Monday, January 18, 2010

The hope of the hypocrites. Or, Tiger, meet Jimmy.

I have a closing thought or two on the Tiger Woods scandal and the topic of infidelity in the overall...hence the title. After we get that out of the way, my plan is to take a bit of a hiatus during which I'll be reorganizing SHAMblog more tightly around the goal of "consumer utility." There will be fewer/shorter rants (like, say, this one), more news-you-can-use, different ongoing features in the righthand sidebar. I may be phasing some of these changes in graduallyin fact, I almost surely willso even if you don't see too many actual posts going up in the next few days or weeks, you might consider checking in anyway just to see what changes in format/layout have materialized since the last time. Feedback is always welcome.

Why am I doing this? It's simple. T
he blog has grown incrementally through the years, and that's gratifying. Right now we have a dedicated core group of several hundred visitor-contributors as well as a rotating cast of an additional few hundred casual drop-ins. That readership may double for a time when self-help makes headlines (as happened recently in Sedona) or when your host publishes something that captures the public imagination (as happened with my recent writings on the "vanity tax" for the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere). Our reach, as regulars know, is global: One of the "funnest" things to me is opening up the map on my stat-tracker program and seeing a little flag signifying a first-time visit from some remote outpost in Finland or Indonesia.

And yet I'd be lying if I said that
SHAMblog has ever truly fulfilled my founding vision of its becoming the "go-to" venue for all who are skeptical (or just curious) about latter-day self-help and related phenomena. We'll see if the contemplated changes, together with that Big News I keep hinting at, are able to put us over the top. I don't think I'm being immodest in proposing that the top is where these sorts of discussions deserve to take place, as they touch on every single aspect of the way life is lived in modern-day America.

=========================

Getting back t
o Tiger: Some years ago in Indianapolis I met a guy through baseball who swore himself to absolute fidelity in his marriage. He was determined to be "a Christian husband." He said such things even among The Guys, which I thought courageous and unusual inasmuch as most men, including the genuinely committed ones, don't like to "sound gay" around other malesand a lot of men think it "sounds gay" to profess zero interest in women besides your partner-of-record. As if it's a betrayal of the species somehow.

But here's the thing. One day we're sitting around talking, waiting for our turns in the batting cage, and the discussion goes a bit deeper than it normally might. So I ask the guy if he ever feels even a pang of lust for another woman. "Oh, I feel plenty of lust," he replies. Pause.

Then he adds, without being prompted, "But I manage it by fantasizing. In my fantasies I can have any woman I want. And that way I'm still faithful to my wife."

And I immediately thought of Jimmy Carter.

Older readers may recall that it was former president Carter who famously confessed that, though he'd never actually stepped out on Rosalynn, he had "committed adultery in [his] heart" numerous times. Many political insiders felt that Carter did himself irreparable damage with those lines, spoken to Playboy in 1976, when America wasn't yet accustomed to politicians being caught with their flies down.* Notwithstanding the onrushing sexual revolution, marital fidelity was considered a sine qua non of political viability, especially for a man who sought national office.

We really need to assess statements like those by Carter and my ex-baseball buddy in their most literal sense. These men committed adultery in their hearts. That's a somewhat more poetic way of saying that they fantasized about committing adultery with their penises. You wonder: When exactly did Jimmy Carter and my baseball pal do this fantasizing? How far did they take it? To my mind, if you're fantasizing about a woman who doesn't happen to be the one who's currently in bed with you, and you take that fantasy to completion...congratulations...you have just committed actual adultery. Maybe it's not quite the same as going to Vegas and banging everything that moves. No matter. It's still a betrayal.

This isn't just warmed-over Catholic guilt talking, either. (Come on, you know me by now: Would you expect Catholic guilt from me?) Rather it's a matter of common sense and ethical f
air play. By every moral and rational yardstick, a person who gets off on such imaginings is an adulterer. Your fantasies tacitly say to your partner, "I would've had sex with that person (instead of you, dear) if I could've done so without throwing our lives into chaos." Or even if we're charitable about it and leave off the last part, you're still saying, "I just find that person hotter than I find you." I suppose, like my baseball buddy, you could counter with something like this: My commitment to my partner is what holds me back from putting my fantasies into action. It's just not right to cheat, and I never want to hurt her. But let's get real: When you're thinking of someone else at the moment of orgasm, what does that say about your "commitment"?

And let's face it...if you're faithful-but-fantasizing primarily because Kim Kardashian won't return your calls and/or you're worried about losing your job in today's tough market, that's not exactly nobility in action.


