by Niall Doherty

“When I’m not experience telling, I’m bullshitting. I’m making stuff up. I’m theorizing about something that I know nothing about.” – Everett Bogue1

This post was meant to be about cheating. I’ve met several guys in recent months who seem to have no problem cheating on their girlfriends, and such behavior doesn’t sit right with me. I was going to get all high and mighty in this post, telling you how I’ve never cheated on a girlfriend, and giving reasons why I never would.

But then I realized, shit, I’ve never really been tested!

It’s not like I’ve had ladies chasing me my whole life, and I haven’t had all that many girlfriends. What if 21-year-old me had been in a relationship but out sans girlfriend at a bar one night. And what if a really hot stranger started flirting with me at that bar and offered up no-strings sport sex back at her place? Would I have been strong enough to say no?

As Mike Tyson once said, “Everybody has a plan ’til they get punched in the face.”

I’ve never been punched, so what do I really know?

As such and for now, I’ll hold back on sharing all my thoughts on cheating. I’m gradually getting to the point with romantic relationships where I do find myself with more options, where I expect I’d have ample opportunities to cheat when in a relationship. So let me see what that’s like for a while and then get back to you.

Experience Telling

Ev Bogue got me thinking about all this. He strives to only write about things that he has direct personal experience with. As quoted up top, anything written about that’s not from personal experience might as well be considered bullshit.

I’m going to disagree a little with that though, or perhaps I’m just elaborating. Regardless: I believe it’s important to distinguish between direct and indirect experience, and realize that both can be valuable.

For example, imagine a husband and wife going through a rough patch in their marriage. They figure it might help to talk things over with someone who has experience dealing with such issues. Who should they go to?

  1. An elderly couple they know who have been happily married for forty years.
  2. A local priest who has been doing marriage counseling for twenty years.

Not so long ago2 I would have told you that #2 was a stupid idea. What would a priest know about romantic relationships? Assuming he was a good priest, he would never have had any direct experience with such, whereas the elderly couple would be able to speak from direct experience, and therefore their advice would be much more valuable.

Right?

Perhaps not. While the elderly couple could share their experience, it would only be one experience. Their strategy for maintaining a happy marriage probably wouldn’t work for a lot of other couples.

Meanwhile, the priest could draw on his twenty years of experience dealing with all kinds of people in all stages of marriage. He’d be able to recommend several strategies to resolve certain issues because he’d have seen countless other couples attempt to resolve similar. He’d know what’s likely to work, and what isn’t. His experience, while indirect, would still be very valuable.

Your take

So I could tell you what I think about cheating and why it sickens me, but I wouldn’t be writing from any kind of experience, direct nor indirect. I’m flying blind both ways, at least for now.

So this post isn’t really about cheating. Let’s not even tackle that issue in the comments. Instead, tell me what you think of experience telling. What do you do when someone asks for your advice in an area where you have neither direct nor indirect experience? Do you try offer a helpful response anyway? Do you think it’s possible to give good advice without ever having been through or exposed to relevant experiences yourself?

P.S. I just added footnote functionality to the blog (see below). Should help with reading flow while still providing additional info for whoever might be interested. Must give a shout out to Andrew Caldwell, since I stole the footnote idea from his blog 😉

Show 2 footnotes

  1. I believe the term “Experience Telling” originally comes from Gwen Bell.
  2. A conversation with a friend started my mind a-changing. Thanks Eszter!