Doing the “Right Thing”


A little while back someone at my work was fired for theft.  I’m sure this sort of thing happens all the time everywhere in the world, but I was still a bit shocked by it.  I work for a pretty good company (benefits, wages, environment), so I didn’t understand why someone would put their job at risk; especially when this guy lost his job over theft of an item worth around $25.  I mean, really?

I was talking this over with one of my co-workers, telling her I didn’t understand why someone would do it, especially when this will now be attached to his employment record and can impact his future.  My co-workers response was that this guy simply figured he wouldn’t get caught.


The Fable of Gyges Ring

This situation made me think of The Fable of Gyges Ring, from Plato’s Republic.  Just to be clear, I don’t normally go around reading things like Plato.  I HAD to read it for school years ago (but have to admit it was actually pretty good).  The Republic presents Plato’s ideas on justice and morality, and the part I remember the most is the fable of Gyges Ring.

In this story a shepherd finds a ring that makes him invisible and somehow this invisibility means the shepherd can take actions without consequences.  Ummm, invisibility means no consequences?  That seems like a bit of a stretch (and perhaps inspiration for Tolkien).  But hey, the story was written over 2000 years ago so I guess we’ll have to cut it some slack.

Anyhow, with his newfound power the shepherd seduces the queen, kills the king and takes over the kingdom (because of course, that’s what we would all do if there were no consequences, right?)

Now here’s the interesting part.  In discussing this tale, Plato theorized that if two of these rings existed, and one was found by a “just” man and the other by an unjust man, the ability to do what he wanted without consequence would cause the just man to become corrupted.

His suggestion was, it’s really only consequences that keep us in line and at our core we are all unjust.


What is Justice?

Are we inherently unjust?  And what exactly does that even mean?

Merriam Webster defines justice as “the process or result of using laws to fairly judge and punish crimes and criminals”.

I’ll acknowledge that sometimes there is a disconnect between law and justice, but for the moment let’s accept that law is an attempt at placing rules around what is “right” or “moral”, and setting consequences for the violation of those rules.

Based on that, is Plato right?  Is it really only the threat of consequences that keeps us in line and makes us act in a moral way?

Without consequences will people really just do whatever they want?


Learning Right From Wrong

In some ways I think Plato was right.  After all, I do think we are born selfish.  If you think about it, as infants all we understand is our own needs and other people are basically vehicles for this need fulfillment.

As a parent, my experience has been that right and wrong needs to be taught.

Children initially don’t understand why they can’t just do what they want, or take something they want.  They need to learn about boundaries, and ownership.  They need to learn the concept of exchange.  Hell, even empathy seems to be something that is largely learned.

I may wish my children would just “understand” right and wrong, but they don’t.  And while learning this, consequences are a practical way of helping them understand why they need to do the right thing.

Eventually I think people have to get to a point where we are no longer doing something to avoid consequences.  Instead, they need to do something because they have come to believe it’s the right thing to do.

There’s a distinction between these two things (avoiding consequences vs. doing what we believe is right); and although it may seem subtle I believe it’s extremely important.

When we are doing something because we believe it’s the right thing to do, we have internalized that value.  It has become part of our belief set.

At that point, the consequences from other people for violating that value aren’t important anymore.  Because overriding any fear of what other people will think is the betrayal of our own core valuesThe disappointment in ourselves far outweighs any concern about being caught.

After all, we can hide things from others – but not from ourselves.



Which brings me to one of my favorite topics – integrity.

Integrity is all about how we live our lives.  It’s about whether we actually live the values that we profess.

It’s really easy to SAY things.  But to walk the talk, and to do it consistently?  That’s a lot harder.


Now, I’m not trying to push my sense of morality on anyone here.

I readily acknowledge no one is perfect.  We all have a darker side to us.  We all have moments that we do things we later regret.  We are all sometimes petty, selfish, stupid, ignorant – whatever.

