Monday, May 18, 1998

Week of 05/18/1998

Target: Adultery
A different perspective
- by David Matthews 2

Once upon a time, I used to be hooked on soap operas. My two big favorites were "Days of Our Lives" and "As The World Turns." I still try to catch up every now and then, but my interest in them has waned much.

The big thing that really gets me are the number of affairs that happen. Couple A falls in love, gets married, then Hero A meets Love B, Love A meets Rogue C, Hero A and Love B get real close, which gets Love A jealous, so she sleeps with Rogue C, Hero A finds out and sleeps with Love B, whereby Love A decides it’s over between the two, and Hero A marries Love B, while Love A decides she doesn’t really love Rogue C, and she tries to break up the new marriage by getting Hero A to admit he still loves her and to dump Love B… You with me so far? Mind you, the soap opera relationships get a little more complex than that!

Of course, all the screwing around on television probably doesn’t compare to the kind of affairs that go on in the real world. Usually this kind of mega-dysfunctional relationship is reserved for the Jerry Springer Show, or perhaps the tabloid media. For the most part, the soap opera affairs are theatre, and exaggerated to make people take stock in their own relationships and be thankful that they are happy and content with what they have.

A question was recently asked to members of the Playboy Mailing List, an online discussion group, if the members would be willing to leave their significant others for a Playboy Playmate of their choice. Although the questioner was wondering which playmate it would be, the focus of the responses were instead on whether or not they would leave their significant other for that playmate. Those that responded said quite firmly that they would not. One respondent said it best when he said "If I did, I’d have done it by now."

Radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger considers adultery one of the three A’s warranting divorce, besides abuse and abandonment. Moralists have managed to criminalize adultery in at least twenty states in America, although they are less than enthusiastic to enforce those laws when it concerns one of their own.

So what is adultery? Well, in many states, adultery is simply defined as the sexual relations between another person who is not your spouse. Simple, easy to understand, right? Unfortunately it’s not. History is replete of stories containing men and women who had adulterous affairs that were not considered crimes.

At the heart of adultery is betrayal of a relationship. Betrayal of trust, and a betrayal of commitment, made with your spouse or significant other. The traditional wedding vows (at least traditional in the Judeo-Christian vein) include the words "forsaking all others." You can’t get any clearer than that. It goes right up there with "Congress shall make no law.." and "read my lips, no new taxes."

Then there’s a group of couples that freely and knowingly engage in sexual relations with other people. They’re often referred to as "swingers" or couples who have an "open relationship." In the eyes of the law, they are engaging in adultery on a regular basis. But is it really adultery? No, because the core element of adultery - betrayal of trust - is missing. These are couples that know exactly what the other person is doing and have no problem with it. Case in point is the literary classic "Lady Chatterly’s Lover," which deals with a woman who engaged in sex with other men at the behest of her husband, who was crippled in war.

Can two people have an adulterous relationship and not have sex? Of course. But since sex has been considered the ultimate expression of two adults in love, it is a given in many social circles that sex in an adulterous relationship would be the ultimate expression of their affair. It is the easiest to prove that a relationship had gone sour. The key thing to remember, however, is that by the time the physical sex actually occurs, the marriage is already endangered. The damage was done well before the sexual act, because something caused the spouse to yearn for something that they aren’t getting in the marriage.

Now I realize that I would typically be the last person to talk about adultery. I am, after all, a single guy who has never been in a relationship. Normally, I’m not the one to speak about relationships. And yet, it’s probably the view of the single guy that has gone on unreported concerning this kind of situation.

So what do I think about people who have affairs? Well, I think these are some incredibly greedy people!

You know, it’s not easy being single. Searching for that certain someone, trying to find them, only to compete against guys who should have been removed from the dating pool a long time ago. What makes things worse is that the married guys who screw around are the guys who have more money than I have. They have to in order to hide the affair from their family.

I have to almost feel sorry for the women who get suckered into adulterous affairs. The guys, I have no mercy for. They’re the pond scum of the universe. They’re the only sub-breed of men that actually make lawyers and politicians look good. But the women who let themselves get suckered into adulterous affairs, I have a modicum of sympathy for. After all, they’re going through what essentially becomes a lie. They think they’re going to be the next Mrs. Pond Scum. All they have to do is put up with a little bit of isolation while he "prepares" his family for his planned breakup. She goes through holiday after holiday on the false promises that he’d make it up to her. There’s always just one more event, one more family crisis, one more special occasion that he just can’t ruin with the news that he will be leaving them and spending the rest of his life with her. If the fates are kind to her, she’ll come to her senses soon and realize that he’s been lying to her all that time. If not, she’ll be left on the wayside, with the better part of her years spent being suckered by the ultimate con man.

The fact that otherwise attractive and available women are being duped into affairs will always sit under my skin like a splinter. I realize that the dating scene is difficult, even impossible at times. But at some point, these women have to know that what they’re getting into is a pipe dream. Even in the best possible outcomes, he’d still be just a part-time husband to her, unable to direct 100% of his time and money to her because he’d have to divide his time and money towards his kids in the form of visitation and support payments. And there’s no assurance that once she gets "her man" that he’d wander on her once they’re married. After all, this is a guy who destroyed one relationship already.

Of course, the scenario of a single woman and married man is but one of several adultery permutations. In some instances, the affair is between two people who are married to others. But again, we’re talking about some pretty self-centered individuals, playing games with their families and with another person.

If these people feel they need something that their current relationship cannot provide, then they need to discuss it with their spouse, first and foremost. Get it out in the open. If they can’t do that, if they can’t trust their spouse or significant other to help them satisfy what they’ve been desiring, they should have the courage to let the other person go.

I like think that if folks can understand what it’s like to see the dating world through my eyes, then they’d realize just how lucky they are having someone in their lives. They think that relationships are hell? Try living without a relationship for a few years! Or better yet, try living without a relationship for a few years, while watching everyone else get involved and complain about the relationships they have. Trust me, if those wandering souls had to live even a fraction of the things in my life, they’d spend every waking possible moment with their significant other, ever thankful of what they have.

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