As an educator, an over-analyzer, and a control freak, I always like to have schemas built up for “what could potentially occur”, so that if that something does potentially occur, I already know my bearings (I would not recommend this kind of lifestyle for anyone else, because it can be extremely stressful).
As 20-somethings, I believe we are in a bit of a crisis. The average marrying age is now higher than ever, at 28, and fewer and fewer of us are actually getting married. The benefit to this social ‘reform’ is that we can spend more time discovering ourselves and doing our own thing before we commit to someone else. The disadvantage, however, is that we learn to be by ourselves so well, that we forget to consider and practice those crucial elements of a relationship (more coming on this topic later).
In order to prevent myself from falling into this “extreme bachelor” trap (or for me, bachelorette), I am trying to explore topics of marriage, pre-marriage. I am not sure why, but for some reason, the topic of infidelity has been a recent topic of conversation falling under this category. Not that I necessarily dream to be cheated on someday, but I have been exploring my own opinions of this unfortunately very common phenomenon and what I would consider “grounds for divorce”.
We always *GASP* when we hear of celebrity affairs. Shame, shame on Bill Clinton. Shame, shame on Ashton Kutcher, and really shame, shame on Tiger Woods. We feel incredibly betrayed by our idols when they commit this immoral act and feel a sense of guilt on a personal level. I never understand why people get so wrapped up in this kind of gossip. After all, celebrities are people too.
As pessimistic as it is, this kind of thing happens way more often than we think. It happens in the Real Housewives, it happens in the average, middle class household, it happens to famous people. If we look at it biologically, if our primary drive is to reproduce replications of ourselves, then naturally, of course we are going to try to reproduce with whatever we can find (as evidenced at the dog park).
What “saves” us from the rest of the animal kingdom is our really large frontal cortex and our imaginary construct of “morality”. As humans, we are constantly battling this tension between societal expectations and individual desires. The Bible, the “society”, says thou shall not commit adultery, but the individual may in fact be attracted to more than one person. I don’t really think that “the moment you start a relationship”, your biological instincts just turn off and you are never, ever attracted to anyone else ever again (thus, why we have strip clubs and #MCM’s). Unlike the werewolves in Twilight, I don’t think humans have the ability to “imprint”.
Where the honor rests, however, is the individual’s ability to stifle those instinctual demands. While we may feel enticed to flirt with that really cute guy at the bar, we know that it is an immoral act, so we suppress those desires. While we may be inclined to send a winky-face back to our co-worker, we know that could potentially be interpreted as something more, so we decide to leave it out. While it would be really fun to take that guy up on a free concert, we know that could potentially get into dangerous territory, so we politely decline.
There are a few viewpoints on this issue. On one hand, I could see how, if an affair does occur, and the couple IS able to work through it, it could make their relationship that much stronger. The Catholic church teaches that marriage is about forgiveness, and that you are committed to learning how to forgive that person no matter what. On the other hand, I believe that, in a relationship, people should hold each other to the same standards; I am repressing my instinctual desires to not cheat on you, so you better do the same for me.
In the face of infidelity, I am not sure how I would react. I think it depends on a variety of factors. Are you in a relationship or are you married? Do you have kids together? How many times did it occur? Does the person feel remorseful? Did they know it was cheating, or were they just ignorant to the situation?
And, I think it also largely depends on your definition of cheating. Is it just physical touch? Or, does it also include any kind of emotional gesture–a winky face in a text message, a flirtatious touch, a seemingly harmless camping trip?
I can’t officially say I, myself, have ever been cheated on, but I have had some suspicions. Perhaps not in a physical way, but some kind of emotional astray that resulted in some questionable Facebook pictures, some problematic text messages, some ambiguous hanging out. I distinctly remember going out one night, having a girl approach him with googley eyes, and completely ignore me. When I told him she liked him, he played it off like it was nothing. Later, I read over some text messages she sent that said something along the lines of, “If you aren’t going to marry her, why are you even with her?”, and I asked him why he was responding to her if he knew she liked him (of course, to stroke his ego–he was one of those unable to suppress instinctual desires kinds). And, when it came time to break up, one of the first things that popped out of his mouth was, “I know you think this is about me cheating on you but I promise it’s not”.
The dynamics of your relationship definitely change after an event like this. My experience was very small and insignificant compared to others that can be extremely detrimental to your self ego. You often feel like you are not good enough (which, in all reality, it is THEIR problem, not yours). Your trust goes a little out the window; I was always tempted to censor their messages to each other and if we went somewhere that she showed up, I would ask to leave so that fire would not continue to be fueled. I didn’t really want to watch someone else have googley eyes over my boyfriend. In some ways, because he might have been the one to potentially screw up, he was kind of in my debt. Not that I intentionally hung it over his head, but it was an unspoken kind of truth and he would do certain things to try to make it up, to try to put a bandage over a mistake so I would forgive him.
But, this was just a relationship. It was not a marriage. I never confirmed these things had happened–and today, I don’t really care to know at all if they did. I can’t really say whether or not infidelity would be automatically grounds for divorce, because I have never quite been in that situation myself and I don’t want to judge not knowing those exact feelings.
My philosophy is always, if I expect you to act or behave in a certain way, then I better make sure that I myself am mimicking those same expectations. It is a shame that we cannot all be utmost moral creatures, but I think this is an foreseen circumstance that we should caution ourselves over, because you just never know what could happen.
But, then again, humans are flawed creatures.