Having integrity doesn’t mean you never do those things.  Instead, it’s about how frequently do we stick to our values, and how badly do we stray from them when we don’t.

And because we know we ARE going to screw up sometimes, an important element of integrity is accountability.  When we screw up (and yes, it’s a WHEN and not an IF) how do we handle it?  Do we try to hide it?  Do we blame?  Justify?  Or do we own it, accept any consequences from our actions and then try to use the moment as an opportunity for growth?


Shared Values

In relationships, it’s important to find someone with whom you share similar values.  And I think a mistake people often make is they don’t actually get to know who their partner really is.  Instead, they just assume their partner shares a lot of the same beliefs.

Unfortunately, the world isn’t black and white and right and wrong can at times be subjective.  So when it comes to core values, simply assuming someone shares them can often lead to disappointment.

Here’s a little rule of thumb I have.  If someone does something “bad”, and you are shocked because it seems so out of character for them – that’s probably a good thing.  It means they either don’t do things like that often or they just rarely get caught (I’m a glass is half full kind of guy, so I’ll take it to mean they don’t do things like that very often).

If they do something and you find yourself going “sigh, again?”, then maybe that’s just who they are (or more accurately who they CHOOSE to be).  And in that case, you’ve got to ask yourself if that’s a person you really want to be with.

Of course, WHAT they do is also pretty significant.

If someone is “mostly” awesome, but oh yeah they also happen to be a serial killer?  That MAY be a problem for you.

Or maybe not, after all different people have their own boundaries on what’s acceptable and what’s not.

Murderer/sex offender/drug dealer are fairly universally accepted as “deal breakers” for relationships.

For many, finding out their partner is an adulterer/cheater is also a deal breaker (though many who believe that find things are a bit more murky than expected when actually faced with that situation).


To me, affairs show a complete lack of integrity.  I see them as the ultimate selfish act, as they are all about choosing “me” at the expense of “we”.

I understand the conditions that lead to affairs.  I understand when a couple is struggling, when someone feels unhappy in their relationship and/or with themselves.  I understand that having other people show interest in you feels good, and when in a bad spot mentally/emotionally people want more of that feeling.  I understand the dopamine rush that comes with new relationships, and the sense of freedom that comes with being able to do what you want, and not have to worry about the restrictions that come with relationships.

When you hear stories of people who have affairs, there are a lot of things they are feeling and a lot of reasons they do what they do.  And I think I kinda/sorta get that.

Even still, I KNOW I would never have an affair (even if I had Gyges ring allowing me to escape consequences).

Because if you truly care about and respect the person you are with, an affair is completely disrespectful to that person.  So I would NEVER do that to someone else.

And beyond that what I would be doing to someone else, I simply think that it’s wrong.  And I know I could never live with ME if I were to do that.


Being You

I guess that’s the point of doing the right thing.  It’s not about someone else.  It’s not about consequences, and what other people would think if they found out.

It’s about you.

It’s about what you truly believe, and what beliefs you are willing to stand up for.

In the past while I’ve written about being authentic, and being true to yourself.  Well, integrity and doing the right thing is a huge part of that.

Not saying one thing, yet doing another.  Not hiding parts of yourself and presenting a different version of yourself to different audiences.  Not denying fault, blaming or rationalizing your actions when you screw up.

But knowing who you are, and owning your choices and actions.  Being who you are in all aspects of your life, and living a life you believe in.


40 thoughts on “Doing the “Right Thing”

  1. Brilliant.

    I was just thinking about this very thing and your post popped up in my inbox!

    I had a conversation with someone who believed that everyone was capable of having an affair and the only thing stopping someone who hasn’t had one is simply opportunity. I disagreed. I don’t believe everyone cheats (although it kinda seems like it) I said that I didn’t believe I could cheat simply because I wouldn’t be able to hurt my husband that way and look him in the eyes, heck I wouldn’t be able to look at myself in the mirror. Any rush I might feel by sneaking around would be negated by how awful I would feel later- that feeling just isn’t worth it.

