Permission to Transcend Absolutes

Sunday, Aug. 15th 2010 9:20 AM

A recent conversation brought up the question of whether men are less tolerant of being cheated on than women. Examples were given, such as Gil Arenas’ immediate split with his fiancé for cheating, and Shaunie O’Neal’s repeated tolerance of Shaquille’s infidelity, though now the couple is finally divorced. And if men are less tolerant of cheating and dishonesty, what does that mean? Do men possess a higher level of respect for themselves and therefore put up with “cheating” less than women do? What are the underlying reasons here for what appears to be a double standard?

This question elicited the common responses: Men have a higher respect for themselves; women are afraid of being alone; men are rewarded for promiscuity; women are rewarded for fidelity; and so on.

I think that the whole phrasing of this question and conversation is unproductive, put diplomatically, or silly, on my harsher days. There are plenty of men who stay in relationships with their wives after she had sex with someone else, (the current Governor of New York is an example), and there are plenty of women who don’t when the tables are turned, (Jenny Sanford, wife of the governor of South Carolina, is an example). I know men who would say, “I do not think that my wife will have sex only with me during the life of our marriage, oh well.” Who does more of each? Who cares? We might as well ask, “Who can hold on to a hot iron the longest?” The prize for winning this contest is useless. In one instance the prize goes to who can play the biggest victim, and the other prize goes to who can win bragging rights. Again, who cares? The issue ceases to become a valid one when two people come together with understanding and acceptance.

One could argue that “dishonesty” and what we mean when we say “cheating” are the real issues (please see “Assumptions, Judgments and Lack of Imagination” – Parts I and II).  And so it is a “tolerance of dishonesty” that forms the foundation of a double standard for men as opposed to women where women are expected to tolerate dishonesty.  But none of that matters when we cease to make the issue of “cheating” a hot button one.  The act is so pervasive in virtually all cultures that at some point it would be worth looking at whether “cheating” is something that you wish to fight with your mate about.  Would your life be simpler and more relaxed if you assumed that at some point in your relationship that it was going to happen?  I think that it would be.

The greater question is, “Who is in a relationship that they like being in?”  When we see a relationship struggle and suffer from “infidelity,” the answer to that question is probably “no one.”  And the answer usually has nothing to do with who is having sex with whom.  The sex question, and infidelity itself, is only a symptom of a greater sickness.  A sickness that includes the inability of both parties to have honest conversations with one another, or one where at least one partner is unable to share their real desires with the other, and so on.

When it comes to relationships, different things are important to different people, on an individual basis.  If you look at your checklist of what you want in a relationship and it is topped by faithfulness, over, say, good looks or personality, then that is your preference, and it’s helpful to be honest with yourself and your potential partners about that.  For my part, I will take a relationship with a woman that I enjoy being around and spending time with, most of the time (and she has another lover), over a relationship with a woman who is faithful, but we don’t get along any day, minute, or whatever. In this choice, I opt for the happiness of two separate individuals over many “shoulds” and “should nots.”

If you are perpetually single or in an unhappy relationship, I encourage you to really take a look at what is and is not working for you. Is it more important for you to be assured that no one else has “played with your toys,” or to enjoy the person that you enjoy? Many will ask, “How can you enjoy a person that “cheats” on you? My answer is that one has nothing to do with the other. Most of us have adopted a correlation between enjoyment, and even love, and fidelity, but the correlation is not absolute.

As human beings, we like absolutes because we think they are safe. Many of us begin our personal stand and internal conversations about love with ultimate premises like, “If someone loves you, they will not do anything that will hurt you;” or “if he/she loves you they would never ‘cheat’ on you.” These statements are not absolutes. Further, they are simply not true. You have my permission to think differently. You have my permission to go a little deeper regarding what is means to accept your partner. And you have my permission to challenge the general state of thinking around what a relationship is and isn’t and what it can and cannot be.

Rather than blaming gender or society, be honest with yourself about what you want in a relationship, and take responsibility for your own happiness. And last but not least, don’t take yourself too seriously. If you believe that you definitely know what you want in a relationship then you probably are nailing shut your relationship coffin with absolutes. Pay attention to the chemistry with the person in front of you. Your standards and/or perspective may change. You have my permission to allow them to.

