If you’d ask me 15 years ago whether I could ever forgive a cheater, I would have self-righteously laughed in your face. Of course not! Completely unforgivable, and who would do that to me my ego would add. If you would’ve asked me 10 years ago I would still laugh, though probably a little less loudly. And as the years pass that laugh sounds less and less confident, perhaps even a bit hesitant. The years have taught me not to judge too harshly, for those “problems” might affect me quite personally one day.
Many of us have probably created a long list of relationship expectations in our twenties, a list which with time dwindles and is modified, elasticized to the point of completely morphing into a whole other set of ideas. Some changes are understandable – what was important at 25 is not an issue at 35. Say perhaps you only dated tall, dark, handsome men, only to discover that they left you mentally unsatisfied and confused. Then you learn looks are not quite as important as other traits such as sense of humor, responsibility, a little domesticity. I’ve always had a penchant for men who could make good coffee.
But, what happens when you commit to someone you thought met your expectations, only to discover years later that they really weren’t what you thought? What do you do if you discover this after you combine your finances, set up your home, and make a family together? And what happens when you look around and see that monogamy as you thought existed is virtually disappearing all around you?
Are we kidding ourselves to remain faithful, and to also expect the same from our partners? Should we all have open marriages? The logistics of that seem exhausting. What if finances are tight and family time scarce? Jealousy aside, how can one be chill about their partner dating when they’ve been gone at work all week and cash is too low to be spending it outside the family? What if we just hook up to procreate, commit to raising the kids together, but really continue living as a single person? How would that work out in terms of the million things a child needs on a daily basis? And what are the implications of that as a society on a whole? Would we break down, completely eradicating all previous notions of civility or would a whole new order – maybe even a more satisfied one – be established?
It is interesting to note that evolution theories on social monogamy find it more common for birds to be monogamous than mammals. For the creationists reading this, you might want to stop now. In essence we are but animals, a highly evolved mammal as some would like to think, though as impressive as the Polyergus Amazonian ant, I’m not quite sure. Regardless, it makes biological sense for us to pair monogamously, and as related to men specifically, the chances of producing his own offspring are increased by shielding his woman from other masculine advances, plus he gets the added benefit of being guaranteed that the kids are truly his. I write this with one eyebrow raised, but essentially it is biologically legitimatized. However, humans are a complicated bunch, we are often guided by emotions – or the illusion of emotions, vanity, and a desire to spice things up.
I can wholeheartedly understand wanting to have an affair. Who doesn’t miss the thrill of a chase, and the sexual tension of getting to know each other? Have you ever wanted to run away with the cute guy at the supermarket? Oh. Me neither. Though if you’re asking me whether I would risk losing everything I’ve worked so hard for; just for the thrill of something I am sure would not last 3 months, then the answer is undeniably no. Am I just limited by the construction of social reality? Probably.
As one might expect I’m at the age now where couple friends around me (myself and husband included) are facing mid life crisis; people I thought would never be unfaithful have crossed that threshold without regrets. Is it disheartening? Of course. Is it surprising? Not really.
So my question is, are we meant to be faithful? If we forgive an indiscretion do we automatically become doormats? Marriage predates written history and we can hypothesize its purpose was practical for many reasons. Whether those reasons remain valid today, are questionable, though some deserve merit. Getting separated is a pain in the ass. Let’s suppose there are no children in the unit, most marriages have cemented their vows by merging their finances, buying a bunch of crap together, and forming emotional ties with each other’s friends and families. Add children to that mix and separating seems almost impossible.
Thus barring extreme reasons such as abuse, or destruction of some kind, we age, we learn, we forgive, and we become way more lax in our marriages, the imperfections and an occasional lack of good judgment included. Do we still love? Of course. Undeniably, we love fiercely and even passionately. Staying married is almost like running a marathon, in that you alternate between feeling proud, almost smug, and then you want to shit on yourself, but you keep running. The thing with this marathon is that the goal is never to reach the finish line, to keep extending it until it’s no longer in your point of view. Some of us continue to run other marathons, while for others once is enough.