We must abandon expectations of sexual fidelity

Since the arrival of the contraceptive pill, expectations of sexual relationships have steadily changed.  We  now see frequent  mentions of WAGs (wives and girlfriends) as if the two were equivalent.  And they largely are.  And for both types of relationship, breakdowns are common.  Some WAGs stay together for less than a year and others last for many years.

The notable thing is that permanence of any relationship is always uncertain.  Couples who have been together for most of their lives can still split up.

So what is going on and what can we do about it?  The first thing to say is that the splitups are often very painful to at least one of the partners involved.  So the problem is an urgent one.  Must we give one-another so much pain?

I think the first thing to acknowledge is that splitups will always happen so we have to expect them and arrive at the best way of dealing with them.  

My solution is not necessarily easy but I believe that the solution is tolerance.  It is absurd to blame one another for infidelity if you accept that infidelity is a normal part of life -- which it clearly is.  At age 77 I have had plenty of breakups in my times and what I do is quite the opposite of blaming the partner concerned.  I say: "I have clearly not been meeting your needs so I don't blame you at all for our breakup.  You must meet your needs and I am sorry that I was not doing that.  I hope we can at least remain friends". 

I realize that for most people that reaction will sound unnatural and I am perhaps unusually blessed by being able to see points of view other than my own.  But it works a treat.  What exactly you say does not matter. The fact that you remain peaceful and unaccusing is the key.

Perhaps some evidence of that from my own life may be that I have had four marriages and divorces without suffering any significant financial penalty from the divorces.  That is pretty striking, I think.  

It is not entirely to my credit.  I actually think it is partly because I marry nice women.  But in this day and age when women work, a separation may not create a great need to seek money from an ex-partner.  Demands for money are often a form of anger and if the anger is absent both parties may be content simply to go their own way financially.  Continuing friendship can cause both parties to consider the financial welfare of the other

That will of course sound crazy blue-sky talk to many readers here but if one has a reasonably kindly nature it can work.  One does not have to be totally unselfish but a considrable degree of unselfishness will be a big help. Selfishness is normally self-defeating in any case.

And the big bonus from a peaceful and friendly approach to a breakup is that the other party is there to help you cope with the new circumstances.  I have had two breakups in my life that were very painfulto me but in both cases the ladies concerned continued to have friendly contact with me and so did not make me feel deserted and alone.  Friendship is in any case an important part of a good relationship so not losing that part of it is a big part of being able to adjust well to the new reality.

I don't want to make this post an exercise in self-congratulation but showing that a theory works well in practice tends to be persuasive so let me give a little detail of my life in relationships.

I have never been good-looking but I have nonetheless ended up in bed with a lot of women.  I have often said that I am attractive to only about 2% of women -- but that is a lot of women.  So when I have a breakup I have usually been able to avoid much pain by going on to a new woman.  A new love is undoubtedly the best cure for a broken heart.

But there were two long-term relationships that DID cause me much pain when they ended.  One was the ending of a 10-year marriage when I was 49 and the other was the ending of a 14 year relationship about a year ago when I was 76.  Both relationships had been very satisfactory to me and I had given them unreserved committment -- so they were not easily replaced.

But to skip to the conclusion, I will be dining with the first lady mentioned tonight and the other lady tomorrow night.  I have succeeded in keeping warm friendships alive despite substantial changes in our circumstances.  At my age, I am lucky just to be alive so I am in an advanced state of decreptitude which makes it unlikely that I will be able to form any new relationship.  But I still have excellent emotional support from the two most special ladies in my life so I am not suffering at all and still enjoy a lot of my life. With the right approach, one can sometimes turn a disaster into an asset.

I hope that my stories will give hope and guidance to someone else but, if not, I am still convinced that we must expect and accept changes in our relationships.  Permanence is nice but it is unreasonable to expect it.  When a person changes partners we must see it as natural and not to be condemned -- JR.


A reader has written that my approach above abandons all morality and ethics in relationships.  I can see his point.  There is one very common circumstance wherein considerations of ethics  intrude:  Where promises have been made which get broken. That is clearly distressing and may lead to a justified claim of an ethical lapse.  

But biology is stronger than ethics and I think we have to back the strong horse. The most realistic way of looking at it is to say that promises made at one point in time refer only to that point in time.  If circumstances and situations change -- as they do -- the promises cease to be binding.  

If a man (for instance) meets an available  woman who suits him in various ways much better than his wife does, the outcome is virtually foreordained.  The instinctive wish for a different partner can be so strong that much will be sacrificed in order to achieve it. The change is inevitable and the only issue is how to deal with it constructively. Railing at the change is a mug's game.  Accusations will mainly tend to jeopardize the friendship.


  1. I have been unfaithful once and decided back then that such behavior was not for me. Having a guilty conscience was very distressing so I ended the relationship expediently to escape the the equivalent of nails scraping a chalkboard. She later asked me why I broke up with her and I told her what happened, and she revealed that she was unfaithful too at the same time. In other words, our relationship had little hope of being permanent. It was not a long relationship but it was a learning experience. I expect a lot of relationships will be for the sake of learning, that they act as stepping stones for a relationship with more potential for being permanent.

    I have faith in a relationship where one of the pillards is an an agreement of sexual fidelity and I intend to keep my faith. Intending to keep that faith is no sweat though, in fact it is an easy going guide. On the other hand I know that promiscuity is a messy way of life. Well, being able to let go and still wish the other person well is a standard of its own, and that standard is a keeper too, for me.

  2. It depends. Is life just for living with no end purpose and benefit? Or is there a purpose to living and to marriage beyond reproduction, strong families, strong societies? is there a purpose and benefit even beyond earthly life?

    The bible seems to suggests that Jesus and St Paul were pointing at something mystical in marriage, a partnering of souls not easily explained, suggesting marriage between two souls may be a lesser replication of a greater relationship between Christ and the Church, between God's spirit of love and the faithful. If marriage between man and woman is indeed a little replication between two souls of a far greater almost unfathomable relationship between God and man, with the same benefits and wonders between two souls as exist between Christ and the faithful, then can such benefits of marriage be had without commitment? by trying each other out until someone seeming better comes along? with all the turmoil and disruption that usually accompanies an uncommitted lifestyle? And what might be the wonderful blessings on two souls of a committed lifelong loving marriage?

    Is the era of one man and one woman being married for life coming to an end? Perhaps it is. All things Christian and stable are currently under attack. Personally though, I think the great idea of lifelong committed marriage will last. It is too beneficial to discard.


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