This article was first published in The Malaysian Insider on 4 October 2010.
There is one question that often sparks off heated arguments, and to a certain extent, discomfort among the female species rather successfully — including my own circle of girlfriends.
Nothing riles the female species up more than asking them whether human beings are meant to be monogamous. If you want to be really unpopular, try telling them that you actually don’t believe so — which is the position I’m taking.
What I find frustrating when having such a discussion is that the majority of women are not willing or ready to consider my position. I think I can understand why because I used to be one of them. I used to give the same reasons.
“Infidelity is wrong. It shouldn’t be tolerated!” “This is just a bad excuse for men to commit adultery!”
The problem is when women discuss relationships, we tend to idealise and romanticise them. We often talk about who the ideal man is and what a relationship is supposed to be. We can spend hours dissecting the criteria and issues revolving around them and truth be told, there are often many variations at the end of the discussion.
But, when it comes to the topic of fidelity, we often stand unanimous in condemning the act of infidelity wholeheartedly. There is often no discussion but only judgment. I notice the same pattern with my foreign girlfriends.
When I ask the question whether human beings are meant to be monogamous, I am not asking whether polygamous relationships are acceptable or not. When I take the position that human beings are not meant to be monogamous, I’m not saying that I tolerate or accept that we all should have one-night stands with different sexual partners.
I am merely asking us to consider whether it is possible that people commit adultery simply because it is a natural thing to do and not because they stop loving their partner.
The act of infidelity is not a modern phenomenon. It has probably been around since the existence of mankind. The only difference is that it is less tolerated now as modern societies begin to create the concept of marriage as an institution, the religious impositions of the sanctity of marriage, new moral codes regulating the exclusivity of couple-ship, the romantic idealism of fidelity and not least the feminist movement.
The whole concept of one man for one woman, as romantic as it sounds... does it really work for or against the core of human nature?
Now, I was brought up in a society and community which regards fidelity as an obligation. I believe that my parents have been completely faithful to each other although I’ve known some of my relatives who have cheated on their wives. While we try to avert our eyes and pretend that they don’t happen, it is nevertheless a scandal where endless gossip, conversations and debates are held behind closed doors.
The debates are usually divided into two groups as most debates usually are but the interesting thing is, there is absolutely no gender balance in any of the groups. You always get the women thrashing the adulterer while the men are quick to come to his defence.
One of my cousins had a huge fight with her husband when they decided to debate about Clinton’s fidelity. There is nothing better than a healthy discussion on global “affairs”, I’ll say!
Recent studies carried out by several reputable behavioural science research centres in America have shown two surprising changes in American society today, in regards to infidelity. Firstly, the female infidelity rate has increased which means that women are equally unfaithful to their spouses, and secondly more and more young couples are engaging in adulterous relationships.
They claim that modern women now have more opportunities to commit infidelity as they become more emancipated; they get to know more people at the workplace, stay late at work and travel more on business. Previously, when most women were still housewives, they stayed at home all day and hence were less exposed to the possibilities of infidelity. (Have they not heard about how the milkmen and postmen do more than just deliver services?)
They also claim that in this modern era, the Internet and mobile phone have contributed to the increase rate of infidelity. Even housewives can now indulge in flirtations via the Internet and instant text messaging. As for younger couples committing adultery, the Internet is the main culprit.
This I can agree to an extent because with so many online dating services, adult friend finders, etc. it’s so easy for men and women to hook up with someone. Let’s face it, even if you have every intention to stay faithful to your spouse, many profit-making agencies are trying very hard to make you fail. You can hire escort services at just a click of a button by entering your credit card details, preferences and voila!
Look at all the seemingly innocent online social network websites; Facebook, MySpace, etc. Applications like “Are you interested in me?” “Would you like to sleep with me?” are not as innocent as they seem.
Bottomline is, whatever these studies aim to achieve, I think the bigger question is why are people committing infidelity? I don’t think this survey can ever be considered accurate because many people will never own up to being an adulterer. So, they can just stop wasting their time and money on researches.
Society has taught us that infidelity is taboo and it is wrong, but it has never quite prepared us as human beings to deal with such concepts, which are created by presumably religious or impotent people. When this person decided that marriage should be a sacred institution and it is morally sinful to cheat, many of us have followed without ever studying the nature and readiness of humankind. Otherwise, why have so many faltered under the most insignificant temptation?
Then, there are bigger questions like is it possible for a person to love more than two people at a time, or is it possible for a person to fall in and out of love?
A one-night stand to a certain extent is arguably acceptable but what happens when a fling becomes a thing? An affair is no longer harmless because it breaks up a family, which can potentially lead to far-reaching consequences, especially when children are involved.
Various people commit adultery for various reasons. While to many, it is simply unacceptable, it doesn’t really address the issue. Instead, couples need to look at themselves and evaluate what has gone wrong in their relationship to cause either one of them, or both, to be unfaithful.
Has the husband stopped noticing his wife because he is too busy with work? Has the wife stopped being sexually desirable because she is a full-time mother? Have the children become the centre of their lives as a couple?
Or an option would be to study yourself by asking whether you are the faithful type or not. Be honest and own up to it.
Unless these problems are being addressed, be rest assured that infidelity will continue for as long as mankind shall exist.