Sunday, 12 December 2010

When is an affair, an Affair?

When does a friendship between a man and a woman (or two men or two women of homosexual orientation) cross the line? When does the relationship become something that would not be acceptable to a spouse of either man or woman? As a married friend said to me the other day, referring to a new female friend of his: 'It is difficult about enjoying another woman's company isn't it? If it's good, then you wonder if it's bad. I wonder when it crosses a line... Of course if she were a bloke, or I female, it wouldn't be bad.' So, using this example, what is the added ingredient that makes two equally enjoyable and rewarding friendships, judged 'good' if with a man, but 'bad' if with a woman?

The obvious line people always cite is sleeping with someone, but I don't think it's actually that clear cut. I suspect it is possible to be emotionally/heart unfaithful without anything physical happening, and it is possible to sleep with someone and yet not be unfaithful to the emotional relationship with your spouse or partner. And it is different from couple to couple, whose conditions and requirements of their intimate relationship vary.  Which on the one hand doesn't seem to help at all, and indicates that each new couple discuss and stipulate what they personally would see as a transgression, a violation, of their intimacy.

Or, do we think, that bar the usual exceptions in particular, individual couples who stray from the norm, that there are general, objective standards of decent, 'faithful' behaviour? Or is it actually that the rule of thumb is the basic one by which to guide all our actions? That is: is my act loving or un-loving, both to myself and to all touched by the act? The 'to myself' and not just others is crucial.


  1. I have not heard of that rule of thumb before or not expressed in exactly that way ( I'm no philosopher!) but it is an interesting one. I think it could usefully be applied to many other situations as well. Though in this context it sounds as though, if the people having the affair are loving towards each other and the partners don't know ie are not hurt by it then an affair with or without sex is OK. I'm not sure if this is what you mean ??

  2. No, it would not be okay, because the partners would be hurt if they other words, the 'transgressor' would not be being loving towards their partner (one of the people touched by the act)...I think in this case for the act to be loving or un-loving, it's irrelevant whether the partner is quite simply UN-loving, if the partner/spouse knew it would hurt if known.

    I am sorry if I was unclear, I hope that is clearer. I really appreciate your comment, and I enjoy the discussion! Thank you, E x

    P.S. You've just given me an idea of something that needs a post too, thank you, and I promise to give you credit for the inspiration!

  3. The simplest way I've seen it put is this.. if you are engaging in any behaviour with this person that you would not want your significant other to witness, for fear they'd be hurt, then it's probably not cool.