Love, honor, and other things

By Mir
June 23, 2009

Last night started out sort of tragic, because we have five gazillion television channels and there were THREE different episodes of CSI on, and we had seen all three of them. That put a crimp in our plans for an evening of Terrible Television, but THANKFULLY we had a recorded episode of Ice Road Truckers. Phew!

Later, a CSI: Miami we hadn’t seen came up, and we were in the middle of watching that when, somehow, during a commercial break we found ourselves in the middle of a long discussion about infidelity.

(Should the surprising part be that I don’t find this weird or unusual at all? We have all of our best discussions while people try to sell us life insurance and “performance enhancing” pills in the background. Doesn’t everyone?)

Anyway, Otto and I are perfectly in tune on this issue, thank goodness. What we ended up wondering was how people justify their actions, as you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’s cheated who think it’s OKAY, though there are plenty of people who cheat and somehow justify it, all the same.

[I am not, by the way, talking about people who are polyamorous or otherwise in open relationships. It’s not cheating if it’s okay with everyone, obviously. I’m talking about couples who’ve made a commitment to each other to be faithful and then aren’t.]

Otto waxed prolific on how people—men in particular—are very good at compartmentalizing their feelings. He pointed out that he does it all the time; it’s how he was able to continue the race he was running last week even after receiving word that his mom was in transplant surgery. He kind of puts information in a box and files it, and it’s much less likely to interfere with his thoughts/feelings/actions that way. Me, my “compartmentalization” system (such as it is) is a lot more like my desk—piles of things that are constantly crashing into one another. I would not be able to separate my relationship from my husband from the rest of my life enough to find myself in a situation that might threaten that relationship. My brain just doesn’t work that way.

We talked at great length, Otto explaining and reiterating about the whole compartmentalization thing, and how he thinks that allows people to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do, and I nodded, lost in thought, and Otto suddenly followed up with a passionate declaration that he would never, ever cheat on me for any reason. I suppose he felt like his UNDERSTANDING of how it happens needed to be clarified as not being something HE HIMSELF was capable of.

I laughed. “I know, honey,” I said, shaking my head at him, because it’s not something he needed to say.

There was a pause.

“This is where YOU say, ‘And I would never cheat on you, either,'” he prompted, poking me.

I was almost offended. “Of COURSE I would never cheat on you! Didn’t I just get done explaining how I could never cheat on ANYONE? Sheesh.” He chuckled, and because I never know when to shut up, I added, “Besides, you would never cheat on me because you’re too morally upright, and I would never cheat on you because I’m too socially phobic to even be in a situation to do so. So.”

There was another pause, and then Otto threw his hands into the air.

“OH THANK GOODNESS!” he exclaimed. “Here I thought maybe it was our LOVE and TRUST and FAITH in one another that was going to keep us together, but actually it turns out that it’s your general dislike of people and my need to follow the rules. OKAY THEN!”

We laughed until I could barely breathe, and then we watched the rest of CSI. Because that’s how serious topics of soulmate matters are dealt with ’round here.


  1. Megan

    Yup, that’s about how it goes ’round my house too. Only it’s those deep relationship discussions that take place two breaths after I’ve given him grief over his weird taste in music (we agree on it 95%, but the man has this soft spot for twang now and then….).

    Also? Declarations of love are often, “you’re so evil! That’s why I love you!” or variations there upon.

  2. jennifer

    I love this! It reminds me of the way my husband and I talk to each other. And I do agree that men and women have such different ways of dealing with their emotions and whatnot. I could go on and on about the infidelity but I will spare you!

  3. The Other Leanne

    Frankly, I don’t get the cheating thing. It just seems like all that subterfuge takes so much energy. And how do people manage TWO relationships? Not that they do it well.
    The guilt alone would make it impossible for me to have any fun at all.

  4. StephLove

    Did you see a commercial for Jon & Kate? Is that how you got to this topic? I was just wondering how people with 8 small children find TIME to cheat on each other. I only have two and don’t think I could manage another person to keep happy, not that I’m thinking about it or anything…

  5. Karishma

    you two are absolutely adorable.

  6. alice

    Too cute! And v. cool to include the disclaimers about poly/open relationships.

    Discussions about fidelity are fascinating to me. I’ve often wondered how many marriages have ‘arrangements’ to deal with seeing other people, even though they’re not poly or open; stereotypes about the French aside, I’m truly curious as to how often that happens outside of novels.

  7. exile on mom street

    Love schmove.

    We watched Jon & Kate and we both cried. And wanted to strangle them. Because I have watched that show since the first season and sucked my husband in along the way. And they are so far away from the people that they once were.

    How was Ice Road Truckers?

  8. Single Mama Prof

    One of my students explained the differences between men and women this way: “Men are like waffles. Women are like spaghetti. Men compartmentalize. With women, everything is all swirled together.” Presumably with marinara.

  9. Marci

    There’s a book out there called “Men Are Like Waffles and Women Are Like Spaghetti.” (or something like that.) It’s a great visual of how our minds work. Men…little squares where they put their thoughts an emotions and there’s no touching or overlapping. Women’s thought’s and emotions are strands of spaghetti, all intertwined and touching.

    When my mind is racing through various topics at light speed, I call it my “spaghetti thoughts.”

