Thursday, October 7, 2010

Option Three: Cheat


If you accept yourself as bisexual or gay and you're committed to a woman, how do you handle your attraction to men and the commitment to your woman?

Believe it or not, you only have four choices.

I have written about two of the choices in recent posts and now I continue with the third option, cheating.

Before I begin I should disclose that I have a lot of personal experience with cheating. I have been cheated on, both by a 'Friend with Benefits' and by my wife. I know what it feels like to be cheated on and it doesn't feel good.

I have also been the cheater. I cheated on my then-girlfriend-now-wife within our first month together. I cheated when we were dating. I cheated when we were engaged. I cheated on the eve of our wedding. I cheated within the first two years of being married. And, I cheated steadily thereafter for about ten years. Without question, I have been a dirty scum-bag cheater.

And yet, it has now been more than seven years since I last cheated. The long break from cheating is probably permanent and as such it's given me some additional perspective that I did not have ten or twenty years ago. Below are my thoughts on the subject of cheating.

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If you're married, and you've taken the vows to honor and cherish your wife, how could cheating EVER be considered an option when dealing with your same sex attractions? Obviously only morally bankrupt, future hell-dwellers would consider cheating an option. For everyone else, it's not.

I agree that in an ideal world we should all take the high ground and live honestly, morally and with utmost respect for the woman we made a life-long commitment to honor. Cheating, in my book, should never be the first option you consider when you're coming to terms with your same sex attractions. Nevertheless, it remains an option, an important option that cannot be ignored.

At it's heart, cheating is a selfish act. Cheaters decide that the rules of society and the personal commitment they've made to their wives are secondary to their own sexual and/or emotional needs. If you're going to justify your infidelity, you must first realize that you are making a selfish decision. If you cannot accept that you are being selfish then you should not be cheating---you're too delusional to make sound decisions.

When is cheating a good option and when it is not? Wow! That's quite a question.

By 'good' I mean justified. Justification is a process of honest self-assessment followed by a thorough review of the options available to you.

The self-assessment begins when you accept your attractions and start to think about what to do about them. The two options I've already written about, to never act on your desires or to be honest with your wife, should each be seriously considered before making the decision to cheat.

When it comes to that first option, it's easy to understand why many bisexual and gay married guys would find it impossible to forever avoid sex with men. It's not celibacy because they're married, but even so...no sex with a man? Ever? Some can do that, many cannot.

The second option of being honest with your wife has multiple objectives. It's about being honest and it's about sharing a crucial part of yourself with your life partner. But it's also self-serving because why torment your wife with the truth if you never intend to act on it? One of the biggest reasons to be honest is to obtain permission to fool around.

There are quite a few reasons why married guys feel they cannot be honest. Those include: their attraction to men is too ambiguous; they are certain that their wife cannot handle the truth; they are afraid of how their wife might react; they feel that their desire for men is entirely independent from their desire for their wife, therefore it is not her concern; they know their wife will not consent to an open marriage.

These are all reasons to cheat, although several aren't so much reasons as they are excuses. The excuses represent catch-22 situations wherein you ask yourself, "Is it better to risk it all by being honest, or, hope it all works out and lie and cheat?"

The final step of the justification process is to realize that if you're going to be a good cheater the decision to do so cannot be ALL about you. For example, if you think that cheating is going to end your depression or fulfill you in a way that will allow you to be a better partner to your wife, those are reasonable counterbalances to the selfishness of cheating. The thing is, good cheating means that you check back with yourself about those expected benefits. If you're still depressed after a healthy dose of cheating, more cheating is probably not going to solve the problem. Instead you should consider other solutions.

If you accept the above standards as criteria for justified cheating and ask whether most cheating is justified or not, I think the answer is, it's not. Most cheating is simply desire run amok. We know better, but we just can't help ourselves. That's bad cheating.

My theory is that bad cheating is a purely selfish act, and as such, it has a tendency to catch up with you. Selfishness makes us sloppy. We don't truly care about others or repercussions so we're not careful. The lack of caution causes us to get caught, and wham, all hell breaks loose.

Good cheating is still selfish and that can still make us sloppy. But generally, I think good cheaters are careful cheaters. It all comes down to consideration of others. Sure, we don't want to get HIV (or genital herpes or hepatitis, or...) but we REALLY don't want our wives to be infected or our kids. Therefore we ALWAYS use condoms. We always erase our texts, clear our browser history, and plan our rendezvous so that they don't impinge on time with our wife and family.

Good cheating can easily devolve into bad cheating. Falling in love with a man when you're married to a woman can certainly be disastrous. More likely than that is that you stop doing the honesty checks with yourself. Is my lover really secondary to my wife if I feel distant from her and close to him? Do I make excuses not to spend time with her because I'd rather be with a guy?

A good cheater is someone who checks back with himself often to make sure selfishness hasn't taken over.

As you can see, I believe that the morally repulsive act of cheating can be committed with a high degree of ethical compassion for others. That doesn't mean it's an ideal solution, but it can nevertheless allow a married man who is attracted to other men to navigate a rocky moral road with some impunity. That said, the road is littered with potholes and it is SO very easy to fall into one, or many.

