When Inadequacy Meets Infidelity: Do Men Think Before They Cheat?
“All men cheat,” “All men are dogs,” and another phrase I won’t dare to mention...
I’m sure we have all heard or seen these phrases once scrolling down a Facebook timeline. Futhermore, cheating is not only a "man thing" to do. Infidelity doesn't discriminate based on your gender, skin color, class, or age. However, for the sake of stereotypical perception and varying assumptions about infidelity, this blog post will focus primarily on the men.
From observation and experience, at times societal expectations, family background, and/or friendships does not encourage or allow men to confess and admit feelings of inadequacy, vulnerability, uncertainty, confusion, or inferiority. Unfortunately, as a result, it is sometimes an unsaid and even intentional "conditioning" that propels men to believe that pleasure or achieving accomplishments are the only means to “express” (escape) deeper emotions and feelings. (Perhaps, “masking” or “numbing” the feelings are more appropriate words). Nevertheless, in order for true healing to take place you cannot try to escape what you need to expose. So let’s expose and unpack... Now, please don’t think I am “excusing” the behavior. I am just merely explaining and exposing the behavior for the sake of awareness and healing. We can certainly understand why someone makes certain choices, but that doesn’t make their choices acceptable.
It is my notion that in more cases than not, the thought and feeling of inadequacy can open doors to infidelity if one is not careful and aware. As I have helped some clients trace and connect the dots to their infidelity, a deeper sense of inadequacy was usually hidden. Inadequacy introduced itself when one gentleman experienced the loss of a job. The reality of income starting to plummet, being reliant on other family members financially, and not being able to provide for his family propelled thoughts of “I’m not good enough,” “I failed,” “I will never recover from this.” If not careful, negative thoughts can be seeds planted in the ground, that sprout into uncontrollable emotions and maladaptive behaviors. As a result, for this gentleman, his wife, home, and family became a constant reminder of his perceived failure. I’m sure you can guess where the story goes from here. Pornography, conversations with other women, and meeting up with other women became ways to “escape” and temporary fixes that falsely said, “You’re approved,” "you matter," you’re great,” "you still ‘got it’.”
Or take for example, other men who were faced with newfound thoughts and feelings of inadequacy by the vulnerability of marriage. Infidelity seemed like an option not necessarily because of something their wife did or didn't do, but because of the perception that they couldn't do anything right and that they were letting their wife down. (ex: arguments, poor decisions, making mistakes, etc.). Sadly, other women became a means to feel better about themselves. The key thing to realize is that infidelity wasn't only an option for these men because of inadequacy. Infidelity was also an option, because using relationships as a way to "cope" with adverse life circumstances was never killed before the marriage, it was simply pushed to the “back of the closet.” In other words, old ways of "coping" that are merely suppressed and never eliminated, will always try to find its way back to you when life comes at you.
From my own past experience and reflection, relationships would become bandaids to cover wounds of desiring approval. I wasn’t a “bad guy,” but I was incredibly broken and insecure. In order to combat loneliness and insecurity, relationships became a "safe haven." Physical intimacy wasn't the means I would use to get approval, yet emotional intimacy was. The feeling of being heard, accepted, and valued by way of conversation and connection was important to me; the problem is that I often times romanticized the connection.
So as a married man now, best believe I have to become more aware of my past and not have amnesia about my past. Commitment in marriage doesn't happen because a ring gives me "power" to do so. However, commitment in marriage happens with reflection, honesty, action, accountability, remembering your vow, and guidance from the Holy Spirit.
My encouragement to men in regards to infidelity is simple, yet will take some honest work: THINK before you CHEAT. Think about the deeper emotions you have. Take inventory and reflect on important questions.
-Do you feel inadequate, lonely, and misunderstood?
-What do you usually do when you feel inadequate?
-What have been your "go-to coping" mechanisms when you feel "low?"
-What are your greatest temptations?
-Do your temptations seem BIGGER when you are frustrated, stressed, lonely, and /or emotionally empty?
Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)
Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life.