    Integrity – that’s it. It has always bugged me when I read articles about infidelity and there is often some sort of veiled or outright blame attached to the person who was cheated on. Like you, I kinda sorta get it to -yes your marriage might be in trouble, your partner does x,y and z wrong etc – but if you choose to have an affair and want to stay in your marriage – have some integrity and take responsibility for your actions. I mean it seems so juvenile to me to point fingers and say ‘you made me do it’.

    The right thing to do is the right thing to do no matter the circumstances, but we human beings sure can justify almost anything. We all screw up, but it’s how you handle it that shows your level of integrity and integrity to me is central to being of good character.

    Thanks for writing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for commenting.

      I’ve been thinking about this post for a long time now. I do think I understand the conditions that often lead people to cheat, and I’ve wondered – what makes some people cheat while others won’t? Some will stay in their relationships and try to work on things, others will leave the relationship because it’s not working (though sadly I often believe that some people have such a need to be with someone that they will stay in an unhappy situation and look for someone else, only leaving when they feel “safe” in the new relationship).

      Integrity and accountability are really important to me. Not saying I’m not a selfish ass sometimes (cause I know I can be), but on the whole I think I really do my best to do what I believe is right. But when I look around, sometimes it seems more people choose easy or fast over what to me feels right.

      I don’t really get it. I’m a dad, and if my kids knew every detail of my life I would like it to be one that they are (largely) proud of.

      If you read any of my other posts, I kind of have a “hate-on” for the idea of happiness. It’s not that I have any issues with happiness – it’s great, and of course people want to be happiness. But sometimes it really seems that “happiness” becomes an excuse for “doing what I want, not matter how it affects others”. And that’s something I’m REALLY not cool with.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Agreed.
        Instead of happiness I like to think whether something brings me peace, which I think is far more important that happiness – happiness can be so fleeting.
        If something brings me peace, even if it’s a hard decision and it might not necesarily make me happy, then I tend to feel like I’m on the right track

        Liked by 2 people

      • People who cheat have opportunity (status, money and a motive such as travel for work), but not all who have opportunity cheat. People who contemplate consequences are less likely to cheat. These people are not impulsive. With contemplating consequences I do not just mean avoiding punishment, but realising the hurt you do to your partner and your children. Those who have opportunity and justify their behaviour, do everything to avoid thinking about the consequences. It makes them feel bad (guilty)….They use diversions and justifications and rationalisations to talk right, what they know is wrong and will always be wrong, with no exceptions…ever.

        Liked by 1 person

      • “They use diversions and justifications and rationalisations to talk right, what they know is wrong and will always be wrong”

        Agreed, though sometimes I think people are able to rationalize things to the point where they convince themselves that what they are doing it alright (even though at some level they know it’s not).

        Liked by 2 people

      • I had an interesting discussion on this with a buddy last night…

        The way I see it, a lot of life comes down to coping mechanisms. We develop these coping mechanisms as children, and we end up finding something that “works for us” (even if/when it really doesn’t).

        Change is super hard for people, because often their issues are self imposed, maybe not *created* but at the very least perpetuated by broken coping mechanisms. So people may be terribly unhappy due to their own behaviors, but to them it’s what they know.

        Now, when it comes to people being willing to listen – generally they won’t. Because no matter how much harm their approach is doing, it’s what they know, and change is scary.

        The ONLY time people will actually embrace change and start to become accountable is when their coping mechanisms fail completely. They eventually find themselves in a situation that there’s nothing else to hide behind. No one else to blame, no way to rationalize.

        It’s only when that happens, and they accept that “hey, the problem is actually me” that they are ready to get proper help and accept change.

        That’s why trying to show others how much damage their behavior is doing doesn’t work. Interventions don’t work. No one can ever convince someone that they need help – they need to come to that conclusion on their own. but they will never come to that conclusion when there’s something else they can blame.

