Friday, January 08, 2010

Infidelity v. Monogamy: A Love Story

Is ‘infidel’ the root of infidelity? I look at that word sitting there in all its faithless glory and wonder. And when opportunity knocks (a glance across a crowded room, the friend in the next cubicle you’ve always kind of had a crush on, two mouths meeting at a party, both imbibed and uninhibited, the handsome man in Fiction Aisle B at the neighborhood bookstore let’s say) do you really have to open the door?

Some people can be unfaithful again and again with a kind of weird reckless abandon, and still think it doesn’t ‘affect’ their relationship, although these same people seldom rush home and shout ‘I just slept with someone and it wasn’t you!’ so I suppose I can see their point; what your other half doesn’t know doesn’t hurt them. Or something like that.) Some people are categorically unfaithful yet think their spouse would never, ever be the same way towards them, which seems like wishful thinking at the very least. An in-elegant lie. Or a profound failure of imagination.

And then there are others who wouldn’t be unfaithful with their bodies no matter what. Their minds, maybe. Their dreams, sure. But not unfaithful in the way our culture defines it, no matter how many years pile up. No matter how difficult and rocky a relationship can be. No matter how it’s the honest truth that no one person can salve all your wounds, answer all your needs, fill the hole in your soul, be impossibly perfect and unremittingly fantastic always and forever, come what may. But I’ll throw something out there and say that that’s what friends are for. That’s what all our great intimacies are for, the friends and non-lovers who are there for us of both genders and nod, listen, agree, disagree, shake us up, think we’re crazy or mad and share their madness with us. Because the reality is – and Charlotte and I talk about this all the time – every relationship is a changing thing. Sometimes easy, sometimes unbearable, sometimes marvelous, sometimes weepily lousily awful, sometimes a little miraculous. Show me one that isn’t and I’ll show you one that it isn’t a relationship at all.

Living under the same roof with anyone (dogs, cats, birds not included) - spouse or friend, lover or family, child or partner – is difficult enough to make the poets bitch about it for centuries. And every time I think I’ve got life licked – the job or the kids, the marriage or the expectations, the friendships or the extended family – I realize again that all of this is a moving river. Some days it’s so smooth and glassy you just drift. Other times so tumultuous you'll certainly drown. It dries up till you’re walking on rocks. It brings storms. It turns beautiful. But it’s constant only in that it’s ceaseless; it's never rational nor logical and there is no GPS system so stop looking for it. At 14 you really want to believe in perfect endings and glass slippers and Nancy Meyers movies, but if you still believe in them at 26 or 38 or 44 or 51, then woe is you. Or actually: Whoa.

So anyway, fidelity. An article in the NY Times showed that for men who cheat, opportunity is far and away the number one factor. If the opportunity is there, no matter what she looks like, no matter how easy or hard or for how long, they (the ones inclined to wander) will take it. For women who stray, it wasn’t opportunity at all but the chance to feel more attractive, more appreciated or desired. But it made me wonder. These women are, by and large, with men who only see them as opportunity. Would they feel dejected by the truth? Or would it not matter at all? Does infidelity stop the river for awhile? Does it teach you how to swim, or at least hold your breath? It can be so easy to be unfaithful. Anyone can do it. Opportunity knocks everywhere you go. And being faithful to one person month after month, year after year, can be difficult sometimes, I suppose. But significant things usually are harder, aren't they? They mean more because they matter. And isn’t that the point? I mean really, isn’t that the point? - Janet

1 comment:

  1. Yes! Beautifully written. Beautifully conceived. And so on the money. And you know what? with Mr. Grumpy inhabiting the house this morning and for the past week or so, it's EXACTLY what I needed to read. Thank you for the encouragement. Charlotte