It's also important to emphasize that the case I make here is a very different business from my longstanding advocacy of free thought, and my opposition to legal actions that are rooted in the endeavor to police thoughts and feelings. I
believe that in just about every case, the "official" approach to adult sexuality should be as follows (and no pun intended): Hands off. This is from a man who once lost a very good job in part because he said he saw nothing wrong with employees having sex in their offices on their own time (e.g. during lunch) as long as they were reasonably quiet about it and didn't leave too much of a mess behind. (I thought it would be good for morale.) It's just that legality is not the same as morality or, in this case, hypocrisy.

Do I think people should be punished for what they think (regardless of what they think)? No. Not by any governmental agency. I think people are legally free to fantasize about whomever they want, at any time. They're legally free to fantasize about having sex with someone and then killing him or her. But do I think it's hypocrisy of the highest order when people congratulate themselves for their fidelity while fantasizing about others? Yes, I do.

You say you disagree? Then let me ask you this: How many of you confess your fantasies to your husband or wife? "Ohh, baby, let me tell you, I just had the most amazing orgasm thinking of the office-supply salesperson. Wow!"

Cheating is cheating, folks. Whether it occurs within the privacy of your head or in Suite 508 at the downtown Marriott.

* JFK had always been a special case. His many rumored (and later confirmed) indiscretions were considered "romantic," part of the whole Camelot mystique.

37 comments:

RevRon's Rants said...

Sorry, Steve, but I think you're completely off-base on this one. Extrapolating on your logic, if someone is on a sugar-free diet and fantasizes about eating chocolate mousse, they're being a hypocrite. While the ultimate level of integrity is to exercise right thoughts as well as right actions all the time, from a human perspective, that integrity means that we refrain from acting upon thoughts and desires that are harmful, self-destructive, or somehow debasing.

I admit to having fantasies about other women sometimes. When there's something about a woman that matches my criteria for ultimate hotness, the thought - and yes, the desire - arises (pun intended). That I don't act on every desire is a matter of impulse control, which I believe to be a significant factor in human integrity. And yes, I admit my fantasies to Connie (sometimes, doing so has an extraordinary effect!). To be truthful (more so than is probably appropriate), she's firmly planted in those fantasies, anyway. 'Nuff said.

I don't buy that this makes me a hypocrite. (I've got plenty of other flaws that take care of that). It makes me human.

Actually, I'd toss it right back at you, and posit that anyone who denies ever fantasizing at all about someone other than their committed mate is likely either approaching a state of asexuality, is in a state of profound denial, or is being hypocritical themself.

And keep in mind that this is coming from a guy who grew up in a half-Baptist, half-Jewish household. And if you think Catholics do guilt... :-)

Athol Kay said...

I think there is quite a difference between actually having sex with someone other than your spouse and just fantasizing about it. I certainly would feel quite quite differently about walking in on my wife in the middle of either situation.

I think the harsh truth with sexual cheating is just like money, we all seem to have our price. Morality works just fine up to our price, and when the price is right, we cash out our morality and take the less moral option.

For some of us the price is high, some the price is low.

Martha said...

I don't think it's unfaithful to fantasize about other people. It's unfaithful to lie to your partner of record (and the aforementioned other people, for that matter) about the status of your pants and that tan line on your left ring finger. To say that you don't fantasize about others is a big fat lie. And I would never want my significant honey to ever try to snow me.

The big pain is the lie. You can lie just as assuredly while lying in your very own bed keeping your hands to your, uhm, self as you can out tomcatting with skanks.

Now, sanitation. And the small question of how many people are going to show up at the reading of your will...well those are other matters altogether.

As for being attracted to others outside the cozy confines of your mutual promise to your significant partner? That's why God made kleenex.

Markus said...

So all men have to do is fantasize about having sex with another woman and they've committed adultery? Sounds like Taliban propaganda to me.

Anonymous said...

I agree with RevRon: a vegetarian who craves a bacon cheeseburger while eating a soy burger is still a practicing vegetarian, right?

It's all about the action. And it applies in the opposite way, too: those who preach about helping others and giving to charity - yet they don't manage to do either. They have not accomplished their act of virtue; rather, they have just talked about it.

If you are going to accomplish something - being unfaithful or being charitable, you need actions; not just thoughts.

Admit it Steve, you just like judging others who profess self righteousness as being sanctimonious.

Mardi said...

Steve, the more I read your blog, the more I am getting turned off marriage. I think I'll stay single!

