Saturday, July 22, 2006
"If Loving You Is Wrong
I Don't Want To Be Right" - Lyrics, Barbara Mandrell, my favorite version sung by Luther Ingram.
"If loving you is wrong I don't wanna be right
If being right means being without you
I'd rather live a wrong doing life."
(Pictured, Giotto's allegory of "Infidelity" Scrovegni Chapel.)
So why do men cheat? Have they stopped loving their wives? Or is it "The being in love that makes them high" as the Michael Jackson song says? Then again, it could be what Loretta's mother said in "Moonstruck" - men are afraid of death, so they cheat. I think it's that simple in some respects and yet a whole lot more complicated, albeit motives may vary from case to case. I'll just "think out loud" on this one however.
In many cases I believe the "new promiscuous" for youth has it's roots in the "old promiscuous" of dad, or more frequently now days, of a mom. However, I'm focusing on the guys for this post. If there is a disorder, if there is something a guy is doing on the side, "hurting no one" as they say, he's wrong. Disorder begets disorder. It impacts those nearest the unfaithful parent even if it is unacknowledged. Like alcoholism, there is enabling going on, denial - all the co-dependent stuff associated with the addiction. I've seen it. In my own family and the families of others. The guy who cheats is no longer present to his family or significant other - he's "excommunicated" himself as it were.
Like I've said, I've seen what happens. The dad is gone at key times, or late coming home - he's absentee. The mom is upset about it, tense and unhappy, resentful and passive aggressive, or she is in such denial, she works, shops, cleans, drinks, goes to Church - does something - compulsively to cope. She emotionally withdraws from the situation - or worse - overcompensates for the absence of the dad. Often no one ever acknowledges there is a problem, it gets repressed and everyone goes into denial mode. It screws up the kids - boys and girls. Especially when other addictions are involved.
So why do men cheat? In many cases I think there is a lack of self-esteem, they feel like a failure - or they are afraid they will be a failure. They may be overwhelmed with the stress of work and family life and seek an escape. That fear of death thing isn't that off the wall. Death represents failure, preceeded by growing older and imagining oneself inadequate, no longer needed, etc. There are manifold components to this. Then of course there is just plain lust, that is so often mistaken for love, as evidenced by celebrities such as Donald Trump or film and pop stars, who have an endless string of marriages and divorces. The gratification in having someone that desires you sexually is a powerful aphrodisiac - more appealing in the moment than the presidency of the United States (obviously) or the love and devotion of home and kin, or even a new sports car - its an ego thang!
Whether there is a mistress or just a chain of more or less anonymous sexual encounters, the guy has chosen to resolve conflict in this manner, seeking affirmation and validation through a physical act. Sometimes, as in an affair, there is also a level of emotional involvement, often mistaken for love when it is really infatuation or inordinate affection and attachment at best. The guy may feel more appreciated or loved by his new paramour. As time and encounters go by he reinforces theses feelings by lavishing gifts and favors. It's a power trip, as well as a control thing - something a man sometimes does when he feels he has been undermined in a relationship or situation, or when he senses the passion has died out in his current marriage. It can happen when both parties take one another for granted, and often enough, in today's culture, the wife finds herself the dominate wage earner or may have a better position in the work force. Again this becomes hugely apparent in the exaggerated reality of celebrities lives; break-ups occur when one party becomes more successful than the other and one of them is caught cheating - it's a compensation thing, I'm sure. I think it applies to ordinary couples as well. The cheating is a form of declaring one's independence, while shirking responsibilty, as well as betraying commitment, all the while insisting that he loves his wife. It hurts the person one is having the affair with and it destroys families, while harming emotional and moral stability. It's a moral dilemma, as such, it is not a 'victimless crime' and contributes to the further errosion of culture as well.
Ultimately, it boils down to men indulging the "joy of the will in natural goods" without directing and consecrating this joy to God. St. John of the Cross speaks indirectly of these things in "The Ascent of Mt Carmel" Book Three, Chapter 22. He likens this indulgence (by analogy, of infidelity) to drinking of the cup of the whore of Babylon when he asks;
"Who fails to drink little or much from the golden chalice of the Babylonian woman of the Apocalypse [Rev. 17:4]?
Going on to explain the harms that result;
"No matter how small the amount of this wine of joy, it immediately takes hold on the heart and subdues it, producing obscurity in the reason, as happens with those who get drunk from wine...
Spiritual weakness will augment and bring such evil on the soul that it will find itself a captive of its enemies, grinding at the mill like Samson with his eyes plucked out and the hair of his first strength cut. And afterward it (the soul) will perhaps die the second death as he (Samson) did together with his enemies."
In the end, promiscuous behavior and infidelity become so habituated, that it may seem to be an addiction. Repentance followed by frequent confession, with prayer and the Eucharist are the steps one must take in order to amend one's life and begin to repair the damage done to family and friends.