It was Boys’ Night and in between beers and stories, suddenly my fidelity was in question. I looked at him for a few seconds and tried to make sense of what he had just asked. “Do I give off that vibe?” “Have I done anything to make him think I would do that?” No answer came to mind.
It was more than a little alarming, considering how long I’ve known him and how close we are, but I couldn’t really blame him. Amidst the flurry of emotions and responses in my head, I couldn’t help but note his more-than-a-little-welcoming disposition on the topic. He was smiling. There was not an ounce of urgency in his voice. If I had said yes, somehow I knew he wasn’t going to lecture me. He was absolutely and completely casual.
He didn’t have to say it. To him, cheating is okay.
I know a lot of guys grow up in broken homes without anyone to look up to. I know that for some guys, even if they did have someone to look up to, they just weren’t very good role models. Maybe my friend is one of those guys, I don’t know, but his question reminded me of something I heard when I was younger. I don’t remember where or when it was exactly but someone said, “there’s no such thing as a faithful man.” I can’t remember who said it — he might have even been someone I looked up to. I have no other recollection of that one moment in my life, except that it never left me. I’ve forgotten everything else but the words still ring in my ears like I had just heard them. I remember because although I was young and had never known what it was to love another person, in that moment I looked around me and I found you. Right then I decided I would never allow myself to add truth to that statement.
I promised that I would never cheat — because of you.
Before I knew anything about love, you loved me and you’ve never stopped. Not even on the days when I gave you every reason to. You have loved me so beautifully my whole life, so deeply and so generously. I cannot betray that love. I will not. Thank you for loving me with all that you are because it taught me one of the most important lessons I will ever learn, that is to always be faithful. My dad showed me what it means to be a good man. He showed me how to love, honor and respect women and how to be a good husband by example. But you taught me to be truthful through love. It is your love that guides me and forces me to stay the course. Thank you, Mom.
As a man, I know how difficult it is. Everywhere we go, we sit next to or walk past temptation after temptation. It takes commitment, it takes practice and somehow the longer you’re in a relationship with someone, the more difficult it becomes. I mean, I’ve been with my own girlfriend for almost seven years and it isn’t any easier. But I stay faithful because I love her — more than I can ever find words to say — and because you taught me how, mom. Thank you for instilling this important value in me that helps me love her more. I’m not always the man she deserves — despite my best efforts — and Lord knows I have a lot to improve on, but thank you for my struggle a little bit easier. Thank you for the wall of faithfulness you built in my heart.
In the end, that’s what I told him, “No, I’ve never cheated and I never will.” He dismissed my reply, saying that eventually, all men are bound to be unfaithful. All I said at the time was that he was wrong. I know I should have said more. I’d tell him there are many honest men out there and that he shouldn’t give himself up to the idea that all men are born cheaters or that it’s okay to cheat. I’d tell him that men find a way to overcome this struggle, even ones who had given in to it before. We are portrayed as the ‘stronger’ sex. Though I never bought in to that, I believe in some cases it applies. I believe we are strongest when we need to protect and you made me stronger by teaching me love and respect before anyone else. I am stronger because of you and I will always be strong because of you.
You are the reason I will always be faithful. You are the reason I cannot be anything other than completely devoted. I need to be a good man to my partner — and eventually, my spouse — because if I fail or mistreat the woman I love for any reason, I would fail you just as much. I hope that if he ever finds himself in a situation where he’s tempted to be unfaithful, he thinks of his mom the way I think of you.