Shenanigans – Ben Wilkins

~a Modern Expose on Forty would be Cheaters~

It was 9:03 pm at her small but cozy home somewhere near Syracuse when heartache struck swiftly for my cousin Mandy. She was scrolling through facebook when she discovered that her boyfriend of four years had cheated on her—and used the post for a farewell statement. We remained close over the years so there was no hesitation when she hit me up to vent and gain support. While snacking on comfort food we discussed the selfishness of men in general and the cowardice of cheaters in particular. It was a long discussion.

“All men are cheating assholes, that’s my theory”, Mandy said brokenly. “Maybe it’s their fear of confession that keeps them from giving a more thoughtful ending”, I said. “Yeah, but that still doesn’t explain why the heck certain guys can’t at least honor the relationship enough to tell a woman face to face, we deserve that much at least”, she said. We agreed it was an undeniable fact that the jerk should have had the guts and courtesy to sit down with her in person. A mysterious question unraveled as we navigated the tangled yarn ball of relationship debate. 

Exactly what is it that causes a person to stray and cheat? The question lingered in our minds like some complex algebraic equation. Forty men were interviewed to test Mandy’s cheating theory during our quest for the answer. The array of men ranged from business owners to college students and from ages legal to mid-fifties—with a health sprinkle of thirty and forty somethings. 

To ensure variety we comprised a diverse testing group of potential cheaters. This group included a real estate broker; an assistant manager of a national big box chain, and a buff construction worker who drove a truck that looked like it could eat my car for lunch. A chef, masseuse, and a part-time model were also quizzed on shenanigans. Rounding out the assortment—a consultant, two blue collar workers, an especially talented auto mechanic, and a local weed dealer. 

The results were decisive. Thirty six out of forty men freely admitted infidelity in their lifetime. When asked, “Why did you cheat?” a category of repetitive excuses presented itself:

The Seven Classic Excuses of Cheaters

  • “We lost our spark”                      –The construction worker stifled a yawn
  • “Variety is the spice of life”                    –The asshole smirked 
  • “I couldn’t resist the temptation”                 –The chef winked
  • “I didn’t mean to, it just happened”                    …Right -The broker blundered
  • “I was trying to fill an emotional void”                       –The bad-boy admitted
  • “My woman’s sex drive isn’t what it used to be”                         –The blue collar
  • “I wanted to try new things in bed and wasn’t sure if my girl would like it”        –The truck driver


“Often one partner will become paralyzed by fear at the very moment they need to commit themselves to action”…

The partners that the men cheated on ranked from old High School heartbreaks and current girlfriends to fiancés and wives. The men were asked a series of provocative questions in hopes to uncover some buried psychological treasures. Predictably, most of the men were elusive at revealing their feelings (shocker) but we eventually hit pay-dirt with one question in particular…

Do you think you still would have cheated if your partner showed you more appreciation on a daily basis?—that was the monumental question that sparked noteworthy result. Every cheater except one stubborn ass said no, they would not have been so quick to cheat if they had felt more appreciation in their relationships. That sounded good in theory, but they weren’t off the hook that easy! We still need to peel back one more layer of their bullshit onion. 

A noticeable change took place soon after that question broke the ice. The men began to open up and express themselves as we talked about the importance of emotional maturity for both partners in the relationship. (If you are male please reread and note the last sentence) In all seriousness we made enough progress to compile a cheat sheet for cheaters who actually wanted to learn from their mistakes

It’s one of the hardest lessons any cheater must learn, and they won’t find it on YouTube. After twenty hours worth of interviews—about thirty minutes with each guy except for Mr. Stubborn—here’s what we deciphered. We learned that to retain balance in any meaningful relation we must remember to express appreciation and communicate our own need of appreciation. There is no room for personal growth without taking chances. It is an internal battle. If we cannot accomplish this balance then we should do everyone a huge favor and stay single until we break that hardheaded barrier. 

Why do so many of us begin our relationships with grand hurrah, only to eventually let them fizzle out in a lackluster blaze of glory? Of course there is no perfect answer. Understanding why cheaters cheat remains partly shrouded in mystery. Many people cheat simply out of boredom or because they feel trapped in the relation and don’t know how to exit gracefully without hurting someone. Often one partner will become paralyzed by fear at the very moment they need to commit themselves to action. Call it the Murphy’s Law of relationships. Alas, we came close to sniffing out the sacred scent of intuition that comes so naturally to the women in our lives. Close but no cigar. 

My latest chat with Mandy was bittersweet. The good news is she has recovered strongly. Her friendship and contribution to this article are appreciated; and it’s warming to know she’s hopeful of a future romance despite her recent breakup. Then, in full Mandy style, she dropped an unexpected bombshell. With a brow raised and mischievous glint in her eyes she asked, “Wait a minute, Have you ever cheated on a girl?!”

I blew out a long breath before answering. “Once when I was younger and it was one of the worst mistakes of my life”, I confessed. “They both kicked my butt [deservedly] and I learned my lesson”. She relished my squirming then said “oh really now, so which of the seven excuse categories would you put yourself in mister cheater?” I said, “Well, she was serving it on a silver platter so I’d have to say number three ‘I couldn’t resist the temptation’ , a teenage man-boy caught in a moment of weakness…”

She gave me the stink eye for a moment then playfully smacked my shoulder and burst out laughing “My theory was right, you all are cheating assholes!”

Ben Wilkins is a contributing writer for Spotlight on Recovery Magazine and the National Buddhist Newsletter. His work has been published with the American Prison Writing Archive, Minutes Before Six, and elsewhere. Though currently imprisoned in Alaska, he believes life is only 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it. He hopes to inspire others thru writing. He is hungry for opportunity & feedback, and gladly accepts correspondence @ the address listed. 


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