Anyway, on the topic of housekeeping. I think your blog could be very big indeed. May I suggest you get your own domain and use a platform like Wordpress which would help with rankings and you can customise the look to your heart's content. Blogger is somewhat limiting.

Steven Sashen said...

I'm trying to wrap my brain around the logic of this one as well.

So, in what other domains does imagining the event equal the crime? If I imagine shoplifting am I a criminal? Or is it only if I imagine shoplifting and have an orgasm at the thought of making it out of the 7-11 with a pocket-full of Slim Jims?

Speaking of which, why is the orgasm what separates fantasy from adultery? What if I imagine being with someone else but only get really, really, really close to climaxing... and then stop?

Yekaterina said...

You can deny it all you like Steve, this is thought police stuff.

It sounds like you are saying it's morally wrong to fantasize about someone other than one's mate and that it's some kind of betrayal when a person thinks someone hotter than their spouse? Thank goodness I don't have to live up to your (warped?) standards!

And when I fantasize about my husband with other men, am I committing adultery? Or is he?

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Mynahnni said...

Certainly, it is a deception to one's significant partner when secretly fantasizing about another, but on the other hand, an urge can often take one by surprise. I suppose that if fantasy comes too easy, it may signify discontent within the relationship itself.

Interesting post. It reminds me of "All in the Family" when Gloria bought a wig.

Steve Salerno said...

Hmmm. I suspect we have a lot of fantasizers in this group. :)

Our partners are not cheeseburgers or vegetarian dishes. Our partners have expectations of loyalty. If you're a vegetarian and you're thinking about the cheeseburger, the other vegetables in your fridge aren't hurt. To that point, I would emphasize, again, my closing question in the post: How many of you would actually say that (about the wonderful orgasm achieved via fantasy) to your partner? If you would, then fantasy-play works for you, just as open marriage works for some couples. But my point is, if you're keeping it secret (which I suspect the vast majority of fantasizers do) then you know it's a form of disloyalty. You know your partner would be hurt, perhaps even crushed. That's because your partner realizes, as you should, that if you were thinking about someone else throughout the entire sex act, up to and including the point of climax, then for all philosophical and emotional purposes you just had sex with that other person. You were using your partner's body as a convenient tool.

There's a larger, implied point here, however, that no one seized upon. This post goes to (or let's say I intended it to go to) the question of whether monogamy is realistic. My own feeling is that--once again--we have these little "deals" we cut with ourselves (e.g. no actual cheating but lots of fantasizing and masturbation) so that we can continue to view ourselves as "pure"--just like the growing number of young women who indulge in anal sex so that they can continue to regard themselves as virgins. It's a huge sham, if I may be pardoned the use of a self-serving word. And so yes, in the end, though "judgment" may be too strong a term, I have to agree with the assessment of Anon 11:05: I do enjoy slamming "those who profess self-righteousness" for their sanctimony.

Final note to Mardi: Don't be turned off on marriage. Despite all the cynicism voiced here (and through the past 3.5 years), the union of two people who truly belong together is blessed and transcendent. There is nothing else on earth like it.

RevRon's Rants said...

I think that lumping one's having occasional fantasies together with open marriage is a real stretch. One is thought, the other, action, with dramatically different levels of cause & effect. And for one who professes to abhor the notion of thought police...

By the same token, not many (if any) couples "make love" every time they couple. Sometimes, they just screw. No sense of tenderness in the act this time, honey; I just wanna get off. Following the logic you describe, such encounters would constitute using one's partner; certainly an act worthy of harsh judgment, right?

And if you were able to entice your partner into such a liaison by being extra nice to her, buying her a trinket, taking her to dinner, or touching her in a way that you know excites her, would you not have effectively made her a whore, at least in your own mind? After all, the coin of the realm can take many forms.

I think it comes down to whether one has a need to harshly judge others' behavior, likely borne of a sense that one's own behavior warrants harsh judgment. Those nuns can really do a number on folks, can't they? :-)

RevRon's Rants said...

Not through yet... I think that trust is at the core of this issue. And before we can extend that trust to our partner (or anyone else), we have to know that *we* are capable of being trusted ourselves. If we doubt our own ability to trust, by extension, we are prone to doubting another's trustworthiness.

I was once in a committed (albeit doomed) relationship with a woman, and was presented with the opportunity to have a fling with one of her friends, a woman whom - by any standard - was drop dead gorgeous. To add further enticement, she was not the kind of person who would throw herself at my partner's feet afterward and beg forgiveness. And the icing on the cake was that I was scheduled to leave on a business trip, and could have taken her up on her offer without raising suspicion. I could have gotten away with it, no problem.

