Cheating, lying, infidelity, affairs, ….this is the stuff which for married men or guys in LTR’s remains the ‘sleeper’ problem you never see coming. For men on auto pilot cruise control, it’s also the one thing that can near on break a man when they find their world shattered by the discovery.
The other week I came across an article, which whilst the subject matter on infidelity was nothing new, contained such a sympathetic style of writing that it really made me pay attention and question how men and women approach the topic of personal responsibility.
Think for a moment, as a guy, how often have you been told to just “do the right thing?” Has this ever felt like you’ve taken on an assumed responsibility for someone else?
Having spoken to a lot of ‘about to be divorced’ dads they often can’t believe the speed at which their partners check out and move on from the relationship and into the arms of someone else. A common thread I’ve found is the lack of responsibility their female partners acknowledge on themselves for their actions contributing to the end of the relationship.
Hopefully a breakdown of this article will help highlight the differences between men and women when it comes to boundaries and the way we rationalize decisions. Being aware of these differences is part of the journey to being a better man.
I’ll link to the article here for you to read in full but the parts I felt important have been broken down below.
My intent behind expanding on the topic of male versus female responsibility isn’t to cast judgement on the morality of the topic around infidelity and throw stones at the female author. Infidelity is rife between both genders with people having a variety of different self-fulfilling reasons for cheating.
What anyone does in their personal life and how they justify that behaviors is something they need to be comfortable with alone rather than virtue signalling their reasons to the world. Rather, what I think is important to take away here is the differences in how the sexes process rationalization and responsibility.
Last week I tweeted this:
Given it was one of the highest engaging tweets for the week, being retweeted by both men and women, I knew it had resonated with people.
I was intrigued to keep looking closer at more examples of poor human behaviors and the article I found struck me, as the emotive style was designed to immediately conjure sympathy from the reader:
I’ve cheated twice in my life.
Once on a boyfriend.
Once on a husband.
I never planned to cheat. I never started talking to these two “misters” out of an intent to stray. I’m monogamous by nature, and when my needs are met, I can barely look at other men.
When my needs are met.
If you skimmed through the article you would have gleaned that from the initial tone the author doesn’t necessarily abdicate for any forgiveness for her actions. This much is clear. Yet the way she describes the events leading to the affair are structured in such a tone that leaves the reader leaning with a sympathetic view for her cause.
You would be lead to believe that really, “she had no other choice in the end.”
This got me thinking. Why do we promote this sympathy? Why do we allow a narrative that even on a simplistic binary level, still favors a “that’s okay” response from us.
I think our society has been steered, or even evolved to where our default cultural stance allows an increased level of ‘protection’ for women, even when they’ve done the wrong thing. Especially when it comes to infidelity.
I say this because I see this narrative in a lot of relationship breakdowns where the wife or female partner was forced to endure emotional hardship before seeking solace in the arms of another. Society then celebrates her escape.
My needs, however selfish, are more important than the collective.
I realise I’m distilling a certain type of breakdown in a relationship and that yes, as men we can be just at fault. But again, this isn’t about morality, it’ about responsibility.
I think in this case, perhaps partially it’s due to the fact that men love the ‘principal of love’ greater than they love themselves. For men it’s about the ‘right thing’, while for women love is different and therefor so is the importance placed on personal responsibility.
The hardliners would say that she loves opportunistically and evolutionists as a vehicle for her survival. I’m not a woman and don’t profess to have the answer for “how” they love, but I know it’s different.
It’s increasingly rare to find life long couples who still have that compatible style love for each other into their twilight years. Do we love differently, do we have different expectations on each other, or do we treat relationships as a means to an end?
I think this is different for people depending on the phase of life you’re in and can likely change over time. But I do know, I don’t subscribe to an idealized version of romantic love popularized by the media, yet I do believe it can work and work really well when we take accountability and ownership of ourselves first.