Keep Rising,

Frank Love

www.FrankLove.net

…and please do not multi-task when driving.

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Leave a Comment: Let Us Know Your Thoughts

How to Gracefully Exit a Relationship

18 Comments on “Permission to Transcend Absolutes”

  1. Dionne Says:

    So, I have a question for you Frank, based on what you are saying here: “For my part, I will take a relationship with a woman that I enjoy being around and spending time with, most of the time (and she has another lover), over a relationship with a woman who is faithful, but we don’t get along any day, minute, or whatever.” I understand this point, and I really think that it underscores your earlier blog about an important distinction in relationships with the Jackie Brown example. However, one of the key ingredients for any successful relationship is trust. How can you trust someone who consistently has another lover? Would that not be troubling to your spirit? I want answers, brother…. 🙂

  2. FrankLove Says:

    The two actually have nothing to do with one another. In our “usual” way of looking at things they do, but they do not have to. This is hard to illustrate if you are unwilling to try this or accept the possibility. There is proof of the possibility of success in simply the existence in polygamous relationships. I think I’ll discuss this in a later blog. I definitely discuss it in the book.

  3. Dia Says:

    I really can say that it’s a double standard, but what it boils down to is being equal…Some men absolutely don’t have any tolerance for cheating.
    Not because of their higher standards of self respect…call it what it is…”ALPHA MALE SYNDROME.” Your partner should be viewed as your equal, not as a lesser form or subhumanoid that feelings aren’t considered as important as the man. Women often accept the foolish behavior simply due to insecurities and fear of losing that man…the same man that indulges in infidelity, which subsequently results in repeated offenses due to the women’s inability or should I say ignorance to uproot; and set her standards…I’m not against returning, but let it be known and felt that under no circumstances will I commit to heartache…also the respect one requires from their partner should be as profound as the respect one wants….Peace Out…

  4. Massander Says:

    I understand your point that we have been conditioned to be offended if and when our partners “cheat” and that we don’t have to operate with that conditioning. We can change the script if we want to. I agree that we can.

    Here’s my take on it: our egos are fragile. Most of us aren’t willing to change the attitudes and behaviors that maintain our fragile egos. Additionally, many of us are afraid and insecure. We aren’t prepared to deal with all the questions that come up for us when our partners “cheat.” Many of us have also been conditioned to believe that our relationship’s success depends on fidelity. While I recognize that there are many legitimate options are available, I believe that monogamous relationships provide the clearest opportunities for healthy, strong, lasting union because many of us simply aren’t willing to do the work that polyamorous relationships require. Also, the likelihood of successfully negotiating wants and needs in a lasting relationship is much greater with monogamous relationships than in polyamorous ones. The challenge of negotiating wants and needs with 2 people is great enough as it is. Introducing more people into the equation tends to complicate it more than its worth. So while I don’t find anything “wrong” with polyamorous relationships, I have a clear preference for monogamous relationships. Besides, my ego is fragile, too. And I’m not committed to doing the work of eliminating this fragile ego. Furthermore, I have come to romanticize the notion of long term monogamy. There’s something special and spiritual about committing to one person in this way that appeals to me. I’m sure there are other ways to have special romantic partnerships, but from my vantage point it’s not worth the work or the drama.

    One more thing – I haven’t decided how I would respond if my wife “cheated on” me. I’d probably be disappointed, but I don’t really know what else would come after that. Truth is that I don’t want to know either.

  5. FrankLove Says:

    Eloquence and thoughtfulness at its best. Thank you.

  6. Massander Says:

    PS. My comments generally assume we’re focused on Western culture. I recognize that polygamy and polyamory work just in some cultures.

  7. Helen Higginbotham, Esq., MBA Says:

    “Men possess a higher level of respect for themselves” and are “less tolerant of dishonesty and cheating”??? Now that’s funny!!! Good Spin however…

    For THOSE MEN WHO CHEAT (not ALL men),
    It’s called reacting to a severely wounded EGO because they are supposed to be THE MAN!!!
    It’s called double standard to the nth degree!!!
    It’s called suffering from some deluded notion that they own a very certain part of another’s body!!!
    It’s called knowing themselves well and being intolerant of their own behavior!
    They can dish it out but cannot take it! Plain & Simple!!!

