Is Adultery Inevitable?

It’s a challenging concept, isn’t it?

According to a thoughtful piece in the Huffington Post by Lisa Haisha, “Clearly the concept of marriage has changed greatly over the years. And with today’s rate of divorce between 40 and 50 percent, coupled with the prevalence of adultery in many marriages, perhaps it’s time for the concept of marriage to continue to evolve. According to Associated Press, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 41 percent of spouses admit to infidelity, either physical or emotional. This leads me to ask, “Are we really supposed to be with just one person our whole life? And if not, must we get re-married five times? Are there alternative ways to perceive and participate in a marriage that will guarantee its success?”

It’s our American culture that teaches us that a husband has to be the best friend, lover, partner-in-crime, transcendent hero and champion. It doesn’t work like that everywhere else.

A couple of things before we dive in. First of all, that 41% statistic was cherry picked to make the author’s case for reconsidering the nature of marriage. I have no idea where she got it. Because I actually looked at the study and the number was only HALF that. In a sample size of 918 people 23% of men and 19% of women cheated. And this was a group of people that averaged 31 years old and 50% weren’t married. So in a high-risk group of not-yet-adults, many of whom hadn’t yet pledged their lives to each other, four-fifths of people hadn’t committed infidelity. I hope you can see how framing makes a big difference when you’re looking at statistics.

For more accurate numbers, let’s look at this article on Psychology Today, which asserts that in a given year, there’s a less than 6% chance your partner will cheat, and over the course of a LIFETIME, a 25% chance that your relationship will suffer infidelity. It’s not a small number by any means, but it’s significantly less than the 40-50% range that people routinely throw around to justify why men are pigs and marriage is a bad idea.

Anyway, the author provides evidence that marriage means different things in different cultures. This is true – and the same conclusion Elizabeth Gilbert came to when she wrote her follow up to “Eat, Pray, Love”, called “Committed”. In it, she goes to Vietnam and asks women in a little fishing village two questions, “How did you know he was ‘the one’?” and “What makes him a good husband?” The only answers she got were laughter. It’s our American culture that teaches us that a husband has to be the best friend, lover, partner-in-crime, transcendent hero and champion. It doesn’t work like that everywhere else. That doesn’t mean I want the U.S. to necessarily be more like other cultures, but it’s an interesting look at how different people can view the exact same institution differently.

The author draws an open-ended but reasonable conclusion from all of this data, “Since marriage has evolved so much over the ages, and different cultures have different views of it even today, perhaps it’s time for the age-old institution to evolve yet again. 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.”

If a couple knows themselves, has good communication, and agrees on their boundaries, any arrangement can work.

Sounds about right to me. I’m a live and let live kind of guy. I have friends who are polyamorous. I’ve met a few swingers along the way. I know of a guy who cuckolds other men by sleeping with their wives in front of them. I’m aware of another couple where the husband is impotent and silently condones the wife having sexual experiences when she’s on business trips. Whatever works, you know?

Personally, I think it’s risky behavior to open up your marriage to the unknown of sleeping with others, but that’s your prerogative. I think if a couple knows themselves, has good communication, and agrees on their boundaries, any arrangement can work.

And if it doesn’t, well, you’ve got nobody but yourself to blame. That’s why marriage, by definition, is about monogamy – even if monogamy itself is not a natural state.

Your thoughts, as always, are appreciated below.

 

0
1

Join 5 Million Readers

And the thousands of women I've helped find true love. Sign up for weekly updates for help understanding men.

I hate spam as much as you do, therefore I will never sell, rent, or give away your email address.

Join our conversation (21 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.

Comments:

  1. 1
    Joe

    She may have an MA, but maybe she hasn’t had a math class since freshman year. :)

    1. 1.1
      Androgynous

      She is adding the percentage of men who cheat, to the percentage of women who cheat. So yes, she fails on several grounds.
      1) The addition of such percentages doesn’t make sense. If anything, you average the percentages out, weighted to the relative size of population of male to female.
      2) Cheating can only occur in a couple situation. If you are single with no serious partner, how on earth can you cheat ? So a population of male and female has to be ennumerated by coupling them up. 
      I think the huffpo woman is ennumerating a population of male and female whom she assumes are in a couple relationship, but not ennumerating their partners in the population. If that be the case, that logic 1) holds. 

