Shawn Henfling believes that while it’s popular to pile onto cheaters, sometimes the behavior itself may just be a cry for help.
Over and over again we hear the same mantras when it comes to unfaithful men. If he cheats, he doesn’t love you. He doesn’t respect you. He’s just a player. He’s not a good man. Those things and more can be true. He may be a terrible person. He may in fact be someone who enjoys playing the field too much. Your cheating boyfriend/husband may be the walking embodiment of everything a good spouse should never be.
This is the part where many people will go on to blame the spouse. There wasn’t enough affection shown. You weren’t emotionally available. You were too trusting. A thousand stones cast and just as above, some of them may be true.
The common cliché has always been “It takes two to Tango.” This too has its roots in truth. Rarely is there a catastrophic failure in a relationship that is caused by a single person. Just as bridges don’t suddenly collapse for no reason, so it goes with relationships.
“You can’t be unfaithful and still call yourself a good man.” With respect to the folks out there making this claim, I disagree. Good men can and do cheat, just as good women sometimes stray. Sometimes behavior is more than just what is on the surface. Sometimes cheating is another form of escapism, a way out of the blackness that threatens to envelope a persons life.
Escapism, as defined by Merriam-Webster: habitual diversion of the mind to purely imaginative activity or entertainment as an escape from reality or routine.
Reality is a bitch and we aren’t always taught proper coping mechanisms. Traditionally, men were told to lock away their emotions. Stand stoically and unflinching. Be everyone’s rock, their port in a storm. Never cry. Feelings? WHAT FEELINGS. YOU HAVE NO FEELINGS. Except anger. Anger is manly. Anger is macho. Don’t get sad; GET MAD!
Like trying to fit 6 cups of leftover mashed potatoes into a 5 cup container, eventually things will overflow and you’ll be left with a mess. It may look like things are going to fit, but once you try forcing the lid onto that bad boy, it just goes everywhere or the container itself will break. Either way, you’re cleaning up a bunch of crap you should have known better than to try and force.
Cheating, for some men, is that escape. It’s their coping mechanism, and unless they learn better strategies, it won’t be fixed. These men will hate themselves for what they do. They’ll feel guilt, swear it won’t happen again, and fall again and again.
Different men have different thresholds for stress. Some men I’ve known have dealt with incredible blows to their lives, not had constructive coping mechanisms, and not strayed. Still others, men I’d consider morally and ethically superior in nearly every way, experience tragedy in life and seek their escape in the arms of another.
These good men who’ve fallen from grace, never intend to leave their spouses or families. Hard as it may be to accept, they still love truly and deeply. Sometimes the cheating is because they feel as though their spouse has also endured too much and trying to vent to them is further torture. Sometimes it’s just a need to escape the constant reminders of the life they have and the stresses it contains. Cheating can even manifest as a side of effect of just needing to reach out to someone who will react with tenderness and understanding when life gets to be too much.
Whatever the cause, this isn’t an attempt to excuse the behavior. On the contrary, he should know better. Hell, he DOES know better. He knows it’s wrong. He knows the results will never be good. Still he allows it to happen. It shouldn’t happen, not ever.
Here’s the thing. Just because he cheated doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. It doesn’t have to mean he doesn’t want to be with you. It may mean he didn’t know how to cope when life got the best of him. He’s still the man you chose to be with, and has the potential to be much more. He needs help, and both of you will probably need to see a marriage counselor. Should it mean the end of your relationship? I can’t answer that, but if you love him and he truly loves you, isn’t it worth the effort to repair?
Photo Credit: Ben Ahhi/flickr