Adultry, affair recovery, affairs, betrayal, cheating, Commentary, dating, heartbreak, infidelity, love, marriage, men, philosophy, psychology of relationships, Rants, recovering from an affair, relationships, self image, sexuality, trust, women
Today I’m wondering about whether infidelity is a bi-product of our biology, our morality or our culture. So many of us, both those hurt by it and those who have committed it, often wonder the same thing. Why? Why did it happen?
In the beginning there seems to be an abundance of reasons. Neglected partners, couples that drift apart, abusive relationships, lack of self confidence and a need for validation or attention can all be found on the long list of reasons. Now, I’m sorry, but somehow these feel like excuses or justifications to me, not reasons. Not real to the core motivations that make us choose to stray from our partners. It’s said that affairs are symptoms of a bad relationship. Fair enough. In some cases they might be. On the surface at least. But I think the affairs may be symptoms of something else, and that later in the attempt to explain it and put order to it, the relationship takes the blame. I mean seriously, no relationship is perfect. Yet there are couples who withstand those periods of uncertainty, indifference and even conflict and find a way to come through them as better stronger people. The single word here is commitment. Commitment to yourself. Commitment to the other person you claimed to love, and commitment to the unity and bond you vowed to create. Commitment may be difficult, hard work but it’s also a choice you make every day.
It’s strange to me that regardless of how many “reasons” can be listed for my partner’s betrayals, that I still cannot put my mind around why it happened. As I’ve already mentioned before, this wasn’t a single betrayal of poor judgment or overwhelming temptation in a time of weakness or confusion. This was a lifestyle. For me the burning need for understanding still smolders inside of me despite the reasons he has given me. I want to be clear here. This isn’t a matter of not being able to relate. This isn’t about me being holier than thou. Sure, I’m obviously hurt and angry. So do I judge him? Yes, for the choices he made, the deception he flooded our lives with, the callousness in which he did it, and for the many ways he used me and depended on me for comfort and stability while he used each of them for escape and thrill. I love him but that doesn’t mean I respect his choices in this part of his life. Choosing to still love him doesn’t mean that I have to see him as a man of strength and character. It only means I have to try to believe that strength and character are what he hopes to develop now. If judging him means that I have a strong belief in my heart that people are capable of making better choices than he made, even when depressed or confused about their lives, careers, relationship and own self worth, then yes I guess I do judge him. How could I not? But that’s not to say that I’m foolish enough to believe that I could never make a similar mistake. I’m human and honest enough to know that I could, if I let myself. I simply did not. I also know that I couldn’t claim to love someone deeply and live a long standing ever active second life of multiple lovers and identities on the side.
So, I find myself at this place. This continued need to understand it. I understand all the conflicts he says he wrestled with, I just don’t accept them as reason enough to live the life he lived. Without a reasonable understanding for why he chose that life I’m not able to open the forgiving process all the way. I can’t find a platform solid enough to trust building a future on. Without understanding why the only logic that makes sense to me is that I must not have meant enough to him for him to stop his behavior. In other words, this healing process isn’t just about trusting him, it’s about trusting myself to not settle for Only when caught and no amount of lies could get him out of it did he decide to own it. One question is, does he truly own it or will he only own it under the cloak of all those excuses he used to justify it to himself?
In the quest for understanding I’ve boiled it down to 3 issues as a way to try to sort it all out. 1) is a morality factor = the choice to do right or wrong regardless of the justifications we can create for doing wrong. 2) is a biology factor = this is provided that we agree with scientist who say we still have a bit of cavemen genes in us all. In short, the more you spread your seed the better. A biological urge that men are hardwired for and can not easily, if at all, control. This wouldn’t apply to women in the same way though and that could mean that biology isn’t a primary contributor to infidelity. Another biology related theme is that humans were not created for monogamous relationships. That we created them as part of societal and religious ethics, but it isn’t “natural”. This one seems compelling and could apply to women as much as men even if different motivators were applied to each. This one is also a little depressing because there’s an element of hopelessness to it that implies committed relationships are un-natural and wouldn’t that mean they are also highly unlikely to succeed? I’m also very curious about the jealousy factor. If in fact we’re not created to be monogamous then why are we not all in open relationships, coming and going and doing others as we please? Variety is after all the spice of life and who doesn’t want to have spice and excitement in their lives? Yet few couples succeed long term in an open relationship, one or both at some point finding themselves conflicted with the “sharing” of their partner with another. It seems that biological urges may be somewhat contradictory. A bit of a have our cake and eat it too situation but one in which we might not be happy when the tables are turned. To me that says that it’s less biological than it is something else. Otherwise it would not cause so many conflicting emotions. Do cows show signs of intense sorrow when the bull moves on to the next cow? No. Do hens worry where the rooster is? No. Then if we are not created for monogamy why all the emotions? And what about Males? Who hasn’t known a man who has cheated and enjoyed it and yet is crippled by the thought of his woman with another man? Is this strictly ego? Probably in large part. But somewhere there is also the very real element of pain and loss that a man feels when his wife chooses to give herself to another. I’ve read about it extensively and I believe that men experience many of the same painful emotions that women do when they are betrayed by their partners. So if we’re not created for committed relationships with one special person then why do affairs hurt so deeply? It’s the stuff of really good fantasies. I’ll admit to that one. But in real life? It’s not as practical and certainly not as natural feeling as some might lead us to believe.
That brings us to number 3) Culture = are we trained and influenced constantly through things like movies, commercials, magazines, internet etc. to pursue sex? Often. With many. Commitment is less celebrated. Apathy toward values has become more common. This would explain recent affair statistics and steadily increasing infidelity but it wouldn’t address infidelity throughout all history or in cultures where sex is still taboo and not coming at you from every angle. Everyone knows that men are visual. If men are stimulated by images of women through out every hour of everyday and those images are easily recalled at will and even often times against their will, then wouldn’t it make sense that our current culture of sex is increasing the rates of infidelity when compared to eras where the female body was less exposed and less propagated? If a man cannot control the flashing images in his head, isn’t it fair to say that a man making love to his wife 100 years ago would have been interrupted by such intrusions much less than a man today. The erotic images that a man had 100 years ago were mostly isolated to his wife and what coveted erotica he could get his hands on. He didn’t see a half or all naked woman dozens of times a day. Women hadn’t yet claimed our place in the sexual revolution and so it was highly unlikely that he was confronted with women eager to have their sexuality validated in as many ways as they possibly can, whether it be seeking appreciative looks in a low cut top and high cut shorts, or whether it be the more blatant intentions of seducing a desired man from one corner into their corner. Such things were scandalous at that time. Certainly they existed in plenty but they were much more secretive and not part of a 24/7 bombardment of messages and images and propositions.
I’m no prude. I like sex. I like it a lot. I love passion, erotic expression, seduction. I like to flirt, within boundaries. I like a chase. I like to dress freely and feel attractive. I cannot imagine high neck dresses to the floor in the month of July. But at the same time, the reality is that the pendulum is far to the extreme edge of the opposite side in today’s culture. Where everything goes and 12 year olds dress like 25 year olds. Where 18 year olds relish a look that was once to relegated to strippers. And I’d like to know, when did we become a culture that not only accepts infidelity but ENCOURAGES it, MARKETS it and PROFITS from it without remorse. See link below…
Seriously, is it any wonder we are wayward? I know, I’m rambling. Which only goes to show. I haven’t yet reached an understanding of why this happens and who we are, as people. Humanity. That we are accepting it all. What the hell is wrong with us? What the hell are we building for the future?