There is an article in the Weekend Australian about monogamy and sexuality. The article explores how we view marital commitment and whether it is reasonable to expect to love only one person for all of our life.
Certainly patterns of partnerships have changed since our grandparents’ day. Divorce is rampant and infidelity represents a major threat to our emotional security. This is not because we are any more faithful than the oldies but because we have more to lose, I’m thinking. We are not all made in the mould of some well-known wives who put up with the widespread knowledge of the husband’s affairs. Most of us would hit the crisis button when we find out our partner has been “playing away”. Even doing the same thing ourselves, giving in to a delicious temptation, can upset the mind, heart and soul enough to make it not worth the temporary joy. Unless your married life is so joyless that anything else is a plus.
So why were women in Victorian and Edwardian times so able to survive the presence of another woman in their husband’s life? After all, French men of a certain upper social stratum, were well known for their affairs “de cinq a sept”‘ ie from five to seven pm, by which time he was expected home for dinner after a ‘hard’ day!
Maybe one of the reasons was that as divorce was really not an option, meaning the stigma was social death, many women were more secure being married, and as they often had no other means of support and fewer skills to get a job, they were prepared to put up with it and utilise the famous ‘blind eye’. If they felt a certain level of gratitude to their husbands for saving them from spinsterhood, I can see that they might be more tolerant.
But our freedom to divorce has had the undesirable consequence that forgiveness is not truly considered as an option once the affair becomes obvious. Also the ‘other woman’ today knows she can insist he get divorced, so is less likely to settle for an apartment and a long- standing affair. Of course there are well-known exceptions. The senior Pratt (of Visy fame, unfortunate name) had a long-time mistress, along with many other prominent men. No doubt the financial rewards were sufficient for the other party to remain stumm, and for any messy divorce to remain beyond reach.
But, getting back to the question of monogamy, it has certain survival benefits, not only for the woman and her children, but through them for the whole community. The problem does not often arise if she is content in her man/partner. Women give sex to get affection, whereas men give affection to get sex. If she is getting all the support, love and affection she and the family need, and has no fear of divorce whatever ( a la Victorian times) then maybe she would not be too disturbed by stolen kisses from a third party?? If you know he can’t leave you, would you let him stray?
Some men speak of being ‘financial prisoners’ in their marriages. Many complain there is no sex after many years of marriage. If that is true, and I know it to be true of several friends, then it is highly likely that a touch of stray sex could divert the man from the straight and narrow. Holding on to a long time partner takes more than conversation! It would be entirely a good thing if she (and the ball is usually in her court) took to wearing nothing to bed occasionally, wore some sexy underwear occasionally, and maintained the sparkle in her eye when he walks past. Men are simple souls, for the most part. Feed him well, be ‘entertaining’ and affectionate and he won’t go out for hamburgers while he has steak at home!
But maybe the wear and tear of the years has eroded the vision of happiness. Extramarital comforts are very appealing when the home cupboard is bare. Ladies beware.