Was I titillated & tempted? Damn straight! Did I do it? No. And in hindsight, I realized that the one thing stopping me was the realization that even if my partner didn't know about it, I would have. I would have always known in my heart that I was not worthy of my partner's trust, and I didn't think I could accept that. Besides, my memory is too bad to allow me to sustain a lie for any extended period.

As to whether my current partner feels betrayed when, for example, Liv Tyler appears onscreen and I get that special twinkle in my eye... I think she knows that a twinkle and a thought are as far as I'd allow it to go, even on the incalculably remote chance that the opportunity would arise. Unless, perhaps, she was there to help. :-)

I might be something of a horn-dog, but I'm HER horn-dog, and she knows it. :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Ron: I understand what you're saying, but I still feel that we're using lots of words here to try and paper over a truism that no one wants to face. So let me ask you point-blank: Later that same night, the night of Liz Tyler, are you going to turn to your partner and say, "You know, tonight's sex was especially hot. I mean, I just couldn't get Liz Tyler out of my mind the whole time!"... I don't think so. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think so.

And thus I come back to what my long-suffering wife told me many moons ago: "If it has to be kept secret--if it's something you wouldn't want your partner to know--then it's a betrayal." This applies not only to sex but also to money, bad habits (drinking/drug use) and other staple issues of the supposedly partnered life.

Incidentally, now that I think of it, let me ask you this: If the barometer here is whether or not actual physical sex takes place, then is it or isn't it adultery to engage in cybersex/mutual masturbation with a willing online partner that you never actually meet?

RevRon's Rants said...

Again Steve, it all comes down to trust. To answer your first question: you are wrong. I have no problem telling Connie what's going through my head at any given point; as a matter of fact, I feel I owe it to her. The only times I withhold expressions of how I feel or what I'm thinking are when I'm angry, and might be prone to saying something hurtful for the sole purpose of hurting. In those cases, I tend to scowl in silence until the anger passes, at which time, I will open up. What I *do* in a given circumstance needn't always be a comprehensive expression of what I feel, especially when such actions will be hurtful, while the emotions that would drive those actions are transient.

I agree with your wife, by the way. That's why Connie & I don't keep secrets from each other. Nothing erodes trust than does the knowledge that one's partner isn't being forthright.

As to your final question, I do believe that engaging in cyber sex is a form of adultery. But the key word here is "engage." I will occasionally flirt with a woman whom I find attractive on some level - online or in person - but only so long as both of us are fully aware that it isn't going any further than double-entendres and generally joking around. And I wouldn't do it behind Connie's back, either. If I ever came to the point where I actually wanted someone else to replace her (and I can't see that happening), I'd leave first.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron: Well then, point(s) taken.

Cosmic Connie said...

I'm secretly having an affair with Liv Tyler. There, I said it. I am sorry you had to find out about it this way, Ron. :-)

All kidding aside, I have to side with Ron and the other moderates here. Fantasizing isn't the same thing as doing it, no matter what the LOA/thoughts-are-things crowd says. Not that I'm lumping you with THOSE folks, Steve, but still. I do see your point but just don't agree with it this time.

RevRon's Rants said...

Slut! Did you at least take video or pics? :-)

BTW, Steve... I didn't really answer your question re: my Liv Fest fantasy. I wouldn't wait until after the fact to tell Connie. :-)

Steve Salerno said...

I do happen to think that thoughts-are-things when the phenomena under discussion are, in fact, intangible and/or thoughts/feelings-based. Love is an emotion. It's not a "thing," in the most concrete sense of the term. Therefore, the way one thinks about love (or conceptualizes that love) determines the degree of commitment to that love...and can, in fact, erode the love itself. I'll give you an example, and it's a point that I think I made in "SHAM" (though it's been a long time since I've read that antiquated tome, wink): If you approach marriage (or any long-term relationship) with the notion that "if this fails, it's not the end of the world; I can always replace it," then I believe that the marriage/relationship is more likely to fail for the fact of that initial cynicism alone. From my POV, you have to be willing to put 100 percent of yourself on the line, to risk absolute emotional cataclysm, in order to sustain a solid love in these challenging times. That's why I'm also suspect of prenups. Anything that handicaps the degree of buy-in is more likely to turn into self-fulfilling prophecy.

That, however, is a very different proposition from thinking that if you wish a hurricane away, it will come onshore in someone else's neighborhood...

Martha said...

