Last week, I received a call from one of my friends who was clearly distraught after discovering that another one of her close friends had recently gotten engaged. This is almost déjà vu for me because as I approach my mid-thirties, these types of calls occur more frequently.
In just six months, two of her closest friends, as well as her cousin, have all received fanciful, well-thought out proposals from the men they were dating. She, on the other hand, just found out that her boyfriend had been gallivanting all over town with some side chick.
As she combined the thoughts of another failed relationship with images of her friends new, upcoming and seemingly happy marriages, she broke down into tears fueled almost exclusively with self-blame.
“I stopped counting how many times I’ve been cheated on, Lincoln. What am I doing wrong? I don’t date the same type of men, but I get the same damn result. What can I do to stop men from cheating on me?” she tearfully asked. As I sat and took in the pain in her voice that I truly wanted to soothe with kind words, I pivoted and decided to tell her the truth, regardless of how inconvenient and boorish it sounds.
“Nothing. There’s nothing you can do.”
As a man who has cheated on and has been cheated on by a girlfriend in the past, I am absolutely opposed to the problematic ideology that cheating is the consequence of your significant other’s personal failures. It is a cowardly, victim-blaming worldview that regressively places the onus of one’s own actions on the party that was actually harmed in the selfish act. I’ve told this to more than one homegirl before, and I said this again to my homegirl because it’s important for many women to understand that they do not bare any responsibility for any man’s actions, especially actions born out of greedy self-indulgence, which is his own damn problem.
Far too many people view cheating as an instantaneous, momentary and reflexive response to immediate stimuli. While that may be true for a select few famous male supermodels, actors, and professional athletes, most cheaters aren’t strolling down the street voraciously dodging random pum-pum requests (which, even still, doesn’t excuse their behavior).
The harsh truth about cheating is that it is a multi-action process that continually requires the cheater to choose to disrespect the person they are in a relationship with. From the initial slide into the DM, to exchanging numbers, to texting, sexting, and eventually deciding to meet up clandestinely, there was no point in which the girlfriend/fiancee/wife could have ended his behavior. That was on him, not her.
Some people would have women believe that if they gave him better sex, he’d reconsider going outside of the home to get it. That’s BS.
Some people would have women believe that if they didn’t express any problems with him, he’d never even consider “having” to cheat. That’s BS.
Some people would have women believe that if they cooked better, talked less, or [insert random and ridiculous reason here], he’d be more faithful. That’s all BS.
In the history of mankind, men have cheated on great women just as much as they’ve cheated on girlfriends they believe are substandard. Not being a good significant other to a man is more than a valid reason to be broken up with, but when it comes to actual cheating, that is simply the fault of the man based on his singular decision.
The absolute worst message we could ever deliver to young women is that they should internalize a man’s negative behavior as her own fault. This is the sort of warped, dangerous messaging that starts young girls out to believe that cheating is due to her imperfection and can potentially escalate to her accepting a man’s abuse as little more than a common sense reaction to her dating flaws. There’s nothing a woman can do to prevent a man from cheating because that’s our own shortcoming, one that we as men are strong and mature enough to acknowledge and use to become better men.
Lincoln Anthony Blades blogs daily on his site, ThisIsYourConscious.com. He’s author of the book, “You’re Not A Victim, You’re A Volunteer.” He can be reached on Twitter @lincolnablades and on Facebook at Lincoln Anthony Blades.