August 8

Honesty and Infidelity

Posted by William Berry | Filed under Articles, Blog | 22 Comments

Photo by Alexi Berry

Photo by Alexi Berry

A few months ago I wrote a review of “I Love You Man” and related it to dishonesty. At the time, I had caught several students cheating on an exam, and I wondered aloud (or in print) about what leads people to be dishonest. Now I want to revisit this topic, but adding in infidelity.

I think it might be important to define infidelity at this juncture, as I was once involved with a woman who believed having coffee with a woman without her knowledge (in other words hiding it) was cheating. Although this point has some validity, for this article we will consider infidelity as any sexual act with someone other than one’s partner. Sexual is defined as any act of kissing, coddling, sexual touching, or anything involving genitalia. (Come on, if your still looking for a way to say it wasn’t cheating at this point, you’re kidding yourself).

There is no way one can be unfaithful, keep it a secret, and not be behaving dishonestly. Although some do not define omission as lying, we will when it comes to sexual acts (defined above) when in a committed relationship. (Committed does not mean marriage, it means there is an understanding of monogamy). You might notice at this point I am really defining terms, and I suppose my reasoning is I have had so many clients debate whether something was cheating or not. I actually had some male clients tell me that their receiving oral copulation from someone other than their wife wasn’t cheating!

So, with everything defined, let’s return to the discussion. It is estimated that between 44 and 75% of men cheat on their wives, and that 17 to 25% of wives cheat on their husbands. I would put more faith in the higher numbers, as infidelity often goes unreported, and in these times I only see the numbers going up. Women are quickly catching up to men in many of the negative behaviors men are notorious for. What’s more, these statistics do not include those that are not married, but are in otherwise committed relationships. I saw “Funny People” recently, and when questioned in a condescending fashion about his infidelity in the past by someone without even a girlfriend, the character who had cheated replied “It’s easy not to cheat when no one wants to sleep with you.”

What I want to discuss is why with so many people being unfaithful, why do we cling to the cultural standards we have. Most who know me are aware I have had issues with fidelity in the past. Beyond that, having come to know myself a little better over these years, I have realized long term (read a year or more) relationships do not suit me personally very well. I am open about this to potential partners (I am using the term partner to represent any woman who engages in a romantic relationship with me). What it has resulted in is insecurity, suspicion, and other relational difficulties. I am not trying to claim this is unwarranted. With honesty there is consequences. And this is largely why so many lie to begin with. But what I am saying is that the honesty contributes to these feelings of insecurity, when in reality the individual is only reporting what is generally true for many anyhow, but goes unspoken.

I often hear from women they want honesty from a man. Many people find my honesty refreshing. But then I am punished for it. My argument here is that people really do not want honesty. They want to be sold an illusion of the possibility of “Happily Ever After.” Understand me correctly: I am not saying they want to hear it will last forever, but they do not want the illusion of that possibility crushed. So instead of enjoying whatever they might have in an honest relationship, they would rather find someone who does not destroy the illusion.

In my earlier blog on dishonesty (which focused on students cheating, then on the surprising and hilarious honesty of Jason Segal’s character in “I Love You Man”) I wondered why so many lie until the evidence is clear and there is no escape. Of course I understand the reasoning: it is better to play the odds. But I want society (read you and all others) to look at its part in creating this epidemic of dishonesty. If as a society we continue to try to maintain an illusion of fairy tales but act in direct contradiction to it (by cheating and lying and believing the fault for our fairy tale going wrong lies in the doing of someone else) we will continue to promote a society where dishonesty is the better bet, and where everyone continues to pretend everything is okay with them, all the while hoping something better is just around the corner.

In his blog my friend Oscar wrote about lying: “Of course, it is not you. You are probably reading this and nodding your head in agreement with me. You are probably thinking ‘Yeah man! It’s sick!’” He goes on to say “And really, what’s even worse, you might genuinely believe that you are a good person but you are just too blind to notice otherwise.” Now Oscar has a way of embracing controversy. And I would like to soften this a bit, and purport that often the dishonesty people engage in is done automatically, with the defense mechanisms of that make negative behavior more palatable at work. In other words, I believe many our victims of their own thinking. But this can be overcome.

Think of this for a moment: how many of you have begun on the slippery slope of cheating? The slippery slope is when you are attracted to someone, and you start to flirt. Then you are finding excuses to talk to this individual. Maybe you are spending time with them after work just “chatting.” The attraction grows. Now a decision has to be made: do I cheat? (By some people’s standards you already have, calling this an emotional affair). Or do you pull in your behavior, and remain faithful? A great majority choose the latter, at least the first few times I am sure. Some will fall to this temptation later. But some who do not cut off the exchange use the defense mechanisms rationalizing and minimizing to justify their behavior. “Everyone does it.” “She (or he) is probably cheating on me.” “He (or she) has been neglecting me.” Or perhaps the worst defense of all in my opinion “I think this new person is my soul mate, this was destined to be.” Please understand that as I reported earlier, I too have used these rationalizations and minimized the consequences. I am not judging, just trying to bring some new level of understanding.