  2. 2
    Androgynous

    Traditionally and historically, marriage had nothing to do with love, but everything to do with the begetting and raising of children/heirs. Monogamy was a function of this marriage, to the extent that it ensured all male resources get channelled towards his legal heirs whom his wife borne to him, and to no other man. Essentially, marraige is a committment to your CHILDREN borne to both you and your partner jointly, rather than a committment to your partner. Of course this idea can be extended to children that both partners in a marriage adopt jointly.
    Personally I can’t see any reason whatsoever for people to get married, if they didn’t want biological or adopted children.
     

    1. 2.1
      doug

      “Essentially, marraige is a committment to your CHILDREN borne to both you and your partner jointly, rather than a committment to your partner.” uugghhh WTF!

      Who says this…??? The bible according to Androgynous??

      Clearly this is your own opinion as it certainly isn’t mine. Children should not be expecting anything from parents who have worked hard all their lives and perhaps as a couple choose to travel around the world together and actually enjoy each others company and share memories together as a married couple using the children’s inheritance …or buy a boat and sail around the world or what ever the hell they want to do!

      Marriage has everything to do with the partner and children are the by product of that union.   I have raised my children to be self sufficient and have not been treated like I am subservient  or that my life is less than important as theirs. 

      If you truly believe your stance, you are raising the next generation of narcissistic adults.

           
        

      1. 2.1.1
        Skaramouche

        @doug

        I think you missed the point of the previous post.  I’m taking the liberty of speaking for Androgynous but he/she didn’t say anything about subservience or about one life being more important than another.  The point is simply this: the institution of marriage was born out of a need to establish a clear line of succession rather than any desire on the part of the wedded couple to pledge their troth to one another.  Its meaning has changed over the years and it has taken on many colours, both legal and romantic.  You can spin it any way you like but there’s no getting away from the fact that at its inception, the primary purpose of marriage was to make bebbehs (preferably male :P).  I think that’s all Androgynous was trying to say.

      2. 2.1.2
        Jay

        Androgynous makes a valid point about the history of marital commitment as an institution for safeguarding the needs of children.

        I am slightly concerned by the phrase: ‘..and children are the by product of that union’ in post #2.1 Product? Really? Is your language so divorced from the reality of human life and so keyed into the consuming values of society that your child is now demoted to ‘by product’?

        Clearly, not all people with children – married or not – choose to assume the role of parent in the fullest sense.  

