Infidelity: The Last Taboo

I read a lot of writers’ blogs. They usually talk about books they like, their forthcoming novel, the writing process, and the pajamas and slippers they favor while meeting their daily word count. This is fascinating material for other writers, but having written a novel that centers on sex and infidelity, I thought those subjects would be more interesting to the general public.

Not long ago a friend of mine posted on Facebook that a friend of hers had confessed that she was having an affair. My friend was debating whether she should offer her friend support. The comments came fast and furious. “You should NOT support her. Cheating is just plain wrong.” “Anyone who cheats is selfish.” “If she’s unhappy in her marriage she should just leave.”

You’d think the woman had confessed to killing a man just to watch him die.

“91 percent of Americans consider extramarital infidelity to be morally wrong, a higher percentage than object to human cloning, suicide, and polygamy.”

Why do we have such a visceral reaction to infidelity? Perhaps it’s because most of us know someone whose spouse has cheated on them. The next time you’re at a PTA meeting or Little League game, look at the parents around you. One of them is probably having an affair.

If it could happen to other couples, it could happen to us. We’re afraid.

I knew a couple who are now divorced. He had fallen in love with another woman. They were both members of the same church. He was universally condemned by their fellow parishioners. She was embraced as the victim; he was driven out of the church.

What I knew that the church members didn’t was that while they were married and before the other woman came along, she had taken a vacation on her own because he couldn’t get off work. She was relaxing by the pool when a man struck up a friendly conversation with her. He was handsome, charming, and single. They had a drink together. The next night they had dinner. She invited him back to her room. They had sex. The same thing happened every night for the rest of her stay. She wasn’t interested in a longer-term relationship, even though he was. Their brief encounter was passionate and satisfying. That was enough. She returned to her husband, but she didn’t regret what had happened.

Is infidelity “just plain wrong?” Unlike the majority of Americans, I don’t think the answer is black and white. Consider Lady Chatterley in D. H. Lawrence’s classic novel. Her husband is paralyzed from the waist down because of a war injury–not his fault, but it leaves her sexually unfulfilled. He also neglects her emotionally. Is she wrong to have an affair? Read or reread the novel and decide for yourself.

I welcome your comments.