You got to love this Huffington Post headline: “The Surprising Behaviors that People Consider Cheating.”
The headline makes me think they will report some really strange behavior. You know, like some women consider it cheating if their boyfriends or husbands ask other women where diapers are in Target. Or, some men consider it cheating if their wives or girlfriends sit next to other guys on the subway or listens to songs written by men.
Yet, as predictable as the sun setting, Huffington Post once again astonishes me with their stupidity. For it turns out that the surprising behaviors that people consider cheating is really not all that surprising.
Did you know that 97.7% of people interviewed in a University of Michigan study said that having sexual intercourse with another person other than your spouse is considering cheating?
Holly Crap! No Way! That’s Crazy! I am blow away with “SURPRISINGNESS!”
Did you know that 96.8 of people considered oral sex with another person other than your spouse is considering cheating?
Oh My Goodness! The World is going to end. What a bunch of wackos. What’s this world coming too? It’s like we’re living in the Victorian age or something. (Is this the response they were looking for?)
If the editors and writers at Huffington Post had half a brain, what they might find surprising is the 11.8% of people that thought emailing naked pictures to another person was not cheating. Or, the 17.4% of people that thought it was okay to text erotic messages to people that weren’t their spouses.
What I find surprising is the 47.6% of people that thought forming a deep emotional bond with someone other than their spouse was somehow not considered cheating.
Now that I think about it, what I find most surprising is how I thought Huffington Post was going to actually surprise me.
Cheating And Social Construction
The problem with these types of articles is they can give the impression that “cheating” is somehow only a socially constructed phenomena. In other words, cheating is simply based upon the opinions of one’s culture. So, if you are in a culture where sleeping with your next-door neighbor’s wife is not considered cheating, then it isn’t cheating.
Now to be fair, it’s important to take into consideration one’s social context. Kissing someone on the check is considered an act of friendship in one culture but not in others. When I was n Africa, I was a little taken back the first time a guy grabbed my hand. We walked down the street talking about theology and I couldn’t help but wonder what my girlfriend back home would be thinking if she knew. Luckily for me, I had just learned a few hours prior that men in this culture hold each others hand to signify deep friendship.
But these social differences needn’t entail that all behavior is socially constructed.
To make long story short, human persons are not designed to co-construct all their own realities to make it be whatever they want it to be. This is the false philosophy of the 1960’s that has become so prevalent in our culture.
Rather, the human person has a certain functionality that entails that some behaviors will lead to flourishing and other behaviors to certain ruin.
So, take sexuality for example. Regardless of what our culture says, sexuality only blossoms within the bonds of marriage between a husband and a wife. The reason being is the very nature of sexuality is a sort of language that communicates a full giving of oneself to the other. Nothing is being held back. This is why we say, “We made love.” The love here is a mutual, exclusive, and a totally sharing of each other.
Anything less is simply exploitation of the other for what they can give you. In this case, the couple should say to each other, “I selfishly used you. I wanted to have sex with you but not to be with you. I was really only attracted to what you could do for me.”
What this all means is regardless of what our culture says, some actions will ALWAYS be cheating even if our culture says it’s not cheating. For you can’t change the nature’s language. You can try to distort and rebel against it all you want, but you are only bringing about confusion and disarray.
The Language Of Marriage
The language of marriage is supposed to communicate certain concepts between the husband and the wife. Sexual intimacy is just one of these concepts. The special emotional bond, close marital friendship, and deep intimacy are other concepts.**
So basically, cheating occurs when you seek, allow, or communicate these martial concepts outside the martial relationship.
This definition doesn’t say you can’t or shouldn’t be friends with people of the opposite sex. What it says is you shouldn’t allow those friendships to meet the needs that your wife or husband is suppose to be meeting or fulfilling.
