Why do people have affairs?
I have just finished watching a particularly disturbing series called The Tunnel and in amongst the terrorist-themed plot, the writers nest a requisite subplot about the main character – a really decent guy played by the incredibly sexy (sorry, AND talented) Stephen Dillane. You can also see him as some kind of fur wearing contender in Game of Thrones where he has some quite frankly scary sexual relations with a witch-human.
Dillane’s character is a British cop drawn into an Anglo-French homicide which has occurred in the channel tunnel. He’s also a serial cheater, but is portrayed as kind of ‘hapless’ rather than ‘predatory’. The ‘oh no, I slipped and my penis fell out, then I had to put it somewhere, quickly’ suggestion.
It got me thinking: why would a guy in a happy marriage like this character, sleep with other women? Aaron says it’s because the relationship is broken somewhere to start with. Great Guyvice.
I mean I know WHY people have sex. I know that humans love looking at other humans and wondering about what it would be like to…sometimes it’s just a fleeting thought and we have a quick cold shower and a big hot cup of What the Fuck is Wrong with Me and get on with life.
And of course my example of a male cheater is not atypical. Women in relationships cheat too.
Case Study: Why Women Cheat
One of my best male friends had this experience. Married for a long time, and the relationship was rocky, but still there was a house, a child and you know, the expected white middle-class ennui that can go with that scenario, unless you are truly compatible and then the day-to-day grind is outweighed by fantastic companionship, humour and physical attraction.
If he was honest, none of those latter factors were present, and the relationship was just playing out by itself, a bit like working out your notice, or listening to the last few remixes of earlier songs on a CD.
Gradually he noticed the dynamic changing. He was no longer invited to his wife’s work functions. His wife began losing weight and dressing unsuitably upmarket for regular outings.
One day he just knew there was someone else. And it was confirmed when he discovered his wife and her lover lunching very publicly and it just looked wrong.
She explained it away as being a work meeting, but of course it never is, and she no more needed a work meeting in high heels with a colleague than I need a work meeting with our postie to discuss my mail, in Hervé Léger.
Later, she confessed to the affair but did not take responsibility for it. It had gone on a long time and she regretted any hurt she had caused, she said. He eventually left the marriage, because how can a person stay?
Instead of feeling hurt, my friend took it as a sure sign the marriage was over. My friend believed that his wife had chosen (it was no accident) to leave the family home with the intention of sleeping with someone else, who it turned out, was also married.
What was she after?
She wanted to be the intense focus of someone’s gaze. She wanted the teenage flutter in her gut, and the Rococo notion of pursuit.
Is it perhaps the external validation disease here that makes people – women – cheat?
But back to our man-cheater. After watching The Tunnel, I spent hours and hours trying to figure out what was wrong with this guy that he cheated. The ‘wrong’ part, to me was the willingness to risk everything for what seemed to be small returns. Quick low-quality sexual encounters with zero payout for any party.
The other thing that disturbed me more was how forgivable he was as a character – and that some part of me believes that Men Cheat because of [insert – faulty marriage, stress, burdened with searingly tiresome domesticity, the thought of having ONE MORE conversation about which splash-back to buy- here].
Is it true? Say it ain’t so, fellas.