MC: Love and ethics

Blaming the cheater’s past rather than his current character and world view is inappropriate.  To be precise, family of origin issues, or other psychological issues may explain, in part or in whole, the cheater’s thinking, but they can not and should not excuse his choices and behavior.  They were deliberate, conscious choices, and there is no excuse.

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.


2 thoughts on “MC: Love and ethics

  1. MC, I really appreciate this post, thank you. It is so timely for me. I have recently started to look in other directions to help me understand my H. He is being honest, he is doing everything that I need and what our marriage needs to recover from his adultery, however I have found myself continuously in a frustrating cul-de-sac with working on the why. In my last blog, I had actually given up on the idea of finding a why.. However, via Chump Lady’s blog I was introduced to a new way of thinking proposed by George Simon. I bought his book ‘Character Disturbance’ and consumed it in a day. I have pen marks all over it. Comments, observations, asterisks, underlining. It was like I had found the answer. I’ve shared the basic tenets of his theory with H and we have read some parts of it together. He agrees that it sums him up. It’s uncomfortable but then adultery is the biggest mess you can get involved in. Basically, Simon is suggesting what you are suggesting here (if I’ve understood you correctly) that the reason for my H’s adultery was due to his lack of character. His character is underdeveloped and he has a much weaker conscience than I. My H knew what he was doing was wrong but there was no brake to stop him from acting on his desire. He also knew EXACTLY what my views were on fidelity. He KNEW… he just didn’t agree!!!!! There is nothing in my husbands unconscious which drove him to behave in this awful manner. Equally, there was nothing wrong in our marriage – he didn’t want to leave it. He just wanted to do it and paid no heed to the consequences. A devil-may-care attitude.

    Simon is quite radical in his opinions on traditional psychotherapy and after reading his book I can see why. I can also see why it wouldn’t help my H. He doesn’t need any insight. My H knew exactly what he was doing – he just didn’t have a developed conscience. What he has to do now, and what I need him to do is to work on his character. Decide the man he wants to be. Simon says change is possible. H has to change the way he thinks about adultery, this will change his attitude towards me (and to women in general) and this will change his behaviour. My H just didn’t care enough. But that was then.

    Our conversations have already started to change. I am questioning his thinking not his feelings. It really has placed the responsibility of the adultery firmly on his shoulders. I had always been adamant that it was not to do with our marriage but now we have isolated how it was possible for him to do what he did. Simon says that character disturbance is a phenomenon of our time. It is the ‘just-do-it’ culture that we inhabit. For those who have not developed a healthy conscience its like being given the keys to the sweet shop.

    He also questions traditional therapies that are influenced by Freud et al as their theories were developed in another time when we lived in a far more repressive culture. This led to neurosis. I recognise my own neuroses, I worry for England sometimes, however, my husband needs to worry MORE. He is not neurotic, being driven by unconscious motivations. He was very consciously motivated to commit adultery.

    I’ve a way to go to integrate my new thinking into our lives more fully but for the first time I really can see hope. It can only happen if the betrayer wants to change their thinking. Obviously, if they don’t want to change their thinking they will continue to behave in the same way. The problem is, they’re good manipulators and can say all the right things. I will be judging my H on his actions, not what he says.

    Once again, thanks for sharing where you are and much love to you and TL x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your thoughts on this. I can relate to what you’re saying. Maybe TL and I should look into Simon’s book also. Yes, I think that developing character is very important. I suspect it also has to be a specific type of character development in order to address marital fidelity. For example, some people may appear to have good character, being involved in charity, caring about the environment, upholding laws, or whatever. But, in a few cases, these signs of strong character are only superficial.

      To really know someone’s character, you have to know what moral decisions they would make if there were no consequences and if they would remain totally anonymous. Would you commit crimes or sins if there was a guarantee that no one would ever know and that there would never be consequences? I’m not sure exactly what it is that allows some people to confidently answer negative to this question. I suspect empathy and compassion are key ingredients. A genuine, internal spiritual commitment to integrity could also help.

      Maybe your husband thought there would be no consequences; that he would not get caught. That’s what I thought. I know it sounds dumb, and self-centered. But, when you’re thinking only of yourself and only of immediate gains, you can even deceive yourself into thinking there is no way you’ll get caught. Did he really not heed the consequences, or did he just think he was lucky enough that he’d never have to face them? For me, it was the latter. One of the many things D-day did for me was to finally convince me that I was not invincible.

      I agree that the “just do it” culture we inhabit does encourage selfish thinking. Without an emphasis on spirituality, concern for mate and family, or honorable conduct and personal integrity, we do live like kids in a candy shop. That was part of my problem.

      TL and I also still see a lot of value in the Freudian theories for my particular case, because I lived in two cultures. My second culture was the modern “just do it” world we share. My first culture was a repressive one, dominated by one religion and full of contradictions about love and sex. The neuroses led me to low self-esteem and self-pity. At the same time I, like your husband, also made many conscious decisions to do the wrong thing.

      Good luck to you two. Hopefully he has the right motivation.


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