Tag Archives: Betrayal

Trust, and the Ashley Madison hack

25 Aug

Infidelity

 

Look. Call me unsophisticated, but I would not describe myself as “happily married” if I, or my spouse, were having a secret affair.

For me, the value of a so-called “committed” relationship is to be found in the trust between parties. If that’s not there everyone might muddle along reasonably well to all appearances. However, there is a depth of intimacy that is inaccessible in such a situation, because it only blossoms in trust. Trust is inherent in the concept of monogamy, and once it’s broken, the entire concept is under challenge.

The possibility of experiencing those intimate depths with another is the only reason I can see for committing to the monogamous state. Without that experience it seems a tiresome, repressive and unfulfilling arrangement.

I also find it difficult to imagine much equality in a relationship where trust is absent, and where one party is necessarily surveilling the other.

I admire those who manage to negotiate the complexities of trust in polyamorous relationships: humans being as possessive, jealous and psychologically perverse as we are, the challenges in those situations must be enormous.

When my husband had an affair I asked him (after we’d cleaned up the broken dinner plates) do you want a monogamous relationship with me or not? Realising such an arrangement would work both ways he decided in the affirmative, and we carried on in that understanding. Neither of us considered ourselves suitable candidates for polyamory.

(There are limits to the number of times this understanding can be reached: serial betrayers make a mockery of it.)

However, if my partner or I were secretly active on an infidelity website, the deliberate intention to deceive and betray implied by that choice would crash through our trust like a wrecking ball. So it is with some disbelief that I’m reading comments by the hacked that they don’t want their spouses knowing because they’re so happily married.

It makes me wonder, what constitutes a happy marriage, then? Apparently not trust and equality.

I don’t think any of those people deserved, in some wowserish moral sense, to be outed as they have been. It’s more a case of actions and consequences than it is of morality, as in, if you do a, b is likely to result. It’s a bit rich, though, for individuals engaged in betraying the trust of their nearest and dearest to make a song and dance when someone else invades their privacy. The same can be said for the Ashley Madison website: if you’re dedicated to deception, why complain when someone betrays you? There’s a kind of inevitability about it, really.

For mine, I’d much rather my partner told me if he or she felt desire for someone other than me, desire that he or she wished to act upon. While I don’t know what I’d do in reaction to such information, at least telling me would allow us to maintain our trust. Feeling desire for another isn’t the deal breaker: deception and betrayal are. You can’t swear you’ll never want anyone else: you can promise to put trust and equality first, and be honest about your desires.

Unless of course you’re dedicated to the illicit, and then you’ve no business doing monogamy in the first place. The two are entirely incompatible, aren’t they?

 

 

 

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Playing monogamy

30 Jan

monogamyWere I to write the thinking woman’s book of advice for potential lovers of the already committed I would firstly say, it isn’t thinking that gets us into such situations, and it usually isn’t thinking that gets us out. It will come as a confronting shock for many thinking women to discover that thinking only goes so far, and cannot by itself save you from yourself.

I would then say, it is extremely important for your own survival to remember there are always three people in your relationship, one of whom is quite likely unknown to you.

It is also important when everything goes pear-shaped (probably more important than anything else) to invest time in understanding why you decided to inflict this particular kind of torment on yourself in the first place.

I don’t want to gender my imaginary book: women take extra marital lovers as well as men, lesbians are unfaithful and so are gay guys, and I don’t know how gender and sexual orientation change the dynamics of betrayal, or if they only add variation to its expression.

Also, for the sake of convenience I’d use the term marriage in the largest sense, to include committed relationships without the State’s imprimatur.

In my case, I blundered into a marital minefield. Because of what I knew of my lover, and also because of what he said, such as “I am only doing this because you are irresistible, I don’t tell lies to my wife,”  I thought adultery was a rare event in his life.  As it turned out he’d been engaging in extra marital affairs since the 1970s, and they were, in fact, part of the established pattern of his long marriage. I was a rarity in the sense that, according to his wife, I was “the only one he’d done this with,” this meaning  fallen in love with, and so deeply threatened the marital equilibrium. The others had apparently been little more than co-operative receptacles for his ejaculatory fluids, and of minimum consequence, and she’d seen them off without too much trouble. Annoyingly, I have this sense of myself as an equal human being, and an unwillingness to crawl under a stone when someone decides I am no longer of use to them.

