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.