Thursday, October 09, 2008

On Cheating: The Big Why

"Despite the fact that she took everything, it's the 'poorly-endowed' part that hurts."

As promised, in this post I will attempt to explain why men cheat. Like many, I've spent a great deal of time wondering why seemingly "good" guys struggle to stay faithful to the people that they love. My conclusions are based, not only on my own experiences, but on those of men who I know and know of.

Men can cheat at any age. Just as I've heard about men who've cheated on their honeymoons, I've heard of decades-long, solid as a rock marriages breaking up over infidelity. Based on what I've seen, however, young men cheat for far different reasons than older men.

Frankly, most young men really don't stand a chance. Socialized, as they are, to equate manhood with sexual conquests, burdened by runaway libidos, and encouraged to go out and accumulate as many exotic, often sexual ego-building experiences as they can, they often find themselves destined for infidelity. Some don't even know why they do it. They just feel compelled. I was one of these. Although I wasn't married, I was unfaithful to women who I dated. On those occasions when I was asked why I did it, I honestly couldn't provide an intelligent answer. I felt that I'd been somehow intoxicated by other women. It wasn't until I ruined a great relationship with a wonderful person that I jettisoned the excuses and really took a hard look at myself.

Many older men, on the other hand, cheat to feed malnourished egos. These past-their-prime Lotharios - particularly those who are married or in long-term, committed relationships - are especially susceptible to falling for the Appeal to Conceit. These men grow tired of seeing themselves through their partner's world-weary eyes. Typically, they've fallen into a rut at home. They eat the same meals. They have the same standard, nighttime, lights off, missionary sex. They are subject to the same "nagging" (Aside to readers: I'm likely to agree with Edith Clara Summerskill, who said that "Nagging is the repetition of unpalatable truths," but most men aren't as willing to accept this truism as I) that they have been for years. They wonder how the young, buoyant, hyper-sexed women who used to be their cheerleaders became the jaded, disinterested coupon-clippers to whom they now find themselves married today. So along comes this other woman. She isn't burdened by having to make his home or raise his children. She doesn't have to worry about the bills or their retirement or the vicissitudes that come with maintaining a marriage. She gets to see him at his best without having to worry about everything that goes into creating his image. He likes her because she makes him feel desirable and intelligent and capable (Aside to readers: Men have exceptionally sensitive egos. Most of the ones I know, including me, require compliments and praise more than they will ever let on.) He is willing to completely overlook the fact that she has absolutely no stake in him, his children or his future. So he finds himself allowing her to feed his fragile little ego - a prelude to adultery. Soon enough, the dearly departed, formerly faithful are creating fantastic, guilt-relieving rationales about how their wives drove them to cheat, or how they were suffocating and desperately needed their freedom, or some such bullshit.

Up until now, I've explained the HOW of cheating but written very little about the WHY. That's because I believe it's important for women to be able to view infidelity within context. Bearing that in mind, here's something that all heterosexual women need to be aware of: ALL sexually active, heterosexual men want to have athletic, unemotional sex with a variety of women. Those women among you who are fortunate enough to have an attentive, faithful, loving boyfriend/husband/partner should know that he's included as well. This fact may be one of the most difficult things for some women to accept. Men are chronically plagued by sexual thoughts. Some of us distract ourselves from this by constantly reminding ourselves how much we love our wives (or how much we stand to lose if they catch us cheating). Others deflect this desire by immersing ourselves in the church (of course, there are a lot of women in the church so this might not be such a good idea). Religious men attempt to quell this sinful urge by marrying early and lovingly directing it toward The One (more on this in a future post.) Still others keep themselves busy with activities that take our minds off of extra-committal sexual pursuits. Then there are those who rush full on in the direction of temptation. I know quite a few men who cheat often, and unapologetically. They feel entitled. For them, the more women the better. These men require no analysis.

Honestly, as much as I'd like to be able to convince you otherwise, there's no foolproof way for determining whether you're with a cheater or a steadfastman. Some women like to believe that once a cheater always a cheater. While this notion makes life simpler, it isn't always true. I was a serial cheater prior to marriage, but my wife and I have been together for nine years and I've been faithful to her since the first day that I met her. This isn't because I don't want to have sex with other women. My fidelity has mainly to do with the following two facts:
1) While I often find myself sexually attracted to other women, I don't want to cheat on my wife. I know I've got a good thing going and I don't want to mess it up.
2) I'm familiar with my own weaknesses. I know that I've given in to temptation before (mostly in college) and I know precisely what I need to avoid.

