I have little to say about infidelity in marriages and other committed relationships because my morality is very old fashioned. Once in a committed relationship I don't usually look aside. I am not "unfaithful" so there is never anything to forgive. When women leave me they will usually have some gripes but infidelity is not one of them
But I am not always in committed relationships. In the interval between such relationships it is not unusual for me to have two or three girlfriends at the same time. And that is a situation where women might conceivably feel hard done by and feel anger at the "betrayal" So I think I might have something to add to the discussion below.
I think the discussion below is pretty moronic. It presents itself as new and exciting wisdom but in a nutshell simply says that infidelity should be forgiven because the unfaithful one is simply "finding" themselves. That would have to be the oldest excuse for infidelity in the book and does not even to touch on the big problem of infidelity: The loss of trust.
It appears close to universal that lying and deception is associated with infidelity. An unfaithful man will hide his affair from his wife for some time. And it will be devastating to the wife when she discovers the deception. A man in whom she confided her trust was not trustworthy at all and that will tend to upset her entire mental world. She will have lost her condidence in her own judgment. And recovery from that will be very difficult and bromides about the man "finding himself" will be no help at all
So what can a man do to prevent such a devasting upset in someone for whom he still presumably cares? I have an answer to that and it has always worked wonders for me: I don't lie to women. And that is not as hard to do as you might think.
Let's say you met a gorgeous female on a business trip and coupled with her. What I would do would be to to tell immediately the other woman or women in my life something like: "Sweetheart, I met this attractive woman on my trip and we did go to bed together. I think it will be a passing thing but at any event I will not hide it from you. I will make sure that you are kept aware of anything relevant."
The admission might be upsetting but her confidence in you as honest and trustworthy will have been preserved. You will gain credit as an honest man. There may still be upset about your revelation but the lady with be profoundly comforted by your trust in telling her everything. You will be trusted in return.
And even in a committed relationship that strategy should be enormously beneficial. What works for me in more casual relationships should work well in general. It is certainly what I would recommend
And let me allude once more to what I pointed out recently: It is amazing what a woman will put up with from a man they like. I gave a rather vivid example of that. So I have some confidence that even in a committed relationship, honesty about infidelity would often preserve good will and trust
On the topic of honesty, let me give one more anecdote. I was for some years married to a bright, shapely and good natured lady. I was a lucky man. And she had an equally bright friend who I came to like. I eventually decided that I would like to sleep with that friend. So what did I do? Did I scheme to make an arrangement behind my wife's back that would enable me to sleep with that friend? Not at all. I told my wife that I fancied her friend. Did she rage and scream? Not at all. She arranged for her friend and me to get together. In the event I didn't feel right to go ahead with it but I think you can again see the great benefit of being honest.
I obviously have somewhat unusual relationships but I think there is something to be learned from them. I have certainty had a good life with no angry woman in it at any time
I discovered Esther Perel a few years ago through a TED Talk.
She spoke about relationships and examined why people cheat. But it wasn’t just any TED Talk — it was more like an awakening. Perel, a Belgian psychotherapist and author, has left her mark on me. I ended up reading her books, saving her podcasts, and coming back to them every now and then.
I started reading The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity about three years ago, and I still haven’t finished it — only because I don’t want to. Every single page holds insurmountable wisdom and information. I would spend many days and nights reflecting on an idea or a particular discovery.
Perel has revisited modern relationships and given them a new meaning. She discusses marriage, infidelity, love, and monogamy like nobody else. Her ideas are new, rational, and sometimes shocking. To read and accept them, one must be brave.
Perel was the first to tell us that having an affair doesn’t mean the end of a relationship. And having an affair doesn’t always mean there’s something missing in the relationship — it means there’s something missing within us. She puts it like this:
“We are not looking for another lover so much as another version of ourselves.”
In a world that associates cheating with endings, Perel shatters our inherited perceptions and tells us that cheating could serve as a window to something totally different and new.
After years of reading and watching Perel, I wholeheartedly believe that we need a certain level of openness and readiness to welcome her ideas.
Here’s a glimpse of what Perel has in store for everyone who has ever been in a relationship:
“Divorce happens now not because we are unhappy, but because we could be happier.”
“Sometimes, when we seek the gaze of another, it isn’t our partner we are turning away from, but the person we have become. We are not looking for another lover so much as another version of ourselves.”
“There is never ‘the one.’ There is a one that you choose and with whom you decide that you want to build something. But in my opinion, there could also have been others.”
“The grand illusion of committed love is that we think our partners are ours. In truth, their separateness is unassailable, and their mystery is forever ungraspable. As soon as we can begin to acknowledge this, sustained desire becomes a real possibility.”
“However authentic the feelings of love, the dalliance was only ever meant to be a beautiful fiction.”
“When we select a partner, we commit to a story, yet we remain forever curious. What other stories could we have been part of? Affairs offer us a window into those other lives, a peek at the stranger within. Adultery is often the revenge of the deserted possibilities.”
“Until now monogamy has been the default setting, and it sits on the premise (however unrealistic) that if you truly love, you should no longer be attracted to others.”
“Sex is about where you can take me, not what you can do to me.”
“Today, we turn to one person to provide what an entire village once did: a sense of grounding, meaning, and continuity. At the same time, we expect our committed relationships to be romantic as well as emotionally and sexually fulfilling. Is it any wonder that so many relationships crumble under the weight of it all?”
“But one theme comes up repeatedly: affairs as a form of self-discovery, a quest for a new (or a lost) identity. For these seekers, infidelity is less likely to be a symptom of a problem, and is more often described as an expansive experience that involves growth, exploration, and transformation.”
“Monogamy used to mean one person for life. Now monogamy means one person at a time.”
“Our partners do not belong to us; they are only on loan, with an option to renew — or not. Knowing that we can lose them does not have to undermine commitment; rather, it mandates an active engagement that long-term couples often lose. The realization that our loved ones are forever elusive should jolt us out of complacency, in the most positive sense.”
“It’s hard to experience desire when you’re weighted down by concern.”
“If you start to feel that you have given up too many parts of yourself to be with your partner, then one day you will end up looking for another person in order to reconnect with those lost parts.”
“Acceptance doesn’t mean predictability. Sex isn’t always for 11 at night — it’s also ‘meet at a hotel room at noon.’ What you feel during dating can exist at home, if you don’t suffocate it.”