Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Infidelity

Infidelity. It's a strange word. When I was a teenager, learning about sex and romance through the medium of the Jean Plaidy historical novel, there was a noun - Infidel. It meant someone who didn't believe in the true faith and was normally used by the Moors to describe the Crusaders... and sometimes the other way around. But with so many tales of infidelity playing out under my avidly page-turning fingers, I would often wonder why it wasn't used to describe someone who was having it off outside the sanctity of their marriage.

So, what constitutes being unfaithful? Well, having a physical relationship with someone who is not your husband definitely. This is not an attempt to excuse what I have done and it took a lot of soul searching to take that final huge step off Ruf's computer screen and into his bed. But where do we draw the line? Is it just a physical thing or is there a mental aspect to it too - especially in this age of the Internet where we find ourselves with access to and temptation from all sorts of unusual opportunities.

At what point was I actually being unfaithful to my Husband? Was it before Ruf with The Catalyst by reading and wanking to his stories? Or my initial brush with masturbation because I was so affected by the eyes of the Man? If no party physically intended to consummate our relationship, does that make it ok? I don't recall reciting any marriage vow involving computer screens or webcams... or am I just splitting hairs here? And am I deceiving Ruf by reading some of the fantasies that the guys put on here and touching myself to the stimulation from those?

What about unseemly eye contact with a guy you see regularly in the street but don't know by name? What about virtual flirtation by msn or email? Does sending someone risque photos mean you've tarnished your reputation and turned yourself into a faithless Jezebel? Or abomination upon abomination, having a fantasy about someone who is neither your husband nor your lover? Or is it ok, so long as you don't tell the person concerned? And then there's the whole Bill Clinton defence where he seemed to consider that a blowjob didn't count as sex?

Personally, I don't think it's wrong to get pleasure from the admiring glance of a passerby or the encouraging words of a virtual buddy. But should one hold back flattering pics from a friend needing a certain stimulus? Are these not just caring, sharing gestures? Ways of making someone else's world a better place using words and deeds with no physical strings attached?

Having lived in the chill of an emotional vacuum for a long time, I think I can appreciate more than most how pleasurable it is to both give and receive assurances of attractiveness. Does that make me care any less for the Significant Others in my life? Is there a finite amount of admiration that we are able to give out so that by being nice to someone else, there is somehow a lesser amount available to the people to whom we are closest? Well, maybe not in terms of admiration but I can vouch for the fact that there is a limit to the amount of affection that you can pour out if the jug remains unfilled with affection for you from that source. And when the jug is empty, you start to use other emotions to fill it until finally even your own self-respect has gone. It's also true that to love someone else, you have to be able to love yourself and that self-esteem in so many people is pretty dependent on external validation.

OK, I can hear you shouting, it's a question of trust. But if your Significant Other is not paying you the attention that you need, why should you not accept it from elsewhere? It doesn't necessarily follow that it's going to turn into a full bodied physical liaison. Sometimes it's just two people in a bad place giving comfort and reassurance to each other through some form of cybersex - often because they don't actually know how to say 'I care about you and you are an important part of my life' without expressing it in terms of sex. Everyone loves the excitement of an affair. Cybersex gives all that emotional intensity without all the contingent shite of logistics and deception that a real life one produces. We spend so much time getting bogged down in the minutiae and drudgery of our lives that many of us have forgotten how good it feels to say something nice about someone else or receive the compliment back in return.

At the end of the day, cybersex is only words on a screen that make two sad people feel good about themselves again.

But can that intensity of feeling be maintained and contained within the medium of a computer screen. What if you feel compelled to make it physical? Just to see if the reality lives up to the amazingly powerful emotions that you have played out on a keyboard? Does heavy petting count as infidelity? Is oral sex permissible? Or is it morally wrong to even permit the touching of lips?

And once you have gone the whole hog and committed the ultimate physical betrayal, does it then become easier the next time around? Do you lose that innate sense of right and wrong in pursuit of an emotion that could prove eventually to be unattainable? Will you find yourself swimming like a shark in a sea of distrust?

Could you ever be truly faithful again?...

18 comments:

BenefitScroungingScum said...

