Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Lost Art of Fidelity

In the dating world, the subject of faithfulness inevitably comes up. Believing the popular adage, “Once a cheater, always a cheater,” there was a time when I said I would never date a man who cheated on a past partner. Then I realized how significantly that reduced the pool of available men on the market who met my criteria.  Eventually, I took a different approach. I learned that when asked, “Have you ever cheated on a partner?” most men will not only answer honestly, but will immediately elaborate on that answer with their justification. And this little gem of information provides significant insight into the thought processes of the person you are getting to know. If you want to quickly separate the grown men from the man children, ask this question and listen closely to the answer.

But first, what is cheating and why does it matter?  People define cheating differently, and it is important to understand your potential partner’s beliefs on the topic.  I’ll be honest, I have high standards.  I define cheating as any behavior involving another woman that my partner wouldn’t want me to know about.  That may seem extreme to those men who have been with women who got upset if they merely looked at or talked to other women.  That isn’t me, though.  I expect a man to respect me enough to not give another woman the impression that she has a romantic opportunity with him.  As long as he isn't hiding his relationship with me, I don’t care if he talks to another woman, is friends with another woman, or compliments another woman.  I’ve been with men who will dance with a single woman at a party so she doesn’t feel left out.  I find that kind of compassion sexy, not threatening.  I don’t even care if he watches porn, as long as his viewing habits are moderate enough that they don’t lead to porn induced erectile dysfunction (yes, it is a thing, and yes, it happens to even the most virile men).

I have never accused a man of cheating without prior evidence that he was cheating.  I guess I actually believe I have enough to offer that a man who is with me doesn’t need to cheat, so I simply don’t assume he will.  But if he is showing me a great new app on his phone when a text message arrives with a seductive photo of another woman with that reads, “Hey babe, I miss your face”, I believe I have the right to ask a few questions.

Why does it matter?  People have been cheated on throughout history.  Everyone has been hurt, right?  It’s just sex!  Yes, when done right, it’s just the most intimate form of personal connection that two people can share.  When done wrong, it’s the act that is at the core of the deepest emotional damage caused by the most destructive forms of abuse. 

Being unfaithful is ultimately a selfish decision to destroy someone’s psyche and self-worth in exchange for a few moments of pleasure.  And to be unfaithful without protection is to unilaterally decide to gamble your partner’s health and life without their knowledge or consent.

You see, when a person has been cheated on... they aren't just hurt by the betrayal.  They begin to question everything about themselves.  Was I not good enough?  Wasn't I pretty enough?  What should I have done differently to prevent this?  They blame themselves as this emptiness where their self-worth once was consumes them - at the hand of a partner who was supposed to care about them.

Hopefully this sets some context as to why I ask that question and pay attention to the responses.  From my perspective, there is only one acceptable “elaboration” when admitting that you cheated in the past – that is that you were young and stupid, didn’t know how to treat people, and you are so ashamed and remorseful that you could never possibly hurt someone like that again.  If you give that answer, you win the grown man award.

Unfortunately, answers like these are far too common:

“Neither one of us was happy, we argued over everything, our relationship was pretty much already over…”  There are two possible solutions to this problem.  One is to work things out, the other is to admit that things can’t be worked out and end the relationship so that both parties can freely pursue someone else who will make them happy. 

This answer is given by a man who is unwilling to give his undivided attention to making things work, but also unwilling to allow his partner to pursue the same happiness that he found through his affair. 

Often, he simply doesn’t want to give up the things his woman does for him, like raise his children, clean his house and prepare his meals, so he needs to secure a replacement for her before he sets her free.  A man who uses this justification is a man who most likely will not communicate honestly during difficult times in the relationship, and will seek ways to meet his own needs before sacrificing his comfort for the good of the partnership.

“She really let herself go.  She was so self-conscious, that she lost interest in sex.”  This sounds like a woman who is depressed and unhappy with herself.  I’ve hear similar excuses about a woman being so wrapped up in being a perfect mom that she wasn’t interested in being a good wife.  Women don’t just “let themselves go”.  Most women feel so overwhelmed by the daily responsibilities of raising children, managing a home, and supporting their husband that they are literally exhausted at the end of the day.  Note… this exhaustion is not always the result of the amount of physical work required to accomplish these tasks.  It can also be mental exhaustion from feeling like a failure when a meal is over-cooked, or laundry is backing up. The man child who uses this justification can’t see past his wife’s imperfections or insecurities to the beauty within her that created life, or sacrificed her own interests to support his, or cares so much about being perfect that she is wearing herself out.  There are ways to bring a woman out of this… they start with being her partner, letting her know she is perfect in your eyes, gently supporting her when it comes to taking care of herself (which means taking on some of the responsibilities she believes are solely hers so she has time to take care of herself), and maybe even getting her professional help.

If this is the woman you loved enough to marry and have a family with, and she is still in the race with you but starting to lose her footing, doesn’t she deserve your helping hand?

“She constantly accused me of cheating.  I was so tired of being accused that I finally did it.” There are a few reasons a woman will constantly think you’re cheating.  First is that she is just very insecure and will never trust you.  You probably aren’t going to ever have long term happiness with a woman who isn’t capable of trusting you, so end it respectfully.  Second is that she has been hurt by other men who have cheated on her in the past.  Third is that you yourself have cheated on her in the past.  I have been that woman in the third example… a man cheated on me, I forgave him, but asked him to discontinue those behaviors that led to an all-out affair and unplanned pregnancy.  I admit, I was an idiot for forgiving that in the first place, but a few months later when I asked him, again, to please change his ways, he pulled out that line: “You know, you make men cheat on you by constantly thinking they are.”  No, no, no, no, no.  The man child who uses this excuse is the worst kind, because he actually wants you to believe that he cheated against his will because he was expected to.  If we apply this logic anywhere else, what does it look like?  “I got tired of my mom saying if I’m not careful, I’m going to poke my eye out… so I finally just poked my eye out"?!

The man who does this believes it is a better idea to do the one thing that the woman he loves is the most afraid of, than to offer her comfort and reassurance that he wouldn’t hurt her.

It's time to man-up, guys.  Yes, and women who have cheated, too.  If you cheated in your younger days, just call it what it was.  Unfaithfulness.  A choice that doesn’t really have a good justification.  I understand that not every relationship is meant to last forever, but if you are in a relationship and find yourself thinking you might be happier with someone else, please end the relationship you’re in before moving on.  She (or he) deserves an opportunity to seek happiness, too… and even if they would be hurt by the relationship ending, they will most certainly be hurt more if they find out you’re giving the attention they believe they deserve from you to someone else.

No comments:

Post a Comment