Ethics are important. I think of it as honor, humility, and commitment to spiritual principles. Ethics is a good shorthand. Yes, I lacked ethics when I cheated. I’ve been working hard to develop myself in that way. Before D-day, I was unethical and dishonorable. I thought of myself rather than of my duty to my wife, children, or God. I thought of selfish gain rather than behaving with integrity. I measured myself by childish notions of masculinity rather than taking pride in acting with integrity.
After D-day, I learned and practiced integrity, ethics, honor, and spirituality. I don’t mean I’ve perfected it. Like physical and mental health, moral health is a never-ending quest. I used to go to the gym often, for physical health. Now I also turn to ethical and religious teachings regularly, for moral health. I know that might sound simplistic. I’m neither a religious fundamentalist nor an esoteric New-age freak. I use the terms spirituality and morality here because there are really no other simple ways to describe it in our language.
Maybe there are some people who can improve their motivations and behavior purely through ethics, without empathy, compassion, and love. More power to them. I find that focusing on empathy, compassion, and love, as well as integrity and morality, is very helpful.
For me personally, the definition of love is crucial. I suspect other cheaters will find it helpful. I could be wrong. But, learning that love is selfless, not transactional, was a watershed discovery for me. It actually tied directly into thoughts about ethics. How can you not make your wife’s safety, feelings, and honor a top priority if you truly love her? How can you not make her less important than yourself if you only view love as transactional?
I learned to change my world view for the better. I hope, but don’t demand, that other cheaters might be able to learn something from my experience. I also hope that other victims of cheating can see that there is at least one way, probably more, that cheaters can reform, and that there are also many ways a cheater can fail to reform or feign reformation.
Let’s be clear. A cheater’s understanding of love is absolutely not a fail safe protection against abuse. There may be no fail safe protection at all. But, my experience is that a proper view of love, the view I learned from Rick Reynolds, is very helpful to the marriage. And, even if the marriage must end in divorce, a new understanding of love can benefit both the cheater and the victim.