Masculinity Is About Strength, But Isn’t Cheating A Sign Of Weakness?
While watching a movie recently, I encountered a character who prided himself on having superior strength. Throughout the entire movie, he carried himself as a hard figure, marred by the experiences he had growing up and the life he led as a troublesome young adult. Glimpses of him tapping into emotions that didn’t have to do with anger were few and far between, but when it happened, it was refreshing. Basically, he’d been through a lot, so when he shared his stories of going to hell and back, he reminded you of the most important point — he overcame. It was all supposed to be a testament to that aforementioned strength. And yet, halfway through the movie, we find out he’s stepped out on his wife in what, for many, would be considered an unforgivable way. When he tries to explain himself, which he can barely do, it’s one of the few times we don’t get to hear about his so-called strength and resilience. In the moment of explanation, in sharing the way in which he’d allowed himself as a married man to fall in too deep with another woman, he sounds selfish — and weak.
When I finished the movie, I was quite irritated. While I enjoyed it thoroughly, I was bothered by the reminder that in society, for men, cheating shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s deemed a, “So are you staying or going?” type of thing. It happens, but can be forgiven. Men can go out and start whole other families and still have their wife stay by their side. It’s been happening forever. But aside from admitting that they pursued something special with someone else or stumbling over their words as they admit that they don’t know why they cheated, I rarely hear people say a man admitted, in the moment, that they were weak. Both women and men cheat, but based on the fact that masculinity is so much about strength, I find it interesting that some men don’t see or admit that cheating is a sign of weakness.
Single Black Male author Ahyiana Angel asked the question “Is Cheating a Sign of Weakness?” back in 2014. “People treat cheating as a simple mistake or lapse in judgment,” she wrote. “We can all make excuses for cheating, but is it a sign of a larger character flaw?”
When she left the overarching question to the readers, a majority of the men disagreed with the idea of cheating being a sign of a weakness. Most of them said it’s nothing but a choice. However, one reader put it best when he said that while faithfulness is a choice, “we can all be a bit more proactive in protecting our relationships from infidelity by being honest about our weaknesses, putting in boundaries and sticking to them.”
I agree with the idea that cheating is a choice, but I do think weakness is a major part of the choices you make. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being weak in a certain realm of life. We all have weaknesses, but as the commenter stated, you have to know them and check them. Some are harmless and only affect you. Take for instance my weakness for ice cream. I can go to the gym and still return home ready to eat some Dutch Chocolate on a cone or a bowl of Rocky Road. The urge to have some is strong enough to motivate me to put on my coat and walk to the store to quell my craving. Sometimes I can put myself in check, other times, I choose not to. While I struggle with the cravings, I try not to put myself in places or situations where I come face to face with a tub of ice cream. But then again, such a weakness only affects me — and my waistline.
But to be weak in terms of the flesh, easily lured by a sexual temptation that could hurt multiple people, particularly your partner, is something else. Why put yourself in a situation where you know you will be tempted? Why sit at the bar or the club around women you know you won’t practice caution around? Why take someone’s number and knowingly put yourself in any situation where you could compromise your relationship? Selfishness, of course, but also, not knowing and having a handle on your weakness. To me, that is a very strong reason, if not the main reason, someone would allow themselves to do something that could have heavy consequences for someone they claim to care about. And that’s not to say that “I was weak” should be the new go-to excuse for cheaters. Even if you are, you can choose not to surround yourself with people or things that play into that weakness.
We are all tempted by things that we have to separate ourselves from or that we use our strength and knowledge of a bigger picture to avoid (i.e., you don’t want to go to jail, you don’t want to lose your job, you don’t want to lose your relationship). So when some men, keyword some, choose to throw caution to the wind and compromise their relationships to step out with someone else, it screams weakness to me — whether it was an impulsive decision or something set in motion over time. And as a group of people who are often so open about being strong and find pride in it (and tell other men certain things aren’t manly, from dress to certain displays of emotion), it boggles the mind that some men could be so weak about something so detrimental. So yes, it’s about the choices we make, but I believe we underestimate the impact our weaknesses (mixed in with our self-absorbed habits) have on those choices. How else could one explain going against their better judgment in such a way?
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