The case against adultery

Posted: Apr 01, 2006 12:06 AM
Not being religious, I don’t feel comfortable discussing other people’s sins. Even where the Ten Commandments are concerned, I’m probably only batting about .650. However, one of the thou-shalt-nots I seem to take more seriously than a lot of other people, including those in the church-going crowd, is number seven on the hit parade, the one dealing with adultery.

Having been divorced twice, I recognize that all marriages are not made in heaven. Some, in fact, seem to have been cobbled together in Dr. Frankenstein’s basement. Speaking from experience, there are perfectly good reasons for certain unions to be dissolved. But, for the life of me, I can not come up with a single decent excuse for adultery. Frankly, I regard adulterers as lying, contemptible sleazebags. I can’t begin to imagine how they live with themselves, let alone their mates. Even the terminology is distasteful, unless, unlike most of us, you don’t mind being a cheater.

I recall hearing that Chicago’s mayor, the late Richard Daley, who was one of the last of the big city bosses, when once asked why, with all the women available to him, he remained faithful to his wife, replied, “If I can’t keep my word to my wife, why should anybody else trust me?”

Now the story may be apocryphal, and, for all I know, Mayor Daley may have been a worse hound than Bill Clinton, but the point is still a good one. If before man and God, you pledge your troth, and, first chance you get, you hop into the sack with someone you’re not married to, you’re nothing but a four-flusher.

What truly confounds me are cheating couples who eventually wind up married to each other, and are then astonished that their partner is now cheating with somebody new. Anybody who believes they are so special, so beautiful, so fascinating, so charismatic, that they can trust their adulterous spouse to remain faithful is not only terminally narcissistic, but more gullible than the hayseed who pays good money for the deed to Brooklyn Bridge.

After giving it some thought, I am convinced that there are motives for adultery that have little or nothing to do with sex. I believe the first of these is based on resentment. Either the husband or the wife feels neglected because kids, work, hobbies or booze, seem to have supplanted them in importance. The adultery not only provides them with a temporary ego-boost, but it gives them the feeling that they’re extracting a measure of well-deserved revenge. That is why after the initial excitement of the illicit affair wears off, the adulterer begins to resent the fact that his or her mate doesn’t even suspect anything. Their attitude often changes from one of “Oh, aren’t I the clever one to be pulling the wool over the fool’s eyes!” to “The damn fool doesn’t notice because he/she doesn’t think I’m sexy enough to attract anybody.” Ultimately, it’s vanity, rather than a guilty conscience, that leads them to confess all.

Another reason that people risk destroying their marriages, hurting their children and damaging their reputations, is because their lives are so darn boring, and I’m not even referring to their sex lives. The truth is that most people live lives, not necessarily of quiet desperation, but filled with tedious activities spent with boring, mind-numbing, dullards. What makes it even worse is that every time they turn on the TV or pick up a magazine, they’re confronted by gorgeous celebrities, male and female, living the way they’d like to -- a mad whirl of parties and premieres, vacations in exotic locales, private jets, limousines, servants, and, yes, tacky affairs. Well, chum, with your income, your humdrum job and your ordinary looks, you can forget about everything on the list except that last item. But even you can meet George or Helen the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month at the Bide-a-While Motel.

And aren’t you, for about an hour or so, every bit as sexy and glamorous as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie? Sure, if you say so.

But when you drive home afterwards, saddled down with a load of guilt and self- contempt, can you honestly say the lay was worth the lie?