I abhor cheating.
I abhor cheating because it is exactly like saying, “This one act is more important than all of the pillow talk and inside jokes and holidays and confessions we had together, and I don’t even respect you enough to tell you the truth.” That is harsh and generalizing and I absolutely mean it.
That said, marital infidelity in the United States has doubled in the past ten years (this is believed to be a by-product of the internet) and approximately 50% of married women and 60% of married men cheat. The affair will be with a coworker 36% of the time, 69% of marriages will end if the infidelity is discovered and 74% of men report they would absolutely cheat if there was no way they would ever be caught.
Having all the experience of a person that has never surpassed two years in a relationship, it seems feasible to me that having sex with the exact same person for forty years would be exactly as exciting as being told that for the rest of your life, you could eat nothing but Chick-fil-A. At first, AWESOME. Bring on the waffle fries, the chicken nuggets and the delightfully tart lemonade. Life! Couldn’t! Be! Better! But, then, you start to notice the Jimmy Johns on your way home every night and you can smell the bread from inside your car and you just want to make love to the Pepe, but you can’t because you are stuck eating breaded chicken for the rest of your miserable.fucking.life.
Anyway, Dan Savage has a nationally syndicated sex column called Savage Love, (which you can read online or in Denver’s Westword) and he also created the It Gets Better series on YouTube, which is the testimony of thousands of gay couples promising the young, the bullied and the gay that gay life does get better. In June of 2011, he was profiled in the New York Times about his position on monogamy, which is, more or less, that while monogamy has its virtues, Americans maintain a “dishonest dialogue” about it and consequently, at times, it serves as a destructive force in a marriage. To quote him, “I acknowledge the advantages of monogamy when it comes to sexual safety, infections, emotional safety and paternity assurances. But people in monogamous relationships have to be willing to…acknowledge the drawbacks…around boredom, despair, lack of variety, sexual death, and being taken for granted.” I appreciate all of these points, but the point I appreciated most was this one: “Treating monogamy, rather than honesty or joy or humor, as the main indicator of a successful marriage gives people unrealistic expectations of themselves and their partners.”
And, here, is the crux of Savage’s argument: infidelity is born through lying, not through physical acts. Monogamy might not be the solution, but honesty is. If the occasional dalliance is handled with transparency and consent while helping to curb the need to end a marriage, than why do we value monogamy so much? That is to say, the abhorrent part of cheating isn’t curiosity or desire for another, but the lying. And, in that frame of reference, there are a lot of ways to stop being faithful- it’s just that the physical act of cheating seems to be the most tangible. He isn’t advocating an entirely open relationship; he is just advocating that our current standard is wrong.
To those of you that disagree with Savage, ponder this: is sex the direct reason you love anyone? And if it’s not, why use sex as the standard for your relationship?