I just finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert's book Committed. And she quotes an expert on the subject of fidelity (sorry I can't quote it exactly, but I read it via kindle and then I deleted the file). This expert talks about walls and windows, especially vis a vis building relationships outside of marriage. If the external relationship works out that you're building more windows to that person and creating more walls to your spouse, that's infidelity and major danger signal for the health of the marriage relationship.

Never having been married, I can't say for sure. But I like that analogy. Open fantasizing (without rubbing it in, so to speak) is keeping windows open with your spouse.

NormDPlume said...

Steve:

Does this work the other way around?

Suppose Tiger Woods is having sexual intercourse with one of his not-so-hot-for-a-billionaire-jock (let's admit it, most of them were in Monica Lewinsky's league - not worth a phone call from Gloria Allred) and he's fantasizing about his hot wife. Is that still cheating? All the courts in the US would think so. And I'm not aware of any religions which would call it not cheating.

I say cheating determined by the man-tool and not the mental.

Dimension Skipper said...

I'm of the opinion that some things in life are either/or with no middle ground, but many other things fall on a spectrum with lots of brain-foggy atmosphere between.

To me this "thought as sin" concept is definitely the latter. I get the argument Steve is making, but it seems to me to be a matter of degree and a highly subjective personal one at that. What's "OK" for me to think might not be OK for someone else to think and vice versa of course. Channeling questionable or troubling thoughts into a actions (even actions of lesser guilt-inducing degree) is when the brain fog navigating begins.
____________

It amazes me sometimes how often at least one of my comics I check regularly seem to be right on topic...

Today's Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. (If you hover your mouse pointer over the red button below the comic you'll see a pop-up "Earlier" panel. No big deal, it just adds a little more context.)

WV: "pulatio"

I don't know... It sounds dirty, but I just can't quite put my finger on why...

;-)

LizaJane said...

Utterly ridiculous. Your thoughts are NOT your actions. And despite your protestations, you are, indeed, speaking from a guilt-ridden Catholic (fallen or not) standpoint.

You have not committed adultery unless you have committed adultery. And that involves another person, not your mind.

You cannot "sin in your heart." You can only sin with words and actions. Otherwise, all criminal THOUGHTS would be actionable offenses.

WHEN you have a particular thought doesn't make it any more or less sinful, either.

LizaJane said...

RevRon: Jews don't do "guilt" about things they THINK. Only things they DO. Judaism is an action-oriented, not faith-oriented religion. Until it becomes speech or action, it just doesn't count. The entire religion is based on deeds, not thoughts or beliefs. Yes, you need to pay attention to your thoughts, because if you allow it, they MIGHT eventually become actions. But thoughts are not punishable, and they are not sins.

Everyone/Steve: Anyone in a long-term, committed relationship -- male or female -- who doesn't fantasize, from time to time, about being with someone else -- or simply LOOKING at someone else -- is either brain dead or, well, actually dead.

Sure, there are probably one or two people out there right now who never have, never will, and would rather die than ever think about what it might be like to be intimate with someone other than their spouse/partner -- but there is probably something very wrong with those two people in other areas, as well, because that's just not normal.

The point of fidelity is that you DO, from time to time, have those thoughts, and those feelings, but you do not ACT on them, because you care enough about the spouse/partner in EVERY OTHER WAY, that you wouldn't let that one small area ruin the entirety of the relationship. You FORSAKE all others -- you don't FORGET all others.

And isn't that a bit more grown-up and realistic, and yes, even romantic, than thinking that you exchange some vows and sign a document and POOF! your entire mental and physical makeup changes fundamentally, forever? You never again have any desire of any kind beyond the person standing next to you? Seems not only ridiculous, but like you're setting yourself up for a lifetime of misery and resentment.

I am a HUGE proponent of fidelity. But what's going through a person's mind matters little. It's how the person ACTS that matters. You cannot be unfaithful by thinking something.

I'd guess (though I'm not foolish enough to ask) that my husband DOES, from time to time, imagine I'm Evangeline Lilly (or his young and nubile woman of choice), yet, because he knows and loves ME, as an individual to whom he has made a lifelong commitment, he sticks with me -- baby-ravaged body and all.

And it goes both ways. I'm sure he'd rather have me occasionally thinking about George Clooney (or whomever), than actually setting out LOOKING for a suitable substitute.

And your premise has a major problem: If I were so worried that thinking was the same as acting, then why not just go ahead an act... If it's the same thing, you might as well do it, right? Wrong.

LizaJane said...