Furthermore, this definition forbids a person from seeking these martial concepts with “things” as well. This might sound a bit strange, but have you ever heard the expressions, “he’s married to his car,” or “he is married to his job” (it could be she as well). What these spouses are complaining about is the other seeking martial satisfaction outside of their martial relationship. We are seeing an increase caseload of clients coming in with one being “married to porn.”
While we typically think cheating is simply having a sexual relationship with another person, doing martial therapy will teach you otherwise. It goes way beyond that.
So once again, cheating occurs when you seek, allow, or communicate these martial concepts outside the martial relationship.
Let me make a clarification. It might be the case that your spouse is not meeting your needs. This is certain tragic, but this doesn’t give you the justification to meet your needs somewhere else.
You don’t return evil with evil. Our culture loves fairness, but as I tell my son, it’s not fair to cheat even if others do. Keep your character from being corrupted. To do otherwise is simply to make matters worse.
As Dr. Bing says, “your spouse spilled the gravy on the table, but you’re burning the house down.”
Instead, come see us or another wholesome therapist. Be careful, though. Therapists are like car mechanics. Some of them will just take your money and fix the wrong thing—often times because they don’t have the foggiest idea of what a human person is.
** This is not meant to be an exhaustive list. Certain the begetting, caring, and educating one’s children are other concepts meant to be fulfilled by marriage.
Recently, a man said to me that if he and his wife were making love under the stars on a beach, he’d be faking it. He’d be faking it because that’s not what gets him off. What gets him off is playing it rough. He wants dirty sex. Exciting sex. Not romantic sex.
My friends, this is why this guys sex life will always suck. He is too focused on himself and what he can get out of it.
Sex is not solely about you. Let me say that again. Sex is not solely about you.
Sex by its design is other directed. It is about both of you giving yourselves to the other. Sex brings unity were there was once disunity. Sex unities two into one flesh.
Sex is fun, but the “funness” is really secondary to the unity that it brings.
When sex is directed at the other, there’s no need to fake it. This is what that guy didn’t understand. The other is the one that excites you. Your husband or your wife is what is erotic.
Not the occasion, not the circumstances, not what he or she can do for you . . the person!
Pillows, sheets, candles, lighting, how a person is dressed, and so on are completely secondary to the encounter with the other. We have to get this through our heads; otherwise, we will not flourish in our sexuality.
Too many of us have trained ourselves to need all this other stuff to enjoy sex. But it’s just not needed. Surprisingly, if you focus all your energy on really loving and pleasing your spouse, you will find, in due time, the less you will need to send you into orbit.
And we are all about simplicity these days. Why are we trying to complicate things. Let’s uncomplicate things.
Now I have been accused of advocating an estrogen focused sexuality. That is, a sexuality that is geared towards simply pleasing the woman and not the man. I am told that my view lacks “excitement and testosterone.”
I think, though, it all depends on what we mean by excitement.
Let’s not fool ourselves. We have known for quite sometime that what we find excitement in can be trained. The virtuous have trained themselves to be excited by the really good, whereas the vicious have trained themselves to be excited by evil—that is apparent goods.
I, personally, am training myself to only be excited by my wife. What can I say, she excites me. I love the way she looks. I love her personality. I love her gentleness, her virtue, and her dedication. I love her sacrificial sprit. Her willingness to give and a host of other qualities she possesses.
I don’t’ ever have to “fake it” because what I want and desire is just the person who wants and desires me.
The Way Forward
Has it always been this way. Of course not. We are going on our 10th year of marriage and it has taken a while for us to fully appreciate the deeper meanings of sexuality.
But it all begins with choices. Over time, these chooses my wife and I have made have built a chamber where my wife and I can enter. Be it on the beach or somewhere else. It needn’t matter, because what excites us is each other.
What all of these choices have in common is this: we try to never treat each other as a mere means to an end. If I, for example, do treat her as a mere means, then I am reducing my wife to an object of my sexuality.
What this means is I try to never pursue my wife in a lustful fashion. Yes . . . that’s right. A husband or a wife can lustfully pursue their spouse. This occurs when you seek sexuality simply for yourself. In and out with no regards for the other.
