On Monday night’s episode of “Love & Hip-Hop,” ghostwriting rapper Consequence and his girlfriend Jen the Pen engaged in yet another one of many arguments we’ve seen between the pair about their lifestyle and child-rearing. Jen, through tears, tried to explain why she’s having a tough time with the idea of the couple’s son being raised Muslim — even though she already agreed to it, which is a different discussion — and Cons, as she calls him, hit her with what she called an “eff you,” when he basically said if this is all she has to complain about she should be happy. In his words, out of all the things he does that Jen doesn’t like, at the end of the day he’s faithful to her, and for that reason, she’s spoiled.
Yeah, let that simmer.
After I checked the Twitterverse to make sure that’s what that negro had actually said, immediately my mind started going into total recall and I remembered this was not the first time I’d heard this sentiment. My ex had a similar philosophy about relationships and my right — or lack of — to complain when he wasn’t doing what I needed him to do. Like Consequence, he totally overlooked all the things I said I needed outside of fidelity and sufficed that if he wasn’t cheating, at the end of the night I should be able to rest my head on a pillow next to him and sleep rather soundly. Surprise, surprise, that didn’t happen.
Though the jury of my personal peers is still out on whether I actually believe my ex was faithful, lets say for all intents and purposes he was. Can I take it back to sixth grade and ask, do you want a cookie? Let me first say that I do understand why some men, hopefully a select few, want to be applauded for doing something that us women would like to just be a customary part of being in a committed relationship. For one, cheating has been made out to be the absolute worst thing a man can do to a woman in a relationship. I’m not sure if it’s on the same level with, or right underneath, putting your hands on your partner, but at the end of the day, infidelity is the ultimate no-no. That said, it’s also a somewhat expected no-no. Most women don’t enter a committed relationship with a man knowing one day he will be unfaithful, lest they be fools, but we know it’s a real possibility that he may be seriously tempted a some point throughout our relationship and unfortunately succumb. To that end, a man who has set himself aside from the rest and exceeded our expectations by not cheating, I imagine, wants some type of reward for his loyalty, other than us not going off about another laundry list of wants and needs.
I’m also coming around to understanding just how difficult it is — or men say it is — to not cheat. So on that same note of reward, as a man, if I know women think cheating is at the top of their “do not do” list and I do not do it, everything else that I’m doing wrong or not doing right should seem like small fries in the grand scheme of things. After all, I think that I’ve just aced the ultimate test in relationship success 101, so I can’t help but ask, “what more could you possibly want from me?” especially when you don’t understand that I’ll be taking that test every day of my life. If I can manage to keep it in my pants, you should be able to handle me coming in a little late one night, or forgetting that we had plans when I went out with the boys, or leaving too many dishes in the sink, right? Right?
Sorry, wrong. Yes, most women view infidelity as grounds for termination of their relationship, but that doesn’t mean we don’t value other relationship characteristics just as highly — or nearly as highly. Truth be told, I think cheating is the only non-negotiable all women have in common so we all talk about it all the time and it’s become a much bigger thing than it really is — or at least than stats say it is. (Truthfully if only 50 percent of men are cheating, why are 100 percent of women outlining guidelines against it all the time?) But when it comes to other things like spending time, or romantic gestures, or life goals, there’s much more fluidity from day-to-day or even decade-to-decade, so we can’t lay down hard and fast rules like we can with cheating, which is pretty much always a hell no, no matter time of day or year.
Also, unlike with cheating where women like to let it be known that they don’t tolerate it, when it comes to other relationship issues, we sort of like the man to figure those things out. We don’t want to have to tell men to come over after we haven’t seen them in five days, we just want them to know that they should — again, a topic for another day. The reality is the things that bring us joy in relationships are not quite as concrete as men’s seemingly universal basic needs of sex and food, which they have no problem telling us they need. For the most part, we’re sitting on the couch somewhere telling our girlfriends how we hope our guy will get us purple roses on Valentine’s Day even though we’ve given him no clue that we like either the color purple or roses, and then have an attitude when neither is on our doorstep the 14th of February, and never say why exactly.
It’s crazy, I know. But as confusing as all this ambiguity is for men, I say look at this issue in this simple way: When you’re not in a relationship you’re also not getting cheated on, so why would that same factor be enough to sustain a partnership? Bottom line: it’s not. Fidelity is — or at least should be — a baseline quality that makes for a good partner, like honesty and reliability and loyalty. When a man is faithful he’s only succeeded our real-world woman expectations not our relationship ones. Not sleeping with someone else should be a given and that’s why we’re not giving any pats on the back for not doing it. Fidelity, in a sense is like air. We need it subconsciously and we certainly notice when it’s not there, but we aren’t routinely reminded of it’s necessity, like say hunger or thirst. When it comes to our partner being faithful, we need or daily fill of conversation and quality time and things of that nature to carry on because when things like that don’t get quenched, it’s a signal we have an even bigger problem like infidelity. And when you mess up on the maintenance you might as well have cheated because it’s likely the relationship will suffer the same fate.