An 'ideal' good cheating situation might look something like this: you trade work hours for sex hours but your income and job performance are not materially affected; you always practice safe sex and are extremely discreet about all contact with your lover(s); when timing conflicts occur between family and your lover, your family always comes first; your liaisons cause you to seek better relationships with your wife and family, including more and better sex with your wife; if bad things happen between you and your lover, you are able to shield your family from any negative emotional impact you might be feeling. In short, whenever your cheating world and your married world intersect, the married world is either improved or not affected.

Good cheating is a fucking brutal standard to maintain. It's a lot of work for the cheater - as it should be, given the betrayal. Sometimes you realize that the work exceeds the benefits. If that happens, it's time to question whether cheating is worth the effort. It took me 17 years of on-and-off cheating to reach that point. I'm still gay. I'd still prefer a dick in my mouth or up my ass than any other kind of sex, but the man attached to the dick would now need to be pretty fucking awesome to tempt me.

I view short-term, isolated cheating differently than continuous or habitual cheating. A brief, discreet affair is not likely to make an impact on you or you marriage. I don't see such affairs as being particularly eventful IF the cheater is cautious and safe and IF a brief episode of cheating does not devolve into a regular parade of men.

Actually, short-term, experimental cheating can be extremely important. How can any man who has only fantasized about sex with another man truly know if he likes it unless and until he does it?

There aren't a lot of them out there, but there are guys who give gay sex a try and discover they don't like it. They might still find the idea to be hot, so they'll watch gay porn or do web cams, but they won't actually have sex with other guys. If they're happy looking but not touching, and if they can maintain a positive relationship with their wife, the initial bit of cheating could be a small concession that results in a happier married life for both partners.

Ultimately, what I think long-term cheaters need to realize is that, unless they can maintain a near-perfect balance between their cheating world and the rest of their lives, cheating is a path to a new equilibrium, not a destination.

Eventually, most cheaters will stop and be content with their wife, or, they'll exercise the final option and end their marriage.

And here's some food for thought: who do you think is more likely to have their marriage end, the guy who cheats or the guy who doesn't? If cheating is a path, where do you think it most frequently leads?

I will be writing about that fourth and final option, ending your marriage, next.

As always, I love to hear alternative opinions so feel free to add your comments below.

9 comments:

  1. Really well thought out post. "Justification" can be a real quick sand type of trap. You have to be careful. Having lived thru one of your described scenarios, I find your observations spot on. I did the "try it" experimentation. Felt like I had no choice but wasn't happy about being dishonest. After coming through the experience, I'm much better off but it was not easy. Thanks for the clear insights!

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  2. "the man attached to the dick would now need to be pretty fucking awesome to tempt me." Love that part since it is relevant to me. At first, it was nice to get the attention since I was lacking that at home, but after the act (and there have only been a few) the shame, guilt, and excitement set in. Those experiences were not worth the effort. Now, for there to be a next time, he will have to be pretty awesome.

    For me, I cheated out of curiosity and the need to be desired by another person. These experiences had not better me or my marriage, so there is something else I am trying to figure out.

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  3. The question is what percent of guys choose each of the options.....

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  4. I have followed your scenarios and think you wrote this one in a very balanced way. I look forward to some data on this though- we all project our own life lessons, but we are all different and if "fear" of an outcome is a motivator to stop doing something, or "hope" gives you permission to go on, then it is good to look at both the history of other men that went the same way and your own marriage and personal needs. To repeat what I have found from the research - 50% of all married men have at least one outside sexual affair, 30% of all women do. Instead of accepting this as a consequence of the narrow idea of monogamy we have drilled into us, we call it "cheating". People do it in other cultures and it often comes out mid-affair and is hard to handle but is not considered "abnormal".

    Of course most of us would prefer honesty, but there are no good societal models for coming out to yourself mid-marriage. Having said this, the limited information I have from other websites and some books is, a surprising number of men who come out or are forced out by circumstances find a way to preserve their marriage and find acceptance of some sort. Strong marriages can survive shocks of this kind, weak ones cannot.

    In terms of experimenting in secret to know what you really need, that is what I have been working on so really agree with this proposition. Your use of the idea of "good cheating" and description do fit into a common model and that is certainly what I am doing, even if I wince at the words.

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  5. As a women that has been married for 19 years I thought every thing was great. To find my husband to have a secret life is so painful beyond words. I don't care if you are bisexual or gay but if you love someone so much you may look at other people but you don't cross that line. I look at good looking men and don't have even a sexual desire for them because I think of my husband. I hope by reading this maybe it will change someone's mind by doing things on impulse can hurt so many people and it is selfish. I now have a hole in my heart of which I have to heal.

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  6. I think you're mixing up sexual experimentation with the concept of cheating. Just because you happened to be experimenting while you're married doesn't provide justification for the act of cheating.

    If you find yourself unable to reconcile parts of your emotional and physical needs with the concept of monogamy, why not opt for an open marriage or loose domestic arrangement, instead of professing commitment to a bona fide marriage?

