Early this year, Vicki Larson, a journalist, mother and thinker posted a blog piece on the Huffington Post entitled Why Men Need To Cheat.
The article is compelling to a person like myself who considers himself to be a realist and a pragmatist. That said, as is generally the case, while Ms. Larson presents a convincing case, she does not suggest that all men are compelled to cheat, just most of them. She also correctly reports that in the present era many women cheat too.
As a young child, I was shocked and confused when I first learned that adults cheated and lied about what they were doing. As I have mentioned many times in this blog, I was raised in a fundamentalist church which looked upon the Bible as the literal word of God. Even as a young child, I had my problems with that. It was obvious to me that parts of the Bible seemed to contradict other parts, but since this didn't seem to bother the adults I didn't say anything about it at first. I just became suspicious and began to pay close attention and to make a mental list of things the church taught that didn't add up.
Little did I know when I first began to be suspicious that it wouldn't take long to confirm that adults, even Christian adults, didn't always live up to what they portended to believe.
In this particular church members who were caught doing something significantly out of line with church teachings and wanted to remain within the church body were often compelled to go before the church and confess their sin publicly. The first time I witnessed a public confession turned out to be a two part presentation that was very revealing to me.
Ordinarily, this would have been the end of the matter, but life often takes unexpected twists and turns. This was to be such a time.
My family and I lived next door to the church parsonage. My Dad was a deacon in the church. A little while after the Brown confession, I began to pick up on whispered conversations between my Mom and Dad. Soon the conversations spread to include my Dad and other adults. At church it was obvious something was up. It didn't take long to burst wide open.
The church secretary was the young adult daughter of a prominent church couple. Without notice, she resigned her position and left town. This was quickly followed by the pastor of the church, in a tearful and emotional confession of his own, telling the church he had sinned against God, against his wife and against the young secretary by having an affair with her. He asked for forgiveness. He did not say, and probably didn't need to say because everyone already knew the affair had resulted in a pregnancy for the young secretary. The pastor announced he was leaving his ministry and resigning from his pastorship.
I wondered what must have been going through the pastor's mind a few weeks before when he had presided over the confession of Mr. Brown. I wondered what Mr. Brown was thinking as he listened to the pastor confess his own sins. I think it was a turning point in my life because even at my young age it was blatant proof that there were religious ideals and their was reality. I think these incidents were two of several incidents in my early life that planted the seeds for what would become my realist and pragmatic leanings in life. I'm thankful for that. Now, with at the stage of my life where there are many more years behind me than ahead of me, I've come to realize that realists and pragmatists handle life so much better than idealists. It's not that idealists don't play an important role in society, they do. But idealists must often be profoundly disappointed in the realities of life. Realists are seldom shocked. Idealists often provide lofty goals for society, but it is always the realists who bring the goals to fruition it seems.
My personal sexual experience does not support some of Ms. Larson's assertions. My wife and I married when I was 18. We have been married almost 50 years now and contrary to Ms. Larson's suggestion that marital sex always becomes stale, my wife and I never found that to be the case. I'm not saying we never got in a rut, we certainly did from time to time. But we were always able to recognize the rut and renew the fun and the excitement of genuine desire in our sexual play.
Among other things, the heterosexual affair was the product of getting married at age 18 with very little experience with other women besides my wife. I wondered what I might be missing. What I found was that I was missing nothing at all. Sex with my wife was much better and much more satisfying.
The more numerous affairs with men were fulfillment of needs my wife, as good as she was in sex, simply could not fulfill as a woman. Being able to fulfill them with other men actually made my sexual life with her better because all of my needs were being met.
I have to confess that I never felt my play with other men was cheating. I never thought of it that way and never gave in to others who wished to saddle me with that description. I wasn't cheating. I was simply meeting the needs that came with the way I was born. I love my wife and she fills an irreplaceable role in my life. While I accept the description of cheating to describe my play with another woman, I do not regret that it happened. It showed me that the best sex was at home. After a brief exploration, I was never tempted to be with another woman. Everything I needed from a woman was at home.
That is the problem with those who are always on the lookout for sin in others. Sin, by definition, is that which separates us from a relation with God. I am a firm believer based on my own life experience that God sometimes sends us down roads that might ordinarily be sinful to give us a chance to learn a life lesson.