My lover’s wife had, she told me, become very cynical about men and their pathetic sexual desperation. I told her I couldn’t imagine becoming cynical about an entire gender, but, I added, perhaps that was my downfall. I don’t think sexual desperation is particularly gendered, women can and do yearn and desire. Woman can and do go looking for a zipless fuck, and feel ashamedly desperate both for wanting it and doing it. It is one of our culture’s epic fails, that human sexuality is looked upon with such severe moral judgement, and such complete lack of understanding.

As well, I felt sorry for my lover’s wife. After all those years she probably thought his adulteries were over, and then he’d gone and done the worst one of all.

These people were to all appearances living in a long-term monogamous marriage, the kind that is held up to us as a model, as a desirable peak of  human intimate achievement. They were “pillars of the community,” forgive the cliché, an outstanding example of a bourgeoisie that still exerts repressive control over public morality, and expectations of sexual behaviour. They do not, as she accused me of doing,  “write intimate things all over the Internet.” But they are pretenders. There is nothing in the least monogamous about their marriage and hasn’t been for decades. Indeed, the biggest threat I apparently represented to this couple was not the ending of their marriage, but the power I had to reveal them to their community and family as two-faced long-term fakes.

You always take enormous emotional risks when entering into affairs with married people. But when you walk into an already well-established pattern of infidelity it’s like walking into a spider’s web of lies, half-truths, games, dishonesties, and an accumulation of dysfunction, all of which cling to your face and heart with a nasty stickiness that is extremely difficult to remove.

They are practised at playing this game, you may not be, and believe me if you aren’t, you will not know what has hit you. You are a pawn. They will use you. You will be the means to their duplicitous end. You, and others before you, have served to keep together a marriage that otherwise might long ago have blown apart, had it been truly monogamous instead of only pretending to be. You are an outlet, dear. For a man’s or woman’s desire that cannot be contained and satisfied within the monogamy to which he or she has committed themselves, and lacks the courage to examine.

“I knew I should never have let him meet you that first time on his own!” his wife raged at me and I saw immediately that I was not dealing with an adult when I got involved with this man. I was dealing with a naughty child who couldn’t be let out without a wife to guard him from himself. But by then it was too late. I’d done it.

Personally, I don’t see the point of monogamy as a life goal, or as any measure of moral achievement. It may be an ideal situation for some people. I can see it has potential. It worked for me because I never found anybody else as interesting as my husband, which was simply great good luck, not to do with any strong moral sense about monogamy, or strong resistance to temptation. Of which I obviously have neither.

It isn’t the desire for another that is wrong, or even the acting on it. It’s the arrogant sense of entitlement that allows people to use and then dispose of other women or men as temporary sexual and emotional outlets, in order to help them maintain the treasured illusion of the perfection of monogamy, that in itself counts for so much in the assessment of what is a “successful” marriage.

When we are devastated by betrayal, and the profound hurt and jealousies it brings, it can seem to help, I suppose, to call up a moral framework from within which to hurl fury and pain at the perpetrator. Not only have they done you wrong, they are  wrong, in the terms of this moral framework. It might temporarily help with the pain, but in fact, it’s just another illusion.

I am a symptom of the troubles in your marriage, I told my lover’s wife. I am not the cause. To her credit, she agreed with me.

It is a mystery to me why people do not sort these things out. Come to some mutual arrangement about a partner’s ranging desires. Refuse to come to such an arrangement and leave. Live as single people free to love who they will. To play the same old game of betrayal and remorse and broken promises for decades, in the service of a constructed ideal of  family founded on monogamy, smacks of idiocy to me. I prefer the deeper intimacy that comes from acknowledging and sharing the truth of a situation, even if it means frightening change and sometimes endings.

What is  “family” if there isn’t truth at its foundations?

This all matters very much, because the monogamous relationship is held to be the cornerstone of our culture. It’s increasingly challenged, and that can only be good, because I doubt my experience is an isolated one. I suspect there are many more playing at monogamy, and I suspect that the cornerstone is neither strong nor true. Challenging its cultural stranglehold is likely one of the more significant tasks we face, and the ramifications are extensive.

 

 

 

Desire, and good men

17 Nov

wings-of-desire-title

 

My lover writes to me: So, we discover another everyday thing that we charge with sexuality. I would love to soap you all over in the shower. Your back, your legs, your arse, your cunt, your belly, and linger long over your breasts…

There is an erotic book by Cameron S. Redfern titled “Landscape with Animals,” that tells of her affair with a married man. Redfern is the pseudonym of Sonya Hartnett, author of novels classified quite wrongly in my opinion as young adult fiction.