What I find interesting and what I see as part of the problem is that men still tolerate this story and this behavior because they still believe “it’s the right thing to do”. They put this societal rhetoric above the need to have strong personal boundaries and believe more in the entity of marriage, the nucleus of the family, to be of greater importance than themselves. Again, this is for the protection of her.
This isn’t a scale, this isn’t a competition to prove who loves harder, longer or deeper. This isn’t even a way of judging right or wrong. What it is, is a realization that men and women look at love and relationships differently and this influences how much emphasis they place on personal responsibility.
Getting hung up on why this happens to be the case, or being mad at something you have no control over isn’t going to help you reconcile the differences, learn, then improve and become better.
I actually think the differences between the way men and women love and take personal responsibility are okay, but I totally disagree with the underlying message in this article. I actually don’t buy any of this horseshit. If someone cheats on you, it’s 100% their issue, their fault. There are no exceptions.
I doubt she’s looking for an ‘out clause’ to justify the actions but I couldn’t help feeling towards the end of the article “she had no choice” but to seek having her needs met elsewhere. It’s as if sprinkling in physiological facts around our biological need for intimacy could go a distance towards “her story” and making it sound plausible.
It’s not until the end of the article we find she’s apologetic to the plight of her children, having also dragged them through it. However it feels like a token inclusion as by now you’ve mostly formed your opinion.
I do, though, regret that I married someone based on their potential instead of their reality because no one deserves that
This paragraph demonstrates how easy it can be to apportion part of the blame and not owning your actions.
Instead, a more honest statement could be “When I got married, I didn’t know enough about my own needs and what values were important to me, to select the most compatible partner – In the end, I just did the wrong thing as I didn’t have the courage to be 100% honest, so I cheated”.
I’m sure the ex-husband, being the other half of the problem, has his own set of actions he’s apologetic for. Relationships don’t happen in a vacuum and his inattentive coldness was no doubt a contributor to what his wife felt. Equally him hiding money and spending it on drugs is a low act. But you don’t repay broken trust with more broken trust. You don’t put up with it in the first place.
But the point I’m making is this, she didn’t come out and flatly say, “It was my fault I cheated and I made a conscious choice ALL on my own”. He may not have been meeting her primary needs inside the relationship over and above safety, provisioning and shared parenting, yet this can’t be used as an excuse.
The problem I see over and over with men is they take part of the blame on themselves because they think it’s ‘the right thing’ to do.
Somehow we’re asked to sympathize because her needs were not met. The problem with this mindset is you simply don’t get to change your mind on your obligations to someone because of what they aren’t doing. This is such a stretch to expect that you’ve got license to justify your actions based on what other people do or don’t do for you.
This victim mindset causes us to do nothing more than shift blame and responsibility away from ourselves.
The take away for you as a man is really simple. If she cheats, you leave. You may not leave that instant as you’ve likely got kids and a house together, but you check out and make serious inroads to moving on with your life. There is never any coming back from this type of trust break down and even if you do, would you want to tolerate that type of behavior and set a precedent for the future?
This is a hard line but you must see the value in yourself for this to make sense. The behavior of a cheating partner, his or her shortcomings are never your fault.
The reason why this is so important, is what you tolerate, what you allow in your life should always reflect the personal boundaries you live by. Yes, you should always look inward and self reflect on your contribution to relationship problems, but don’t accept external responsibility for something you didn’t do.
This is the first step is understanding that you have value well beyond the guy that needs to simply “do the right thing” by her and the family.
I appreciate this is more difficult for men as we’re expected to be the foundation for the family and the ‘strong one’ in the relationship. Yes, if you’re in a relationship you need to learn balance and compromise, but it doesn’t stop you from having firm personal boundaries and not taking on the responsibility for others actions.
You’re responsible for yourself, all of your actions, but never what someone else does.
I’m gonna leave you with this clipping.
Get busy guys, get busy becoming a top tier man of immense value that’s 100% responsible for every action and decision you make.