No wonder so many spouses feel like they are being used.
How To Ruin Your Sex Life
True and lasting intimacy is not found in you selfishly seeking the big “O”. Orgasms are wonderful and great. I highly recommend them to those who are married. But don’t confuse the fruit of sex with the substance of sex.
In fact, the best way to ruin your sex life is focusing on orgasm because it turns you inward rather than outward.
And like I said, sex is always outwardly driven.
This is a radically differently way to view sexuality. Our culture has warped many of our minds. Unfortunately, many of us have trained ourselves to be excited by the unexciting. And we will reap what we sow.
There’s a reason why the guy faking it could never find satisfaction. There’s a reason he is bored and lonely and despises his wife and women as a whole. He has trained himself to be excited by self-absorption. His soul is crying out for communion but he has forgotten how to communicate. He doesn’t see a person to cherish, protect, and love; he sees an object to use, exploit, and despise.
The question that you must ask yourself is which path are you training yourself for. I hope you choose the path that leads to a selfless love, for it is truly satisfying.
You might be interested in my The Ecology Of Sexual Spiciness
“That sounds like a good idea,” he said with a smirk on his face, “how about you write it?” insinuating I should be a team player and help him out. So my first piece of advice in working as a team in your marriage – keep your mouth shut!
Seriously though, I have often thought that one of the things Brandon and I seem to do well in our marriage is this team concept. I thought I would share a bit on how I find this working in our marriage and lay out a few general tips.
First, see each other as valuable members of the team with important roles to play. It is easy to view the things you do to support your family as having a higher importance. It is easy to see the sacrifices you make and to down play your spouses. It is easy to compare the amount of money you make, the time you spend, and the things you give up and judge your portion as the better half. The truth is both of you are important and you have to consciously decide to think this way. It simply doesn’t matter who does what and when and how much…everything is needed to make the marriage and your family survive. The saying often quoted, “a team is only as strong as its weakest player” is true, and one of the ways you can become the weakest player is by continually criticizing your spouse’s rolls and denigrating all the good things they do.
Second, instead of judging the roles that your spouse plays find a way to live in their shoes to understand their perspective. If you think doing all the lawn work and house maintenance requires more energy and time than the things your spouse does…try and switch roles for a while if possible. Do the dishes, laundry, and cleaning and see if you still feel the same afterwards. Brandon and I have had the very fortunate experience of both being able to at some point be the “stay-at-home” parent and the “working” parent. We can sympathize with the woes of each other after a hard day at “work” regardless of where that occurs. Although you might not be able to switch all your roles there are some that you could try and play around with.
Third, give each other grace! If members of a team only ridiculed each other and never forgave each other the team would crumble and everyone would want to quit. Remember how forgiving you were before you were married when you were in the infatuation stage? You easily glossed over minor infractions and overlooked small things. CHOOSE to do this again. I think you have to make it a choice because you might have trained yourself into habitually responding with negative emotions. You have to overcome this by a choice to think and respond differently regardless of how you feel in order to turn this tide of behaviorism. A good friend of mine once said, “Choose not to be annoyed,” and I will never forget that statement. We do have control over our emotions and the way we respond to each other…you might just need some retraining to make this come more naturally.
And fourth – building off of the previous tip – encourage each other. You will value your team/marriage/family when you mutually build one and other up in tangible ways. Tell each other specifically the things you appreciate (even if you are struggling at the time to feel overly thankful). If you KNOW it’s valuable then say it, out loud, and sooner or later you will feel thankful in a more genuine way. One of the best ways to encourage your spouse is to participate in the things that they value. Watch a baseball game, wax the car, trim the trees with your husband. Plant flowers, go for a run, and clip coupons with your wife. By participating in the things they value most, either just for enjoyment or for the direct benefit of your family, will encourage and edify your spouse.