        That’s my take on things anyhow.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You will like Carl Rogers, as he does believe that change happens when someone comes for help and when the therapist is non-directive but accepting and understanding.
        The theory on the motivation of change is applicable here too: Prochaska and DiClemente (1994).


  2. I am so glad I discovered your blog. Thank you for your articulate and passionate posts. This one in particular hits home, as my serial cheating ex and his (latest?) affair partner are getting married within a few days.

    The first time this woman met my then 16-year old daughter, she tried to endear herself by saying “You can’t help who you fall in love with.” Oh really? That may be true but you sure can help if you act on that urge to sleep with a married family man while you are still married yourself. And don’t even get me started on him.

    Accountability. Ahem.

    Liked by 2 people

    • “You can’t help who you fall in love with”.

      I have a number of posts where I argue vehemently against that. I don’t believe that at all. There are conditions that lead to “falling in love”, and people make the choices that put them in those positions.

      I could go on. And have. But yeah, I agree

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you, great post, as usual :).

    As you are a glass is half full, kind of guy, you probably love Carl Rogers, who stated that although not naive, as he knew very well that people are capable to doing cruel acts and destructive and horrible and hurtful things, he still believed (based on 25 years of being a therapist) that people have “basically a positive direction”. He stated that out of defensiveness and fear, people can act antisocial and mean.
    Carl Rogers used to word to “permit” himself to understand another person, which he wrote is highly rewarding. He stated that the more a person is accepted and understood, the more they will drop the false fronts, and the more they move in the direction that brings them forward.

    Unconditional positive regard…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      I have to admit, I couldn’t place the name Carl Rogers at first. But after looking him up I’m definitely familiar with his work on self-actualization.

      I completely agree with his characteristics of a fully functioning person.

      I don’t think someone necessarily has to “be all they can be” in order to be happy. Some people have gifts and abilities and for whatever reason they choose not to pursue them. And I think you can still “self-actualize” if you are able to make peace with your decisions of WHY you chose not to pursue them.

      One area that I think becomes a problem for many people is fear. We often allow fear (of failure, or of rejection) prevent us from doing things.

      I’ll have to brush up on my Carl Rogers, because I really like the bits that I know.

      Thanks for mentioning him.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Carl Rogers (1902-1987), the founder of the humanistic psychological movement is next to Albert Ellis (REBT) and Aaron Beck (CT) and some of the neo-Freudians arguably the foundation every therapist (I believe) should be familiar with.

        In the field of psychotherapy/counselling there are at least 600+ approaches and like apps for the i-devices, new ones pop up like crazy. I receive all the time new invitations to become trained in yet another “superficial” but so-called radical new approach “all therapists should know about”.

        When people study the classics, however, they will see that all that came after, offers nothing new. Most have picked parts of the founders’ and not always with appropriately giving credit.

        Maslow made self-actualization popular. No bad word about him :).

        I enjoyed your post. The part on integrity stood out for me. Indeed kids can learn what is wrong and what is good when they have empathy (see Goleman). Most are born with the potential to have empathy. It can be fostered and developed through unconditional love. Those who are not loved (accepted) for who they are will always seek it or steal it and artificially obtain the recognition and admiration they were withheld when forming. They will do everything to get it. Cheating in all forms is one of those methods. They are the unjust…(stealing your words), but not directly out of choice. Carl Rogers believed that by giving to those, unconditional positive regard, you give them what they never had and you free them up to become who they really are or who they can be.
        Unconditional love and the fostering of empathy will prove Plato wrong…they cannot be corrupted. I agree with you.

        Liked by 1 person

      • As I said, I’ll have to read more Carl Rogers. From what you have indicated and from what I have read, I suspect I will agree with his approaches.

