Morals and Cheating

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Entertaining the idea that our morals are whatever lets us sleep at night. I started reading a book, “Passions Within Reasons,” by Robert H Frank – without having any clue where I got the recommendation from. I’ve not read so much of it yet, but I intend to finish it – as it proposes interesting ideas such as much of our actions based on how we will feel about things. E.g. we save our children from drowning (and risking our own lives) not because we want our genes to keep living (neither for material gain, e.g. to have them plow the fields for us or make us money in our retirement), but because we’d feel terrible if we didn’t try to save them.

Now, if anyone ever cheated me – so be it, but congratz, they never got caught. I have never cheated either, but I have actually left one guy for another – and suppose from the perspective of the guy who got left may have thought of this as cheating. Or if not that – it certainly was, in his perspective, betrayal. Now, someone dropping the ball altogether is something I have experienced in various contexts, too, but I am not going to make the thread too long with this, so I stick to what I thought about cheating.

I have definitely THOUGHT about cheating (it was the same relationship I traded for another, but I didn’t think to go for it with the same guy I actually left with). And when I was still very young, I also met someone who actually had a woman back at home (which is a strange experience, as well – out of the scope for this post – but I have you know there is absolutely nothing good about this on any level, nor from any perspective.)

Now, when I think about my current relationship – I have no desire to cheat or check anyone else out, so I wonder why that is – what makes someone actually want to cheat? As the book discusses, it’s not as simple as “I could get away with it, no one would ever find out, it’s free money… Err… Sex (or emotional roller-coaster ) on the floor.”

The key seems to be contempt. You look to cheat or look elsewhere when you feel towards your partner that feeling, the bitterness, the hate. But it’s not as simple as a partner being hateful or contemptible, either – it’s more about the dynamic, the relationship – it has to do with both participants (or if you happen to have more – children, making it a while family).

What could be the reasons for someone to start feeling contempt towards their relationship and their partner? Well, maybe they finally realized they were tricked into this relationship – the advertisement was something else. They got fooled by the partner OR, what’s more likely – they got fooled by their own willful blindness.

What causes someone to be willfully blind? Well, they must be in a hurry, desperate to get somewhere, fearful of missing the train, as everyone else around them already seemed to have gotten on one.

There are other common reasons – some that I might be more familiar with – asymmetries in the gains or enjoyment, incompatible interests, bad dynamics via psychopathologies or disorders – call it all chemistry, if you like. It would be rational to just break up – but these asymmetries are never apparent when you’re actively inside it, I guess.

Another common problem that might produce contempt is the incapability of having a conflict. So, what do you do with a guy who already on his first date says he will not tolerate any confrontations? Well, you make that first date also the last date. Because the unwillingness to have difficult conversations is a big deal breaker. And pay attention – I say unwillingness, not incapability. Difficult conversations are difficult because they are ugly, emotionally volatile. They are fights, they are not very graceful. But that’s fine – anyone can learn to do better when they don’t shy away from it…

But pairs who can’t have difficult conversations, they can’t disagree with things – and they can’t leave – suffer a certain doom.

Often the difficulty in initiating those conflicts, of course, is only a problem in the head of the person. Their tolerance for volatile emotions is so low they’d rather avoid the discomfort of having to deal with it – they don’t want to see the other person lose their control.

Yet, in other times the threat might also be real: you disagree with me? I beat the shit out of you. Do you want to leave me? I’ll kill you (or me). Whether the coercer will actually carry it out is another issue, but a dramatic, criminal threat like this alone already shuts down any desire to rock the boat in any direction. Domestic violence domain – also, out of my scope today.

So, for silly reasons or less so – people avoid rocking the boat, and in turn, they become hateful towards that relationship and their partner, they feel trapped and helpless in it.

Now tell me whether in such a situation there’s any relevance to the virtue called Loyalty? Cheating that person will no longer make you feel terrible, it might even give some kind of satisfaction. Tastes like a tiny dose of revenge.

From here I quickly jump to the idea that people we see as immoral might often just be trapped living lives they do not want to be living. Instead of going through the discomfort (or danger) of changing it (and I do understand it (which does not make it right, regardless) – some people really do not see a way out through the dark), they stay and start slipping and slinging on the side.

So, I hope YOU have yourself a very loving, respectable, and fun relationship, in which both participants tolerate discomfort and conflict so you can have some nice solutions and ideas on how to make your own lives even better.

We get back to antifragility, in a way – a relationship that survives small fights – and even welcomes them (when appropriate) – makes that particular union stronger! Avoiding fights at all costs doesn’t make a good union, it achieves nothing but avoids exposing the possible fragility of the relationship…

Maybe that’s why it happens, though – fights are avoided only in relationships in which both participants really sense that it wouldn’t survive boat rock – the wood is brittle and the water is too salty. La La La.

Take care of your partners o/

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