Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Now let's talk about sex. It's interesting, it's funny, everybody wants it, some are lucky enough to get it, others get too much. Most of us get it for free, some have to pay for it, some are happy to sell it. Some of us aren't getting it but still want it. Others aren't getting it where they should so stray to get it somewhere else. Here is the gist of this post. Infidelity. If you've made a commitment to someone whether through the sanctity of marriage or just a general understanding that you're in a monogamous relationship is cheating morally corrupt, sexy and sophisticated or downright dirty?
A recent conversation with fellow a blogger has raised this issue and stirred my creative juices. (C'mon they're the only ones being stirred at the moment!).
My belief is that cheating on your partner is morally wrong. It's hedging your bets and double dipping. Even if the relationship is poor there are two options . . try harder to make it work or simply call it a day and walk away no matter how painful that might be, at least you're being true to yourself. Staying with someone you don't love, don't want to be with or don't want to sleep with is not a relationship, it's a sentence and in the long run, everyone suffers.
Affairs are a pivotal theme in literature, soap operas, movies whether it's Lady Chatterley's Lover or the Young and The Restless, they're all doing it. In fact who's screwing who in today's dramas is difficult to ascertain if you miss an episode! (Except for the Young and The Restless to which you can return after an entire semester at Uni and still follow the plot).
So why do people have affairs? I simplistically suggested that monogamy is not the natural state of the human male. Why produce sperm your entire life if you are not biologically intended to produce progeny for that same amount of time and since women have a definite 'use-by' date which usually concludes in their late 40's or early 50's a younger 'subject' is required to fulfill the prophecy. I believe Charlie Chaplin was in his 80's when he fathered his last child!
Perhaps infidelity begins before a life long commitment in the pre-marital stage where partners have already engaged in sex with others. Maybe it's a result of childbirth, reduced female urge and the distraction of youngsters. Maybe it happens in early middle-age when the pressures of mortgages and work and neglect come into play or in later years where an affair might add some spice to an 'empty' marriage or help people 'redefine' themselves through intimacy. Perhaps it's just overactive glands and too much testosterone. Perhaps it's realising that the person you married is actually very boring in bed and you fancy some acrobatics or a swing from a chandelier as suggested in research recently completed on the 'affairs' of the Northern Irish population. Perhaps it's the risk factor - the thrill of the chase and the possibility of getting caught.
According to The State of Affairs: Explorations in Infidelity and Commitment By Jean Duncombe, one of the few academic studies on infidelity, men are more likely to have affairs which cut across age, class and marital status whereas women have fewer relationships with single younger men and tend to stick to their age group and social status when looking for a bit of hanky panky. This the researchers assume, is probably due to women's social depreciation with age. Sorry Grannymar but the concept of ToyBoys is largely that - a concept and not often a reality. And, whilst most men and women agree that infidelity is inherently wrong, more evidence points to the fact that many men and women have affairs during their first marriages.
Basically society relies on monogamy and fidelity as affairs represent a threat to normal principles of behaviour and cohesion. Generally, we're afraid of changing societal boundaries that have existed for years. Is that it? We're worried about the breakdown of society, the family et al? So we pretend that all these extra marital affairs are not happening?
What about the moral dilemma . . is it right? Personally . . although I've never had an extra marital affair (one bloke was quite enough thank you and I'm such a terrible liar I could never carry it off) I don't think it's morally right. At my age, I know a lot of particularly men, in their late 40's and 50's who have gone down that path and are now desperately unhappy because their marriage has failed, their children won't speak to them and the other person in the affair has cut and run I know a couple of women who have been 'the other woman' but not as many seem to have regretted their decision. Two in fact, married the menwith whom they had the affair. The excuse "It was an unhappy marriage anyway . . " sufficing as reason enough to stray.
If you're unhappy . . . difficult as it may be . . the right thing to do is to work on improving the situation and when all else fails leave the relationship. If you're tempted . . . well "A Cat Can Look At a King" my mother used to tell me - face it - looks can't kill but following through has consequences. My take on it all is that a commitment is a commitment, be true to your word. Don't take that step towards commitment if you're not ready but when you do, it is for life so be prepared to put your pencil in your pocket and work at it. Do not have sexual relations with that woman! And ladies . . . look but don't touch if he belongs to someone else.
And a short post script for those who are teetering on the brink of temptation (not that they read this blog!): I married a good and gentle man. Our relationship went through all the ups and downs that relationships suffer but I always thought I'd spend my entire life with him. I had a 2 year old and a 4 year old, I hadn't yet gone back to work and my life was unfulfilled. Domesticity bored me, his shift work left me alone too long and life was a financial struggle - and all the temptation in the world was put at my feet. At 32 years of age, I found myself a widow. I often wonder would I have stayed had he lived but that decision was taken out of my hands. So have a think about what life might be like without your partner . . . seriously . . write a list of pros and cons if you must. Unlike life's misfortunes, building a good relationship is something that you can control if you are prepared for open discussion and compromise. Take it from me, it's better than the alternative!