In a comment to my post on single and married men, L commented:
“I'm sort of floored that there are people that think affairs and infidelity are okay if "it works for you." I don't buy it AT ALL. Who does it work for? The other spouse? The person dreaming of something that will never come? The dumbass trying to balance the two? The children learning what it means to be a trustworthy adult? Or maybe I'm overshooting? Maybe no one in an affair or a broken marriage ever thinks that far ahead.
Anyway, I know that wasn't the entire point of your post, so I'll stop.”
And no, that wasn’t the point of the post, but L raises an interesting idea in her comment. Are there people who believe that infidelity and affairs are okay?
This is a question I can only answer for myself – and my answer might differ than what one might expect.
Infidelity and an affair are subjective. We all have a different working definition than the person in the next room, possibly even the person with whom we are involved. As a society, we understand them to mean a person stepping outside a long term/committed relationship to have intimate relations with another person.
But is it still an affair or infidelity if the relationship is open? Society would say yes, but the people involved would not.
For some infidelity is just about the physical intimacy while others (and yes I know a few women who define it this way) believe that a close friendship between their husband and another woman is a form of an affair – especially if the relationship developed after the committed relationship began.
The way I define the terms or apply them in my own relationships is more about honesty – the cheating or the infidelity occur when the person decides that this is a topic the he can not discuss with me – when his interest in another woman… as a friend or something physical… is something we can’t discuss or he feels he needs to hide. It is not the physical act or the close friendship; it is the dishonesty and loss of intimacy in our relationship that defines the situation, the problem, the challenge.
Society sees things differently as a collective. We like to see the problems, analyze the problems, give labels to this and that situation, and then find fault. There are lines that we see; lines that, when crossed, result in blame or fault being determined. How often does society stop to consider that we see things from the outside – we do not know what is happening within that relationship, the conversations, the communications, the intimacy, the ins and outs of any given relationship we are observing. We only know what we see and that is often filtered through our own definitions, ideals, and beliefs.
A man has a crippling disease and is unable to be physical with his spouse, if she seeks physical intimacy elsewhere with his blessing, is it an affair/infidelity? If a man fantasizes about another woman and doesn’t tell his partner – is he cheating? If a woman stops having physical intimacy with her husband for a year, or two, or ten…? Given the push to keep parents in the same house for the kids even though the marriage might be lifeless, is there room to permit the parents to find love elsewhere? Society is more than willing to place labels and find fault when no one truly knows what happens behind the closed doors that is a relationship – as of yet, we do not live in glass houses.
I don’t have any answers to my questions stated above nor do I know what exactly to tell L. Yes, infidelity can result in great pain and hurt… but is it the infidelity or is it the dishonesty? Is there room for affairs in marriages as there are in other cultures and societies? If we accepted them here, would we be better served?
I am not an advocate for affairs or infidelity. I am, however, a firm believer in accepting that each relationship is vastly different – that it is not just to ask everyone to live up to an American ideal of what we, as a society, think marriage should be. Adults need to consider their families, their kids, and the results of their actions. Society needs to learn that it doesn’t always know the answers nor have all the facts regarding an individual situation.
Thank you L for reading and commenting and for giving me a chance to think about the issue and to write about it.