Friday, June 01, 2007

Musings From The Shower

As I stood in the searing spray of the shower this evening, I did a little thinking. At first, I was merely wondering if Juggling Freak had any actual flesh left on his body, since he likes the water temperature to hover somewhere between "Sweet Jeebus, that's freaking hot!" and "Holy crap -- is that actual lava coming out of the shower head?!?" As I soaped my scalded flesh, I was slightly amazed to really think about the fact that we are nearing our fifteenth wedding anniversary this fall, and we've managed not to kill each other or warp our child too terribly. (Or burst into flames in the shower, a sight which would surely earn us at least a spot on the local news. But, I digress.)

That got me thinking about how very few couples we actually know have stayed together. Fifteen years is nothing, when compared with some marriages, but these days, it's like forever. Our society is so disposable now -- don't like your spouse? Chuck 'em and upgrade, baby! It's a pervasive attitude of impermanence. The good news is that divorce rates are actually coming down, but for so many young people, divorce is still an easy, fix-it-quick solution.

I thought of a family member; one whom I had recently discovered had had a cheating partner. They were together ten years, and it was a total shock to me, I felt so badly for my family member. I would have never thought of infidelity in that relationship, but all I can say to that is: I did not live in their house; I was not a constant witness to their relationship; and I only saw them as a couple once or twice a year, which is sad, considering that it's a family member that I love very much. That being said, I was floored by the fact that there was such disregard of your partner that cheating seemed like a viable option.

Part of what bothers me, I think, is the emotional aspect of cheating. Now, I know to never say "never", but I feel so sure that JF would never cheat on me that I would worry more about being torn from the belly of an aircraft by Godzilla than I would about him being unfaithful. Both JF and I were shaped by our parents' divorces when we were at impressionable ages, and that really affected him. Plus, he's a man for sticking to his principles. If he promises to be faithful, he will not be swayed from that. For my part, I promised before God to love no other but him, and that's my final word on it.

I think that having sex with someone else would be bad enough, but I would feel more hurt, I think, with the notion that he could have such an emotional investment in someone else. We've known people who have had "open marriages" before, and having other sexual partners didn't seem to make them any happier. It only served to muddy the waters.

(Let me state here that both people in that particular marriage had other partners, and had agreed before the marriage that they could see other people. This is not my thing AT ALL, but whatever you do in the comfort of your home, and with whom are none of my business in any way, shape, or form. I'm not condemning or exalting, just giving you the backstory. I find that oftentimes, most people who tend to think "open marriage" is a good thing are people who are of the mind that "I can cheat because I'll get all backed up if I don't relieve some of this tension, but YOU had better stay pure and chaste." I hardly think that that's fair. But, in this case, both partners agreed beforehand.)

That marriage ended, and I think it ended not because partner #1 had a sexual relationship with another person, but because partner #1 had *an emotional relationship* with another person. I think that partner #2 felt betrayed because partner #1 fell in love with someone else. Never mind that there were valid reasons that partner #1 fell out of love with partner#2 in the first place -- it was this emotional attachment that ended the marriage. The sexual aspect was painful enough, but that emotional bond -- that was devastating. And the death knell for that marriage.

Any why is it that the emotional attachment is so much more devastating than having sex with someone else? Is it the fact that the person you are supposed to trust *most* has had an intimate relationship with another person? If so, why doesn't the sex part bother more people? I know it bothers some, but there are quite a few to whom it is an ancillary problem. Their main beef is with the fact that an emotional attachment has formed with another person outside of the scope of marriage, not that their spouse has has sex with someone else.

Betrayal looms large in both scenarios. Whether it's love or just sex, if a secondary relationship is conducted, the cheated-upon feels a lot of hurt and betrayal. And I don't blame them in the slightest.


Andrea said...

See, for me, the thing is--I know some very stable open marriages. And I personally am not a jealous person and don't require absolute fidelity. People slip up, and I truly believe it's possible to love more than one person equally well.

What I think is the key for me, is honesty. I have been cheated on and not found it too problematic, when I wasn't lied to. I have been cheated on and had it end a relationship, when I was. It was the lying that killed the trust, and the relationship.

KLee said...

I can understand that, Andrea. And, while I agree that it's very possible to love more than one person at a time, I always felt (and this is a peronal feeling, so don't feel as if I'm judging, or anything) that marriage is a special promise between two people, and part of my promise was fidelity. If my partner and I had agreed beforehand that "fidelity" wasn't all it was touted to be, that's fine. For example, we both maintained that whole "obey" thing was antiquated, and neither of us either requires nor wants blind obedience.

On the other hand, though -- I do see what you mean about the lying. I also agree that people are allowed to make mistakes. Nothing is ever quite black and white. Most people can forgive infidelity if the cheater is truly contrite and willing to make the effort to get the original relationship back on track.

In any case, I'm sorry that you've had experience with infidelity AND lying.

Jenevieve said...

I agree with a lot of what you said here, except one part. "...that for so many young people, divorce is still an easy, fix-it-quick solution". I now know three couples (near my age) who have gotten married, then divorced within a couple of years. For none of them was divorce an "easy fix". Even for those who came to the decision mutually (rather than via abuse or infidelity), it still tore them apart emotionally and spiritually. I'm not sure why the divorce rate is so high, but I don't think it's because we young'ns see divorce as easy or marriage as cheap.

KLee said...

Jeni -- don't misunderstand -- it's not that I think that divorce is ever "easy" on anyone, or that only young people get divorced. Both my family and my husband's went through very painful divorces, so I know it's not a decision taken lightly. I should have said that a lot of people (and not just young people) would rather cut their losses and divorce than to make the effort to get through the tough times together.

Jenevieve said...

Alright, I think I see where you are going now. My mom has been married and divorced three times, and was recently remarried to my dad. My other family members kind of fall into the same relationship patterns, too. I definitely see how many people see "getting married" as "well, we'll see if this works." When Matt and I did pre-marital counseling, our pastor actually cautioned both of us to consider the permanence of marriage, since my parents were divorced when I was so young and Matt's mom died when he was young. I do think that many people don't think of marriage as an institution, but as a lifestyle choice.

amy said...

A couple of weeks ago, I watched the movie Frida. In a crucial scene, Diego Rivera asks Frida to marry him but concedes he cannot be faithful. Frida knows him. She knows that a marriage to him comes with a hearty side dish of infidelity, so she asks him if, in spite of this, he can be loyal to her. He says he can and they marry.

There is a difference, and since seeing the movie I've been trying to put my finger on it. Then a few nights ago, I dreamed that I discovered my husband had been seeing two other women. In the dream, I confronted him and believed him and the women that the relationships had not been sexual, but deep in my heart and bones I knew they had been intimate - intimate on an emotional level.

This was worse. I felt betrayed that he would share a part of himself with another woman that he had promised to me. That said, we are all human, and I knew that he wasn't solely to blame for his change of heart. After all, who can control the heart? Although I feel certain I would be completely broken if he actually slept with someone else, I think it would feel like my world was ending if he fell in love with someone else.

And of course you know I gave him grief over his non-existent cheating when we woke up in the morning. ;)