And if you find yourself writing a blog or recording a podcast for your spouse on the benefits of working as a team in marriage you might just learn a lesson or two from yourself. :^)
Rather they are just not ‘in love’ with their spouses’. They don’t ‘feel’ the passion; they lack the riveting feeling of romance; the sparks have died and the candle has burned out. All that is left is a gloomy rain cloud hovering around their marriage.
Now I must confess that writing this last paragraph brought me to tears (and I rarely tear up). Not because I am amazing at writing prose. Rather, I placed myself into the shoes of a woman or man who truly wants their marriage to succeed but is now seeing what looks like its inevitable doom. How scary. How disappointing. How sad.
This guy did not set out in marriage hoping for a divorce. She thinks they will be the exception, or at least hope they are. A guy sees divorce all around him, but this feeling he has for his gal is something he has never felt before. Nothing will come between them. And then loneliness slowly creeps in.
The feeling of loneliness is one of the most haunting feelings a human being can experience. Our very beings cry out for connection, acceptance, for love. How meaningful is the gentle hand on our backs? A good night kiss or a morning’s hug reassures our hearts that we matter to at least someone. Even a simple flirtatious look or gesture from one’s spouse communicates heaps of meaning to the one that receives it. It tells him or her that he/she is desired in a way that no other person is desired. With 6 or 7 billion people in the world, this is existentially monumental!
But for some reason we stop doing these small gestures along the way. They seem trivial, petty, a waste of time. We tell ourselves our spouses know we love them. There are more important things to do. My baby is crying. My house is a mess. I am late for work. My favorite team is about to start playing. Day after day, week after week, year after year, we ignore our spouses until one day when we finally get around to reaching for their hands they pull theirs’ away with glassy, hollow eyes (and I am not just being poetic here). We have lost them.
Is it your entire fault? Of course it’s not. You just didn’t help the situation. You forgot how important these small acts of love were. Did you know that those marriages that succeed happily have a 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negate events? This means for every negative moment in the marriage, it takes 5 positive moments to more or less repair that negativity. The good news is these positive moments needn’t be magnanimous acts. Ninety-nine percent of the time, small acts of love will do the trick. Doing the dishes, picking up your socks, a hug, or good night kiss goes a long way in telling your spouse that she or he matters.
Please, go home and kiss your wife. Please, go home and flirt with him. Please, stop waiting for her to do it. Stop putting the blame on him. This is getting your marriage nowhere. This cycle of negativity needs to end and you can be the agent of change today.
But many of us are not happy. Many of us simply write this poem off as childish. It was written for children after all. We say to ourselves, ‘that’s cute, but naïve. Life is way more complicated than that.’
Why? Why does life have to be more complicated? Perhaps the view that life is more complicated than this simple poem is the naïve opinion. It certainly seems more simple and straightforward to think that it is. Maybe this is why so many adults don’t hold this poem as a living philosophy. It’s just ‘natural’ for them to see life as infinitely more complicated.
Yet life needn’t be, if only you could waken from your pessimistic slumber. Open your eyes and see the goods around you. Your marriage is on the rocks. Unfortunate, but at least you have a marriage to fight for. Your children won’t obey you. Darn, but at least you have been blessed with fertility. I lost my job, but you still have legs. I lost my legs, but you still have arms. I lost my arms, but you still breath. You still have life. You are still loved—even if only by God. You still have, have, and have. Don’t you see all that you have?
I wake in the morning early
And always, the very first thing,
I poke out my head and I sit up in bed
And I sing and I sing and I sing.
Rejoice! You woke up today. Stop thinking life is too complicated. Life is tough, but its not problematical. Perplexing, no doubt. Yet not convoluted . One of the keys to life is seeing the simple as wonderful, the mundane as exciting:
I’m glad the sky is painted blue,
And the earth is painted green,
With such a lot of nice fresh air
All sandwiched in between.
If you can learn to look outside and see a gigantic sandwich, I promise you will begin to see how simple life really is.