      3. 2.1.3
        SparklingEmerald

        I too think androgenous was merely giving the historical aspect of the institution of marriage. The protection of children and inheritance.
        I raised my son to be an independant adult (he is now 24 and lives on his own) but the whole tone of your post sounds like you never gave a crap about your kids and only consider them to be the unfortunate waste matter that issued from your marital bed. 
        The end goal of coarse are independant adults, but they are born utterly helpless and dependent on their parents.   Unless a couple is super rich and can farm their “by product” out to someone else, it takes alot of love, caring, dedication and hard work to bring these helpless dependants into independant adulthood.  If this is cause for resentment, better off to not have children. 
        So I agree, the original purpose of marriage was the protection of offspring and inheritance, and unfortunately the relationship between the couple wasn’t much considered.  (Often there was no choice, ie: arranged marriages)
        Unfortunately now, the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction, with each marriage partner focused on ME, ME, ME, and not so much WE, and children are considered a horrible side effect of sex, and not the fruit of their union.
        I want marriage to start off as a loving union between a couple (not a business arrangement brokered by the family), but I would like to see that love and concern extended to the children who are born to that union, or the couple decide to remain child free, if they don’t want /can’t be bothered to care for children.
        Unfortunately, many times this is not the case, and the children suffer.
        As heartbroken as my son was, that we divorced when he was 21, he thanked me for giving him a good childhood. (His Dad & I were pretty happy for about half our marriage & I don’t think he noticed our growing apart when he was a teen)  He grew up proud to be the ONLY one in his circle of friends with his biological parents marriage intact.  His friends told him what they REALLY thought about their home life, and not what the adults in their lives want to hear.  There was HATRED expressed towards the parent that abandoned them.  (Some of his friend also lost parents through death, but due to being from a family with multiple dads, the siblings were split up after the death of the mother)  Another one of his friends lost both parents, one to suicide, another to jail. 
        I still have occasional contact with his friends, and on the surface they seemed to have turned out fine, despite their parental turmoil  (they all were raised by more responsible family members, aunts, grandparents, etc., so at least they didn’t end up in multiple foster homes) 
        So not every broken union/non union has to result in a child becoming a  parasitic or narcisstic adult, but it usually means someone else has to step in and take on responsibilities that were never theirs to begin with.
        I don’t advocate loveless marriages that nothing more than breeding/business arrangements, but please, someone think of the children.
        I agree with you about the inheritance, until a couple dies, everything they own is THEIRS.  My inheritance is not mine yet, and if my Dad needs to spend every penny in his old age for his own enjoyment, comfort, and well being that is his right.  If all I inherit is a set of dishes, so be it.  He earned his own way, and I’ll earn mine.

  3. 3
    Ben Iyyar

    There is nothing inevitable or acceptable regarding adultery, and there is no excuse for it either.  Just as there is nothing inevitable about theft, lying, fraud, or personal injury, these are all choices and adultery includes a little of all of them.  Marriage is a legal and binding contract between two adults who promise to behave in an honest, loving, and open manner.  Just as no adult would try to cheat the mechanic who fixed their car out of agreed upon payment, no adult in marriage should assume that they have any right to lie to their partner, cheat their partner out of honesty and love, to defraud their partner from agreement they made, or to hurt their partner by their adultery.  Sure people cheat on their spouses and they are wrong to do so.  Adultery is a sin, and it is also a personal crime against one’s spouse even if it is not a legal crime.  Adultery means the marriage contract has been broken and both partners have suffered an injury.  I have been happily married for almost thirty five years and I have never been unfaithful to my wife and children, yes children, because any parent who commits adultery hurts their whole family, not just their spouse.

    1. 3.1
      SparklingEmerald

      Thank you   Ben @3  – Excellent post.
      I get so sick of hearing people talk about relationships in terms of “It just  happened”.
      Affairs don’t just “happen”, they are caused.  The wind doesn’t just blow your clothes off and then blow two people into a bed.
      Considering the availability of a wide variety of BC methods, I think most “accidental pregnancies” are BS too.
      People “just knowing” they found the one,  and then a year later “it just didn’t work out”.
      People just want to “go with the flow” and “just let it happen” with relationships, sliding, not deciding into unions.    (the sliding not deciding quote isn’t mine, I don’t know who said it first, but I think it accurately defines much of what is happening today in the world of relationships)
      So much passivity going on when people speak of relationships.  We had a discussion on this blog about the meaning of the term “intentional dating” and it of course it devolved into a semantic debate, but semantics aside, I would like to see people be more intentional and less just “letting things happen” when it comes to relationships.
      Why do people want to just “go with the flow” and then act so surprised when their love life ends up on the rocks ?

    2. 3.2
      julia

      Thank you Ben. You sound like an honorable man abd a good husband and father. 

