Lovers, Cheaters & the Sacred Institution of Marriage

The Sun newspapers  recently conducted a survey through QMI Agency and Leger Marketing to discover what Canadians’ attitudes were about infidelity. Here are some of their results:

  • One in three Canadians say they’ve been unfaithful to a partner
  • 55% say they’ve thought about cheating on their partner
  • Ontario has the most cheaters at 36%
  • The Atlantic Provinces have the fewest cheaters at 23%

Are these statistics are surprising to anyone? I think maybe I would have expected the percentage of cheaters to be a lot higher than that. But then perhaps I just mix with the wrong kind of people (No offense to all you people I mix with).

What was more interesting to me in this article were the justifications people gave for cheating:

  • A whopping 53% of Quebecers think you can love your spouse and still cheat on them.
  • 25% of Canadians think it’s not cheating if you have an intimate relationship with someone else as long as you don’t have intercourse with them
  • 28% of Quebecers and 18% of Canadians overall think a one-off affair can actually be beneficial to a marriage
  • 18% think it’s okay to cheat, as payback, if your spouse has been unfaithful, apologized and you’ve both agreed to stay married and to try and make it work
  • 15% think it’s okay to cheat if it’s a one-off thing and the spouse doesn’t find out about it
  • Only 27% think it’s okay to cheat if your spouse has a physical problem that prevents the couple from having a sexual relationship

Do you agree with any of these?

Some people, like Leah, at Daily Piglet , think the whole idea of monogamy is somewhat unrealistic . She’s not the first person who’s expressed the opinion that maybe this whole cleaving-unto-one-person-until-death thing is not something most people can really commit to.

I don’t know. Monogamy is nice in theory, I suppose. And there are people who seem to be able to stick with it. But then there are an awful lot of people who don’t. One in three people cheating on their partners is a lot. And I suspect that of the other two-thirds, a lot of them are just more honourable about breaking their vows and manage to get themselves out of one relationship before embarking on another.

What are the odds of a couple marrying (or shacking up), say in their late 20s or so and staying together and faithful to each other until one or both of them die somewhere in their old age? Probably some of you will accomplish that. Not many, I’d venture to say.

So why do people keep thinking they’re going to be that special couple that’s going to make it? What bizarre chemical clouds our brains when we’re “in love” that makes us ignore all the statistics and probabilities; that makes us deny our own natures; that closes our eyes to our partner’s weaknesses, frailties and flaws; and prompts us to vow that we will love this person and stay faithful to them forever?

We all know that the vast majority of these people will not be able to keep those vows. People change. Needs change. Feelings change. So why the need to “cleave”? What compels us to keep trying to be part of a married couple? What compels us to fight for the right to be part of a married couple?

Why can’t we love each other and enjoy each others’ companionship – even co-parent – without entwining our entire lives? Why can’t we allow each other the freedom to be in the relationship because we want to be, not because we’re obligated to be; to be sexually exclusive if we wish to be but to both understand that the situation may not always be like that. That one or both of us may develop an interest in someone else for a time — maybe even a long time.

It seems to me that the current system isn’t working out too well. The status quo is causing an awful lot of turmoil – legal, financial, emotional, psychological — it’s a mess. We’ve put the institution of marriage on some lofty pedestal complete with expectations that no human being can live up to. It’s so lofty that we’re actually excluding people from it because it’s so damn sacred. And yet, in reality, most of the time, it is everything from a stifling life of compromise and making the best of things to a horror freak show that brings out the absolute worst in everyone and leaves a wide and miserable swath of destruction in its wake.

But maybe I’m just old and cynical and ya’ll are going to tell me how wonderful marriage really is and what I’m missing out on?