What is it all about is it love or commitment

Dear Bloggers,

One of my good friends revealed to me a few months ago: "I love my wife, but I cannot help thinking of other women. I even had an affair with a work colleague and I feel terrible about it. What is wrong with me? Why do I find other women desirable and, at the same time, love my wife more than anything?"

My answer to my friend was that there is nothing wrong with him - physically. There is nothing wrong with him, because he is a human being, and by nature, we, human beings, are constantly physically attracted to the opposite sex. This feeling of attraction may be weak when we are in the "hot phase" of our new relationship, but normally it claws its way back to our brain with a vengeance when the physical peak of the relationship has passed. I also told my friend that this feeling is nothing to be ashamed of, even if it feels contradictory that we can be exclusively in love and have non-exclusive feelings of physical attraction at the same time.

My friend was now confused and he asked: "Are you telling me then that there is nothing wrong about these feelings of physical attraction in a brain of a happily married or otherwise committed person"? My answer was yes, that's exactly what I am saying. I explained that I believe these feelings are something we cannot really have control over and there is nothing abnormal about the fact that women find other men attractive and men desire other women, even if they are simultaneously in love with their partners. This is how humans were designed and we cannot reprogram our brain to completely ignore a beautiful woman or a handsome man walking by. We can pretend that we don't see anything, but our preprogrammed brain tells us to watch.

My friend looked relieved, like the guilt was shifting from him to the designer of the human mold. Like he was just doing something nature had programmed him to do.

I continued and explained that this realization of constant physical attraction is just the other side of the relationship coin, the easy part. The more difficult side of the coin is the mental side, the side that can overrun or yield to the physical side, depending on the strength of the mental side of an individual coin. This side draws the difference between faithfulness and unfaithfulness. Thus, once you have acknowledged the fact that you are capable of being happily in a relationship and still physically attracted to other people, the center of gravity turns to the mental side of the coin, to the human side. This side offers you an opportunity to choose between your priorities: what is more important to you, a relationship and commitment, or your physical needs and attractions.

It may well be that your answer to the above question is the latter; your physical needs weigh more than a committed relationship with one partner. This may be the case even if you have a very strong mental side on your coin. It could be that you simply are not ready to be committed just yet. It could be that you want to see and experience more before you jump into something permanent, something that feels more restricted than a life with open options. And, that is fine. You have every right to feel that way. You have every right to be a single woman or a man and never be ready for commitment. Some people are never ready for a relationship and that is the way they want it.

However, things become different when you enter into a serious relationship and truly promise your partner to be a faithful and trustworthy companion. You make a promise to your partner that you are ready for her or him and ready to be committed, ready to live a life with just one partner, a life without open options. This is a choice, a sacrifice you make voluntarily yourself. You trade your life of open options with a life of partner-stability, trust and companionship. You acknowledge that the life of open options will end, but regardless of this acknowledgement, you voluntarily enter into your new life. It is a conscious choice of two free people.

If you make this choice, you should be able to live by your commitment and the promise of faithfulness. Not because you are no longer attracted to other people, but because of respect for your partner. You should be able to fight your physical needs and let the mental side of the coin prevail. Let the human side of the coin beat the physical, preprogrammed, side of you. The choice is yours, because even if your brain may be reprogrammed to feel the sexual attraction, we humans are also blessed with a mind that is conscious and capable of breaking free from the default settings of our brain. This is an amazing power and something that separates us from the rest of the creatures on this planet.

The physical side however is a tough opponent and doesn't always go away without a fight. It plays games with your mind and tries to win you over. It may make you juggle between a serious relationship and various affairs and flings. It may make you believe that keeping a partner and simultaneously having affairs is a good way to secure the best of both worlds: having a loving partner and a wild sexual adventure, all at the same time. However, don't be fooled by the seemingly strong physical side of the coin. You can beat it if your mental side is strong enough. You are at the end of the day the one who lets the physical side prevail over the mental side.

Why do people so often choose to yield to the physical side? What makes unfaithfulness an attractive choice and worth the risks? Can the reasons be traced and blamed on a society where affairs sometimes are quietly accepted and treated as a normal, inevitable, course of life? Are we unfaithful because of the following reasons: "we only live once", "everybody is doing it", "I was in a different country", "I had too much to drink", "I was on a conference trip" or because "it was just my ex"? Do we really know the real reason for our unfaithfulness? Can we accept the fact that the reason for unfaithfulness really comes to one thing and one thing only: lack of respect for our partner.

Lack of self-discipline and weak backbone are the evil cousins of disrespect. An unfaithful partner wants to keep the options open but is not courageous enough to try it out as a single man or woman and risk some time alone when company is hard to find. He wants to play it "safe" and enjoy affairs and a happy marriage or a relationship and believes that he has found the winning combination. It certainly may sound like a winning combination, but is that really what it is. Can an unfaithful person look in the mirror and say to himself: I am unselfish, disciplined and courageous and I truly respect my partner?

I believe that respect is the very key when it comes to successful and long-lasting relationships. Both partners know that they are most likely capable of cheating, but respect keeps them from doing that. It may all sound overly simplistic, but the reason for unfaithfulness in an otherwise functioning relationship really comes to a one thing: lack of respect for your partner. Surely respect cannot be forced or implanted on anyone and there may be difficult circumstances, where there seems to be accepted reasons for unfaithfulness. Maybe one of the partners is completely uninterested in having sex, while the other is longing for a functioning sex life, or there is simply no love and respect left in the relationship etc.

However, the question in these situations should be, should I be in this relationship, rather than, should I be unfaithful to my partner.

Don't take me wrong, I am not judgmental and very well understand that people make mistakes and do things that they are not proud of. And, in extreme cases, partners even give their approval for affairs or prefer an open relationship all together. However, in a relationship where both partners expect faithfulness and trust, the unfaithful partner should understand the true reasons for his conduct. The cheating partner has agreed to make a commitment, but is not living up to his or her promise. He decided to choose one partner in order to have stability, trust and companionship, but because of lack of respect, backbone and his overriding selfish needs, cannot live up to his promise. It is hard to take the blame, but sometimes reality hurts. That's why it is called reality.

It can be a tough thing to swallow that you can only sleep with one person the rest of your life. It may be tough thing to swallow that sex has turned from a privilege to an obligation, or to a mere weekly/monthly act of killing the awkwardness of lacking physical contact. However, your commitment is still a conscious choice and a sacrifice, which you voluntarily made yourself. You may want to keep the options open, but then you need to keep the options open as a single man, not as a family man. And, if you don't want to be a single man, then be a family man, a respectful man. Show the backbone and self-discipline you have in you. Don't let the easy side of the coin prevail.

There is really no excuse for cheating on your partner and realizing this might just make your relationship happier and hopefully even prevent future missteps. I am not able to stop her thoughts about the perfect man, but these guys do not excisit unless they are ruthless players. I have seen to many relations gone bust do to a lack of interest in their sexlives, if she is taking it easy he is scanning for other options like watching porn or have an affair. Men are not very complex thinkers if it comes to the subject sex. The choice is yours, but if you want to keep the dark clouds out and life up to your commitment, give your partner the respect he or she deserves and expects. You expect the same.

The Old Sailor,

P.S. We should remember that we humans are all on the same boat of life and carry similar hopes, similar needs and similar dreams. We are all born with a need to be respected and loved. Born with a need to be someone. Someone successful. Someone decent.


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