    Cheating is just a subset of deception. It involves putting your emotional or physical needs above your partner's or marriage's, but it is not about that. It is about lying, claiming to be something you're not, maintaining a facade that bears little relevance to reality.

    The concept of 'good' cheating is a manual for maintaining the facade or living a lie.

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  7. Ok, I admit it I'm a cheat. Why? because the alternative would be just too painful! Painful for my wife, painful for my family (except my youngest 30 year old married son who would probably find it a hoot!) and painful for those soldiers I served with for 23 years!

    However, the alternative - no way. Having taken an age to acknowledge to myself who I am and what my sexual preferences are, I can live with myself. I have also, through necessity, learned to accept the deception that is a part of my bisexual sex life.

    Oddly enough, despite my desires and sometimes participation with other men, my sex life at home hasn't sufferred at all. Obviously I'm extra careful about safe sex in my predeliction but, not being into the 'wham, bang, thanks for the fuck' scenario, I have learned to carry over the tenderness and eroticism of my m2m encounters to my home sex life.

    It works both ways, I'm not into being the 'alpha male' but tend to treat each individual encountering partner as an equal physically and sexually - and it works.

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  8. Cheating - Well, I cannot condone cheating on any level in my relationship with my bi-sexual boyfriend. But, he cheats. Cheats because - we have too much going on to focus on us. Cheats because - he just cannot help it. Cheats because he really doesn't know how to tell me that he is having urges and is going to have NSA Sex with a man. He cheats cheats and cheats again. It hurts and causes huge rifts between us deteriorating my trust level which takes a very very long time to heal. I find myself having to heal a great deal of the time. His cheating, no matter how much I understand or love him, is selfish.

    You should know, that it has been over a year in a 5 year relationship since he disclosed his bi-sexuality. We have tried threesomes (which I too enjoy) but they fizzled out due to time constraints and other life factors. We would like to pick them up again at some point. We have considered threesomes where I would simply watch - that hasn't happened yet, but I think it will and it can. I find it utterly erotic to think of my man being totally turned on and going down on another man. To actually see him receive anal sex by a man would be extremely erotic for me. We practice all the time with a strap and it is amazing what a turn on it is too see him out-of-control helpless in my hands. To satisfy him this way is an amazing turn on for me. - But this does not seem to be enough either. There's nothing like the real thing ...

    We love each other and are working at this. My feeling is there are ways to incorporate his bi-sexuality into our relationship as something to be cherished, adored and embraced. Cheating does not and never will get us to that level. It only serves to hurt because it makes me feel like he has absolutely no respect for me.

    As far as my relationship goes, cheating just isn't an option. At least not if you want your relationship to work.

    Wish us luck as we continue to explore the bottom lines of true honesty in our relationship. I think if we can reach that level, both our emotional and sexual relationship will improve. Oh and by the way, neither of us are young and experimenting. We are both over 45 years old and know what a committed relationship is and can be, and we are both mature enough to know that we need to work on this and find a way that works and defines us both.

    Thanks for listening.

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  9. Thanks for your posts. They're an interesting read and quite timely for me. Here's my story in regards to being bi, married and cheating.

    I have been married for 10 years, with my wife for 13. I'm know 40. Prior to that I had both boyfriends and girlfriends so the fact that I'm bi has always been on the table. I like having sex with woman, but probably prefer it with men - it's certainly easier to come by! I definitely identify strongly as bisexual and have lots of gay friends (although I find the gay scene pretty tiresome and often fairly infantilising).

    We have two children and are generally, at least on the surface, quite happy. However, our sex life is largely non-existent (ie 2-3 times per year!). This isn't my doing. My wife just honestly doesn't seem to have any sexual drive. She claims she does, but I've never felt her looking at me - or anyone else - in a desirous way. Never felt like she needed to have sex. We've been through marriage counselling and sex therapy and had endless conversations that always end with a commitment to address this issue, but nothing seems to change.

    Amongst all this I've had sex with other men. Mostly anonymous (not very satisfying), twice an affair, although not with people who I ever felt threatened my marriage even though I had mind-blowing sex and was emotionally attached to them. I've given up feeling bad about this, not because I don't think it is, just because I find it hard to have any clarity any more.

    I'm now in the position of not knowing how to move forward. Staying in the relationship and just giving up on sex isn't an option for me. I'm just not capable. It's suppressing a far too big a part of my self expression, joy and identity. My wife's made it VERY clear that having an open relationship is not an option. That kind of leaves continuing to cheat or breaking up. This last option I'd probably settle on if it weren't for having children, but it's not just breaking up with your partner but also your family.

    Cheating though doesn't feel that great either. Ultimately I'd like to be in love with someone I can express myself sexually with and I don't think that will ever be my wife. Cheating feels like plastering over the problem, but then all relationships survive on a little bit of this - on unspoken compromises.

    I'm not really expecting an answer - just pointing out that 'cheating' isn't quite so cut and dry. I also think our attitudes to sex and monogamy are way, way too conservative and guilt ridden. If only my wife did too!

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