For her Huffington Post Article, Ms. Larson interviewed Eric Anderson, an American sociologist at England's University of Winchester and author of the provocative new book, The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating (Oxford University Press, $49.99). It was refreshing for me to read this quote from Mr Anderson, "Honesty is good sometimes, and horrible other times. There are good reasons to lie; it is an essential skill for keeping community and relationship peace. The reason men lie about cheating is mostly because they know that if they ask for permission to have recreational sex: 1) they will be denied 2) after they are denied, they will be subject to scrutiny and increased relationship policing; 3) they will be stigmatized as immoral, and most likely broken up with. Thus, honesty doesn't meet their desires of having both a long-term partner and recreational sex with others.
The way cheating men see it, it's either cheat or don't cheat, but telling their partners they want sex outside the relationship, or telling their partners that they actually cheated, is viewed as a surefire way of achieving relationship termination. When men cheat for recreational sex -- not affairs -- they DO love their partners. If they didn't, they would break up with them."
Mr. Anderson is absolutely right. Honest can be a terrible weapon when it is used for the wrong reasons. Sometimes, for instance, gay or bisexual married men confess their sexuality to their wives because of guilt. In such cases they are NOT trying to do the right thing. They are simply trying to relieve the guilt that is bothering them. How can such men who more than likely struggled with their sexuality for decades expect their wives to deal with it successfully when it is sprung on them without warning? In reality, they can't and usually women don't deal with it well.
The idealist of the world insists that honesty is always the best policy. The realists will more properly insist that we don't live in an ideal world and sometimes the truth can cause more harm than quietly and sympathetically embracing reality.
The views I have expressed here are not a license for men to go wild, party wildly and throw their marital responsibilities to the wind. I suspect Ms. Larson would say the same. As a married bisexual man, I came to see that I essentially had two and only two choices. I could deny my desires and live in as a desperate agitated and unfulfilled state or I could embrace my bisexuality and live it quietly and carefully within the boundaries of a few rules designed to keep me and my wife as safe as possible. I choose to take the latter course and from the very beginning I was a different man. For the first time in my adult life I felt calm and satisfied. I no longer felt needy and anxious.
Living that life worked out so well, that I was happy and my wife was happy too. Our life together, which had always been great, became even better because I was no longed dogged by my bisexual needs. When I did decide to tell her several years later, it was at a time that she could understand it and accept it. I don't mean that it was the best news she ever got, but it was not news that threatened our marriage and the life we had built together.
The reality is that most men cheat at one time or the other. Married bisexual men are in a situation where they almost have to have a relationship outside the marriage. In most cases this does not mean they do not love and value the straight side of their life and love their wives. Women would do themselves a favor in considering carefully what their course of action should be when they find their husband is "cheating."
It does no good at all to throw away a number of good years, end a marriage, upset kids caught in the middle and get into a second marriage with another man who is just as prone to cheat.
Emotionalism seldom serves anyone well. Thinking realistically and unemotionally often serves one very well.
P.S. I write this blog not to hear people agree with me, but rather give people a starting point for realistic thoughtfulness and self examination. I also write it to inspire feedback to me in the form of comments from my readers. I am convinced that a life lived well is a life in which learning never ceases.
What I have learned so far in my life has served me well. My life has not been and is not now without its challenges, but my life has been blessed beyond measure. I believe that the blessings of life come when one is ready to handle them. In spite of the blessed life I have lived, I believe that there is always more to learn. I hear from a lot of people but I never hear from enough people.
Frankly it is rare for me to hear something new, but I often hear something in a new way that causes me to have that "ah ha" moment when everything comes together and I have a new understanding of and new insight into an issue I have known of for years.
That kind of new insight for me, more often than not comes from comments from and conversations with my readers. For that reason I am always glad to hear your comments whether you agree or disagree with me.
Please take a few minutes to make a comment. You'll find the comment box below the Huffington Post piece of Ms. Larson. Commenting is easy. There are no screwed up words to decipher. All you have to do is comment and send.
Thanks. I look forward to your comments on this post and all on posts that interest you.