It is my contention that one of the greatest contributors to pathology in our psyche is the belief we have to rise up to an unattainable standard because we believe those around us are. And all the while, it is a great charade. We are all just drinking the Koolaid, believing in something that doesn’t exist, and ostracizing those that attempt to live more in line with what reality seems to be saying.

In looking at this, I realize it sounds bitter, and perhaps there is some bitterness in it. And in some rare cases, a couple does live happily ever after. On a certain level, I don’t want to crush everyone’s belief in the possibility. But I would like people to look more rationally at the world around them, and at their own behavior. It seems a large percentage of people cheat. I am not saying this is positive. I realize some may read this article and think I am pro infidelity. I am not. I am pro living a genuine life, and being true to yourself. I don’t like to see others hurt. My advice, if someone was contemplating cheating, is not to do it. It will make being genuine and honest difficult for the rest of your life. Not only will your partner not trust you, but future partners likely will not as well.

Alex suggested in one of his comments that I read a book where the author purports that it is cheating that saves a marriage (I haven’t, likely will not, and it defies statistics that say only 35% of marriages survive an infidelity). Marriage may be becoming an outdated concept for many. Most Americans engage in serial monogamy (if they are monogamous at all). Right now my mind screams out to our culture a line from Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men”: “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!” Or can you? Can you see the world the way it truly is, and not judge it negatively from atop the façade of an ivory tower?

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This entry was posted on Saturday, August 8th, 2009 at 10:24 PM and is filed under Articles, Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

22 Responses to “Honesty and Infidelity”

  1. Auston on August 9th, 2009 at 3:00 AM

    Great piece again – I’d like point out that it’s in our (HUMAN) DNA (as well as every other living creature) to attempt to reproduce as many times as possible.

    Infidelity does indeed come on many level’s starting with emotional cheating – but I don’t believe it is beyond any male to restrain himself from cheating. 5-7 committed men cheat? That’s a crazy number, perhaps the men in my family are either very very good at hiding it or are really happily / heavily invested in their marriage (with the exception of my father…lol).

    I do agree with you that marriage is outdated – simply because of the emotional & legal baggage associated with it – but I can’t say that cheating is in fact common in my world, from my best friend, Diego to my business partner, Chet I know nothing but males who are committed to their monogamous relationship (granted I am young, so there is plenty for me to learn)

    Here is something I thought about after reading your article – Can you can be dishonest to your partner & yet still remain faithful?

  2. William Berry on August 9th, 2009 at 7:56 AM

    Well thought out comment Auston. I agree with many of your points, from genetic wiring to your reiteration of levels of dishonesty. I was also not only addressing infidelity but serial monogamy, including divorce after long-term relations. I don’t want to challenge your youthful assertion either, as I really do hope people will be honest and faithful in their relationships. And as you said, people have it within them to determine their actions. I was just trying to shed light on some of the thinking that contributes to infidelity and how society plays apart in turning something that is common into a pathology because it goes against the ideal.
    To answer your last question, it would depend on the definitions used for faithful, but speaking generally I would say yes, some people are dishonest at times in the relationship but are faithful to it overall. (Of course this dishonesty would have to be unrelated to infidelity)
    Thank you for your comment.

  3. Belinda on August 9th, 2009 at 11:55 AM

    Let me see if I understand – cheat and lie about it is bad? But tell the person you’re in a committed(?) relationship with that there is a real possibility that at some point you will be cheating on her/him then ‘it’s all good’ – you know…because you’re being honest? And of course, honesty gives absolution to the deed because ‘she/he got a heads-up’ of potential bad behavior? You commented that the cheaters use rationalization to explain their dalliances, but are you saying that if everyone just owned up to the fact that monogamy is nothing but an “ideal” , not a reality, then it would be ok for a free-for-all? That sounds like some rationalization going on there also.

    I think that the ones that can remain in a committed, monogamous relationship are the strong minded that have true conviction…a theorem stronger than an animalistic need. So, if 75% of men cheat on their partner – let’s tip our hat to the real men in this world, the other 25%. And if only 25% of women are cheaters – then there are 75% that are leading the way with fervor that defies a weak mind attitude that ‘honesty’ gives exculpation.

