I recently had an opportunity to confront my own ideas, values, morals and beliefs about life and extramarital affairs. I had a conversation with a friend who has been married for over 20 years. I hadn’t seen him in over a year and half. We talked about books, life and laughed. As we caught up on each others lives he shared how he had almost slept with another woman years ago when he was out of the country. He didn’t have sex with her because he had barely met her and would have regretted having unprotected sex. However, he has been with other women besides his wife and said that he was “over feeling guilt or using morality” to make himself feel bad. I was curious about his way of thinking.
My own ideas surfaced about infidelity.
I used the word infidelity and the word itself seemed filled with judgment. I didn’t feel I was judging him but perhaps I was.
During the conversation with my friend I believe we both spoke interchangeably from our heart and mind. I asked him questions like “if your wife asked you if you had slept with another woman what would you say?” I asked him what might happen if she found out- would it hurt her? He told me he didn’t want to hurt her or anyone else. I expressed how I value honesty in an intimate partner relationship. He alluded to honesty being idealistic asking me rhetorically “who would win?”
As I reflected I was in a way speechless.
He told me he respected my idealism but didn’t share it. He repeated that he didn’t need to feel superior by prescribing to some code of morality.
Without asking him he expressed that he didn’t feel the need to leave his wife. So I don’t know if he is happy or unhappy with his marriage and it is none of my business. I was however, curious if he was okay with his wife having sex with another man. He responded “if she does -good for her.” He indicated that what one doesn’t see cannot hurt us. Meantime I was still trying to wrap my mind around someone “being over morality.” I knew guilt was unhealthy in the long run. But what about morals- don’t they prevent suffering or preserve our humanity?
According to Byron Katie author of “Loving What Is,” we all have judgments running in our heads. In her book she states that “suffering is caused by attachment to a deeply embedded belief. It’s a state of blind attachment to something you think is true.”
Judgments are part of being human. We judge our own behaviors as well as others’ behaviors. We decide if something is right or wrong when we judge. They are based on several factors like our religious upbringing or lack thereof, exposure to various cultures, values, morals, philosophies, etc. The morals and values we develop gain us friends, admirers, followers or their opposite. We learn precepts whether we are religious or not that shape our experiences and reinforce our behavior. Overtime we develop beliefs.
Beliefs hold or exert power over us but can lead to ruptures in relationships and societies that can last over long periods of time. Internal and external struggles ensue when we hold on too tightly or rigidly to notions of right and wrong and what is true and false. If we try to influence, persuade or change others’ beliefs we risk not only disrespecting the other party but it is a futile pursuit. Often it only serves to strengthen someone’s attachment to their belief. Even sophisticated ideologies can become deeply entrenched in societies and become dangerous when they cause us to lose our humanity.
What makes us human is an integration of body, mind and spirit. Beliefs are of the mind.
While an intellectual exchange can be gratifying it does not encompass the full extent of our humanity. As internationally acclaimed spiritual author and lecturer Marianne Williamson says “people hear you on the level you speak to them from. Speak from your heart and they will hear with theirs.” I suppose there is no one absolute way as we are all on unique journeys.
We are presented opportunities for growth or evolution as often as we need. Sometimes we refer to these opportunities as challenges. We grow from the experiences that cause us to expand our awareness and shift into new ways of being. We know we have grown when we are more at peace, kinder to ourselves and others, and happier.
Then he said let's continue talking in my hotel room...
A decision to my bear my body to someone who knows my heart would not be so hard but it was more complex than that. I was tired so I told him I was going home. I’m glad he didn’t regret his proposal. I was glad I honored my body in that moment. Perhaps following something more primal would have been followed by regret.
My value system confronted. What was my truth? And was I holding myself captive by my own value system? Maybe sometimes it takes shattering our beliefs to love ourselves unconditionally.
Are you over your morality...? Does what you believe make you feel free?
Do you know what beliefs no longer serve your highest good?
What would you have considered? Or what would you do next time?