I came across this story about a dating site being sued in France for targeting married people last week. I know these sites exist but to see the thinking behind the idea written out like that, it is so skewed, it made me a bit depressed about the world, and sad for the people who hold these views.
French stereotypes strike again
There is this idea about French married people, that they all have affairs at some point in their life and no one bats an eyelid. It is a stereotype, it is not true. Sure, French politicians occasionally make the headlines about their seedy extramarital activities, and I get the sense that in some milieux, say the bourgeoisie (probably rich, bored, powerful Parisiens – who’s stereotyping now?), it might be a more acceptable thing, but for the average French person? It is not true or normal or acceptable. The article doesn’t exactly help disabuse of this notion, but I did learn something I quite liked, that ‘fidelity’ is written into French law. After all, marriage is a contract that offers legal protection; the vows aren’t just for show, so doesn’t it make sense that they should have some legal weight?
There’s this line in the article that goes:
I chose Gleeden precisely because it is for married people. It means that the person you meet knows your situation. There’s no deception. We can talk openly about husbands, wives and children.
Isn’t there always deception though? Sure, in one sense, there is no deception between the two people having the affair, but there sure is deception if the partner of the married person doesn’t know about it, which I suspect in most cases they don’t. Take politics. France is big on privacy but I have a bigger issue with people who deceive their partner. I disagree with the French privacy laws that say that the private life of politicians is none of the public’s business. I am interested in how politicians behave in private because it tells me about their character. It’s not about knowing the details of their personal lives for kicks; I am, however, interested in whether they respect the people to whom they have made promises and how they show that respect. If you will deceive in your private life, it doesn’t give me much confidence that you will have any qualms about deceiving the public if it would benefit you. After all, actions speak louder than words. I think this applies to most relationships, not just marriage, because we all desire to be loved for who we are, warts and all, and the basis for most relationships is that you will love them and be faithful to them, regardless of whether you have spoken the official vows or not. This is why I’m not surprised that the website user found most men she met on the site to be ‘sub-optimal’.
In most marriages…
“But let us not be hypocritical. It’s not black and white. In most marriages at some point there is infidelity, but that does not mean the marriages collapse. Sometimes the infidelity is what saves the marriage.”
Isn’t it a sad thought? There are people out there, quite a few of them it appears, who live with this worldview that ‘in most marriages at some point there is infidelity’. This makes me sad, because it doesn’t have to be that way. I suspect that these people didn’t think that way on their wedding day (I hope!) but they might have entered the marriage with rose-tinted glasses full of the passion, romance and excitement of First Love, forgetting that all relationships require work at some point to be long-lasting. When a relationship based on First Love faces difficulties, disenchantment and disappointment can soon appear. It is interesting that the website user interviewed said they were unhappy but ‘would not leave their husband’. I couldn’t help my first thought: ‘how selfish’. I don’t know her circumstances and I’m sure nothing about them is simple or easy. After 6 years of marriage, I know well enough that relationships are hard work at times! A truer saying might be that ‘in most marriages at some point there is the temptation of infidelity.’ We all hit rough patches in our relationships. A great many of us choose to remain faithful, because we all have a decision to make about how we treat each other, and in this our character shows its true colours.
But apparently, many people stay in unhappy marriages for various reasons, not least because the alternative is too fearsome to consider, but also for some because despite their unhappiness, they value their comfort more than their husband or wife. When you are unhappy you may try to rationalise your situation, but thinking that an extramarital affair could actually ‘save your marriage’, call me naive but I can’t see how that works. A healthy relationship is based on trust, honesty and communication. An affair doesn’t save a marriage, it replaces the assumption of a healthy foundation with a flimsy partition, and leaves you hoping your partner won’t notice the difference.
I can’t help but think that when someone has reached the point when they will join a dating website in the hope that it will restore happiness in their life and by extension in their marriage, they must have such a bleak outlook on life. What do you think?