“Can we talk about infidelity in a new way?”


At this very moment, in all four cardinal points of the world, someone betrays or endures betrayal, is thinking of starting a romance, hears out the victim of the triangle or that lover with whose help the triangle arose. There is no other aspect in the life of a couple that would generate more fears, gossip and enthusiasm than cheating. Adultery has been legitimized, debated, politicized and demonized throughout history. And yet it has always existed.

For most of the story, men have been cheating because they had a welcome opportunity to do so and not be too afraid of the consequences. The double standard is as old as treason itself. I doubt that King David thought about his marital status even for a moment when he seduced Bathsheba.

And today, the trend driven by our culture is to individualize and pathologize such a widespread social reality as infidelity. But can we really explain it – it’s so common! – just as a consequence of individual deficiencies?

Why does cheating happen and what does it mean?

I give lectures on love and sex all over the world. When I first became interested in infidelity, I used to ask my listeners if they had any experience of romance on the side. Not a single hand in the audience went up – nothing surprising. There are few people who publicly admit that they have cheated or that they have cheated on them. There was a time when divorce was experienced as something shameful, today we have a new stigma – infidelity.

Cheating can teach us a lot: what we expect, what we think we want, and what we think we have the right to

With all this in mind, I changed my question to “How many of you have experienced infidelity?” And suddenly a mass of hands began to rise.

On the train, a woman sees her friend’s husband talking confidentially with some beauty, and wonders whether to tell or not. The young man describes the betrayal that preceded his parents’ divorce. Another young man – himself the “child of love” of one of his parents – tells how he grew up with his half-brothers and sisters, whose attitude towards him went through all the stages from envy to indignation.

The middle-aged gay talks for a long time with his lesbian best friend, who suspects that her partner is cheating on her with her ex. The long-married parenting couple will not allow their daughter’s unfaithful husband to attend their 60th birthday. And the young groom wonders if he did the right thing by canceling an invitation for one of his best men – a famous rake – at the request of his bride.

I listen to all these stories, and it convinces me that cheating is a universal play that includes many characters: family members, friends, colleagues and neighbors, and unfolds its scenes on the stage of the Internet and smartphones, sites and mobile dating services.

Cheating can teach us a lot – in terms of relationships – what we expect, what we think we want, and what we think we are entitled to. They lead to a deeper discussion of our values, human nature and the fragility of eros, and nudge us towards some of the most troubling questions: How do we maintain the delicate balance between our emotional and erotic needs? Is the possessiveness of love inherent in the first place, or is it just a secret rudiment of patriarchy? Is it true that what we don’t know about doesn’t hurt? How do we learn to trust again? Can love not be the only one?

Infidelity is still a big taboo, but we need to create a safe space for constructive conversation.

Infidelity is a window overlooking the uneven landscape of relationships and the boundaries we draw to anchor them. As a therapist, I see my role as helping to contain the shifting and opposing forces of passion: temptation, lust, urgency, impossibility, relief, suspicion, provocation, guilt, dire consequences, tragic denouement, sinfulness, control, suspicion madness and murderous lust. to sweep.

My job is to encourage people to talk about things we don’t like to talk about, and for years I’ve come up with different ways to help us all talk seriously about marital infidelity. I work all over the world, speak nine languages, and am constantly reminded of the many cultural and religious subtleties that permeate every layer of this experience. My goal is to help people feel less pain, less anger, and more understanding.

Infidelity is still a big taboo, but we need to create a safe space for constructive conversation to compassionately explore the diversity of our experiences. It can be hectic, but ultimately it will strengthen the relationship by making it more honest and flexible.

About the author: Esther Perel is a psychotherapist specializing in cultural and social stereotypes that affect couples relationships.

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