  4. William Berry on August 9th, 2009 at 2:02 PM

    I’m not sure you do have it straight. I appreciate your argument, but I believe it does more harm than good. I believe, in not so many words, you have drank the Koolaid.
    Were you married? Are you still? Did you believe you would live happily ever after if you were and are no longer? I am not defending cheaters here. And In fact, I believe I speak against it in the article. What I am challenging is this cultures idealistic and irrational belief in life lasting monogomous relationships. Lets look at it statistically:
    If 46% of Marriages end in divorce,
    and 75% of men cheat (lets be more conservative and say 60%). So 60% of men cheat.
    25% of women cheat (personally I think that is low).
    Can we safely assume that some of the 25% of women who cheat cheat on the 25-40% of men who don’t? I believe we can, as many who are unfaithful are with people who absolutely were.
    What are the odds of a marriage (or an otherwise committed relationship) lasting monogomously to death? Pretty slim I believe.
    So then what we have is a very small minority of the population of this culture achieving the idealized standard the society has set forth. When you have an idealistic standard that has been internalized by individuals and people fall short of it, a high risk of shame and other psychological pathology ensues. Additionally, if someone has been hurt by infidelity, more difficulty and issues abound. I am trying to decrease people’s pathology. I am trying to demonstrate to society in my very small way that the ideal is rare, and people should perhaps modify it.
    I am not trying to excuse cheating. I am an advocate of honesty, and as I said in the article, you can not cheat and be honest. And I am held accountable for my admission of infidelity in the past with decreased opportunity for relations and when in a relationship, suspicion and or guardedness from the partner (rightfully so considering my beliefs about long-term relations).
    So for those that have lived monogomously with one marital (or otherwise commited partner) cast your stones. The rest are doing so from a facade of their tower, either holding onto an outdated belief and blaming others (and perhaps the blame is due) for the failure of the institution or pretending to be something they are not (which is often the case).

  5. Onidia on August 9th, 2009 at 3:17 PM

    I have to acknowledge that you guys are the winners. There are 7 women in the world per man. I am not sure if now we have a new number, but the bad thing is that 75% of men are homosexual(I created this percent). What can we do with the only 25%. An old male friend told me one day “we have 2 kinds of men, in one group we have the unfaithful and in the other one the nice liars.” Lol.

  6. William Berry on August 9th, 2009 at 4:44 PM

    I have to believe your made up statistic about 75% of men being homosexual might be somewhat high, lol. I think its about 10% of the population across geders.
    I think your other point might be with women out numbering men by so much, men are better able to overcome their infidelity and get another chance. Or maybe your point is that women are more likely to be with a man in a relationship with someone else because there are so few. Or maybe both are your points.
    And finally, I think the point your friend is making is there are two types of men in regard to fidelity:
    Those who admit cheating, and those who lie.
    Thank you for the comment.

  7. Onidia on August 9th, 2009 at 5:22 PM

    Of course, you have triple chance. First, you have a chance with your wife or girlfiend. Second, you have a chance with a woman who are not satisfied with her husband or boyfriend because he is homosexual or just because she wants to try an extra one, and third with single women including lesbians.

  8. Onidia on August 9th, 2009 at 6:38 PM

    I remember when my brother was in high school. One time, he had two girlfriends Ana and Maylin. One day, he was with Ana and Maylin saw them together. They told him you must decide now with who you want to continue the relationship. He decided for Maylin and when the girls left you know what he told me? I decided for Maylin in front of Ana because I know I can call Ana and convince her easily that I made a mistake, but with Maylin that is going to be impossible. Then , I can continue the relation with both. I was really mad at him because I felt bad for the girls.

  9. William Berry on August 11th, 2009 at 1:48 PM

    I wanted to add a recent quote from Halle Berry (no relation, dammit)regarding her relationship with the father of her daughter:

    On not marrying Gabriel: “We clicked instantly. And yes, he’s not at all bad on the eyes. . . I’m so not the relationship go-to girl. But I’m much clearer about what a relationship is, which is why I will never marry again. Gabriel and I have a great partnership and a lovely daughter. But I once was stupid enough to say, in a previous relationship, ‘I’m going to be with this person forever,’ and realized, as I grew, that I don’t know if forever is possible. Gabriel and I don’t look at our relationship in terms of forever, we look at it as right here today. And today means being the best people we can be, the best parents we can be. It’s wonderful, but neither one of us feels the need to attach ourselves to each other for life – because it may not be that.”

  10. Belinda on August 11th, 2009 at 10:29 PM

    And as Hallie is singing “here today….gone tomorrow, que sera sera” I’m rolling my eyes. Don’t believe it for one minute. She hopes against hope that Gabriel will stick, will never cheat and that it will be “forever”. But she spouts what she thinks will make her appear strong, independent and enlightened. OR, maybe she’s just not that into her current partnership – in which case, she’s just left herself an ‘out’. Either way, it’s a lie. Un-attachment is an extremely hard methodology to acquire for anyone that hasn’t studied and had a concentrated focus on that practice for years.