Steve: It's not a matter of thinking of ourselves as "pure." Masturbation/fantasy anything that doesn't involve going outside the relationship other than inside one's own head, is not cheating. And "not cheating" doesn't make you PURE. It makes you FAITHFUL. If you're feeling "impure," that's something entire unrelated to being in a committed relationship. It's probably tied up in some religious worldview.

You don't promise your spouse to stop THINKING. You promise your spouse to honor and respect them as a person. And that doesn't include their entering your brain and policing your thoughts to make sure they don't "stray from them for even a second."

If fantasizing is a symptom of overall dissatisfaction, that's one thing -- it probably means there are bigger problems in the relationship. But if it means someone is understandably tired, after 5 or 15, or 25 years, of looking at the same face and body -- no matter how beloved or adored -- and for a few moments imagine it's, say, Dr. McDreamy's (or whomever's) face and body instead, well, who the heck cares? It's not infidelity, it's preservation. It's probably even reasonable and sensible.

Yes, monogamy is possible, but with YOUR incredibly and unnecessarily strict and limiting rules, it's not highly probable.

LizaJane said...

MARDI: Marriage isn't easy, but I've found that overall, it is wonderful.

LizaJane said...

RevRon: You're totally right about the "making love" vs. "screwing" thing. Any couple who ever actively attempted to create a baby can vouch for that!!

LizaJane said...

Steve (and to some extent Ron): I think your wife expects, and you accept as reasonable, a level of openness that is not only unreasonable, but in my opinion, ERODES intimacy. Sure, you might know every last thought the other person is having. But do you WANT to? And why?

If it works for you guys, great. But for me, I think there is something to be said for NOT sharing every last thought, desire, whim, fantasy, or dream that flits through my, or my husband's mind. I don't see "full disclosure" as necessarily the best road to a good relationship. No, I don't think you should LIE. But I do think that discretion is, often, the better part of valor.

People are so very, very casual these days. They just blurt out whatever they hell they think, justifying it with "Better to tell the full truth than withhold ANYTHING from my partner." But is every random thought actually "the truth?" Maybe it's just something that floated through your mind... perhaps something potentially, albeit, unintentionally, hurtful.

MORE...

LizaJane said...

...

The same way we don't actually SAY every nasty thing we think in the heat of any argument (at least with those we love), we don't have to reveal every thought we have during "neutral" times, either.

And really, is your every thought so very important that you must share it or your spouse will be "missing out?" Clearly, she thinks so. And that is a HUGE ego boost, isn't it? Even if it stems from insecurity on her part... it must surely make you feel important.

People think all sorts of things. And many of those things we would NOT want to share with anyone -- never mind a spouse, a best friend, or even a shrink. Not necessarily BAD or CRAZY things - just stupid, random, maybe even selfish or mean-spirited things. Things best left to drift out of our minds and our reality, never spoken, never "shared" and thus never given form and reality.

No, not every thought needs airing, not every whim needs disclosing. And just because you wouldn't want to divulge something to a spouse does not mean you are being unfaithful or secretive.

Your thoughts -- and that may or may not include fleeting desires of whatever nature -- do not belong to anyone but yourself. You may feel compelled to share them because you are, in fact, self-absorbed and narcissistic, while you tell yourself that you're just wanting to be "honest."

And no, keeping some thoughts to yourself doesn't constitute a "lie of omission" (unless the thought is "I don't love you" or "I had sex with the neighbor").

You haven't promised each other to MELD your brains, just to mesh your lives.

Have you told your wife every single thought, fantasy, and for that matter, experience, you had prior to meeting (and/or) committing to each other? If not, then why not? Perhaps because it's now "irrelevant."

But doesn't expecting complete disclosure now that you're married mean she expects your entire life -- including your INTERIOR life -- to revolve around her? And is that reasonable?

Maybe, just maybe, it's also a huge ego boost??? Wow -- she wants to, NEEDS to, INSISTS on, knowing my every thought. That must mean my thoughts are very important, indeed. Clearly, so important that I MUST share them to maintain total honesty.

I agree with you Ron, on this point: "And I wouldn't do it behind Connie's back, either." Note the word DO. You wouldn't DO it behind her back. But you could THINK it behind her back, and you don't need to TELL her about it. Especially if it's not indicative of any ongoing dissatisfaction (and only you can know if that is or isn't the case).

Just as I would NOT want my husband to use the bathroom with the door wide open, I do not need to know every random, animalistic thought or fantasy that flits through his mind.

Frankly I don't undestand double sinks. Who wants to watch someone brush their teeth? Gross.

