In the previous page I mentioned that the subject of adultery is not as complicated as people make it out to be. While I still maintain that this is true, my research into marriage related subjects on the internet has introduced me to a whole new set of myths that I didn't think people were actually desperate enough to use. They not only use them, they build websites around them, and build their defense of extra marital affairs on them and, very likely, use them as an excuse when and if they are discovered by angry spouses.
They are just myths, though. You've probably heard every one of them before, and wondered whether they might have some truth to them.
Myth Number One: statistics prove a high percentage of married people commit adultery.
A lot of proponents of extra-marital relationships try to justify their behavior with the pseudo-scientific assessment that monogamy is unnatural and that vast numbers of married people habitually cheat on their spouses. Websites devoted to helping people have affairs take great pains to get this point across - probably out of guilt over the inescapable truth that what they're doing is dishonorable - but as much as they would like this to be true, as much as it would justify their rotten behavior, they have absolutely no proof of what they're saying and absolutely no right to try to foist this ridiculous "science" off on the rest of us.
These websites quote statistics to try to convince us that adultery is a foregone conclusion and that we should just get off their backs and let them screw around to their little adolescent hearts' content. They spit out numbers like 75 % of men have had extra-marital relationships and that 60% of women have committed adultery and that in 80% of marriages, at least one of the partners will have an affair. All I can say about this is the following: 35% of adults believe that 80% of the top 20% of the world's population are wrong about what 65% of the world believes 50% of the time.
In other words, statistics don't mean a damn thing.
In previous pages I have quoted statistics, somewhat reluctantly, in support of marriage. While I don't like relying on numbers in general, I find a university study of 500 000 drug users whose drug use dropped dramatically once they married to be more plausible and more reliable than a vague, factually groundless figure representing frequency of infidelity posted by a website devoted to advocating extra marital affairs. Statistics may be useful in giving us an overall sense of trends or common beliefs, but to use the results of a sex survey hosted by an anti-marriage site as some sort of proof that marriage is rife with adultery is self-serving and difficult to trust.
The truth is, no one really knows how often people commit adultery or under what circumstances. Neither does anyone know how faithful people are either. While we can rely on statistics like divorce and marriage rates, which are based on the hard evidence of registered marriages and divorces, we can't ever know for certain who is faithful to their spouse and who isn't, and so in that regard it's pointless to speculate about the prevalence of adultery. Especially if we're trying to use those numbers as some sort of justification for our adolescent behavior.
At any rate, it doesn't matter if every other person in the world were committing adultery every day of their lives. That would not make it an honorable thing to do, or something for which you should expect sympathy or understanding.
Myth Number Two: no marriage is safe from adultery, it can happen to anyone.
Adulterers are rather mystical people. They have no explanation for anything, and don't want one. They prefer instead to shrug their shoulders and follow their feelings instead of using their minds. Adultery, to them, is much like love; it is causeless, groundless, and can descend on a couple like biblical locusts before they even know what hit them. Just ask an adulterer sometime to express his thoughts or her reasons for doing what they did; almost invariably the response is a wide-eyed shrug of ignorance or the silence of sheepish bewilderment. I don't know why it happened, they say. It just did.
This idea, that sex somehow "just happens" has surely got to be one of the biggest self-delusions ever perpetuated by mankind. Sex never "just happens" - it isn't like breathing or waking up in the morning or growing a beard - barring cases of rape, sex is always a conscious decision and a consensual act, something you very clearly either choose to do or not to do. People who like to claim that they mysteriously found themselves having sex one afternoon are either kidding themselves or the people they claim to love; the same can be said about extra-marital affairs, which, according to those in them, "happen" with the same alarming and bewildering suddenness.
I challenge this notion that adultery is like some sweeping plague that either enters your life and destroys it or mercifully passes you by. I challenge the notion that even the happiest of couples is vulnerable to the creeping evil of adultery. This attitude completely absolves grown adults of all responsibility for the choices they make in life and renders them little better than malleable children. It also makes marriage seem like some delicate orchid that must be sheltered from the strong winds of temptation and vice, or like some capricious and fragile gift of the gods that can be taken away as easily as it was given.