        I’ve read Beck and really like his work, but haven’t read Ellis. Always more to read than there is time to do so 😦

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This actually makes me think about Bill Clinton… And the Gyges ring.
    I watched a video of Bill Clinton years after the whole Lewinsky thing, and when asked about it he said “because I could”. He wasn’t being cocky, he was making a statement about how no one held him accountable. That happens a lot with people in positions of power. There comes a time when there really are no consequences, you’re the one calling the shots and in your mind and everyone else’s those moral infractions seem slight.
    When it comes down to it, the Gyges ring does eliminate consequences and it does provide a cloak, but it seems to cover our own eyes to what we are doing, and makes us think it is ok. (2 cents 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think power breeds entitlement, and entitlement is the REAL issue there.

      I wrote a few posts a few months on expectations vs. entitlement.

      Expectations seem to get a bad rep right now – with the notion that people should never expect things from other people, and that doing so only opens them up to disappointment. I completely disagree with that. I think expectations are healthy, and are actually an important part of ALL relationships. Because expectations lay the groundwork for boundaries, and people need clear boundaries in order to feel accepted and valued.

      Entitlement on the other hand is a huge problem. Yeah, I can expect something from you – but that doesn’t mean you have to meet that expectation. You’re an individual, capable of making your own choices and doing what you want. I should never believe that just because I want/expect something, I will get it.

      In my mind it goes back to something I was taught about rights and responsibilities. They go hand in hand, having a “right” to something means someone else has a responsibility to provide that thing. And if I believe I have a right to something, then I will in turn have responsibilities to that person in exchange for the right. As soon as one person breaks this unspoken agreement, the both the right and responsibility go away. You can’t have one without the other.

      Entitlement to me is a one way street. It’s where someone believes that they deserve something, either in virtue of who they are (some level of power), or because they feel it’s part of an exchange where they have done their part so now they deserve what someone “owes them”.

      I try to approach life with the idea of a team. I like the notion of being part of something bigger than me, and although I enjoy leadership type positions I always see myself as just one part of something no matter what role I play. In any team, there are team goals and individual goals. And the most successful teams to me are ones where the team goals line up fairly well with the individual goals, so individuals are willing to sacrifice some of their personal goals with the understanding that many of thier personal goals will still be met, but they are also contributing to something larger.

      Hmm, not really sure how that relates back to your original comment – but that’s my steam of consciousness for you.


      Liked by 2 people

      • I think having a team mentality, or at least acknowledging our actions do effect others would remove that cloak a little bit. What you were saying about how there comes a time when the external morals are held internally is true, and I think applies here.
        I really don’t think Clinton (and countless other men in positions of power) really felt like they were doing anything wrong. A lot of times people will think “well if its not hurting anybody…and what they don’t know wont hurt them…” That is a really messed up sort of logic, or at least a really lazy one, but I really think that many people don’t realize how their actions do effect other people, as well as how it effects themselves.
        Anyway- to sum it up, if you regard others as important as yourself, like in a team mentality, you will less likely feel as though your actions only effect you and may be more willing to see the damage it can do…

        Liked by 1 person

    • About Bill:
      But he could not! He thought he could….but he is ridiculed and will be ridiculed forever, long after his death, he will be remembered as the president who thought he could…It has cost him…and her too and rightly so.
      It is “easier” for those in an authority position at any firm where there are policies. Being caught with their pants down being inappropriate with a consenting junior is reason for disciplinary action, often immediate dismissal with no severance package and the consenting “junior” will get the boot too (unless she turns it into an harassment case).
      Consequences in this case are punishment, but both can have a life afterwards….Clinton and Lewinsky….will never be cleared. The media will make sure we always remember!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know you are right in some sense, Elisabeth, but it seems silly and harsh to exemplify them as the Washington floozy’s when that kind of stuff is really, really common.
        If I spent time to look up the names, I could list at least a dozen other senators/congressmen that have been caught, and in much more graphic ways.
        Not condoning the behavior, for anyone, but I don’t think those consequences, like the media have any real effect on changing the person or behavior. It is definitely a punishment sort of thing, and I feel like it is a little ridiculous at times.
        Like wearing the scarlet letter, or being ostracized in high school. Punitive and damaging, but doesn’t effect change.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I know what you mean. The reason I placed it was in response to a reply to Zombiedrew2…”because he could”, and my reply was “he could not” and there were consequences and they are more than life long…even after he is long death and buried. it will be dredged up. Tell me about it, I know it is common! I am sure, I am not the only one who saw “poor Bill” in another way…it was his consistent lying that did him in…
        I disagree with you: Bill thought he could, but he could not, and fair or not the consequences will be there timeless…
        There is a large group who may sympathize: those who cheated too…those who also thought they could….but in the end….they were caught and ridiculed….

