Cheating! Sin or Misguided Loyalty?
Recently, Alain de Boton the British philosopher and author made the case for cheating. Separating love and sex, he claims that it is completely unnatural to expect monogamy from the man/woman of our dreams and we should be satisfied with occasional monogamy. Sex he advocates is at the root of most problems with the desire evaporating after a couple of years for most couples. He blames the relatively recent phenomenon (as he calls it) of romanticism for all the pain and suffering that infidelity brings to all parties involved. Furthermore, he claims that no couple can realistically survive the extreme requirements of an exclusive relationship without a lot of wear and tear to the fabric of their love.
I had to stop and think about what I just read. Having been on the receiving end of marital infidelity I am probably a hard case to convince even at a philosophical level. Should I have been satisfied that there was only one other woman (at least that I know of) and then reciprocated the favour? After 22 years of trust and loyalty, could we have come to an agreement of mutually sleeping around while maintaining a harmonious home for our children and a loving relationship for ourselves?
Even though I get Alain’s point on the merits of enjoying a new sex partner, I somehow don’t see how it would have worked.
But does he have a point at all? We are all on this earth for a shockingly short time studying, working, getting married, having children, grandchildren and wham bam we are off to the pearly gates. Should we owe eternal loyalty to our spouse or significant other even after the love is frayed and the sex is dead?
Four years have passed since my divorce and I am blissfully happy with a new partner, in fact, happier than I ever was with my ex-husband. I am for sure in a better place and still have a few decades to enjoy my freedom. Was there harm done? Who paid the price and why?
From my vantage point four years later, I can tell you that when your trust and loyalty is trampled in the way mine was, you develop a very suspicious streak towards humanity. Same goes for my daughters who witnessed the debacle. All the acts of infidelity, indifference and hostility inflicted from within the tribe were much more hurtful and damaging than the actual separation which in the end proved to be a blessing in disguise.
Could it all have worked better? Now that the anger has subsided (somewhat) I can almost thank his cheating little heart for how he did, what he did, simply because my life is so much better now. Could he have left without leaving scorched earth behind him? Hard to tell, but it does come down to expectations, and marriage does raise quite a few of those, including the “I will not cheat” and “till death do us part”. What if a couple had agreed “I will have sex with others 3 times during the relationship”, “the marriage will last 3 years upon which it can be renewed by mutual agreement” and “if we decide to have children we will stay together until they graduate.” Could this work better?
I can think of a few good points with a finite marital arrangement. First and foremost, women would not leave their career or relinquish their financial future unless they got paid a fair salary by the husband. Much of the anger in broken homes comes from unfair financial settlements, where the wife is left with little money and a house full of kids. And, the sex would be better for sure as couples would only renew the marriage if they both wanted and still desired one another. On that point, had I been given that guilt-free exit card, I would have left at least a decade ago. As for the kids, they would only enter the marriage if the couple was convinced that they were in it for the long haul and were happy to relinquish their exit card for 18 years.
Hmmm…What do you think? Do you see downsides?