The Inevitability of Infidelity
If someone cheats on a spouse, are they an awful person?
When I was younger I would have thought of that as a ridiculous question. Infidelity is wrong. Done. No more talking.
I still believe there is some truth to that idea; however, I think it’s a discussion worth having. And probably the most clear thing in my life with each passing year is that nothing in this world is black and white.
Let’s get one thing out of the way real quick. (And for the sake of sanity, I’m going to ignore gender equality with pronouns and the like. Everything I’m saying applies equally for husbands and wives.)
When is infidelity most certainly not OK?
If a man’s wife is there for him in every way: Their life together is fun, exciting, and interesting. She supports him in his endeavors, pours words of encouragement his way, and pulls him through hard times. Their level of intimacy is wonderful and fulfilling, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Through and through, she makes all reasonable efforts to be a remarkable spouse. If all that is there, and he cheats regardless, he is a piece of garbage.
But life is rarely that simple. And sadly, spouses rarely fit a description like this one.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was far from a perfect spouse. I’m not even sure there is such a thing. But I think I learned enough along the way to break down the primary “responsibilities” of a spouse into three categories:
- Emotional support
- Intimacy fulfillment
Spouses must be there for each other through all the hard times, big and small. They must provide a firm yet soft shoulder to cry on. When one is down, the other must be there to pick them up and help them through the challenges. They must stick together as a team, and no matter how many family members or close friends are in the picture, the spouse must take the lead. They must be the primary sources of emotional support for one another.
Remember that song Cheerleader, all over the radio for months? It’s very easy to get lost in the catchiness of the tune, and miss these simple and great words: “When I need motivation, my one solution is my queen … She is always in my corner, right there when I want her … I think that I found myself a cheerleader, she is always right there when I need her.” This is one of those few songs that makes me say, “Yeah. That’s what I want!”
Whereas I don’t believe, God forbid, that spouses should just cheer each other on no matter what they say and do, when they need motivation, they should be one another’s primary source. They could and should be able to criticize each other. That’s part of helping each other grow as well, so long it’s done tactfully, respectfully, and in moderation. But they should certainly be able to seek inspiration and motivation from one another. And again, they should be each other’s first choice for this motivation.
And finally, a relationship must be sexually fulfilling. That does not mean submitting to the will or bizarre fetishes of your partner, but it does mean seeking their enjoyment and satisfaction, and making adjustments if they aren’t there. There must be free and open communication, so that everyone’s opinions and feelings are on the table, and they could work together toward a mutually satisfying intimate life.
Again, with all three elements in place, infidelity should not occur. And if it does, the adulterer is a lousy human being. They should be abandoned, and the court should crush them financially. They threw away something special, something most people could only dream of.
But what if one of these elements is lacking in a marriage?
I’m not talking about a brief moment where one of these elements is slower than normal. If (when) their sex life gets interfered with by pregnancy or raising young children, both parties will need to work harder in order to make sure the changes are not permanent, but the man or woman who turns to infidelity to deal with the temporary setback has a lousy character, and should be ashamed at how they deal with their issues.
No, I’m talking about a perennial lack of one of these elements. No man or woman would knowingly sign up for a lifetime of minimal emotional connection, support, or intimacy. And even though just about anything is tolerable in the short term, these aren’t optional aspects of life. Without them, life feels empty. The pain grows, and just worsens with each passing day. Human beings are not designed to live without these, and if there is no divorce, at some point down the road of this incomplete marriage, infidelity will become borderline inevitable. The actual infidelity is highly likely; however, the urge toward it is entirely inevitable, and just sitting around awaiting the right moment.
One might argue that this adultery would only result from a lack of marital intimacy, and not from an emotionally unavailable or un-encouraging spouse. I respectfully disagree. I think by nature we are drawn to the people from whom we seek these connections, and even though the connection might begin as a platonic one, each passing day is a step closer to the relationship evolving into an intimate one.
But it’s all preventable. None of this needs to happen. For certain we can make better choices about whom we marry, to lessen the possibility of a union with the wrong person. However, the average marriage need not go down this road. Most of us have hobbies we love to improve at. Why not put that same energy into being incredible husbands and wives? And why not do everything we can to better ourselves, to be there for our loved ones, to communicate with one other often and effectively, and to be a united team, two people so connected that the thought of infidelity is loathsome?
Why not? I wish I knew the answer. Unfortunately, we can only control our own actions and behaviors, and a marriage is only as good as the partner who puts in the least amount of effort. We can only hope everyone understands what’s at stake when we give less than our best to something this important.
May we all find willing and capable partners in our lives, and work together to form a truly united, loving, and caring team!
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