Marriage is as strong, or as weak, as the people in it and if it is entered into for the right reasons, is most definitely strong enough to keep adultery at bay. Adultery doesn't even skirt the perimeter of truly happy marriages. In truly strong, well-founded marriages, adultery is laughed at as the pitiful last resort of people who are too immature or too incapable of intimacy to understand what marriage really is. Adulterers need to grow up and take responsibility for their actions instead of trying to convince everyone else that it is a force beyond their control that they are powerless to stop. A marriage is only threatened by adultery if those in it allow it to be.
Myth Number three: I was madly in love when I got married, but after __ years, the spark is gone.
This, if it were true, would be perhaps the only somewhat plausible explanation for adultery. It would not explain, however, why you are still married to someone you are not in love with, but I grant that the temptation to find a new lover would indeed be strong if you had lost the love of your life and found yourself aching for that kind of connection again.
The trouble lies in the inherent contradiction set out in this kind of statement. "I was madly in love", it begins...and "but I'm not anymore." is essentially how it ends. This doesn't make any sense, if you understand that love is caused by shared values and doesn't just up and die one day like a neglected goldfish. Are people who use this line saying that their spouse suddenly did an about face and turned into a completely different person after a few years? If that's so, why aren't they headed straight for divorce court? Why on earth would you stay married to a virtual stranger who bears no resemblance to the person you married?
Because these people are not saying their spouse turned into a different person or that their values suddenly changed so drastically that they weren't the same person. In many of the extra-marital website forums, the most common complaint heard from adulterous spouses has nothing to do with the personality or values of their spouse ( who is almost always praised as an incredible wife, mother, friend, companion, all-round person). The problem is simply that their mate looks different than they did __ years ago when they first married.
Unfortunately, the largest number of complaints about dwindling physical attractiveness come from men (who themselves are likely balding or the proud possessor of a spare tire) who seem to think, somehow, that even though they age and gain weight and become less sexually adept, that their wives should be miraculously immune from these changes and should remain nineteen year old hardbodies for the rest of their lives. In the absence of such a miracle, these men believe that they are entitled to have as much sex as they want with young babes - they somehow believe they deserve such bounty and that young women should fall all over themselves to oblige. This is not only supremely stupid, it is also completely insulting to the vibrant human being they married and whom they dismiss because she isn't good looking enough for them.
Anyone who can look at the woman who carried and delivered their children, who put her body through tremendous stress and alteration to do so, who spent the last __ years raising and caring for them and who also probably held down a job at the same time and say "I'm going to have sex with someone else because you don't look like a Playboy bunny" doesn't deserve a wife, a family or even the smallest amount of love, affection or regard. This kind of person is a stunted teenager, someone who clearly never really loved his wife at all and someone who thinks so little of sex, so little of the bond two people can share and so little of himself that he believes the only thing worth having in life is meaningless sex with a good looking shell.
These people were obviously not madly in love when they got married, they were obviously smitten with someone's beauty and horny for their cute little body, and thought this meant they were in love. They thought beauty was the only value worth having in life and that marriage would require nothing more than a twenty-two inch waistline and a D cup. They never bothered to fall in love with a whole person, their beauty included, they convinced themselves that falling for an exterior was all that was needed for a lifetime of wedded bliss.
Of course the spark is gone from these marriages; it was never there in the first place. Adulterers should at least be honest with themselves and admit that they either didn't hold out for someone whose mind and character they loved as much as their body, or else they are completely incapable of feeling that kind of deep admiration and love for another person, and have to satisfy their sexual urges in as meaningless a way as possible. Which leads to the most common myth of all:
Myth Number Four: I still love my spouse.
No, you don't.
I don't know how anyone can say this with a straight face. If you were really in love with your spouse, you wouldn't be having sex with other people. And even if you were no longer passionately in love, if you had even the slightest concern or regard for the person you're married to, you wouldn't deceive them in such a disrespectful, dishonorable way. If you really loved them, you would respect them enough to be honest with them about your feelings, even if it means an uncomfortable situation or possibly a divorce. Lie to yourself all you like, but adultery means the irretrievable loss of love, and consequently, the loss of any basis you might have had for being married.
There's no end to the excuses adulterers will make for themselves, probably because deep down, no one wants to admit that they're immoral or making serious errors of judgment. Maybe if we shattered the myths about what adultery is and why it happens, they wouldn't be able to hide behind excuses anymore and would have to face the truth about how they choose to live their life. Without that "moral" sanction, without their myths to back them up, I wonder how many of them would still have the courage to cheat.