When a man is emotionally out of integrity, is it better to lie about the desire to cheat?
This week, hackers broke into the Ashley Madison website—the online matching service for married people looking to have an affair—and threatened to release subscribers’ private information. With 37 million subscribers, the breach is potentially even bigger than the OPM hack earlier this month, but fewer people are talking about it—probably because anyone who would go out of their way to cheat on their spouse doesn’t garner much sympathy from most people. On the news sites, commentators are saying publicly what many must be thinking privately: “Serves those cheaters right.”
Thirty-seven million is a lot of people. If you stop to think about the Ashley Madison site, what it promises and what someone has to do to join, it boggles the mind. These are not people who’ve had sloppy, drunken, impulsive affairs with co-workers, but people who have thought about a problem for a significant amount of time, and who are actively seeking an affair as a solution. It means that 37 million married people in this country have found their way to the Ashley Madison site, chosen a username and password, written something about themselves on their profile, posted a photo and forked over a credit card number—all for the privilege of having illicit sex while staying married. It’s the clandestine part of the scandal that makes Ashley Madison unique. If finding someone new and divorcing our current spouse were the goal, the site would have no reason to exist. Its goal is to help us find the Other: that woman or man who embodies all the things our spouses are not, so we can proceed to enjoy the best of both worlds, for as long as we can maintain it.
Integrity is a frequently-addressed topic in many men’s groups. It refers not only to its usual meaning of keeping your word, but also to the practice of reducing the dissonance between thoughts and actions. So if you tell your friends that you love your wife, but your body language communicates disgust, you’re out of integrity, and your friends—if they’re good friends who know how to notice such things—will say so. Certainly in the moral sense, a married man who has an affair is out of integrity, as is the man who is disgusted at the mention of his wife. One hasn’t kept the promises he made to his wife on their wedding day; the other is spending a lot of energy on maintaining a relationship with a woman for whom he’s clearly lost his desire. We all know affairs are morally wrong, but what about the man who is emotionally and energetically out of integrity?
That’s a harder question to answer, because there are plenty of happily married men who also have affairs, or who are seeking them. When they say “I love my wife”, they mean it. Their faces light up when they mention their wives, and they would never even consider leaving them. What causes them to have or seek, secretive sex with another woman?
In my experience as a heterosexual male, men love variety and crave the feminine in all its different forms. We’re especially drawn to women who carry a different variety of energy than our current partner does. A man married to a stay-at-home mom is more likely to notice an attractive woman wearing a business suit and carrying a briefcase than he is to notice another stay-at-home mom. Walking down the street in any major city, we notice hundreds of intriguing women every day who bring completely different energies than the one our current partner offers us. Each hints at the promise of something exotic and new. It’s my belief that the women a man is most attracted to are the ones most unlike his current partner.
It’s a great gift to appreciate beauty in so many forms. The problem is that, too often, we think that just because we’re attracted to someone, it means we should have sex with them. That’s the cause of a lot of needless suffering.
But male sexual desire can feel overwhelming to a man, and if we’re clearly attracted, wouldn’t lying to ourselves and pretending we’re not also put us out of integrity? Yes, I believe it would.
There are many ways to enjoy another woman’s feminine qualities without actually having sex with her. David Deida, author of “The Way of the Superior Man” offers one solution to his readers to use the next time they see an attractive stranger. He invites them to breathe. “Breathe fully, without resisting the joy her sighting affords you. Breathe the joy all through your body, down to your toes.” Enjoy your attraction to her, without feeling the need either to resist it or to act it out. You’re not going to stare at her, and you may or may not interact with her at all. But just feeling the feelings of attraction and allowing them to move through you might give you whatever energy may be lacking in your current relationship.
Unedited Photo: Flickr/David Goehring