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hey Elisabeth,
        I agree that he did stupid stuff. The larger point I was trying to make was how power can blind everyone so easily (that may even be the real cloak, or magic ring…).
        I quoted the words he spoke “Because I could” because they have stuck with me for so long.
        He really wasn’t being cocky, he was completely defeated, and that is the answer he gave to “Why” he did what he did.
        Obviously, he didn’t get away with it. But at the time it was going on, no one said anything about it.
        Nobody challenged him about it.
        That is the point I was trying to make. (It really has nothing to do with Clinton, personally. You could put in the guys from the Enron scandal, and they may have a similar answer.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Dig the stream of consciousness- that’s uaually how I roll (for better or worse).
    It actually does make sense- I will try to write a more in depth response in a while.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Reblogged this on Marriage, Relationships and commented:
    My post 50 was going to be something special. I prepared myself to write about the long term consequences of affairs. Research is sparse, or actually practically non-existent. The post on “morals” from zombiedrew2 touched upon so many interesting and related thoughts, I felt that it was important to have these included.
    Many thanks, zombiedrew2!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Interesting post, and I agree.

    I have found in recent years (I’m late 50s) that the only really, truly reliable motivator for me is doing things to be the person who I want to be.

    So I haven’t not (nice double negative, sorry) had an affair because I don’t want to do that to my wife (in a decade-long absolutely touchless marriage), and I haven’t done it because social or religious or other values say I shouldn’t. I haven’t done it because it would be “using” or misleading or otherwise harming the other woman. I used to think maybe it was because I was a chicken 😉 but that isn’t it, either. It’s just because _I_ choose to be a person who doesn’t do that while I’m married. If and when I feel I really need to express my sexuality, if we haven’t fixed this problem within our marriage, I will divorce my wife _before_ I entertain the idea of a sexual relationship with another woman.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jack,

      I applaud your stance here, and it’s one that I share wholeheartedly.

      All marriages face challenges, and it’s up to each person to decide if that challenge is sufficient reason to leave the marriage, or if it’s something they can live with. And if that person chooses to leave the marriage, it should always (in my mind) be because they made a choice that the issue was not one they can live with. Hopefully only after they have made it clear to their partner that this is important to them, and after the partner has shown no willingness to try and find a middle ground.

      A touchless marriage would absolutely kill me. When it comes to love languages, I’m a touch guy (well, that and quality time – but the quality time kinda needs to have at least SOME sort of touch in it). To me, it’s the little things like touch (sexual and non-sexual), hugging, cuddling, holding hands, and yes – sex, that makes a couple a couple. That’s what differentiates them from just being “buddies”. And while having a good friendship is definitely important, but lovers and having it a part of your life in some capacity is equally important. I can’t have one without the other.

      Sexless relationships are on the rise, and while they would absolutely suck (unless both parties are alright with it) to me it would NEVER be an excuse for an affair. It IS however a perfectly valid reason to leave a marriage.

      Are you able to discuss this with your wife, and if so is there an understanding on her end on how damaging it (presumably) is to you? To me effort goes a long way, but if someone isn’t even showing that they care and isn’t even trying? Well, at that point it’s not much of a “relationship”.