  4. 4
    Isobel

    Actually, Doug, Androgynous is correct in that the marriage contract was originally formulated to protect the inheritances of moneyed classes (often aristocrats and royalty). It had nothing to do with ‘love’. For lower social orders marriage only became the norm when people began to live in communities that gave them territory (with or without ownership) that needed protection. Again, nothing to do with ‘love’. The stuff related to infidelity was only to ensure that offspring had a legitimate claim on assets or titles, and tended to apply to the woman more than the man as the woman was technically the man’s property. Marriage – as a traditional institution – is grossly unequal and iniquitous and yes, only serves to protect children and property.
    However, life has moved on and our world now expects different things and behaves in different ways from those early days. For the vast majority of people in the Western world those notions of marriage are totally unacceptable and irrelevant. However, the laws that underpin the marriage contract still reflect those early days. I guess what Marc is saying is that we perhaps need to review, and reflect on, what marriage actually means to most people today. The liberating of marriage laws to include homosexual people is the ideal opportunity for this as many of the things that we assume in heterosexual marriage do not apply. For example, a gay couple cannot dissolve a marriage on the basis of adultery, which brings the whole idea of fidelity as an essential component into question. If it is not acceptable for some, why is it not acceptable across the board? What is at the root of infidelity being unacceptable? If the marriage contract is structured to ensure children inherit any assets what of people who marry and don’t have children? What do they do with their assets? Why can’t they ‘spend’ them while alive and not have to consider protecting them? (possible but in practice very hard to do).
    Essentially, modern marriage is a personal contract with certain elements rooted in law yet, the structure and culture does not reflect this.  http://ksangmin.wordpress.com/2009/03/18/anthony-giddens-the-transformation-of-intimacy/ is worth a read – Giddens in general has a handle on modern relationships.

    1. 4.1
      Isa

      Side note, why can’t a gay couple dissolve a marriage for cause (i.e. adultery etc.)?  That is still an option in some states and countries that allow gay civil unions or marriages. 
       
      The question of people who marry and don’t have children is also simple, they generally chose another family member/business partner/ semi-adopted protoge to get the bulk of their assets after death.  Inheritance is a legal question, and people have always had the right to disinherit or repudiate their children (legally and religiously).
       
      Also, I would hardly say that marriage was always a grossly unequal institution as per the sexes.  It functioned as a way for a man to be relatively sure of paternity and access to sex.  For women, *obligatory* child support and access to sex.  In most cultures, denial of the “marital debt” was considered seriously disordered behavior as well as abandonment of wives and children. 
       
      If you want to really look at what happens when marriage no longer occurs, look at especially the black lower class in the US.  An absolute nightmare as regards social outcomes and advancement.

  5. 5
    Dria

    I am a happily married 41 year old African American woman. I agree with Evan’s perspective, but I wanted to share. My husband and I know of a couple who are swingers. It started out great for both parties, but two years later, the wife is no longer interested in the activity. Unfortunately, the husband is enjoying himself immensely, and the wife feels stuck in a situation she has no control over. I caution others to proceed with caution when considering this and similar activities.

  6. 6
    Noquay

    Anonymous is right about the development of the institution of marriage, in European societies, it was more of a legal contract. In the tribes, the top priority was the children which ALL in the tribe are/were expected to look out for. A woman’s top priority was to keep the tribe going by providing children,
    the father
    was expected to provide/protect the children and the tribe as a whole. As long as a woman knew who the father was of her children, that’s all that mattered. It
    was understood that people change throughout life,

