Wednesday, May 16, 2007

My obsession with infidelity.

Anyone who knows me well, knows I have an obsession with the topic of infidelity. Unintentionally, most of my stories end up involving an incident of infidelity, and they're usually not passing, oh-well-slept-with-someone-else sorts. But infidelity that has reprecussion or meaning. I think because personally I think there's so much that goes into infidelity - the psychology of why people would be unfaithful in the first place, and the psychology of the reprecussions. The way it effects households, children, daughters. The way it tears families apart. I'm obsessed because I find it to be one of the most reprehensible things a person can do in a loving relationship, the most damaging. And yet people do it all the time.

A new book examines infidelity across cultures, and it seems like America is a lot more conservative about this than the rest, and yet we still cheat with frequency. Others accept it as a fact of life, but we find it morally wrong. So does that make us a more immoral society, that we do something just as often despite the fact that we think it is worse than other people do?

The book is called Lust in Translation, and I may have to flip through it, because I am curious, but take a look at the publisher's notes:

A strange and surprising journey around the world to examine how and why people cheat on their spouses. This global look at infidelity truly reveals a puritanical America

From Memphis to Moscow, when it comes to infidelity the statistics tell the story. People cheat on their spouses-in fact, they cheat with astonishing frequency. But even illicit love has rules, and these rules change radically from country to country. Acclaimed journalist Pamela Druckerman decided to investigate extramarital affairs all around the world to discover how different cultures deal with adultery-and her research leads her to believe that both the concept and the consequences of infidelity are far less rigid outside the United States. Americans, she decides, are the least adept at having affairs, have the most trouble enjoying them, and, in the end, suffer the most as a result of them.

The rules of fidelity aren't as strict in many other parts of the world because some cultures have found ways to acknowledge that adultery is an expected, if not acceptable, part of the marriage contract. The French, contrary to popular belief, have affairs at about the same rate as Americans do, and they're just as titillated by sex scandals. Although the subject of infidelity is still very taboo there, unlike Americans, they refuse to moralize about it. In Russia, staying faithful to one's spouse is merely optional; one poll stated 50 percent of men and 25 percent of women have cheated on their current spouse, to say nothing of previous marriages. In Japan, Druckerman discovers that two-person futons and mattresses aren't even for sale in most stores, and the saying among businessmen is "If you pay, it's not cheating." Some Japanese marriage counselors hire prostitutes to teach women how to lure their husbands home.

Pamela Druckerman, formerly a foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, has done her homework. She's interviewed people from all over the world, from retirees in south Florida to polygamist Muslims in Indonesia, from ultra-orthodox Jews in Brooklyn to residents of a concubine village outside Hong Kong. She takes us on a journey all around the world, talking with sexologists, psychologists, marriage counselors, and most of all, cheaters and the people they've cheated on, only to discover that America is still a place with surprisingly outdated ideals. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, many cultures are more accepting of the fact that a monogamous marriage is an incredibly difficult contract to keep.

I won't change my mind about how much I think infidelity is a wrong wrong thing. But the fact that it is so wrong and yet almost inescapable fuels my obsession for the topic. Why do people do this if we believe it to be so wrong? And is it the wrongness of it that makes us so unhappy when it inevitably happens? If we accept it as a fact of life, then are we happier, but does that make us less moral? Where do you draw the line for happiness and morality?

3 drops:

moonrat said...

I want to read it...

but right now, I'm reading Virgin: The Untouched History

C. Dappen said...

Maybe it's like when you're climbing a mountain and someone tells you not to look down. Inevitably, you look down.

Maybe subconsciously, people are attracted to doing something they are told they shouldn't and know to be morally corrupt. We can be a breed that is sick in the head sometimes.

akakarma said...

Why are you obsessed with infidelity? I am someone who has been cheated on and just curious?

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