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Are we supposed to be with one person all our life, a recent HuffPost article asked. While not condoning infidelity, author Lisa Haisha wonders if “adultery may be inevitable,” especially since  we live longer than ever before. As she writes:  Is infidelity inevitable?

(I)n the course of a long term relationship, taking into account the practical realities of our human need to experience life on our own, or through experiences with other platonic or romantic relationships, perhaps a new kind of conversation can unfold with your spouse or partner where you jointly communicate your needs and set reasonable and practical parameters of what is and isn’t allowed in your marriage, so the negative and hidden behaviors associated with adultery don’t take place. … Maybe the tenets of a successful marriage should not be whether the couple stays monogamous for decades, but rather whether the couple openly communicates about what their unique marriage will look like, what will be deemed acceptable and what will not, and then honoring that joint decision. tweet

She certainly is not the first to suggest this. Not only do Susan Pease Gadoua and I talk about the reality of assumed monogamy in The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels, but many others, like columnist and author Dan Savage, have questioned why sexual fidelity should trump stability. Monogamy works for many, he says, but obviously not for everyone — why don’t we openly talk about that?

He proposes (and practices with his husband of several years) a monogamish relationship — one that allows some side action within certain boundaries. And while he admits sanctioned straying may not work for everyone, the monogamy conversation must be had nonetheless:

Folks on the verge of making those monogamous commitments, need to look at the wreckage around them — all those failed monogamous relationships out there (Schwarzenegger, Clinton, Vitter, whoever’s on the cover of US magazine this week) — and have a conversation about what it’ll mean if one or the other partner should cheat. And agree, at the very least, to getting through it, to place a higher value on the relationship itself than on one component of it, sexual exclusivity. tweet

We know that many believe infidelity is “bad” — in fact, 91 percent consider it morally wrong. But, that doesn’t stop us from indulging anyway; while infidelity statistics are sketchy because they’re self-reported, some believe as many as 70 percent of married couples are cheating. A recent study indicates that 77 percent believe infidelity is more common today, and 37 percent of divorced adults saying cheating was the cause of their divorce.

So, do the math.

Savage and other experts say couples can and do get past some extramarital canoodling, and if they have kids, they not only can but should (which definitely flies in the face of those who consider infidelity abuse):
Given the rates of infidelity, people who get married should have to swear a blood oath that if it’s violated, as traumatic as that would be, the greater good is the relationship. The greater good is the home created for children. If there are children present, they’ll get past it. The cultural expectation should be if there’s infidelity, the marriage is more important than fidelity.
I have conflicted feelings about flat-out accepting infidelity, having experienced it myself from both sides; the occasional fling is not the same as a long-term affair, and they should not be treated the same (and Savage makes that distinction, too). But I absolutely believe couples need to decide for themselves whether they’re going to be monogamous or not, and not assume it. And it’s a conversation that needs to be had throughout the relationship.
Really, is that so hard?
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6 Responses to “Is infidelity inevitable?”

  1. blurkel says:

    Inevitable infidelity?Not necessarily. But the conditions necessary to prevent it are rare.

    I got to hear some my two sisters’ and my two daughters’ marriage “lessons”, and had I known that the details of these lessons are far from uncommon in today’s relationships, I would not have married. Men don’t get the same kind of “advice” from their hen-pecked fathers that the distaff team gets from their mothers. All that a man is expected to do is to obey all commands from his wife under threat of the application of the divorce laws: Go to work, hand over the pay check, and do what he’s told without any expectation of having a life. She is in charge, and if he doesn’t understand, he needs to remember that she is in charge.

    Now if women actually treated men as they expect to be treated themselves, there would be something in marriage which benefits men. But since that isn’t going to happen for the vast majority of men, they either suffer in silence or take steps so that they have some kind of a life anyway.

    • OMGchronicles
      Twitter: OMGchronicles

      blurkel, thanks for writing although you have a rather bleak assessment of husbands. If a man chooses a woman who henpecks him and treats him poorly and stays with her, sorry — he will have to own that. And many women make their own paycheck, thank you, often more than the man’s. Your view seems somewhat dated to me; I don’t think newlyweds today would have the same kind of marriage that you describe.
      Divorce, while not easy, is a way to extricate oneself from a bad situation (assuming you have tried other things to improve the marriage).
      Marriage has traditionally been a much better deal for men than women, and the statistics back it up. But if a marriage is stressful, neither gender will thrive.

      • blurkel says:

        Blaming the men, are you? Typical.

        Put yourself on the other side of the societal divide, and you will see that divorce isn’t such an easy remedy for making a bad choice – marrying at all. Women are cheered as being brave to take the steps of dissolution while men are denigrated (by women) and scorned for not living up to the vows he took. Women get societal sympathy while men are chided (by women) for being juvenile and immature.

        it isn’t lightly that in Japan and the UK, young men are avoiding marriage so much that the authorities are worried. Increasingly, this is happening in many other nations as well. There isn’t enough benefit for young men to surrender all that women take, so they avoid the entire problem altogether. I watch for women to turn to each other instead, since men are not so gullible anymore.

  2. OMGchronicles
    Twitter: OMGchronicles

    Blaming husbands? No. Foolishness knows no gender. Anyone who stays in a bad situation has only his/her self to blame.
    I don’t think anyone gets “societal sympathy” for divorcing. The basic line is you “failed” or you didn’t “try hard enough.”
    Now that women have economic freedom, I doubt you will see the same kinds of divorces, where women are seen as “getting” things. Several of my girlfriends, who were the breadwinners, had to split the assets (he got the house, she paid alimony, etc.) Things are changing, and it will be better for all who choose to marry and, if so be it, divorce.

    • trey1963 says:

      Fear of Loss of our kids keeps men in bad ,cruel, damaging marriages. Sadly there is a severe lack of equity in marriages these days because of that. Men and women both know it and base their calculations upon it…..Men to take abuse and women to have the freedom to give it.

    • blurkel says:

      More lameness from the distaff side!

      Maybe your friends should have made better choices in the men they married. But no! They settled for the first guy they could entice into marriage without evaluating whose needs they were meeting. Then they blame him for themselves being poor partner choosers.

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