The editor of the Good Men Project’s Marriage section explains why he doesn’t cheat.
A lot of you may have seen a post here at the Good Men Project recently called 31 Reasons Why Men Don’t Cheat. I wasn’t an editor here when that post originally ran, so I thought I’d take a minute to share why I don’t cheat.
In a word: Trust.
I don’t cheat because, for me, love and all its facets are based on trust. Being loved, in a romantic sense, means opening oneself to someone and being accepted in every respect. That kind of openness requires an incredible amount of trust.
Think of all the things we keep hidden from the world on any given day. Think of the thoughts and fears and insecurities we don’t broadcast. On behalf of the world, I’d like to say, “Thanks! Good call!” I guarantee that even if I don’t mind listening to strangers whisper their secrets and insecurities to me while waiting at the bus stop, someone else does. That’s not because I don’t have insecurities and character flaws myself—we all do. Maybe we’ve always been self-conscious about the size of our feet or our peculiar sexual peccadilloes. Perhaps we just have poor math skills or still resent our older brother. Regardless of what our foibles and flaws are, we need boundaries because otherwise we’d never be able to tolerate one another.
Despite the fact that boundaries are important, we also need a safe place to relax those boundaries. Otherwise we’re living in isolation. That’s where having a relationship based on trust comes in. A trusting relationship gives us a place to drop our boundaries with someone—a small, safe place to be our genuine selves in a world that keeps rigid rules about decorum.
Needing someone you can trust is all well and good, but creating trust is a two way street. How can I trust someone who doesn’t trust me? How can I expect someone to trust me if I don’t allow myself to trust them?
Those questions were rhetorical. I can’t.
That’s why it’s so important for me to be honest and forthright with my wife. Otherwise, I’m showing her that I’m not safe to be open with. And if she doesn’t feel safe being open with me, then I can’t feel safe being honest and forthright with her. It’s a system that’s based on reciprocity.
“Cheating” means actions that undermine our ability to trust and love someone. Sexual cheating is only one piece of what it’s really about. I’m not going to go out and have an affair for the same reason that I’m not going to talk to others about my wife’s foibles and fears or mock her for her mistakes or dismiss her thoughts and ideas or do anything else that would indicate that she’s not a whole person who deserves to have a partner she can trust. She knows that and she’s not going to do those things to me either. How do I know? Because we’ve spent 15 years learning what it means to trust one another. Inasmuch as all of those actions damage our ability to trust one another, they’re all cheating.
So, why don’t I cheat? I don’t cheat because I love my wife. I love the person she really is, and I want to be her safe place—the person she can trust enough to really be herself around. If I violate that trust, then I lose the real her.