Marriage Of One

June 14, 2013

Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right, Usually

Filed under: infidelity,intimacy,marriage,relationships,sex — marriageofone @ 8:48 pm

The strapline of this website is”Marriage without compromise”. In case I have not mentioned it clearly enough it carries two meanings.

The first and most obvious in the context of the majority of the subject matter is of course the evident fact that my wife Susan can not, will not or is unable to compromise sexually or in intimate aspects of our marriage.  The second is my idealistic take nearly 6 years ago that I would not, in the face of this situation compromise on what I felt were core principles of marriage and my upholding of those principles.  In short I would not seek sexual gratification elsewhere (at least not with a ‘real’ woman, no affairs, no lies.  In short no cheating.  The other principle was that I would not treat Susan as she treated me – so I would not throw a sexual advance back in her face as she would mine.  I would be there for her even if she wasn’t for me.  (A cynic might advance the theory that I’m just taking what I can get in those circumstances – and they would have been right at least sometimes.  I can promise you though that when sex is rationed like it is for me, there is little to no pleasure in picking up the crumbs dropped from the table.  Once you’re at 3, 4, or 5 sex acts per year you may as well be at zero.)

Okay, I start with these principles not to blow my trumpet and proclaim what a magnanimous loser I am.  On the contrary, its to introduce the subject of infidelity.  Cheating.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the past couple of years.  Just thinking – I haven’t done it yet (although guilt-laden intention was there in my recent trip).  You’d have to be pretty cold-heart-ed to disagree with my opinion that Susan has done me wrong and done our marriage wrong.  Hell – if she could only think it through rationally she has done herself wrong.

She has cheated me, herself, us and even our children of the full benefit of a fully engaged, happy, emotionally satisfied home.  She cheated us first.  I’m just glad in a perverse way that it has always been like this so my kids don’t know a home that is any different.  What if we did start with a happy marriage which the kids watched dissolving before them?  What if they saw their mum and dad become a shell of what they were to each other, themselves and to the children?  I know I would have been a better man, father and of course husband if it wasn’t’ for this.

By refusing to compromise she has compromised our marriage structurally, impoverishing it and weakening  it to the point that any reader of this website would recognise it as a failed marriage.  It is not no longer a question of if it will collapse.  Its when.  When Susan or more likely I will finally pull the rug away from under the sad, tottering edifice.

But to the topic at hand.  Is it my turn to cheat in turn?  Actually I don’t feel the same moral compunction as I did when I started this website.  Even if slept with another woman, I would not be cheating on Susan. Hear me out.

The word “cheat” has a great deal of definitions.  For our purposes though we can focus on the following one: the act of being unfaithful to a spouse sexually.  The deeper question is why is that considered a ‘cheat’?  I think it boils down to a more fundamental definition.  To cheat someone implies that a deception has occurred resulting in a loss or diminution to the target of the cheater.  So you need two things to be a cheater.  One you have to carry out a deception to perpetrate the cheat.  Second you need someone to deceive for the express purpose of causing a loss or reduction of something they value.

If you don’t deceive someone and they lose something it is effectively their own loss and not a cheat.  Conversely if do deceive someone but they don’t lose anything in the process then the worst that can be said is that you attempted to cheat them.  But what if there is no deception and no loss?

Let’s take this back the question of being unfaithful, but before we get right to that, I just want to discuss children.

I was going to add that when someone cheats in a marriage he is not just cheating his/her partner.  The children in the marriage are also cheated.  I think that the cheating may upset the children if they are old enough to understand whether or not they have actually ‘lost’ anything.  The children may feel cheated if they feel that they were also targets of the deception (loss of trust or even role model), or if they believe they have lost quality time with the cheating parent because he/she was away being unfaithful.  Even if there was no deception of the children and no loss of any tangible sort regarding the children,  they may still feel cheated on behalf of the faithful parent.

So it gets complicated. Kids are cheated if and only if they lose something intrinsic to the child-parent relationship.

If the unfaithful parent is depriving the children of family time or lying about it (e.g. I’m working late so can’t come to watch your school production) the kids are being cheated.  Full stop.   If the cheating is completely under the kids radar (let’s not get into how this could be practical), so that the unfaithful parent does not lie about his whereabouts, activities etc, and does not let his activities infringe on any family responsibilities I’m going to say the kids have not been cheated.

Now I haven’t said anything about the dissolution of the marriage as a result of infidelity.  That’s because I don’t think children can be cheated out of a family home, or cheated out of having a married Mom and Dad.  That’s because I don’t believe that a parent being unfaithful is directly responsible for the dissolution of the marriage. That outcome is actually the result of the reaction to the cheating.  How the couple cope with the infidelity will make a difference.  Contrition on the part of the cheater and restraint on the part of the partner as well as counselling etc will determine whether the damage inflicted by infidelity is compounded or not.  So whilst one parent can cheat on the marriage, it takes both parents to cheat the children out of the family unit and home.

Right, now to the actual key players in the marriage.

