"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Why Do Men Stray– Keeping A Man Is Far More Complicated Than It Used To Be

Women have always had an interest in keeping their men.  After deliberate, calculated, and often mischievous attempts to secure an attractive spouse – good money earner, more or less tolerant, and a decent if not good father – a woman’s next task was securing him.  As women have always known, men go into marriage reluctantly, hesitantly, and against their better judgment.  Women are necessary for reproduction and legacy.  They have a sense of hearth and home and can be relied on to provide  nurturing, comfort, and help to their children even when their husbands are absent, vagrant, or indifferent.  They are useful, sexually convenient, and practical.  They tend to stray less than men – although the savvy man is always observant and takes precautions – and their needs are simple.  A certain fidelity, respect, and love.

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Most men after only a few years of marriage realize that the marriage contract, no matter how legalistically fair and equitable, is predicated on a stable but conventionally conceived relationship. . If the party of the first part complies with the reasonable requests and considerations of the party of the second part, the marriage is deemed reasonable and broken only after judicial consideration etc. etc. ; but that such a contract, like any, is subject to interpretation.  Who did what to whom is the fodder for daytime TV Divorce Court.  Far more money is spent on dissolving a marriage than legalizing it.  The world knows that marriage at best is an economic affair, an affair of dowry, bride price, trusts, wills, and powers of attorney than love, intimacy, and longing.

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So it is quite natural and normal for men to stray.  They willingly admit that they  were ignorant of the consequences of marriage and had no idea how soon the pound of flesh would be exacted, or how soon the contract manipulated.  Yet they are not vindictive or righteous.  They simply take what’s coming to them – sexual freedom.

Few women would admit such a Mephistophelean bargain – a philandering husband in return for taking out the garbage and equal rights under the trust – but that is how modern marriages work.  Men have never been feminized, and the politically insistent but practically desultory training to force men to hew the progressive  line of sexual equality has never gained traction.  While men talk the talk – gender equality, sexual respect and normality, and participatory, equal relationships – they have never walked the walk and never will.  Once demands have been issued, men walk.

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The marriage between Marfa Henderson and Brent Peters had gotten off on the right foot – romance, the excitement of social and economic promise (both were from prominent Boston families) Harvard pedigrees, and the usual,, for their particular milieu, intellectual integrity and artistic savvy – but soon sullied in the trenches of marital warfare.  Love, attention, concern, and solicitude vanished as the terms of the prenup became clear and in force. 

Both parties backed off – there had been enough emotional capital invested in the marriage that dissolution at this early stage was not a consideration – but both were left with a residual bad taste.  Not only the contract but the emotional relationship itself had been tried.  Marfa retreated from her demands and Brent called up reserves of patience and forbearance, and the marriage continued.

Nature abhors a vacuum and seeks equilibrium; and so it was that Brent and Marfa, despite their differences, sought compromise; but some issues are beyond compromise and the case of Marfa and Brent is indicative and illustrative.  Marfa was the daughter of Washington State ranchers, independent, individualist, rough-and-ready, Middle-American entrepreneurs. Her mother had come from good New England Calvinist stock, whose great-great uncle had been a  prosecutor in Salem, and whose great-cousin had been a founder of Yale; and her father whose particular provenance was unknown had been a herder, cowpoke, and shepherd since the earliest family records.  She came by her parsimony, thrift, and good economic judgment naturally.  While she had never been schooled in modern finance or economics, she had had enough of a family education to have learned the value of a dollar.

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Brent was the child of wealthy Southern Italian immigrants on one side and Brazilian slavers on the other.  He not only had never been exposed to Northern European Calvinism, but he had been immersed in Mediterranean hedonism, la dolce vita and que sera sera since his youngest days.  Money was to be spent to be enjoyed. Life was never to be ugly and brutal but beautiful, happy, and satisfying.  He had no use for wills, trusts, or codicils.  He felt no obligation to survivors, heirs, or beneficiaries.  Once the light at the end of his tunnel was extinguished, all lights were extinguished.
In other words, a marriage made at City Hall, to be dissolved in the State of Massachusetts, and consummated in Maryland, had no legs  It had no practical, emotional, or psychological staying power.  Her Cotton Mather and his Epictetus would never meet.  Yet, after 25  years of hanging in there, accommodation to tradition and society, it was time for a change.  Brent could put up with any more talk of  wills, trusts, roofs, exterminators, or garden swales. It was time for a break and about time to set sails for tropical shores.

Like most men Brent assumed that his sexual adventures and dereliction would go unnoticed; and even if they were caught in the enemy’s radar they could be explained.  Working late, a cancelled flight in Amsterdam, an extended contract in Port-au-Prince, all were reasonable justifications for his dalliances.  One not given to guilt, Brent still justified his vagaries because of his wife’s narrow, pedantic, and horribly insular mentality.  Yes, he had married Cotton Mather, but that did not mean he had to sleep with him every bloody night of his life.

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Brent strayed for logical, comprehensible, very understandable reasons. In fact circumnavigating a legal marriage contract was very American where contracts are made to be broken.  In that restrictive sense, Brent made a moral decision to right the imbalance of the marital contract.  His straying colleagues could not be afforded such respect. 

Henk, a  Lothario from Delaware who shared an office with Brent, had no moral qualms whatsoever. Infidelity was a male thing, purely and simply, no questions asked no justification required.  He risked discovery and could care less.  His maleness was based on and derived from male superiority; and while he gained certain, temporal sexual traction, his rather antiquated notions did him in.  His wife, empowered thanks to her women’s support group, said ‘No Thanks’, and took her money and her children and ran.

Other men stray incidentally, on occasion, or when the opportunity presents itself.  They neither have prolonged, nettling guilt or even a bad night.  it is what is, maleness playing itself out.

So what’s a woman to do? The easiest, simplest, most logical conclusion is to accept male tomcatting as genetically given, to dismiss it as a given, but to be alert to unintended consequences. Brent might have gone off with his Danish Ice Queen if it hadn’t been for an Italian interloper who had gotten there first; but her still, as most husbands do in the final accounting, return to home base.

Another is to deploy defensive perimeters – sophisticated spyware, sentient software, and state-of-the-art invasive technology – but this is degrading and humiliating.  Better to wait for a conclusive gotcha than to wait in the morally devious shadows of surveillance.

Another is to confront the miscreant.  “I know you have been fucking Myra Brandon” and muddle through the expected denials and disclaimers until you are worn out, discouraged and disheartened
None of the above will work. Men’s hardwired nature is to stray; and the  inventiveness of his denials knows no bounds.  Women, because of their own innate, natural tendency to preserve and protect family, hearth, and home are willing to resist only so much and so far  Men can leave unencumbered and fancy free but women have the children.

The best marriages are not marriages at all but fungible and easily deconstructed.  Yes, one must trade longevity and support for freedom and independence , but after all, one dies alone; and the requiem for a long life does not include longevity or fidelity.

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