Wednesday, 15 December 2010

A mess of infidelities ... or not? (caution: controversial discussion topic ahead)

I've been reading 'Life Before Man', by Margaret Atwood, and last night wondered ... what would I do in Elizabeth's position?

Scenario in brief:
It's set in the late 70s. Elizabeth is depressed because her lover committed suicide. She's married with two children. Her husband, Nate, screws their cleaning lady. They both know about each others' lovers and accept their infidelities - they even know when they're going to see them to make sure there is someone always home for the children. They continue to live together 'for the children'. Elizabeth gossips with her cleaning lady about Nate, gaining psychological power over her. Nate breaks up with cleaning lady when she asks him to leave Elizabeth. Cleaning lady whines to Elizabeth afterward. Nate starts to have another affair - with Elizabeth's work colleague. He even speaks to Elizabeth on the phone about evening plans at his mother's while he is in bed with his new lover. Neither Elizabeth nor Nate have any intention of breaking up their marriage ... so far.

I'm only half way through the book, so I don't know what will happen when Elizabeth finds out about her husband's new lover. Will she start to have an affair with her husband's lover's boyfriend now? Or will she realise the whole thing is getting ridiculous and start another life? Who knows.

Anyway, my point here is ... how long can something like this go on? How can two people who once loved each other be knowingly promiscuous in front of one another and not hate every minute of it? Who in their right mind would put themselves through that hell? Or is not hell? Is it freedom? Is it ideal? Perhaps it's better not being tied to one person all our lives.

What do you think?

31 comments:

  1. Sounds pretty ghastly to me, but it is fiction after all. Loaded with emotional truth no doubt. There are lots of marriages of convenience, but this one sounds cruel in both directions. Does that hold them together perhaps?

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  2. Sounds like they're lost to me or attempting to fill some void.

    I admire you for unplugging during the holidays. I'm thinking I should at least take Christmas week off to spend with the kids. Now, you've got me thinking. Hmm....

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  3. I'm not the right person to ask, as I feel that monogamy is unnatural. It's one of the driving forces behind why society is so screwed up.

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  4. Even though I'm married and devoted, monogamy really isn't natural. It takes more effort to stay with one person through a lifetime that to love freely. I love how honest you always are :)

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  5. There you enter a tangle box of culture, conditioning, philosophy, and religion.

    I can't speak for your book, obviously, as I haven't read it.
    But polyamory and polygamy aren't exactly new concepts. Some people make it work, others don't.

    I suspect that the key for successful relationships is for all parties to be aware and open, for there to be mutual understanding and compatibility. But then, that is just as true of "standard" (by the primarily judeochristian flavored morals of 1st world countries) relationships.


    Personally, while I feel under no biological, social, or moral pressure to do so, I am in a happy strictly monogamous relationship.

    As boring as it may seem, we probably all have to find our own ways.

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  6. I can't answer this question because I couldn't imagine cheating on my husband. The sex is too hot for me to want to go anywhere else (sorry for too much info).

    I know families that have been ripped apart because of infidelity. Sad thing is, the two individual who had the affair are no longer together. So they destroyed the families (and there were lots of young children involved) and hurt their ex-spouses for nothing. Maybe that's what the two characters in the book are afraid will happen to them. Who knows.

    (PS. I've been a QT blogger for a month now. I was a guest blogger at first, but was recently invited to be part of the team.) :D

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  7. I don't know how to answer that question because everyone is different. I guess what works for some may not work for others.

    Me, I'm a highly monogamous person so there is no way I'd ever stay in a relationship where we were no longer committed fully to each other. Why you'd want to live with someone you no longer love & respected as you once did is beyond me.

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  8. Hmm. For me, I'm a monogamous person so I agree with Stina.

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  9. Sounds like hell to me. But you know what they say -- one person's hell is another person's paradise.

    To me, though, if this is the kind of behavior that appeals to you, what's the point in being married?

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  10. Yeesh! The characters and story sound boring. I'd have to read a few pages though to see if there's more substance other than who's boinking who. And what about the kids, for pity's sake?

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  11. +JMJ+

    Well, you've just reminded me why I don't read Margaret Atwood and probably never will. =S

    To answer your question: I've heard people sing the praises of "open relationships" before, saying that they feel less restrained, etc. But I've always seen a trade-off in the kind of mind games you say Elizabeth plays with her husband's lovers. If people really didn't care whom else their significant other was sleeping with, why would they still want to have this kind of power over the other? Something doesn't add up.