The affair is initiated by the single woman who is described as unashamedly predatory, and utterly determined to have him. This is both a subversion of the heterosexual dance of infidelity in which the woman is pursued by the married man, and a repetition of the myth of woman as sexual temptress who, like Eve in the garden, brings the man to ruin by offering him knowledge neither of them, according to the rules of the culture in which they live, ought to have.

The married lover in the book is portrayed as a good, gentle, honourable man, who loves his wife and children. He succumbs, but not before he announces to his mistress and to himself, “I am doomed.”

When I read those words I remembered how my married lover (who pursued me, then accused me of the crime of “irresistibility” thereby having it both ways) told me, “I am ruined,” referring to the effects of our affair. And yet, torn, he writes:

Being with you gives me pleasure, gratitude, happiness, amazement, delight, wonder, excitement. It gives me succour and strength and a new lease on life. I need to see you. I need to be in bed with you on a Sunday morning…

The doom and ruin are offset by the extraordinary knowledge found in the discovery and exploration of sexuality and sensuality that at the same time seriously threaten the established order of marriage and family life. Freud was onto this in his “Civilisation and its Discontents” in which he explores the conflict between what he calls the pleasure principle and the reality principle. It is necessary, he argues, for the desire for pleasure, especially sexual pleasure, to be repressed in order for civilisation as we have constructed it to survive. Desire realised for anyone other than the partner will cause destruction to varying degrees, threatening the foundations of monogamous relationship on which our culture rests.

Is it morally wrong for an individual to desire the expression of sexual and sensual aspects of him or herself that have been repressed and unrealised?

I’ve long held a theory that the rule of monogamy, as with many other societal restrictions, is enacted in an effort to bypass difficult emotions, in this case jealousy and deep hurt. Morality is merely the sign language of the emotions, Nietzsche argued. That is, we construct our moral codes not from our rational mind but from our feelings, reactively. I do not like the way this makes me feel therefore it is morally wrong. Infidelity may bring pain, discord and even destruction, but why do we declare all of these uncomfortable experiences to be morally wrong?

He writes before we meet: I want to fuck you physically so badly it hurts…

The fear of doom and ruin expressed by both men is complex. Goodness, gentleness and honour are qualities both identify and value in themselves. The deceit and betrayal of an extra marital affair will make it difficult to maintain that self-image. “I was a good person,” my lover told me, “I want to go back to being that good person.” But of course it was much too late, and one can never go back to the person one was before significant events. The whole point of significant events, it could be argued, is to move one along and if one stays stuck, the universe has done its best.

Both men fear the doom and ruin of their marriages and their families, as well as of themselves, as if their personal ruin must terminally ruin the lives of those who are close to them. Yet none of this prevents them pursuing their goal, so powerful is their desire to experience themselves, to discover who they are in the bed of the other woman.

We are so deep in such complexities, he writes. I could (and do) desire you an infinite amount but still be mentally ravaged by guilt feelings about my wife and family. You are my second wife. That sums it up. I so loved hearing your voice. Don’t have any idea how to deal with this terrible tangle we are in…

Whenever my lover spoke to me of his distress at having ceased to be a good man as a consequence of his love for me, I would tell him that none of us is entirely good or bad, that we find a temporary point on a continuum, move further towards one end or the other, then back again, and again, and this is how we live out our lives on earth. I had no interest or belief in his self-described goodness. If we are indeed “good,” we will never deny the capacity for “badness” that resides within every one of us and may emerge at any time, given the right circumstances. To define myself as “good” limits my human potential. Inside me, there is the possibility of everything.

I would rather you were real than good, I told him.

Then I thought of Freud. Sexuality unconfined by monogamy is bad because it risks the destruction of civilisation. Reality, which demands repression and denial, is good and will enable civilisation as we have constructed it to continue. I don’t think Freud was necessarily in agreement with the way society is constructed, given how he laboured to uncover and defang repression, but I think his observations are accurate. Desire is the most powerful of all the transgressors. It will not be denied without inflicting terrible individual and collective suffering, and it may not be expressed in our monogamous culture without risking the infliction of terrible suffering. I was his second wife, he said, but there is no place for a second wife in a monogamous society.

Do you love me? I ask

Oh, Lordy, yes, I love you. You know I do. I told you.

DCF 1.0

 

 

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