    Do Unto Others…

    I’m Just Sayin’…

  8. Eric McNeil Says:

    Why so serious, I’d say men probably are less tolerate because they usually have bigger egos.

  9. Marcus Hammonds Says:

    My hypothesis is that a high status male is expected to cheat. His status, fame, and money are attractive. Women throw themselves at him. He is expected to indulge. To his wife or significant other, he simultaneously provides financial stability and probably has other great qualities. At some point the benefits of the financial stability and the lifestyle provided no longer outweigh the consequences of the cheating and women give up on the relationship at that point. A woman who cheats, on the other hand, kind of loses her value immediately the indiscretion has been discovered – unless of course there are children involved. I think men and women feel the same sense of heartbreak and pain once they discover the one they love has not been true, but i think women may rationalize sticking around for the money.

  10. Duane Wadlington Says:

    This is what I heard. When a man reaches 35, he generally has more money, he generally is more mature and understands the game better and he realizes he has more options. That usually means less tolerance. The women on the other hand is trending in the opposite direction, unless of course, she has a lot of money. At 35, her options are decreasing, her child bearing years are dwindling, and if she has not kept herself up physically, it’s bad news. That could mean more tolerance. This is just what I heard.

  11. FrankLove Says:

    It’s not ‘a higher level of respect’ for themselves, it’s actually the age-old insecurity about their manhoods… Women know they are gold mines.

    Posted by Cheryl Gray

  12. CS Says:

    Historically women were economically dependent on men that it became the “norm” to let the men do whatever they wanted as long as they were providing financially. Along with this mind set of survival and the men pushing the “boys will be boys” mentality women were forced to adapt to the less pleasant situations just so they would not be put out on the street. Since women are still generally more depending financially on men (then men on women) that may be a factor but largely it is up to each individual. There is definitely still a group of people who push the “men are not monogamous by nature” excuse and expect women to accept it.

  13. Frank Love Says:

    Catyana, that is 1950’s crap; pure and simple. You should join NOW and come in to the new century.

    Posted by Cheryl Gray

  14. CS Says:

    History has a impact on cultural views for many years. Also, women around the world are not as empowered as American women are today.

    I thought this was a mature discussion.

  15. Frank Love Says:

    It is if you call ‘keeping up outdated stereotyping’ a mature discussion.

    Posted by Cheryl Gray

  16. Lee Wilson Says:

    Ladies! Our discussions here form opinions regarding women in the GW community. All opinions are valid in a mature discussion.

    I am in 100% agreement (for different reasons) that many men (and women) still perceive infidelity as an affront to their sexuality. The 40-70 age bracket of women grew up with the 50’s don’t ask/just ignore dogma – many of us have thankfully had the financial freedom and emotional support to move past that stereotype. I see less and less of this constraining attitude in the teen to 30’s age bracket, even with the cultural backlash rally from social conservatives. As long as the world is primarily a patriarchal society – and it is – these are the attitudes which we continually strive to re-educate. It is realistic to acknowledge that old stereotypes are still held by the Majority and progressive views (both from men and women) are only the rapidly growing Minority. Just for discussion, I have been the primary breadwinner in my family for 30 years. A lifestyle that my progressive mother acknowledges she often finds she falls back into the worry mode of old ‘security’ issues on my behalf. Even the informed understand years of indoctrination can’t be erased from their psyche.

  17. Robert Kubaiko Says:

    Hey,

    I would have to agree with your comment

  18. Kristalyn Says:

    Leslee recommended this site and I found this particular post and discussion insightful. Happiness in relationships rests on honesty, acceptance, and openness. However difficult and messy these may be, they are the premise for deriving true pleasure from intimate relationships. Absolutes seem to impose restrictions that are impossible to enforce. Many seem to fear a relationship without an absolute or legally defined status (ie marriage) is unstable or unacceptable. Many should readily reflect upon where such fears lie and reconsider a relationship without absolutes. Such a relationship does not imply a lack of responsibility but rather the opposite–requiring an intense honesty and accountability.

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