For a solid marriage play away? No thanks…
Oh, so you’re not having an affair? How very boring, and so 1995. Haven’t you heard the way to go now if you are seriously dedicated to keeping your marriage alive is to have a ‘playfair’, or three?
English sociologist, Dr Catherine Hakim proposes that monogamy was never meant to be sustained as long as it is now, and that rather than struggle in long marriages against the urge to enjoy the thrill of seduction, we should rewrite the rules to allow a little on the side. Or a lot.
“Anyone rejecting a fresh approach to marriage and adultery, with a new set of rules to go with it, fails to recognise the benefits of a revitalised sex life outside the home,” she writes in her book Internet Dating, Playfairs and Eriotic Power.
“As dating websites open up a global shop window of sexual possibilities, as life expectancy continues to rise and we become increasingly sexually aware, how can we still take the crushing old rules of fidelity, that turn marriage into a prison, for granted?”
Sex, is no more a moral issue than eating a good meal – and you don’t need to do either all the time at home, she argues.
Apparently, her ideas are gaining traction. Writing in the UK Telegraph one married journalist remarked how she felt daggy at a party she attended where the married woman she was chatting with couldn’t wait to fob her off so she could flirt with an attractive man.
“While I was discussing Downton Abbey, Alice had been selecting a lover. I’d been wondering if I’d catch the Tube or a night bus, she’d been mentally donning her Agent Provocateur thong,” wrote Julia Llewellyn-Smith.
“Modern her. Fuddy me. Because infidelity, it seems, is ‘hot’ for 2013, like stripes and Bermuda shorts.”
The woman, who ended up having an affair with a dad from the school-gate, is part of what Hakim argues is a necessary revision of our marital expectations.
We over-invest in the idea of romantic love, and should embrace a French-style openness in which both partners are free to have discreet ‘playfairs’, so long as the other parties understand the player has no intention of getting a divorce.
The theory goes that marriages with less rigid confines last longer, and provide more personal “happiness”.
What’s interesting about this “Re-write the Rules” push is at that at the same time the virtues of old-fashioned marriage are also enjoying high-profile support.
At an Oscars dominated by cynical parody, Ben Affleck used his acceptance to speech to acknowledge what a slog long-term marriage can be, but how worthwhile, for him, that is.
Affleck made the more worldly members of the audience cringe when he acknowledged his wife, Jennifer Garner, for “working on our marriage for 10 Christmases”. “It’s good, it IS work, but it’s the best kind of work, and there’s no one I’d rather do it with,” he said.
He was cheered by many family-focused websites for “an honest and accurate description of what marriage is”. “No one has an effortless marriage,” remarked a columnist the big women’s site Café Mom, celebrating Affleck’s willingness to keep plugging away, rather than playing away.
At the same time, other traditional style marital trappings, such as the big-deal wedding, and changing your name to your husband’s are well and truly back in.
One Australian blogger last week said she was starting to regret not changing her name, because Sunday Style columnist Zoe Foster-Blake had had “Mr and Mrs Blake” engraved on her wedding table cutlery.
It feels quite fascinating to see the two trendy schools of thought on what makes for wedded bliss (or durability) playing out simultaneously, and clearly personal choice is key.
If both partners are able to handle the other’s freedom within a committed marriage, it’s hard to find moral fault with that.
But for those nostalgics who, like me, prefer to engage in only one relationship at a time – no matter the “work” – it sounds like a brave new love-life we’re quite happy to let the more adventurous (and emotionally robust) have.
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