Last week’s episode of Intersexions on television had my girlfriends and me debating the issue of the line between trust and naiveté. Quick summary of the episode: a woman (Thandeka) trusted her husband (Godwin) and her young, beautiful au pair (Gadima) to maintain a professional relationship but they had an affair.
The episode had me so traumatised I decided to look for a male perspective. I asked two friends who have been in what they call committed relationships for over a year. I have to admit, I liked one of my friends less after these conversations.
Both of them admitted to having been unfaithful. One of the guys said he had cheated several times in the beginning of his relationship but that this changed after he started having real feelings for her.
“I decided it would be a complete waste of time to be invested in my relationship with her and be entertaining all these other chicks,” he said.
The other guy said he continued to have sex with other women and felt there wasn’t anything wrong with that “as long as she doesn’t find out”. When I asked him how he’d feel if he found out she’d cheated on him, he admitted he’d be hurt.
He also said women should be careful not to try and “compete” with men because we’re inclined to be more emotional and end up being hurt by our actions. No prizes for guessing which friend lost major brownie points.
I guess my issue with infidelity is the decision to be in a monogamous relationship to begin with. We live in an age where being in an open relationship is not so much of a taboo. Why tie yourself to an agreement that forces you to be with one person if you’re not prepared to commit to what that means?
I’m open to the idea that monogamy is a tired concept and that it has, attached to it, a long history of moral obligations that serve capitalism and religion. I’m always interested to hear from people who have made open relationships work. I admire the courage it takes to be able to face judgement from people who aren’t willing to understand that lifestyle choice.
What has interested me more in the past two weeks is our insistence as a society to promote monogamy when the opposite seems to be the norm.
Public figures like Kenny Kunene (ZAR Sushi King) make it difficult to ignore the grey area that exists in these open relationships. How do you draw the line between an open relationship among consenting adults and the unhealthy turn towards a hyper-masculine, patriarchal society?
Is it my place to make that judgement to begin with? Is Kenny Kunene a better man for being honest about his lifestyle choice or is the closet cheat better for hiding his or her infidelity? I’d be hesitant to rush into that judgement. Maybe we need to go back to the drawing board and decide what the concept of monogamy means in the 21st century.
Maybe we need to reconsider what we mean by commitment and if it’s as synonymous with monogamy as we’ve been taught to assume.