When a spouse cheats on his  or her partner what he is actually doing is one or both of deception and diminution.  First there is the act of deception.  This undermines the trust between partners.  Secondly there is the loss of something – the diminution.  In this case it is the intimacy and sexual relationship between the partners.  This causes damage in numerous ways.  Just as the trust is damaged by the deception, so is the sexual trust and intimacy between the partners damaged by the fact that one of them has strayed.  The second way it is damaged is by the fact that the partner who stayed faithful has ‘lost’ a number of things: the most obvious is the sex or intimacy (arguably if the cheating partner was not away with somebody else, he or she would have been at home with him/her).  Additionally there may be loss to the faithful partner of self-esteem and security.

So cheating really is cheating.  At least where it happens in a ‘normal’ marriage.

Now I try to apply it to my marriage, or something like it.  Remember this is not an argument about how I’d manage my conscience.

The first step would be deceive Susan.  For example I could say I’m working late and instead be checking into a hotel with a FWB.  I will have cheated her.  If she subsequently tells the children (in good faith that I am working late) then I will indirectly have cheated the kids too.

But if I don’t tell Susan?  Say I somehow manage to fit the trysts with the FWB so well within my time away from home that there is no need to tell Susan anything (again, let’s not get into how this could be practical)?  With no apparent change in timetable or behaviour there is no need for the children to be told anything either.  So Susan wont’ have been cheated, and neither will the kids.

But what of the actual act(s) of infidelity? That’s cheating plain and simple right? From a purely moralistic, puritanical perspective I can’t argue – it’s cheating.  In the real world with real people I’m not so sure it’s that cut and dried.  Then again, maybe my peculiar lifestyle and circumstances have shaded by principles and opinions.  But here it is: Susan and I do not have a sex-life.  We have sex but it is based upon a practice of zero expectation.  She does not expect to give or receive and neither do I.  If for arguments sake I’m having sex with someone else, it does not imply then that she has lost sexual attention from me.  Nor has she lost the opportunity to provide any to me.  One cannot even say there is a loss of sexual trust or intimacy – there is none worth speaking of to lose.

What of other losses?  Self esteem and security perhaps – but I can argue that in the years to now she has cheated herself out of these much more than I ever could.  I think her self-esteem is quite low in any case and of course she has damaged it further by preventing any form of self-growth by stunting our marriage and relationship. And by damaging the marriage, she has rendered it far more insecure than I ever could.  Of course, her own jaded perspective might make her see things differently.

Putting it bluntly then, in the absence of deception, I don’t think Susan can be cheated on.  As far as sexual matters go, she has nothing to lose and nothing of which I can deprive her.

Now some readers may see this as a frustrated man trying to make excuses to cheat on his wife.  So let’s flip this argument on its head.

What if Susan cheated on me?  (Again, let’s assume there’s no deception.)

I’ve asked myself this many times, and to be honest – really honest – it doesn’t bother me.  Here’s why.  The marriage is over.  OVER.  It just exists on a piece of paper.  I can’t make the kind of arguments I’ve made above and say they apply just to me.

Actually if Susan cheated it wouldn’t shock or dismay me.  In fact I’d be surprised to the point of disbelief.  My experience with her is almost exclusively as an “intimacy anorexic”/asexual (and I know enough about her life before marriage too), so I don’t believe she could sustain an affair – certainly not one with anything other than a small sexual element. The problem (for her) would be that any man who wanted an affair with her would quickly learn about her sexual habits (or rather, lack of any) and get bored.  I will say thought that if she did manage to have a ‘normal’ relationship I actually would be delighted – it would simply mean that we were not compatible and our marriage was doomed to fail.  Neither of us would be at fault. I would genuinely be happy for her.

Instead of a relationship she might have a sequence of short fling(s) or one night stand(s).  Her partners might therefore never realise how limited she is sexually.  However that would require a certain amount of promiscuity that she is also apparently incapable of.  Again my reaction would tend to disbelief rather than anything negative.

And in either of these scenarios I am not cheated (unless you count the overall cheat of the last 13 years – which is nothing to do with infidelity).  For me, no sex is on offer, so none is lost.  No intimacy on offer, none lost.  I do not initiate sex with her so I have not suffered an “opportunity cost”.

Before I finish let me say something about consequence.  Let’s continue with the no deception modus for a bit.  What happens when Susan finds out (assuming I’m the one playing away)?  She could throw up a major storm or just as likely devise a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.  Or she could “fight for her man” and try to lure me back.  I think deep down she knows we’re heading for the rocks.  This is why she sees nothing to discuss.  If she found out I was cheating she would probably be very very sad, she might confront me and say how disappointed she is with me (probably not).  She would most likely give me the silent treatment, and carry on.  What she would not do is jeopardise the family home.  She knows it will end someday so she will bide her  time.

And the same goes for me too.  I think I would probably ask her about it if she were being unfaithful.  Mostly because I do actually fear for her safety.  But I wouldn’t’ try to stop her.  My effort would then be to adjust our lives so we can continue for the next decade or so with an open marriage discretely whilst we wait for a ‘good’ time to finally separate.

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