“I don’t know if it is just me noticing this or has infidelity become an epidemic out there?”
There were multiple replies all basically saying “oh yes it has”. My answer was a slightly different… here’s the cut and paste with some minor edits…
The answer is that marriage is no longer the finishing line for the sexual marketplace. Once upon a time when you married it was extremely clear that you were being joined together as sexual partners and no one else was allowed in. Men and women all jostled for position to nab the best member of the opposite sex they could, and then settled down for a long life together fairly secure in the idea of being faithful to each other.
Thanks to the copious and serious changes to marriage and divorce law, the current legal definition of marriage is utterly different than the recent historical one. It’s not even clear if there can even be “infidelity” as there’s usually no mention of sexual rights or agreements in the marriage / divorce / adultery laws in most States. There’s usually no definition of sexual “fidelity” in the marriage contract to even fail at. Most people just assume sexual fidelity is a requirement of marriage simply because it used to be. It may be the spirit of the agreement, but it’s not the actual legal agreement.
Likewise most people just assume that marriage is intended to permanent. It’s clearly not intended to be permanent thanks to no fault divorce law, it just may be permanent should both partners maintain interest in staying together. Permanency may be the spirit of the agreement, but it’s not the actual legal agreement being made.
In short nothing your partner says to you either verbally or by wedding vows actually matters in terms of something they can be held to. As we all know on this board, spouses can do utterly heartless cruel things against the intended spirit of their marriage… and it’s all completely legal.
So in our brave new world, the sexual market place never ends. Marriage is merely the beginning of a long round of courtship where both partners need to continue to attract, satisfy, please and actively court the other. Meanwhile others outside the marriage have minimal qualms about jostling their way in, or jostling you totally out.
I’m not saying it can’t be done, just that it’s more work than most people expect. Marriage is always an active commitment.
All that being said, obviously there have always been extra pair couplings and the endlessly long partnerships of 50+ years are something fairly new due to longer lifespans. Much of our social change has come from the development of cheap and effective birth control solutions. DNA paternity testing is the next one coming and despite the drama of day time TV simply has not truly impacted society as much as it ultimately will.
I am pro-marriage. By which I mean a serious pair bonded couple setting out to make and raise children, a shared life together, a home together, an alliance of two. Unfortunately the laws on the books regarding this do not always appear to support these goals as well as they could. In this sense marriage sucks.
Whether the laws regarding marriage are good, bad or indifferent, maintaining a long term relationship will always require dedication and ongoing effort. It requires compromise, resilience, creativity and fun. As a single married couple you hold what amounts to trivial control over marriage law, so you must ultimately decide to find your own way together either with the assistance of marriage laws, or despite them.
The marriage of the past is gone, it’s not clear what the marriage of the future will be, but it is inconceivable that men and women will not seek to form sexual unions with each other. It’s our Prime Directive. But the way forward is not the way back.