For some, the decision to cheat comes from a place of weakness; for others, a place of false entitlement. As we look at this issue closely, we find that attitude is everything—and solutions can be found as far back as ancient civilizations.
The Toltec Empire lasted from 300 to 600 BC and included the Pacific Coastal Chiapas and Guatemala, the Yucatan Peninsula, and much of Northern and Western Mexico. They left clay tablets with a message they called “The Four Agreements.” They were: Be true to your word, don’t take anything personally, never assume and do your best.
It seems the idea of being true to one’s word is a universal and fundamental part of living with others and maintaining sound relationships. What is essential about being in a relationship with anyone, and especially for the endurance of the relationship, is our word. Losing that is tantamount to relationship or soul death. It’s something that many men don’t think about when they feel entitled to act out sexually, but the lies are devastating to families and relationships, not to mention the guilt, anxiety and shame they cause to themselves and their mates.
If a man must lie to his wife to have an affair, then he becomes someone who both lies and cheats. Our actions define us, and many men and women suffer from who they have become.
If we become a liar and a cheat what does that do to our children and our family? We become someone who will not be respected, internally and externally. In this sense, character is destiny. If we withhold our truth from our mate, we are in effect building a wall. The secret alone creates such a huge chasm between partners that it will inevitably kill off love, intimacy and connection even without the knowledge of sexual misbehavior.
What makes people do these things that they promised not to do?
Sex is the most powerful thing we do. The temptations for infidelity face men and women in the workforce, where they may be captivated by intense visual sexual cues and emotional attachments to co-workers.
But it’s not a birthright to be sexually unfaithful. If you want this to be a part of your life, then don’t get married and make all those promises in the first place. Tell the truth. Let your partner know who you are and take your licks for it. He or she may leave you, but you will still have your integrity intact. Living a lie will only hurt you both.
If your marriage is making one or both of you unhappy, then work on it. Make it better. Become a couple. Learn how to solve problems and have productive fights. Learn how to talk about what you want and need from each other to make your relationship work better, especially in the bedroom.
Do you want to be married or do you want to lead a single life?
You can’t really have it both ways. Are you willing to do the work and keep your promise? If you find it too difficult, get some help. Don’t run from the problem by diving into sexual relationships and hiding them from your mate. If you can’t do those things, then perhaps you need to consider going at it alone: become a bachelor. Then you are acting in accordance with your wishes and desires. You are free to do what you want. Trying to be in a marriage and acting like a single person rarely makes for happy marriages or happy individuals. If you are not willing to put in the effort to make things better and workable, then you’re better off single than in a marriage.
Do you want to do what is necessary to maintain an intimate relationship?
Don’t stop doing what you did when you wanted this person you are with. Don’t stop trying. If you feel alone and need some intimacy, get help. Let your mate know that you mean business.
Have zero tolerance for bad behavior. Don’t be the perp or the victim.
The way to succeed at marriage is to be a kind, caring person who is willing to listen and respond. There is always room to be supportive, express appreciation and close those gaps in your connections. You and your partner are all in the marriage together, so neither of you owns the problem when one of you becomes unhappy. Yes, it takes two to tango, but it all starts with keeping your agreements and showing up with who you want to be.
Remember: Be true to your word, don’t take anything personally, never assume and do your best.
This article was first published with The Good Men Project; the original can be found here.
Dr. Bill Cloke has worked with individuals and couples for 30 years. He received a master’s degree in education from the University of Southern California and holds a Ph.D. in psychology from California Graduate Institute. A frequent talk-radio and tv psychologist, he is also a contributor to PsychologyToday.com, Care2.com and other popular websites and has lectured at UCLA. Bill Cloke lives with his wife in Los Angeles. Bill’s book Happy Together has won the Nautilus and Benjamin Franklin Silver Awards for 2012. To learn more about Bill Cloke, and for more resources on creating healthy, happy relationships, visit his website.