In today's New York Times, there's a story about how, while the year-to-year rate of infidelity has remained more or less constant, more and more people confess to cheating over their lifetimes (28 percent of men and 15 percent of women) and more people under 35 than ever (20 percent of men and 15 percent of women) are cheating on their spouses. While Sarah Palin and her ilk will no doubt remind us that allowing same sex marriage will destroy the institution, it seems to me that when more than half of all heterosexual marriages end in divorce and many people admit to breaking one of the fundamental vows of marriage — sexual fidelity — the institution already has issues.Apparently, more women than ever now admit to cheating, which Salon's Amy Benfer takes as a sign that with the advent of more opportunities for women to cheat, relationships become more about mutually reinforcing jealousies to ensure fidelity. This is all basically depressing, but there is cause for some hope, I swear. For one, I am pretty sure my ability to fuck around (or lack thereof) has never been the reason a guy did or did not cheat on me — and I know that it wasn't my reason for staying faithful in a relationship. Men and women are faithful because they choose to be — because the relationship means enough to them, as does the intimacy and mutual respect — and not strictly because they can. It's never just the availability of alternate sources of sexual pleasure. From a series of hard lessons, I came to realize that the problems in any of my relationships didn't stem from the cheating (though, God knows, they can certainly cause some more), but the infidelity came from the pre-existing problems that allow the erosion of the meaning, intimacy and respect that is supposed to characterize a relationship. Put another way (in the Times):
"I see a changing landscape in which the emphasis is less on the sex than it is on the openness and intimacy and the revelation of secrets,"said Dr. Pittman, the author of Private Lies: Infidelity and the Betrayal of Intimacy (Norton, 1990). "Everybody talks by cellphone and the relationship evolves because you become increasingly distant from whomever you lie to, and you become increasingly close to whomever you tell the truth to."
Deep emotional intimacy with another person combined with dishonesty with the person you're not only supposed to tell the truth to but to want to tell the truth to leads to more dishonesty, less intimacy, more estrangement and finally to those asswipes who tell women like me in bars, "My wife doesn't understand me." To every guy that has ever said that to me, I would like to now reply: she doesn't understand you because you stopped allowing her to. Every time you lied or prevaricated or didn't want to deal with her reaction to something hard, you alone denied yourself to her. And the answer to finding understanding doesn't lie between anyone's legs, it lies in breaking down the wall you two created. Love, Sex and the Changing Landscape of Infidelity [New York Times] Equal-Opportunity Adultery [Salon]