  11. William Berry on August 12th, 2009 at 4:41 PM

    I’m not sure the soundtrack to Ms. Berry’s relationship would include Que Sera, Sera. I think she is simply beginning to change her expectations of relationships. I wouldn’t want anyone to think that when I advocate shattering the facade of the success and normality of long-term monogomous relationships that the end of said relationships is easy. Pain still will abound. I am only advocating a shift in expectations, which may at least decrease the pain, and more importantly, the detrimental feeling of shame some. But pain is as much a part of life as any joy.
    So simply, I believe Halle is attached. And I believe the end of her relationship will be painful. But, she seems to be trying to support a more enlightened attitude about the nature of relationships in this era.

  12. Oscar Orozco on September 4th, 2009 at 8:10 PM

    I’ve been looking into cheating for the past couple of months, and I have to admit my belief system has changed a bit after taking a hard look around me.

    Before addressing cheating, I think we have to take a look at our biology through evolution. This recent invention of marriage and faithfulness is supposed to keep us together so that we may raise a family and our offspring have a better chance at surviving and reproducing themselves. I think is natural to want to have sex with different people, whether you are a female or male. Lets have an honest conversation for once and just throw it out there. We are all attracted to others, even if in a committed relationship- and if you really do take a hard look around you (and yourself) you will see that what I’m saying is pretty accurate. To me, NOT cheating is the exception, and I am honestly sick and tired of seeing betrayals gone wild, and people not owning up to their actions.

    Before I continue, let me just say that I do NOT condone cheating, or that I cheat in anyway, because I don’t (anymore).

    So in reality, wanting to have sex with others is part of our nature. Its what being human (better yet, an animal) is. Again, I believe in honest and true relationships, but thinking that yours is the exception is probably a big mistake… no offense.

    So the way I see it is, its natural for us to be attracted to others, its natural for us to want to have sex with others. What I think is not, is denying it and lying to ourselves and others about it.

    (This is the part where I get accused of being bitter and lonely and so on…)

    Yes, I do have multiple relationships with a couple of girls and they all know about my relationships with others.. and I tell them all everything.

    (and this is the part where someone will say that no respectable women will ever submit themselves to that, however I will have to disagree).

    Lately a certain admiration for swinging couples has taken a hold of me. Swingers and all the couples in open relationships I have met so far, are are by far some of the most honest people I have ever met. They are open minded, intelligent, have money (working on coming up with an explanation for that), and have the closest and best relationships I have seen to date.

    So I have to admit, I will have to explore that part of society soon, at the very least-they are not in denial.

  13. William Berry on September 4th, 2009 at 8:33 PM

    I can always count on you for a thoughtful and provocative (or perhaps goading, incensing, inciting, provoking) comment. (and of course, those are often my favorites).
    Thanks for the comment Oscar.

  14. William Berry on September 5th, 2009 at 1:04 PM

    I wanted to add, Oscar, that I am impressed with your openness in disclosure about your relationship choices and beliefs. I appreciate your candor on my site.

  15. Oscar Orozco on September 6th, 2009 at 2:18 PM

    Thank you. (……………………..)

  16. Oscar Orozco on September 6th, 2009 at 2:18 PM

    The dots are there because “thank you” was apparently too short to post.

  17. Kay on September 18th, 2009 at 4:00 PM

    This is great.
    In my early twenties I once thought I’d be pro-monogamous for the rest of my life. That is until I entered a certain relationship and am now 26, that I have become guilty of being unfaithful.
    I have to come to realize that although we may always have the option of being faithful, chances are that even if you dont cheat at some point, someone might catch your eye to something that is lacking from a said relationship.
    Although statistics show that women infidelities are lower the men, they can easily find themselves being lured into infedility through emotions that men usually don’t experience. I believe a woman will cheat emotionally easier then a man. For men I think cheating is more of a physical experience, then emotionally. Now to the latter of the question, what is more forgivable an emoitonal affair or physical affair?
    As a woman I will say I can pardon a physical affair more then an emotional affari. With time our desires evolve, its human nature.

  18. William Berry on September 18th, 2009 at 8:19 PM

    Thank you for your comment Kay. I hope you find peace with your decisions, because to me this is the most important thing: that one feels okay with the decisions one makes, and that this sense of being content with one’s decision is not simply a result lies they tell themself. I hope you have or find that. For me, it has been not getting in committed relationships.

  19. Academic Cheating - Blog - William Berry, MS, CAP on December 21st, 2010 at 12:46 AM

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