Love and loyalty, to me, do NOT mean that you necessarily divulge every stray thought, every whim, every desire. Withholding and editing are not synonymous. And not every thought is worth sharing.

p.s. Sorry about disjointed writing -- kids are interrupting every few seconds.

Steve Salerno said...

LZJ: Wow. Quite a body of work, there. An oeuvre, I dare say. ;) And regardless of what follows, I do want to thank you, very much, for taking the time to put those thoughts together. It still boggles my mind that people make the commitment to this blog that they do, and I am never unappreciative.

Having said that, more than any other contributors, you and I seem to have ended up at the poles of this discussion. And really this is something of a landmark moment; seldom if ever, in my 3.5 years of running this medium, have I disagreed more vociferously with an exhaustive and elaborate argument made by a SHAMblogger.

First of all, I feel duty-bound to point out that part of your argument is taking place with a straw man: I tried to be very clear, in the post itself, in drawing a distinction between a sin and a crime. In my view, there is nothing that a person can think (or even say) that should be criminal, probably including "fire" in a movie theater and "I have a bomb" at the airport ticket counter. (I'm not happy with my position on those two, but I don't see how to get around it, logically.) However, there's a world of difference between criminality and immorality, formal culpability and "mere" disloyalty.

Second, if it's "OK" to have some secrets in a marriage...then who decides where those lines are drawn? That argument--"I don't want to hurt him/her"--could be used to justify almost anything, after all. Generally speaking, if you have secrets it's because you're doing something that (a) you know your partner wouldn't want you to do and/or (b) you know your partner would be hurt by. Is that not so? If you want to do something that you know your mate will dislike, then throw the issue open for discussion and see where it goes. Don't just do it and keep it secret.

Finally, I must here reiterate something I said in a prior comment, b/c I don't think I can voice the thought any better. (I'm not saying it's a brilliant thought; I just mean what I said above literally: I don't think I say it more clearly than I said it before.) The "fantasies are OK as long as I keep them to myself" line of argument is another one of those little "deals" we cut with ourselves so that we don't have to face the truth of what we're doing. People dislike the implications of certain thoughts and impulses, so they find ways of rationalizing them to remove the sting/stigma, thereby reassuring themselves that they're "good people" after all. I am reminded of Bill Clinton and his canny disquisition on the meaning of the word "is," apropos of whether he engaged in sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky. As we all know, he did indeed have sex with that woman, and we laugh out-loud at his artifice.

Funny how we don't laugh at ourselves when we perform similar logical gymnastics. There may be (and must be) a distinction between thought and action in the law...but when it comes to loyalty/disloyalty, if you bring another person to bed with you in the secrecy of your mind, you are cheating. You know it, and I know it.

Steve Salerno said...

LZJ: Wow. Quite a body of work, there. An oeuvre, I dare say. ;) And regardless of what follows, I do want to thank you, very much, for taking the time to put those thoughts together. It still boggles my mind that people make the commitment to this blog that they do, and I am never unappreciative.

Having said that, more than any other contributors, you and I seem to have ended up at the poles of this discussion. And really this is something of a landmark moment; seldom if ever, in my 3.5 years of running this medium, have I disagreed more vociferously with an exhaustive and elaborate argument made by a SHAMblogger.

First of all, I feel duty-bound to point out that part of your argument is taking place with a straw man: I tried to be very clear, in the post itself, in drawing a distinction between a sin and a crime. In my view, there is nothing that a person can think (or even say) that should be criminal, probably including "fire" in a movie theater and "I have a bomb" at the airport ticket counter. (I'm not happy with my position on those two, but I don't see how to get around it, logically.) However, there's a world of difference between criminality and immorality, formal culpability and "mere" disloyalty.

Second, if it's "OK" to have some secrets in a marriage...then who decides where those lines are drawn? That argument--"I don't want to hurt him/her"--could be used to justify almost anything, after all. Generally speaking, if you have secrets it's because you're doing something that (a) you know your partner wouldn't want you to do and/or (b) you know your partner would be hurt by. Is that not so? If you want to do something that you know your mate will dislike, then throw the issue open for discussion and see where it goes. Don't just do it and keep it secret.

Finally, I must here reiterate something I said in a prior comment, b/c I don't think I can voice the thought any better. (I'm not saying it's a brilliant thought; I just mean what I said above literally: I don't think I say it more clearly than I said it before.) The "fantasies are OK as long as I keep them to myself" line of argument is another one of those little "deals" we cut with ourselves so that we don't have to face the truth of what we're doing. People dislike the implications of certain thoughts and impulses, so they find ways of rationalizing them to remove the sting/stigma, thereby reassuring themselves that they're "good people" after all. I am reminded of Bill Clinton and his canny disquisition on the meaning of the word "is," apropos of whether he engaged in sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky. As we all know, he did indeed have sex with that woman, and we laugh out-loud at his artifice.