As a result, I work very diligently to keep myself out of compromising, potentially ruinous positions. I don't go to strip clubs. I don't spend a great deal of time with rabidly adulterous friends of mine. I don't lodge serious complaints about my wife with other women. And, most importantly, I don't create opportunities to cheat. I don't spend any time around good looking women who show an interest in me. At all. I know what that leads to. So far, so good. But being a man is a little like being an alcoholic. You have to take fidelity one day at a time.

So, finally, we come to the Big Why. It's simple really. Men cheat because they want to. They cheat because they put themselves before their wives, girlfriends, partners and families. They cheat because they mistake a strong sexual urge for a biological imperative. They cheat because they choose their egos over their commitments. There's really nothing more to it than that.

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At 12:25 PM , Anonymous B said...

it really can't get any simpler than that. when people want to do something, they do it. when they don't want to do it anymore - whatever the reason - they stop. it doesn't matter if it's cheating, being faithful, or eating tapioca.

there's really no need for a vision quest to come to this realization.

At 12:17 PM , OpenID jalishouse said...

This is the most reasonable, well explained answer I've ever come across. Thank you.

I know now for sure that my ex-husband's infidelities didn't change his love for me - I sure didn't get it back then - our marriage ended because of my refusal to forgive/understand. (I was a lot younger with small children)

I've changed quite a bit and I don't think that the same behavior would be a deal breaker for me today.

At 1:33 PM , Blogger Mandingo said...

You said a mouthful my brother. I think your analysis of the married man's infidelity was summed up in Chris Rock's movie 'I Think I love My Wife'. There were so many scenes that looked like dejavu in that one. As grown men with grown men responsibilities, we have to make grown men decisions. Plain and simple. However, we sometimes wind up in difficult situations and fall. You deftly explained something that most men haven't been able to do for years. Besides most have probably been trying to explain after thet got caught [not a good time for anyone]. While it shows a lapse in judgement for a man, it in now way [for most] diminishes his love for his wife and family. I couldn't fathom hurting my wife like that. To help me remember the other reason I take heto the gun range a couple times a year to shoot her glock. Hey, that helps a brotha remember.

At 2:32 PM , Blogger BLESSD1 said...

Great post! "They cheat because they mistake a strong sexual urge for a biological imperative." It's similar to how if someone hears a lie enough times that it becomes the truth to them. You nipped it in the bud. Again, excellent post, brother.

At 5:24 PM , Blogger Another Conflict Theorist said...

Peace to One and All:

b - As always, thank you for dropping by to drop some jewels. I agree with you. I think the most difficult thing for the betrayed to accept is that love doesn't have anything to do with infidelity. Unfaithful men just act on want they want.

jali - It's always a pleasure. Thank you for the insight. I'd like to take a poll to see how many women would be willing to stay after being stepped out on.

mandingo - Peace Mab! I, like you, really identified with Chris Rock's character in I Think I Love My Wife. But I'm mad at Chris for having that flick end so ridiculously. At any rate, I think you're on to something. Couples need to discuss infidelity seriously (minus the "I'll Cut Your Dick Off!" theatrics) BEFORE something goes down. Afterwards, all reason goes out of the window.

blessd1 - I'm blessed to have you as a regular visitor to my spot. Thanks for dropping by. I really appreciate it.

At 12:09 AM , Blogger Clifton said...

I want you to know that I read your last two posts a few times and tonight I finally decided to comment.

I can't disagree with anything you said about why men cheat. I would like to add that the current climate doesn't make it any easier. I work in an environment where most of the people I deal with are women. 75 percent of them are either single or not satisfied in their relationship. I know this because they all feel free to tell me about it. To be totally honest the only thing that keeps me in check is that all of these people know each other through work and it's not worth the drama. As good as I feel about the fact I have self control, there's the part of me as a man that says "What are you doing turning all these sisters away from you?" It truly is a one day at a time process. Some days are easier than others.

At 10:21 AM , Blogger Another Conflict Theorist said...

Peace Cliff,

Thanks for your comments. A friend of mine read this post and said that I was being too "anti-male." I felt that I was accurately defining what it is to be a heterosexual man in a committed relationship. The fact of the matter is that we DO have a choice. Just because doing the right thing is extremely difficult doesn't mean it's impossible. I'm not maligning cats who slip up but I think this is one of the few arenas in which the "personal responsibility" argument really holds water.

At 10:05 AM , Anonymous B said...

from a woman's perspective, i think it's a knee-jerk reaction to dismiss a spouse or s/o that has cheated as a dog. it's a lot easier to dismiss a guy as an incorrigible louse and decide whether your not you will suffer him or leave him, rather than working together to address the problems in your relationship.

At 8:07 PM , Blogger tualang3 said...

They cheat because the world is full of choices..


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