Controversial opinion: I’m not appalled by adultery
Humans are terrible at being monogamous. So why are we appalled by failing at it?
Maybe it’s because I have two dads. Maybe it’s because I have grown up with it in middle class Cambridgeshire. Or maybe it’s because I’m a terrible person. The truth is: adultery doesn’t really surprise or horrify me.
There’s a poem I half remember and am far too lazy to google: basically, you will be eaten by worms. You will be in buried, a greenish colour, and not enjoying anything, because memento mori. So, to misquote Ovid and later fuckboys, knock yourself out. Try not to hurt people in the process, but enjoy sex. Enjoy being attractive, desirable and intimate. Because you will get old and your knees will hurt and piety will be worth nothing to you then.
Honestly, I see the promise of monogamy as the painful bit, rather than not practicing it. I really don’t care if my partner has safe, enjoyable sex with me or anyone else. Why would I? They love me. I love them. I wouldn’t expect you to have just one friend because I felt possessive. The only bit I’d have an issue with would be them lying to me over it.
Let me make this tragically clear: being exclusive doesn’t make you special.
I’m in an exclusive relationship with my dentist but that’s not because I don’t think there are better, funnier, kinder dentists I could book an appointment with. I don’t feel like I’d be disrespectful or cruel to go to another dentist either. I doubt that he would get upset, if I told him. Too much of a tangent? I’ll be blunt. In 2019, with birth control, condoms, STI testing and a growing grudging acceptance that chastity and abstinence aren’t working, I see little point in being outraged by polygamy.
The lying bit of adultery is the problem. In my eyes, the only problem. Sure, I get it, ‘honey I don’t want a divorce, but my god you aren’t doing it for me' isn’t a conversation anyone wants to have. But it is isn’t in my mind one that should be so abjectly morally bankrupt.
There are tonnes of happy married couples with an ‘arrangement’. Tennis with the kids on Saturday, followed by dropping them off at Grandma’s, and some enjoyable romance elsewhere with other people before tea time. No one gets hurt, everyone is aware of what is going on, and there isn’t a messy divorce because there doesn’t need to be. Why should there be, anyway? You still get on and the kids are happy. Holidays are fun and you like arguing over who covered that song by The Kinks. If you aren’t having sex anyway, what’s the problem?
We caution The Youths against marrying young. Why? Because you aren’t going to be the same person at 14 as you will be at 25. The same is entirely true about being 25 or 36. The idea that your sexual interests, romantic notions or even interests will be the same for the rest of your life seems not just idealistic, but mad.
I know four couples who have happily weathered 20 years of marriage. And ten times that in divorces, extremely unpleasant divorces, and unhappy separations. I’m not saying you shouldn’t marry. But why continue to fight for the ideal that you’ll never fancy anyone else? That’s totally off the wall in terms of social statistics.
So yeah. I’m not going to swoon if you tell me Jonathan is seeing Sarah after work. I’m not going to demand a public shaming for your wife when she falls for a colleague at work. I’m more likely to get outraged at the time he left the entire fridge door open for a day and everything went off and he refused to say sorry. If you are honest, communicate well, and realistic, who cares?