It’s Time to Get Serious about Infidelity
Being forced to pretend that infidelity is harmless is an insult to the millions of infidelity victims who suffer under our discriminatory no-fault divorce laws.
Stories of cheaters, paramours, and the cheated-upon crowd the newspapers every day: Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, Bill and Hillary Clinton.
And then there’s Ashley Madison, whose database of 41 million members was recently hacked, in a category all by itself. This online pimp openly facilitates extramarital affairs and family suffering—for a fee. In 2014, the companygrossed $115 million, with pre-tax profits of $55 million. “Life is short. Have an affair,” its homepage brazenly urges.
Clearly, I’m biased. Infidelity destroyed my family, and I’ve spent years putting my life back together. After the break-up of my marriage, I began writing about divorce in outlets such as The Huffington Post. Years later, people still write to me about their own heartaches, begging for advice and pleading for me to help change our divorce laws. I usually feel as helpless as they do.
But is what happens in the bedroom anybody else’s business?
Media, Scandals, and Broken Promises
Extramarital affairs are nothing new. During my childhood, however, public reports of adultery were rare. Now, they’re everywhere. Our appetite for news of them seems insatiable. So as far as the media are concerned, the bedroom is our business. Big business. Perhaps such high-profile scandals make some feel better about their own indiscretions.
Have we become so inured to the onslaught that we neglect to stop reading long enough to pray for the spouses and families affected by so much suffering? How many use these cautionary tales to improve their own marriages or commit to ending their own affairs? Despite our “anything goes,” “let’s not judge” culture, I believe these stories resonate with a common truth held deeply at our core. Something feels wrong about breaking promises to loved ones.
When it comes to adultery, we don’t say that Jennifer, Hillary, or their children must have done something to justify being cheated on. For the most part, we’re still guided by the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments, even though many of us are plainly reluctant to say so in public. We’ve witnessed how friends, acquaintances, and Facebook “friends” gang up on the slightest un-PC observation, while “cool” points are awarded to Dan Savage groupies.
It’s become more comfortable to be an anonymous coward. It’s inappropriate to get involved, we say. Infidelity is a private matter. Besides, government doesn’t belong in the bedroom.
This is simply not true.
Government Is Already in Our Bedrooms
It’s silly to maintain that government doesn’t belong in our bedrooms; government is already there in the thousands of laws that govern marriage, divorce, and families. This has never been more true than in the years since adoption of no-fault divorce. In divorce court, judges gain jurisdiction over every facet of a divorced family’s life for years—even decades at a time.
Estimates of the percentage of divorces in which infidelity is a factor range from 17 percent to 55 percent. Whether on the high or low end, that’s millions of marriages and unquantifiable heartache. Research has established beyond doubt the financial, emotional, and physical toll that divorce takes on men, women, and children. Each year, tens of billions of taxpayer dollars are spent on divorce fallout.
The health of all relationships—whether spiritual, familial, friendship- or business-based—depends on trust. When trust is compromised, the foundation of those relationships crumbles.
If our culture has truly abandoned belief in monogamy, why do wedding ceremonies today continue to contain reciprocal pledges of loyalty? Isn’t it because couples realize that choosing faithfulness to one another offers the best chance for marital longevity and family harmony?