A really difficult question, I admire your honesty in trying to find some way through it. For me having never been married it would be when idle fantasy or desire translates into something stronger, an intention to act perhaps, regardless of how that act is performed. But, I do wonder if it isn't a stronger type of infidelity or betrayal that has to come first for longer to even lead people to consider looking elsewhere for affection and physical needs. Nothing exists in a vacuum and all that. Take care, BG x

Vi vi vi vooom!!!!!!!! said...

I don't believe in infidelity myself, well, I mean I wouldn't personally do it. If I really love someone, I'm commited to them. If I fall out of love, as I did with my husband, I would leave them.

having my cake said...

BG, I agree... cause and effect

Vi, Absolutely, but when there are kids involved who adore their father and he is not physically abusive to their mother...

EmmaK said...

Very interesting post. I suppose that the Internet has really opened up a can of worms as to what constitutes an affair. I had an internet 'affair' that went on for months with someone who lived in another country and it was partly cybersex and partly me saying I think I love you etc. A lot of it is the thrill of this gorgeous man finding you attractive. I dont think it was that my husband wasn't finding me attractive, I was just so bored with my humdrum life I wanted a thrill. And I got it, and my husband knew about it. for a while there were plans to meet the internet lover which all came to nothing in the end. I would definately not do it again, I got badly burned and too emotionally involved, but if you can keep the boundaries there I dont think there's anything wrong with internet flirtation.

Isabella Snow said...

Personally, I have always felt guilty for even checking guys out when I'm in a relationship, but I think that stemmed from knowing why I was checking them out - I didn't really *want* to be in those relationships anyway.

Luka said...

Infidelity is a subjective term. It means different things both to individuals and to different pairings of partners. It all boils down to whether the individual in question believes they have committed an act of infidelity, rather than the nature of the act that has been committed.

Midnight said...

That'sa very interesting post and you cover the issues very well indeed. I don't think there is one answer to this. I believe to an extent that if you feel guilty after doing whatever act it is, then it is probably infidelity or something close to it. On the other hand some people just have no guilt.

From a personal viewpoint, I don't think internet flirting/cyber sex or anything of that nature is infidelity, as I personally don't feel guilty. Having said that, if I met a woman I truly loved, I don't think I would feel the urge to do it anyway.

Waynecoff said...

oh boy, thats a hard one, i done it in both my marriages, and thats why I cant stay in a relationship, I think I get bored of being tied down, its not that I don't love my partner or didn't love my partner, I just can't help myself, I don't feel guilty either, but equally would be upset if it happend to me, its all very odd, but its part of human nature, we are all different, act different, and accept different.

Freddy said...

Waynecoff said...
I think I get bored of being tied down,

I could never get bored of that!

having my cake said...

Emmak - Im just not someone who can indulge in a serious online flirtation without getting emotionally attached. It is the nature of my anorexia :(

Luka - That's a different way of looking at it I guess but still a very valid one. If the perpetrator feels guilty then an unfaithful act has occurred.

Isa/Middy - I adore Ruf but I still need other male attention. Ive been thinking and talking to him about it a lot this weekend. Fortunately he understands because, if stuff were to go tits up for us, he would be terrified that my anorexia would return without other sources of self-esteem bolstering. God, I sound like a sad cow, but that's the nature of the illness. And I wouldnt want him to stay with me because he felt afraid to leave.

Wayne - Like Freddy said, I doubt it's that you get bored with being tied down more that you get bored with not getting tied down. Variety is the spice of life. Never again will I accept that there are only a finite number of positions in which you can fuck someone!

His Ladye said...

I have read this and read this and putting together a response is much harder than I thought. I will keep reading and try to understand what others think. I am not sure how to put my words out yet. But thanks for starting the discussion in my head.

Ladye

la fille mariƩe said...

You are brave to begin this discussion. I think that, in some ways, infidelity isn't really the question. What is it that you would be faithful to? Is there a true relationship of that kind in the first place, that is being broken? Is anyone being hurt? Potentially hurt? Is anyone choosing to look away to avoid issues? Really, when it comes down to it, we each make the best decisions we can, to find the most personal happiness with the least fallout to ourselves and others. What else is there?

The Man With Secrets said...

