Infidelity is the breaking of a promise to remain faithful to a romantic partner, whether that promise was a part of marriage vows, a privately uttered agreement between lovers, or an unspoken assumption. As unthinkable as the notion of breaking such promises may be at the time they are made, infidelity is common.
I have come across several examples among people I know. Initially, I was of the opinion that it’s an individual choice and it shouldn’t bother me even if my own friend was involved in it. But lately, I feel differently about it and I thought it’s best to flesh out what I think about it.
Here are some examples of married people I know:
A. A person whose spouse is away for work for most of the year, has started a relationship with a distant relative.
B. A person happily married is sponsoring someone who lives alone for leisure pastimes.
C. A person is in an extra-marital relation purely for pleasure, with no strings attached.
D. A person seeks multiple partners to love and be loved by while enjoying the benefits of marriage and family.
E. A person secretly purses a long-distance relationship with an unrequited love partner while being ‘happily’ married.
And there are more. These are all seemingly normal married people that you and I may know, who lead ordinary lives except that they display this anomalous behaviour- they live a second life in parallel. They live in two universes at once and one hand doesn’t know what the other is up to.
All this passes today as normal behaviour. Craving attention, company and ‘love’ of someone outside the committed relationship, seems like a ‘normal’ desire and many are ‘ok’ entertaining and even discussing it casually with friends.
It seems there is a fundamental disconnect in understanding the institution of marriage or the basics of a committed relationship. Being in a committed relationship has become more of a social, financial and practical necessity- something that one must have as an insurance policy on the foundation of which one can, later, plan one’s ‘real’ love adventures. This is a recipe for disaster!
Research published in Scientific American identified main eight main reasons why partners cheat viz. anger, self-esteem, lack of love, low commitment, need for variety, neglect, sexual desire, and situation or circumstance. Surprisingly it also revealed that only 1 out of 10 affairs lead to a committed relationship. This clearly shows that those who cheat do not have an appetite for commitment. They don’t have the courage to either confess or commit to it.
What goes on in the mind of the person who cheats? As per the theory of evolution, it is a sheer animal instinct that makes females seek resources and men seek mothers- both trying to maximise the chances of survival of their progeny, to ensure their DNA lives on. This is nature and inevitably it also comes to humans. The educated amongst us also use this as a justification to rationalize their philanderous adventures. But this nature is not what makes us human- it is the ability to rise above this nature that makes us special as humans.
If love is an expression of our values, then marriage is an expression of our highest human values of trust, respect, admiration, commitment, and companionship. One falls in love with a sense of life of a person, seeing the other person as an embodiment of the values one admires most. Then alone one should commit to a person in marriage. It is your highest achievement in relating, not a compromise. If you’ve got the marriage wrong, take the courage to dissolve it. Take a stand. If one really has self-esteem, one must work one’s way out of the institution of marriage. Any democratic constitution gives you that freedom. Don’t choose to lead parallel lives.
To cheat on our partners, after we have committed is neither wise nor sustainable in long term. Sometimes, it is important to take a step back and see the relationship as what it is. If there is something you can do to improve or fix, try it first. And if you think continuing in a relationship doesn’t make sense, there is no future to it- have the courage to fold your cards and move out. If you find out about the infidelity of your partner, your partner confesses, vows to make things right and if you have a big heart, give them another chance. (It doesn’t help in most cases).
Infidelity is easy- all you have to do is reply to a text, date that stranger on your Instagram follower list or have that one nightstand. This love has no future. As I have written in another post, love is hard. It takes attention, focus and energy to nurture it. Love is not for the weak of heart.
So to conclude: infidelity in marriage is absolutely a no-no and should not be entertained or tolerated by anyone with any self-esteem. If you are a parent, then teach your children with your own example how to stand for your values. The best course I believe is simply to forgive and move on- separately.