he doesn’t understand or appreciate the change in family dynamic; so instead admitting his fears to his wife he wallows in his own pity and selfishness which turns into animosity and resentment which gives him the justification needed to seek solace in that other woman’s arms.
Other times the path of an affair is a way of exacting revenge on the other party “if she’s going to cheat then it’s ok for me to”. Thus following that ancient notion the two wrongs, in fact, do make a right. And then there are the select few, those with a past so destructive and unwholesome they are left morally bankrupt with no comprehension between relational right and wrong, so instead they react solely on the impulse “if it feels good do it!”
For anyone who’s ever been unfaithful there had to be that very first time, whether it was in a committed relationship or a marriage they had to make the conscious decision based on the current evidence and situation to ignore their God-given intuition and go against their better judgment. They had to find a way to rationalize, amidst the cries from their better-self, that they do in fact deserve and need this.
I have never cheated so I can only assume the specific set of ingredients that when combined make for the perfect affair. First, the current relationship must be so empty and unfulfilling that he feels the quickest and easiest way to relieve the pain is stepping outside of it. Second, there must be two willing participants the first must be prepared to break a commitment and the another must have a lack of regard for that commitment. All that remains is the necessary environment be it through work, the gym, a business trip, or any number of other circumstances where two people have the opportunity for close interaction.
Don’t be mistaken, affairs are wrong on all levels. To completely shut one’s eyes to a faithful bond for their own selfish interests has no excuse, while the ramifications from just a single instance can be life altering. I’ve known several admitted cheaters who carry a sense of regret and remorse no amount of therapy, alcohol, or drugs can ease. All of their future relationships are seen through the prism of those past actions and in no case are they completely able to forgive themselves because of the feeling they remain in perpetual punishment over them.
On the question of whether a cheater can ever be faithful again I’ve been to both extremes. I’ve dated acknowledged cheaters who I’m certain were faithful, at least in our time together, while others stepped out at the slighted aggravation. Today all of those experiences force me to concede that there isn’t a black and white answer to the question.
But I believe those who have admitted their moral mistake, understand what drove them to do it, sought forgiveness from those impacted by it, and have come to peace with the ensuing consequences from it can be just as trustworthy and as faithful as the most honest of individuals.
The statistics around adultery are hard to come by and depending on the particular source can be down-right misleading much of the time. Some reports indicate that as high as 60% of men and 50% of women cheat during marriage. While this makes for great reality TV and brings foam to the mouths of divorce attorneys everywhere,
We had a standing appointment that was usually on Sunday’s, he was a Jew so it wasn’t his sabbath,