Funny how we don't laugh at ourselves when we perform similar logical gymnastics. There may be (and must be) a distinction between thought and action in the law...but when it comes to loyalty/disloyalty, if you bring another person to bed with you in the secrecy of your mind, you are cheating. You know it, and I know it.

RevRon's Rants said...

"when it comes to loyalty/disloyalty, if you bring another person to bed with you in the secrecy of your mind, you are cheating. You know it, and I know it."

Key word here is *secrecy,* Steve.

And LJ - Your assessment of the supposed motives behind what others - myself included - consider being open and honest are... well... interesting, anyway. Kind of reminds me of Freud & Miss Lucy, with a dash of condescension thrown in for good measure. :-)

If you go back and read the comments, I don't think you'll find anyone endorsing the sharing of every random thought or feeling. Bit of a stretch there, as well.

If you and your mate are happy with what you're doing, more power to you. Wouldn't work for us, though.

Yekaterina said...

I believe the main problem with your argument Steve is your misguided belief that we all think the same way you do, that we all have the same definition of morality, sin, disloyalty, cheating...etc. You say that fantasizing about another is cheating (and disloyal) you know it and I know it, but that is simply not true. You might know it, while I on the other hand do not. It's no different than you "knowing" homosexuality is wrong and a sin and stating that you know it and I know it and everyone who walks the face of the earth knows it. Really?

You have your opinion on the subject, and by all means you are welcome to have it, but your whole spiel, when you said that those who believe fantasizing is okay are just trying to justify their "bad" behavior in some sort of need to be a good person is...well...idiotic. Your whole argument rests on "your" opinion (and feelings) on the subject, that fantasizing about another not your spouse is bad, almost the same as adultery, and morally wrong.

A young teenage virgin who fantasizes about her school guidance counselor every night as she masturbates in the privacy of her own bedroom is...a promiscuous hussy? Is she being disobedient to her parents who trust her to not engage in premarital sex while living under their roof? Does she need to feel guilty, "come clean", and confess her nightly activities to them? Everything you say about sexual fantasies in the marriage bed sounds just as silly as the above scenario to me. (Maybe the above doesn't sound silly to you though, I don't know)

If I thought my sexual fantasies would turn my husband on, I'd share every single one of them in a heartbeat. (That seems to work well for some, like RevRon and Connie, lucky basterds.) The reason I don't share them is because I know my husband well and he would be soooo turned off. It has nothing at all to do with "knowing" that it's cheating and disloyal, and I would guess that many people who don't share their fantasies with their spouses do not do so for this exact reason. (or out of embarrassment even) If my husband shared his fantasies about other women with me it would turn me on, yet many people I know would be turned off by this, would find the "confession" offensive and disloyal. The spouses of the latter are supposed to completely turn off their spouses and risk ruining the couple's whole sex life out of some displaced sense of loyalty?

Bob Collier said...

Steve, I agree with you.

If I'm correct in my understanding of what it is you're actually saying.

I have my copy of SHAM now, btw, and am about half way through. What a shame it was published ahead of The Secret! Is there going to be a new edition with a juicy new chapter added by any chance?

Steve Salerno said...

Ykat: I remain unswayed, but your comment is impressive.

Bob: To answer your closing question, I can only wish. But maybe if I wish hard enough, I'll "attract" a revised edition?

a/good/lysstener said...

It's nice to think life could be as you see it, Steve, but that would be Utopia, not reality.

Bob Collier said...

"But maybe if I wish hard enough, I'll "attract" a revised edition?"

LOL

rarchimedes said...

Fantasies are just that...fantasies. We don't really know that other person in the same way that we do our spouse, nor do we share with them our daily lives or any commitment at all...that's what makes it a fantasy. I can get off to Janet Jackson or she to Brad Pitt, but neither of us is likely to get within speaking distance of either. If you say don't have some fantasies that help you get off, then you don't get off very often or you are just plain lying. If you have no interest at all in a person of your selected sex who meets your standards of beauty and attractiveness, then again, you are lying, at least to yourself, and probably to us. If you only get aroused in the presence of your spouse, then you've been brainwashed in the same way that the self help people do. You just did it to yourself. And who was it that brought up the words "sin" and "morality". I think I will leave the cover on that cesspool.