  10. Randi

    I saw a youtube a long time ago about this very subject (not the infidelity – the men compartmentalizing thing). It talked about how men have boxes, things go in this box or that box (and the mother-in-law box is way in the basement) and how they love a nothing box. Women, of course, can’t stand a man’s nothing box, because there’s nothing a woman likes less than a man doing nothing!

    And women have everything balled up like yarn. Each strand connects to the next. A feeling of love may lead to a thought about a boyfriend, which may lead to thinking about a previous boyfriend which may lead you to remember when he broke up with you, which then makes you think about the bad things in the relationship you’re currently in…

    I know! Tiring, isn’t it? And yet most of us women do this!

  11. Heather

    That’s adorable. I hope I find what you guys have, even if it takes me as long as it took you :P

  12. Jamie AZ

    Otto’s description of how men compartmentalize their feelings reminds me of some of the descriptions of guys and their friendships in The Girls from Ames. I loved it when the author (Jeffrey Z-whatever) said that he’s played poker with a group of guys every week for years and they’ve never talked about their feelings.

  13. Karen

    You two are adorable. Otto seems like such a perfect man.

    I think I am a rare woman who gets the compartmentalizing stuff – and the cheating stuff. I am not saying it is right or that I could/would do it, but cheating doesn’t seem like a deal breaker to me. It is much more important to me that man be kind, happy, funny, a good father, a good provider and a good tire-changer than that he be good at staying out of other women’s beds. Sexual fedelity is important to me, but not necessarily as important as it is to some people.

    And yes. I know I am a bit whacky!

  14. Debbi

    The two of you are an awesome couple! :-)

  15. Tracy

    We have also had a similiar discussion and my husband said to me…”You never have to worry about that, hun. I would never do that to you.” And my reply was, “You are right, because I will only have 1 EX husband…someone will have to die.” And we both laughed until our sides hurt.
    Thanks for sharing your conversation.

  16. Kailani

    Crap! I missed Ice Road Truckers AND Jon & Kate!?
    You two crack me up!

  17. Flea

    He’s a keeper.

  18. Annette

    Yeah, you know I really Liked the part where Jon says, This is sad, but it is exciting too, a new chapter(or something to that effect…)

    Not that I love Kate, but really Jon?

  19. My Kids Mom

    Actually, an affair would be way, way too much trouble. I’m too busy as it is.

  20. Rebecca

    I once said about my ex-boyfriend that he was too lazy to cheat. All agreed, including him.

  21. Em

    Wow, my husband and I were having a long conversation today that also included infidelity as they include emotional affairs (relating to a blog we both read, not our relationship. I know you were worried). Anyway, we were disagreeing about men and women having close friendships and I told him how I probably wouldn’t confide in a man anyway because they are pretty useless when it comes to seeing my point and just commiserating. Anyway, that box analogy really would have come in handy (as well as the waffle/spaghetti and yarn ones from your comments section).

  22. ccr in MA

    I love Otto.

  23. Anonymous

    I needed the affair to remember that I was still lovable…
    Not all those hateful things my ex-husband told me I was…

  24. anon2

    [Comment removed at request of author. -M]

  25. Kira

    Wow, there is an anonymous therapy session going on in your comments.
    Anyhow, re the compartmentalizing thing, Clay says men have lots of rooms in their heads, so if they don’t like the room they’re in, they just close the door on it, and go to another room. Women, on the other hand, live in ONE BIG ROOM. So if he pisses me off, an hour later I’m still mad, while he’s bewildered, because he closed the door on that room 59.5 minutes ago.
    The other night I asked him in an adorable, pitiful sort of way (hate that), “You wouldn’t ever CHEAT ON ME, would you?” And he sighed and said, “of course not. I love you. And besides…I’m really, really tired.”
    I lauged about that for days.

  26. mom, again

    Sexual infidelity isn’t unforgiveable in my opinion. It seems to me that an affair is a symptom or result of the real problem. I could forgive an incident of infidelity if it turned out to be the catalyst of repairing the underlying fault. BUT, serial infidelity points to a problem with the person committing it, and is pretty much unforgiveable.

    Sort of a two-strikes you’re out rule.

  27. Gwen

    Mir, I hope with all my heart that you *never* *ever* understand why someone who would normally would be horrified by the thought of an affair, would make that choice. Just like I hope that all those who have decided to break off friendships with me because of my divorce *never* *ever* understand why I had to make that one.

    And hugs for you, Anonymous. Glad you got out of an intolerable situation.

  28. Aimee

    Well, if you *want* to meet someone who’s cheated and thinks it’s okay, I could offer to introduce you to my soon-to-be-EX-brother-in-law. But I wouldn’t recommend it. He’s a tool.

    In other news, you guys are funny.

  29. Kelly

    You crack me up.

  30. Sara

    Hugs to you, too, Gwen.

  31. Stephanie

    I’m with you, Mir. If an *adult* who is professing to be in a monogamous committed relationship feels there are problems that cannot be corrected or worked out, then they need to DIVORCE.

    People can justify things in their own minds, but, in reality, this issue IS one of “right” and “wrong”…there is no grey area. (I am NOT speaking from a religious perspective, either…I’m speaking from a MORAL perspective.) If someone cheats because they feel unloved, they should have spent the energy trying to work out the problems with their spouse, and, if that doesn’t work, get a divorce. THEN, they are free to do and act in any way they deem appropriate.

    Unless BOTH parties agree to an open relationship, cheating is cheating and it IS wrong.

  32. Katie in MA

    You guys are just too much. :) And so perfectly suited for each other!

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