Wednesday, December 9, 2009

All men are dogs and other myths of adultery

Politicians, actors, athletes, members of the clergy. The stories of infidelity seem to be unrelenting. As the stories swirl, women sneer with righteous indignation and men snicker at the carelessness of the discovered one. We all sit around and purport to know the circumstances: men are just dogs/he couldn't love his wife and do that to her; the wife was miserable/had gained a lot of weight/must have driven him to it/she would never have done that to him; the other woman is a jezebel/was just looking for somebody to mind her/must have known he was married/knows he's not going to leave his wife.

Some of that may be true some of the time, but those assumptions have become mostly part of love lore - the myths that help to make relationships and their breakdown easier to explain and understand. If we are to be honest with ourselves though, most of us will admit that life and love are never cut and dry, black and white, or easily comprehended.

It seems that every woman we know has been cheated on and we all know men who are perpetual cheats, but rest easy, your husband is not likely to cheat on you. According to The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction between 65 and 85 percent of husbands have no partners other than their wives during the duration of their marriage. True, the number is not great, but it is better than we usually give men credit for. The Kinsey Institute also reports that 20 percent of wives have had at least one extramarital affair. The secret is out, 0ne in five married women have gotten some on the side.

Books have been written on why men cheat, and I haven't heard any conclusive answers yet. I think it is fair to assume that they don't all have the same reason. No doubt opportunity is a high ranking reason, but since they are human I'm going to also assume that sometimes it has to do with emotions - understanding that emotions include arrogance, covetousness, and lust as well as like/love. For women, we generally assume that sex and the heart go hand-in-hand. While it is true that most women's vajay-jays are directly connected to their heart strings, women sleep with men for all kinds of reasons. Infatuation, companionship, a listening ear, a complimentary tongue, a healthy wallet, or a tight butt are often just enough.

Most cheating wives and husbands go to great lengths to keep their affairs secret: seedy motels, morse code phone rings, cash-only transactions, voicemail messages without a name, and a plethora of evolving lies. If the idea was to hurt the spouse why go through all that trouble? Most cheaters would not go through with it if they knew they would be found out and that their home life would be disrupted. Philanderers weigh the risk of getting caught and take their chances. It has nothing to do with how much they love or don't live their spouse. Barring extraordinary situations, any one who is unhappily married gets out. In the same manner, married folks want to be married. The answer to a bad or unhappy marriage is not an affair and everybody knows that.

It is so easy to vilify the other woman (or man). The same people who say men are dogs seem hesitant to believe that they would lie about being married or the health of their marriage. I have heard the stories of maneaters who only date married men, but I believe most people don't want to be on the sidelines of their relationships. Sometimes it takes ignored ultimatums and broken promises to clarify the facts, but given a choice - and all the information - the other woman (or man) will likely pack up her heart and her hopes and move on.

The point is that we don't always know what's going on. More of us have secrets than are willing to admit. Love is messy, unpredictable and not void of pitfalls. For most of us it is hard enough to figure out and manuever our own hearts and relationships. We would be best served not to be quick to judgment of the hearts and affairs of others.

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