    This also reminds me of a discussion a friend and I have been having about HBO's original Big Love, which is about a polygamous family. What we both like about it is that it is perfectly honest about relationships: we see that a marriage among one husband and three wives really would work . . . and at the same time, we all know that the original couple would have been better off staying a couple rather than branching into a quadruple. It's the pink elephant in the room.

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  12. I work in an environment where sad individuals have gotten themselves into such thorny tangles of infidelity and dysfunction that I have often asked your question.

    The answer?

    By one small, seemingly harmless act after another, by one straying footstep after another.

    No one sets out to make their lives a living hell. Haven't you found that often the short cuts we take end up with us going much further than we intended?

    We sit in a classy, dark restaurant. Slowly we begin to see better. The interior hasn't gotten any lighter.

    We have just gotten used to the darkness. Roland

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  14. Eee gads. i couldn't do it. It's my idea of hell, but maybe not a man's. And that's all I'm sayin'

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  15. Oh, the 70s... there are a couple things to remember about the 70s... this was the decade of swinger parties. AIDS didn't exist, and Herpes wasn't really known. This view is the peek into women's liberation convincing women they should want what men want, and with the right psychological rationalization, it worked--many couples were happy for quite a long time.


    They had to be perfectly matched in LIKING IT that way (neither can be jealous--they can't really be competitive, and they need to maintain some level of affection for each other). they need to be about equally attractive (the whole package, not physically)

    Because where it falls apart is when one person ends up alone or when they start to try to one-up each other. And in reality, I think most people don't have the right temperament to 'share' their partner, even if they are content to spread themselves around, so it would be a rare couple who REALLY wanted this.

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  16. Yikes, I hardly know what to say except:
    1) the book you describe is probably not for me.
    2) A book I did like very much which approaches this question is "The Senator's Wife" by... I think it is Sue Miller.
    3) Most everything worth having requires sacrifice (though I wouldn't call being faithful a sacrifice, though some might).
    4) There are all sorts of marriages, some of which I cannot understand at all, just like I can't understand some people at all.
    5) In making my own decisions, I try to project how I will feel when I am 80 years old and looking back on this decision. How will I feel about my choice? How will it affect those I love most dearly, who have loved me and invested their lives and energy in me?

    Forgiveness, faithfulness, care, love, fidelity, trust... these are all things that I want in a marriage (and, thankfully now have). These things define marriage and family for me.

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  17. Wow,

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  18. If you want to be with one person you need to be committed. I think it is more unnatural to be okay with someone else sleeping with my wife than monogamy will ever be.

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  19. Wow! That life doesn't sound good to me. The trade off is: you get sex outside of marriage and you lose intimacy with everyone.

    Why isn't monogamy natural? Who says that? What is it based on? Penguins mate for life.

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  20. Well, I'm married, so I'm only permitted one answer to this question. :)

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  21. The romantic in me thinks we can be with one person and be happy. The realist says it's just not possible... who knows?

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  22. I could not live like that. I agree with you that it would be an absolute hell. But obviously there are those who disagree...I still say ick! :-)

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  23. Ugh. I'm gonna be honest here for a second and say, it depends on the day. Some days that would look like an ideal situation. And other days it would make me sick. I think you really have to have no love left for the other person in order for that to work. Or only a fraternal sort of love...I dunno. LOL.

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  24. Gotta love fiction. Of course it takes work to be faithful to one person, but I think it shows we really love someone.

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  25. Did you downloaded Wikileaks docs? Give me link plz
    Thank for all

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  26. So, I've only been married a year and a bit and still in the honeymoon phase which means I'm likely not the right person to comment, but as always, I love how your posts make me think. Right at THIS moment, I can't imagine anything but spending the rest of my life with my hubby...but give us a few years :-P

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  27. really an eye opener for me.

    - Robson

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  28. You'll want to add a facebook button to your blog. I just bookmarked this article, although I had to complete it manually. Simply my $.02 :)

    - Robson

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  29. I'm like a penguin. I mate for life.

    I just hope that companion doesn't end up being of the feline persuasion.

    Though I do love cats.

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  30. I think it is almost impossible to be physically intimate and not to get emotionally involved. If I were Elizabeth, I would be worried that eventually someone in the marriage was going to want out. And those poor kids. Imagine not having the stability of knowing that your mom and dad are totally committed to each other. Anyone who has grown up with parents in a less than happy relationship knows it can wreak havoc in the kids.

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  31. J'ai appris des choses interessantes grace a vous, et vous m'avez aide a resoudre un probleme, merci.

    - Daniel

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