All of those acts you mention count as infidelity. If you don't believe they do, then tell your partner you've been engaging in them and see what his/her reaction is. Hillary Clinton may have let Bill get away with his "Oral sex isn't sex" line in public, but you can bet your ass he paid for that one behind closed doors.

The fact is that once you've decided, for example, to post a profile on AFF you've already started a process, a process you want. There may be many reasons behind this - mismatched libido, lack of attention, need for validation - but that doesn't alter the fact that you're there because you're looking for something you're not getting elsewhere. You are already being "unfaithful".

However, given that, I think the most important thing, paradoxically, is to be honest. You need to be clear to yourself about what you're looking for, and why, and to keep reassessing that to see if it's changed. You need to be honest with any partners you "acquire", to make sure that you're after the same thing, and there are no expectations, for example to leave existing relationships. And if things do get out of hand, and you're "found out", you need to take responsibility, and not run away from the consequences of your actions.

Just my two penn'orth. It's hard, all this. I do sometimes wonder if it's worth it. But only sometimes.

having my cake said...

Keyser Soze asked me to post this on his behalf

It seems to me that the definition rests with your
lover. It's what they are willing to put up with from
you and vice versa. To me the success of a
relationship rest on communication. Most everyone
covets; lusts after what they don't or can't have.
It's about not hurting the person you love right?
If they are OK sharing you then you're fine but that's
rarely true. You have to express what you want, see if
they can deal and try to reach a compromise.
"I want X, Y and Z and I'm will to accept you doing X,
Y and Z too. Q is right out for both of us. Deal?"
X,Y and Z are then not unfaithful; Q is infidelity.
You're adhering in good faith (or not) to your
agreement about what's acceptable behavior.

Thus computer anything might be legal, but in person
only if your mate can participate (or watch) and only
within agreed upon parameters. The thing is (of
course) we're inclined to break the rules because it's
in our nature to be naughty and try to get away with
what we aren't supposed to do. That's what makes it
exciting in the first place.

having my cake said...

Ladye - I look forward to the fruits of your cogitations.

Fille - I think you're right and that the original relationship must have broken down in some way for one to even consider most of these activities but that our own personal happiness is a major contributor when we do.

Man - welcome x What's AFF? Being honest is why I started writing this blog. I needed to understand why I do the things I do...

HyperAnt said...

I started to comment on this at length but it was ridiculously long (not that that surprises me - brevity has never been my forte) so I am just going to post it as a post on my blog.

As for this post though, it is a very interesting discussion and I love reading what you write. (I have been reading your previous poits and I am hooked!)

"At the end of the day, cybersex is only words on a screen that make two sad people feel good about themselves again." That's a lot of truth in 23 words. And also, very dangerous ground.

Hardin said...

To Cherrie and I it is a question of maintaining trust. We are philosophically committed to an open relationship in which sex with others is not only permitted but also expected. The only infidelity we would recognize is failing to disclose our encounters with others truthfully and completely, and having unsafe sex with others that would put both of us at risk.

What is your understanding with your husband about sex with others? That, for you, will determine what is and what isn't infidelity.

His Ladye said...

I think that Hardin's response is probably the best start to making it make sense in my poor confused head. Having dealt with this before we have always had some hard and fast "rules" about what is acceptable and what isn't. It doesn't mean that either one of us hasn't tested those rules. or ended up despising them, it justmeans that when we were at an undistracted point we decided what we considered was acceptable. Ie. Conversations, flirting, teasing, talking on the puter were fine. Pictures or videos were okay if you talked to the other partner about it first. Phone conversations were ok if both were aware it was happening. Meeting in person is a both or nothing kinda thing.

Knowing all that hasn't made it work every time though. Because regardless of how much you talk about it life sometimes gets in the way and doesn't fit into your world so neatly.

For me it's a question of emotional involvement that truly crosses the line to something almost unsurmountable. At the same time every situation is so different you have to take it as it comes and try to work it out.

But, living in an emotional wasteland, a voic, would seem to make it even more difficult to handle and would blur those lines.

I think you have a great conversation with yourself going. Perhaps you just need to carry it further to the conclusion. Just a though.

Ladye