    that people grow apart from their partners and may take new

    ones. I am not talking about cheating left and right but that ones partner in their 20s may be a different
    person than their 50s.
    This was accepted so long as the children are cared for. Abusive spouses could be
    discarded quickly and really abusive folk banned,
    essentially a death sentence. Nope, I think
    a child
    deserves two present, loving parents who provide for them in childhood. A child also deserves an upbringing without drug/alcohol abuse, conflict,
    anger, that comes from being in a home where the
    marriage is damaged. Better off being in a single
    parent family. The nuclear family model
    has done more to ruin marriage and raising of children than any other factor. Parenting is tough, relentless work. Not having a safety net in terms of grandparents, aunts, siblings, etc creates a
    situation where, when
    things go bad, neither the parents, and more importantly, the kids, have nowhere safe to vent, ease the pressure, get away if needed. The person one marries that will
    work well as a parent may not be the best person for one as a partner. A lot of men and women in my academic circle married down beca
    use the guys wanted kids and were happy
    to do most of the hard work of parenting. The spouses incomes, being far lower, made little impact on family finances when they quit plus it’s easier to leave and reaquire an unskilled job. What happened
    eventually is that when the kids were old enough to be in school, leave the home, you had a couple with zero in common. A lot of disrespect surfaced. The higher earning spouse would socialize with peers
    rather than their spouses as they had become ashamed of them. Again, saw this in both men and women. The emotionally discarded spouse feels abandoned. Awful situation. Due to blood quantum requirements, many tribal woman will have children fathered by a tribal member so that they are fulfilling the expectation that women contribute children to the tribe and the kids are “in”. The poor dude , who was chosen based on enrollment rather than who he is as a person, is often discarded. Sad for the guy but as kids are raised by everyone anyway, probably better for the child. The inner city Black communities described by earlier com enters are societies of moms, grand moms, aunts, because the men have been devastated by gangs, drugs, violence. 

  7. 7
    Sunflower

    It’s not rocket science, if you marry and pledge fidelity, then own up.  If you feel that might be too difficult and might have trouble keeping it in your pants, then do yourself and everyone else in your life a favor and stay single.      

  8. 8
    Taylor

    I know men, okay used to know, who were married and cheated frequently. None of them seem to have any guilt with it. One said he always wanted to get married and have kids, yet he was always going to have a “side project” as well. I think historically, many men had mistresses and the women tolerated it. And women STILL do. The one thing I noticed about these guys’ wives is they were all the same kind of personality; quiet, not terribly ambitious, homebodies, a bit submissive even. In other words, the kind of women who would easily forgive a man for cheating, even countless times. 

    I don’t know what’s more disturbing: men who cheat; or the women who don’t have the guts to leave and tolerate it. 

    I really do think men put women into two categories based on false and stupid reasons: women you marry (and you can cheat on) and women you cheat with.  

  9. 9
    Rebecca

    When EMK points out that American culture “teaches us that a husband has to be the best friend, lover, partner-in-crime, transcendent hero and champion,” is he saying that THIS is the hopelessly impossible standard, not fidelity?  My husband was my best friend, lover and partner-in-crime.  I’m not feeling the “hero” and “champion” labels, but he was (is) a remarkable human being and I was proud of him.  Am I crazy to think I can find that again? 

    1. 9.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      1. Fidelity isn’t a hopelessly impossible standard, and yet one quarter of all married couples face it.

      2. I think it’s fair to say that what American women expect of their husbands is greater than what they expect in other places. See Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, “Committed” for more. This isn’t entirely a bad thing – having higher standards is good. That is, until the standards become unrealistic and any mortal man falls short.

      3. No, you’re not crazy. You can (and should) find a remarkable human being to marry again.

      1. 9.1.1
        AllHeart81

        That’s because in other places you can stone a woman to death just because someone raped her. 

        1. Evan Marc Katz

          Congratulations, AllHeart81, you win the Hyperbolic Nonsequitur Award, for bringing up rape and stoning to a conversation about infidelity and the expectations of marriage. Well done!

      2. 9.1.2
        JennLee

        Very good response Evan. I would only add to the quote below.

        This isn’t entirely a bad thing – having higher standards is good. That is, until the standards become unrealistic and any mortal man falls short.

        I feel it can use the addition that higher standards are OK until you find it too hard to find a good guy. You may be simply expecting too much. I would say the same if all the men in the country were holding out for Playboy Playmates. With there only being 12 per year, a whole lot of men would be disappointed.

        It seems that if are single and have trouble finding an acceptable man, the idea would be to find out what they want, and then see if we need to improve in an area we may be lacking in. We can be mad that men prefer beautiful, younger women, but getting mad isn’t going to do much good, but it will raise our blood pressure, which is not good.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>