Last Update: 15 Aug 00
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Since this issue has garnered a fair amount of news headlines in recent weeks, I feel moved to express my own opinions about it.
Here is an issue that is fraught with contradictions. Most people will claim to be "against" it, but it is estimated that a majority of Americans have had at least one affair at some point in their lives. I suspect that that number would escalate rapidly if either they felt they could "get away with it" or if they did not fear the social or legal consequences.
The crux of the issue centers around a religious ideal commonly referred to as the "sanctity of marriage". When a man and woman are married in a religious ceremony, the common practice is for them to exchange vows promising to remain "faithful" to one another and forsake all others for as long as they both shall live. Now, there should be little doubt that this is a worthy and noble sentiment at the moment of marriage and certainly has value as the glue which is supposed to keep a couple together through the years during which they will be raising their children.
Unfortunately, it seems as though it is the rare couple who can have a truly happy and fulfilling marriage in all respects throughout their lives. In most cases, the relationship seems to deteriorate until the couple is doing little more than sharing a domicile. Needless to say, there will be little, if any, lovemaking between those two individuals in a strained relationship and that will eventually begin to cause problems with the basic sex drive that all humans possess. In the worst cases, even basic caring and attention for one another can be lost and the two individuals will also suffer from emotional dissatisfaction. If those two important needs cannot be satisfied within the confines of the marital relationship, it seems to me to be natural (if not inevitable) that either or both individuals would begin to look outside that relationship for satisfaction.
For some reason, the act of seeking such satisfaction outside of one's marriage, is considered to be anything from a moral sin to an outright criminal offense. In many cases, the spouse who has driven their partner into the arms of another through inattention, abuse, selfishness, etc. is actually considered to be the "victim" of their partner's "crime". The accused adulterer is said to have "broken their wedding vows". How about the spouse who no longer "loves, honors, and cherishes" their partner? Is that not also breaking one's vows. To my mind, if there is an "offense" or "sin" that has been committed, it is the latter that should be the true crime.
Adulterers are often said to be "cheating" on their spouses. Why should this be so? How can you "cheat" on somebody who doesn't want what you have to offer and who has nothing to offer to you? Why is it somehow "acceptable" for a spouse to deny love and satisfaction to their partner and be legally protected from their partner's efforts to look elsewhere for it when it is not available at home? How many current or potential adulterers would even consider looking elsewhere if they were content and satisfied at home?
Since I am a non-religious person, I don't subscribe to the notion that marriage is an act of bonding two people together for life in the eyes of whatever deity they choose to worship. I feel that marriage should be a contract where the "terms" are expressed in the wedding vows or in a pre-nuptial agreement. As with any other contract, if the terms are violated, the aggrieved party would have the right to terminate that contract.
An alternative idea would be to treat marriages in a manner similar to how high-level security clearances are handled. Such clearances are good for a period of five years and must be reviewed and revalidated if they are to be extended. Perhaps, marriages should also be subject to a similar method of review. If, upon such a review, the marriage is found to be no longer viable, it would simply cease to be. This would mean that both partners would either have to work at maintaining the marriage's validation or they would have to be prepared for life without it. I can't see how this would be a bad idea.
In regards to the cases currently in the news, is it right to cripple or end a career (either military or civilian) solely on the basis of that individual having had an affair -- especially one that ended long ago? To me, this is ridiculous. Righteous indignation aside, I suspect that the majority of Americans would agree with me. This is essentially an issue of religious morality -- and such issues are bad ones around which to base laws.
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