Affairs: drawing our own line between “good” and “not good”

Affairs and cheating have been a hot topic in the public sphere — with political scandals, celebrity rumours, and the exposing of members of Ashley Madison (a dating site for married people). Let’s bring affairs down into the personal level.

We’re curious about how they happen, why they’re tempting, the impact they have, how trust is recovered, how self is restored, what judgements we make of ourselves or other people, how we define our notion of good and bad or right and wrong.

Here are some questions/takeaways from our dinner on Affairs & Cheating. 

We leave it to you to draw for yourself the line between “good” and “not good.” 
For you, what makes something “not good?” Consider duration (brief, on-going), the kind of connection (intellectual, emotional, sexual, spiritual), the kind of activity (sexual thoughts, flirtation, texting, kissing, touching, intercourse), the time spent, how secret it is (all out in the open, honest and factual, avoiding the topic, deceptive).

We’ll use the following technical definitions for this post:
Affair – an engagement outside of marriage, to which the spouse did not consent
Cheating – an engagement outside of a relationship, to which the partner did not consent



What causes affairs or cheating? What does it have to do with sex in a relationship, emotional closeness, access to potential partners, the sexualness of culture, people living longer, a lack of need and desire to committee to anything (such as work and hobbies)?

Why is the rate of affairs and divorce growing? Or, perhaps affairs are not more likely than they were before, but we just have better data now.

Is this desire for the other, the forbidden, for temporary pleasures, etc “human nature?” Is it biological or evolutionary?

What is the impact of cultural norms on the rate of affairs and our judgements of people who cheat?

What makes an affair so tempting? What makes it so devastating?



What does cheating in an open relationship (where partners can see other people) look like?

In an open relationship with clear communication, the boundaries are openly defined and constantly revised. The exact “rules” will vary from relationship — what kind of connection, what kind of activity, how far in advance a partner might like to know, time spent, number of partners, etc would be discussed — so cheating is anything that doesn’t suit what was agreed on.
(More questions & takeaways from the Open Relationships talk here)

We’re different in how we define relationship actions that are “bad for us” — where do those lines for right and wrong come from? What influences our beliefs about what is acceptable and what isn’t?

We have different preferences in relationships — when do they shift or change? What do we do when it shifts or changes?



How do we have a tough conversation? At what point would you choose to tell a partner about an interest in someone else or an affair with that person? What do you say?

Notice why you want to have this tough conversation. Perhaps find a time that is private and unrushed. Perhaps let them know them in advance that you want to have an important and difficult conversation. Say what you mean, and perhaps what you would want to do from here and give them space to say what they need to say.

What would you do if you found out your partner is having an affair? What would you want to happen from there?

What if you stay with your partner after they cheat on you? How do you grow or change from that experience?



What does marriage mean? What do we expect marriage to do? Sometimes we see people who want to do certain things now, before they get married, “because they can” — why is that?

How does a relationship change with pregnancy and child birth? How does it impact your perceptions and feelings toward your own body, and your partners body, and what do you want to do about that?

Is the model (of marriage or relationships) broken? Are our expectations of what marriage means or what a committed relationships means no longer aligned? What can we do about that?



If a married or taken person is interested in you, do you have moral obligation to behave in a way that does not hurt their partner? What if their partner is someone you know or a friend?

Do you have a moral obligation to tell the partner you are cheating on, whether because of their emotional health, physical health, or something else?


Angela OgnevAffairs: drawing our own line between “good” and “not good”
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