If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it. - Unknown

I think that women are more sensitive to emotional infidelity than men. I think men are more scared of physical infidelity. - Olivia Wilde

People commonly have affairs because they feel they lack something in their current relationship, be it attention, sexual gratification, affection, or emotional support. Infidelity is commonly interpreted as close to the greatest tragedy that could befall any relationship – and as the natural, inevitable prelude to the break-up of a union. It is viewed in such dark terms because, under the philosophy of Romanticism which has dominated our understanding of love since the middle of the eighteenth century, sex is understood to be, not principally a physical act, but the summation and central symbol of love. But it wasn’t always that way.

Before Romanticism, people had sex and fell in love but they did not always see these two acts as inextricably linked: one might love someone and not sleep with them. Or sleep with them and not love them. It was this dislocation that Romanticism refused to countenance. Sex was simply the crowning moment of love, the superlative way of expressing one’s devotion to someone, the ultimate proof of one’s sincerity.

There are many avenues of infidelity, ranging from emotional attachments to cyber dating. Online infidelity is another challenge to a happy and healthy marriage. But is the act of physical sex that seems to matter more than anything else. Our attitude to sex today is obsessional, whether it be the seeking of it, the avoidance of it, or the “offence” felt when it is addressed, either seriously or jokingly. It's not as if sex is unnatural, or dirty, or criminal or even unpleasant. Behind our instinctive need for water, food, shelter and protection it would be our most natural need and preoccupation. And while sexual infidelity is considered the worst betrayal in the world, I wonder. Surely a sexual liaison can simply be dismissed as a mistake if it is not repeated. Much more immoral, I believe, is emotional betrayal. Falling out of love with your partner is common, but to then fall in love with someone else while remaining in the dissatisfying relationship is unacceptable.

As the above quote says, if you need to lie to your partner, you are out of line and need to make a decision, no matter how difficult. Secrets and lies will fill your life with nothing but drama, and will ultimately destroy you. Substitute infidelity with honesty, courage and integrity and you will respect yourself in the morning. And you will think much clearer about life in general.

I’m not decrying infidelity here, I have been “the other man” in a relationship with a married woman. I loved her dearly but inevitably the “threesome” just didn’t work. I’m simply pointing out the very big difference between a discretionary one-night stand and a serious betrayal of trust.

Men often have affairs for sexual gratification. For a women it’s emotional gratification. That’s why women consider infidelity so much harsher than men, because they see it as an emotional betrayal and feel you have given your love for them to someone else.

Relationships, all of them, are difficult. But it is wise to consider the difficulties as natural and acceptable. Open and honest communication are the essence. Most of us want that perfect partner – ourselves. You will never find that. Try not to let the differences define your marriage. Let it be the things you have in common.

Geoff Mooney