      I’ve actually written a fair bit about sexless relationships, and I see them as largely a communication issue. Unfortunately it’s a very difficult topic for couples, but it’s an important one.

      All the best – I hope you are able to find some sort of resolution to this.


  8. Integrity.. thank you for highlighting the right word!
    The part where you spoke about not being able to face your own self if you were to ever get into an affair:
    I think all of us have a different way of taming our conscience.. and when we are put in such situations with a new person like the ones you mentioned in the post, we tend to pay a deaf ear to our screaming conscience. Again, like you said, its about the consequences most of the time. “What’s the worse that could happen if I continue? And why would I let it screw up my life in the first place? I can handle it” is how our mind tends to shush our conscience.

    So what I’m saying is that facing ourselves doesn’t even make it to the list of reasons in my opinion. Because the whole affair-phase is nurtured on this very union of our mind and our conscience. Its when they combine and make the person believe in his actions that the affair is born. Of course like someone on the comment section said, if only we were willing to listen to the outside world and the right and wrong, would we at least at some point realize the cost of our actions. But at which stage of the affair that happens is again difficult to tell.

    There are so many things that come into the picture when we talk about affairs. The rush we feel with new relations, when it turns into a habit, then an addiction, and then turns into a part of our life we are just not willing to give up no matter what, because we value that new relation way too much now. Our hearts turn fearless and stubborn. We become willing to push our limits to the extent till it tears us apart.

    Our emotions and perspectives and priorities constantly change in affairs, so its difficult to even study the nature of affairs in general.

    Thank you for an amazing post, yet again! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: A Life Without Regret | thezombieshuffle

  10. Thank you so much for this post. I have been trying to find reason in times of madness and this really does shed light. Affairs are unfair, and I have been digging into the topics of right and wrong and self… does one become so oblivious to what is right, for them and for those in their world…how do they harm partners themselves and even the “others”….I know my own moral code, you are right, I assumed I knew my husbands as well…it should have been a topic of many deep discussions prior to marriage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You mention moral codes, but I’m not really sure if that matters. From what I know, many of the people who have affairs are people who “never thought they would do that”.

      So the question becomes, why? Why would someone?

      They have to understand how badly their actions will impact their partner. And I’ll assume that at least at some point in time, they actually loved their partner. So how can they do that to someone they have professed to love?

      To me, an affair is the ultimate selfish act in a relationship. It’s also a cowardly act. If the relationship was so bad that they want to find in escape in someone else, then they should have been willing to end the primary relationship first. If they don’t, they are really trying to play both sides.

      So why, and how could someone do that?

      I don’t have a ton of evidence to back up my answer here, but I suspect some form of mental health issue is often at play. Depression, anxiety, bipolar etc.

      In depression and anxiety, there is a condition known as anhedonia (I’ve written on it in the past). With anhedonia people often lose the ability to really feel. They are emotionally dead. And in this state, they can only feel “intense” emotions, such as anger – or passion.

      Many people who have had affairs talk about just “wanting to feel alive again”.

      When I hear that, personally I think anhedonia is probably at play and there is an underlying mental issue.

      Now, some will counter “yeah I was depressed, but I was depressed because I was in a bad marriage”. Maybe, or maybe not. Either way, they owe it to their partner (and themselves really) to deal with the depression first. Because while clinically depressed, your ability to make good decisions is greatly hampered.

      Bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder also are conditions that see extremely high incidence of affairs. In both cases empathy has broken down, and in bipolar affairs are common during the manic state.

      Anyhow, those are just my thoughts on it. Because although affairs happen a lot, they are NOT normal (or acceptable) behaviour.


      • Sort of musing here, not really making assertions one way or the other…

        I read a lot about what an affair does to your partner and to be sure it’s devastating. One of the most cruel aspects (again, my view only and not speaking from personal experience) is leaving your partner in a position where even if they’re willing to extend trust again they have to continually ask themselves if they’re being foolish. There’s a self-respect/self-confidence issues complex that seems to be particularly hard on the betrayed partner.

