We understand very little about infidelity. If you’ve encountered it in your own life, you probably weren’t sure it was infidelity, and hence, you still hold the right to judge others.
Traditionally we define infidelity as someone in a committed relationship, getting physically intimate with an individual other than their partner. Now there are several levels even within this age old definition of infidelity – one kiss, several kisses, one night stand, many night stands and so on. It can be argued based on convenience that one is less worse than the other but the truth is, it is all bad enough or its all quite irrelevant in the larger scheme of things.
If your wife imagined making love to another man (or even woman) while making love to you, would that be adultery? If your husband sat next to you and enjoyed a text conversation with someone else while you longed for a conversation with him, would that be adultery? What if one of you thought a complete stranger in the mall was good looking, now, is that adultery? What if you were about to have a meeting with a new colleague someday and you spent some extra time dressing up to make a good first impression, would that be adultery? What if your recent searches on Facebook featured your exes because you had nothing better to do on a commute back home, would this be adultery?
Given that we have such a high bar for fidelity, I can tell you with reasonable confidence that we encounter infidelity in different forms in our lives every single day. Since marriage is a social construct, we rely on the society to dictate terms of the engagement to a great extent. Naturally, infidelity and our response to it is derived from social conditioning.
In the Mahabharata, when Arjuna returns home from exile, he brings Subadra with him. Arjuna’s wife, Draupadi, who already has 4 other husbands, gets pissed off, but the story of how she feels about either Arjuna’s exploits with Chitrangada or Ulupi is not very famous. Now, this is their personal boundary, which may have been derived from their immediate environment. Given the popularity of Mahabharata, this story plays a significant role in setting boundaries around what’s acceptable and what is not for society at large – feel free to screw whoever but don’t bring them home and all will be well.
But honestly, to each their own and I am going to tell you why it needn’t always mean that we are heading to doomsday.
We feel the need to step outside when we seek something that we don’t get from our existing relationships anymore. It’s not so much about the partner or the relationship itself, but it’s more to do with how we feel in it. When we don’t feel the way we used to feel when we first fell in love, in an attempt to get rid of this feeling of not being explicitly desired, we have this intense urge to turn back time to when we felt good about ourselves.
We try to reconnect with our glorious past, we try to re-invent ourselves to be more interesting or just try all of this in our imagination, disconnecting ourselves from our realities, in turn straying from our present commitments. Our spirit doesn’t settle unless we see some hope for all glory being restored and no amount of sexy lingerie can change that.
Given that routine sets in contempt and this feeling is bound to consume all of us at some point at different levels, feeding this feeling with opportunities to make ourselves feel better could possibly be nourishing for us and our existing relationships. In an attempt to look sexy for someone else, you might make your spouse notice you. This might trigger some pleasantly unexpected reciprocation from your spouse and this could set things back on track. Or not.
But that’s a chance you take because infidelity stems from a need to revive a dying spirit, that has the potential to be happier in any relationship, in or out. If you find your partner cheating on you, at any level, give them time to come around, and may be even give them a chance to explain themselves because it doesn’t always mean your relationship is dying, it means your partner is trying hard to prevent his/ her spirit from dying. Allowing yourself a chance to explore the truth will set you free – one way or another.