It may be obvious to you why you are thinking about an affair. You may look at your partner or spouse and the real question you ask yourself is why you are still with them. You may look at your life and wonder what it’s all about anyway. If you are, you’re having a bad day. Get over it.
Let us consider a few points:
- There is no evidence to show that we, as a species, are by nature or design, destined to have one sexual partner for life. There is no expert in the field able to show us that it is healthy or desirable to remain attached to one other person for our entire lives. In fact, very, very few of us even seek to do this, or to give this as advice. If a son or a daughter decided to commit themselves to their very first girl or boy friend, then I wonder how many of us would be very happy about this. Wouldn’t we prefer that they went off instead and experienced other people? How many of us entered into long-term relationships as a virgin, or expected our partners to be? Of course it can and does happen, and it is admirable when it works, but our experience is that every successful relationships of this kind will be outnumbered by a thousand that end in disaster. We have all had more than one sexual partner in our life, and we believe this experience benefits both us and our relationships.
- In the past, having a monogamous relationship made sense only for economic and reproductive reasons. Initially, as an agricultural society, most individuals lived off the land, living relatively remotely from others, and offspring were needed to work the land and to care for their elders. The couple would have to live together so that one could work whilst the other raises the children. As society become more industrialised a work force was required to man the factories, and children raised to replenish the workforce. Men worked very long hours, 6 and a half days a week, and a woman’s work was never done, and time for a relationship with a spouse was limited, so time for anything else was unlikely. Without contraception, and with poor hygiene and limited medical knowledge available, the consequences of extra-marital affairs could be devastating.
- Possibly the most important marriage that individuals would have looked up to throughout history were the Royal marriages of our Kings and Queens. Such marriages, we now know, were rarely faithful ones, and few if any were based on attraction or affection, but on political needs. But they had to appear so and to remain so, so that good political relations within the country and with other countries were kept in very politically unstable times.
- These conditions have now changed. Love has become the central element at the start of almost all relationships, and love, as we know, ebbs and flows like a river throughout our lives. We now talk less of loyalty and obedience, but more of partnership and commitment. Our lovers become no longer our rulers who we try to please, but our companions who we share our lives with.
- In the past, when 40 years was considered a ‘ripe old age’, marriages when not expected to last so long, and women were expected to remarry, if only as a means of survival. Chaucer in 13th century talked even then of widows having many remarriages, let alone wives having affairs. Today when the average life expectancy is double what it has been in the past, is it really reasonable to expect relationships to survive several decades without distraction?
- Not only are people living longer, they have more time on their hands due to technological advancement, remain fitter and healthier and therefore more energetic due to improved lifestyles, and are better informed about the world around them than ever before. Personal growth and development, pursuing interests, and spending time knowing ourselves and discovering our true natures and desires is actively encouraged. We know that we get to grow as individuals and get to know ourselves when we spend time with ourselves, but we do this so much better when we spend time with another, seeing ourselves through their eyes, and sensing our reaction to them.
- However, in modern life, we may feel as trapped as ever, economically as we may not be able to afford to live on our own, and because of our understanding of the needs our children have for a stable and warm home life, and the dire consequences if they don’t get one. Meeting the needs of others is a necessary part of being an adult and parent and always has been. Today though we have a greater responsibility for ensuring that our own needs, including our need for happiness, are met, and when they are not met in the home, we have a responsibility to find them elsewhere
- There is much documentary evidence to show that a regular sex life is positively good for the health. There is less, but more compelling evidence that a lack of sex is bad for your health. Studies show that the impact on physical health is measured in terms of the difference between people who have a regular sex life and those who have none at all over a period of years. Indications are that the risk of cervical cancer, and of STD’s is less for those who are abstinent from sex, but in all other respects, blood pressure, generic cancers, heart disease, obesity, lung and breathing problems, short life expectancy, sleeping disorders have much higher risks. Causal factors for short life expectancy are much increased, namely over-eating and poor diet, drinking problematic levels of alcohol, smoking, low exercise, and drug addiction are all increased in those without a regular sex life. These factors are all measured in years. Impact on mood, on mental health and on emotional stability is all measured in months if not weeks. Significant difference, especially among women, can be measured in as little as two weeks. Erratic changes in mood, low mood/ depression, hyperactivity/ mania are all measurably increased in as little as two weeks among those who have not had sex in this time.
- Given all the above, it is no wonder then that there are many therapists, marriage counsellors and experts on relationships who state that where relationships survive an affair, that relationship is often healthier than others where this has not occurred. Something that remains unmeasured are the number of marriages, permanent or long term-relationships where one partner has had an affair which is not revealed and that relationship has gone on to survive and blossom over time. It is not measured because if a researcher wants to know this information, who does he/she ask, who will answer honestly, how does a researcher know which relationship will go on successfully and which ones will fail. It is widely agreed and rarely disputed that adultery is immoral, so our society paints it as being a sign of a failing relationship that will inevitably lead to an unhappy ending. However, we know anecdotally, from the stories we have heard, that this is not the reality.
We challenge this view, and we say that there are a great many instances where an affair, undisclosed, is just what a relationship needs, and that it positively improves a relationship. We have seen that relationships in modern times can span over many decades, and it is unrealistic to believe that at every point this relationship will be growing and that both partners will be happy.
We know that some relationships slump into periods of great unhappiness that can last for years yet can emerge to go on to last a lifetime. Falling into an affair, as a time when a long term relationship is unsatisfying, can support that individual through such a time until the permanent relationship is back on its feet.
We have come to understand how many men use prostitutes for exactly this reason. We may not agree with it, and we may not approve of such morality, but we can understand it. So we believe it the same with adultery: that adultery is, in a great many circumstances, natural, healthy, and positively beneficial for not the individual but also their life partner.