        But, still musing at the keyboard, I think maybe the partner who has an affair actually betrays themselves worst of all. I guess that depends somewhat on the person’s moral compass, but I really don’t think I’d ever forgive myself. It would be like going through each day with a manhole cover chained around my neck. I don’t think I’d ever get free of it, and it would put a horrible bend in how I lived each day. 😦 It’s probably inherent in the nature of the situation, but I think people who having affairs think enough about the impact on THEMSELVES.

        And I wonder if an affair really is the ultimate betrayal? Pouring nothing but contempt on your spouse is certainly a huge betrayal, as is withdrawing from the marriage, emotionally or physically. Consciously turning away from your spouse, hardening your heart and shutting the relationship as a living marriage off, is a huge betrayal. Giving in to addictions that cripple your ability to give is another betrayal. There are so many ways to betray the promises we made to each other – I am not certain that sex outside the marriage is the worst…and I’m not even sure it’s the sex that is the worst part of that? – maybe it’s the lying, the deceit, the broken trust?

        Dunno…don’t have the experience to say, academically or personally. All I know is that this stuff is hard. Maybe it’s meant to be and we find the gift when we stop looking for it, after we’ve persevered through deserts and storms and earthquakes. Drew, feel free to not post this if it’s way too much rambling!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Jack, you raise some really good points. I’ve talked to a number of people over the past few years who have the unhappy revelation of an affair, and from that I think you are right in saying it’s not the sex outside the marriage that is the worst. And actually, in my opinion someone doesn’t even need to be having sex in order to have an affair. So sex, although “usually” part of it, isn’t the big part.

        You list a number of other things, like withdrawing from a marriage emotionally and physically and consciously turning away from your spouse. And I think those often go hand in hand with the affair.

        But really, I think it’s the broken trust, with the lying and deceit that is the killer here.

        If you think of something like Mazlows heirarchy of needs, at the bottom we have our foundational needs – which are all about physiological safety and security. The way I see it, trust is a key component of safety. If I don’t trust you, how can I possibly feel safe with you? So when someone lies and deceives in a fundamental way (like an affair), the sense of “safety” within the relationship is destroyed. And until that safety can be re-established (if that’s even possible), it’s impossible for the higher functions of the relationship to happy. Because they are build on a broken foundation.

        With an affair you add a number of other issues. Usually the cheater is putting all sorts of mental and emotional energy into their affair partner, while they are leaving their actual partner high and dry. And in addition to the mental and emotional energy, they are also spending money on trips/hotels/gifts etc to help fuel the affair.

        The person who is being cheated on often knows “something” is wrong in the relationship, but they don’t actually know what. So they are frustrated and confused by the lack of connection and/or effort on the part of their partner. Then when they find out about the affair, the betrayal is more a matter of the time and energy that has been effectively stolen from the marriage, and spent with the other person. All the things their partner wouldn’t give them, they find out has been given to someone else.

        I think THAT, more than the sex, is where the betrayal comes in.


  11. I’m not sure whether links to other websites are acceptable, but if they are, I’d like to mention that anyone who wants an up-close, personal view of what having an affair does to the other partner in vivid color should read the (many) posts here:

    It’s better to start at the beginning and work forward – they story will make more sense.

    The pain and harm are very vividly narrated. I can’t imagine reading that and not having your eyes opened wide. You’d either have to have no empathetic capacity or really, really hate your spouse not to feel this in your heart and in the pit of your stomach.

    As always, feel free to ignore this if it’s outside site policies!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Jack, can’t say I really have any site policies. Links are cool, as long as I think they are relevant (or related to NBA basketball or Batman – but I guess those are always relevant in some way).

      I actually used to follow that blog, and found it a very interesting and powerful personal journey.

      When a relationship is challenged for whatever reason, the decision to stay or go is always a personal one. And no one can ever fairly judge a person for the decisions they make.

      Thanks for passing this along.


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