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A Conservative MP in the UK once said he was vilified for not leaving his wife when he had an affair. A decade later a Labour MP knew better and immediately took the PR’s advice leaving his spouse of twenty-odd years to marry the other woman. In doing so, the Labour guy was following the favoured convention: you leave wife and kids for the new person. You do this irrespective of the mess that is left behind, economical, emotional, legal, social and spiritual. Your children might feel abandoned by the departure but monogamy is more important and must be upheld at all costs.

I say this in the context of Huhne and Pryce, the estranged couple who have just gone to jail for lying about a speeding ticket. Their semi-benign offence was outed following a raging family drama of Shakespearean proportions. The politician husband did his careerist thing and dumped the family when his affair was about to come out. The wife took vengeance and brought them both down.

I imagine Pryce knew of Huhne’s longstanding affair but in the time-honoured fashion tolerated it for the sake of keeping her family together. But when he left the fold the bets were off. The humiliation for the woman of having her family undone would’ve been harder to bear than living with her husband’s infidelity. It was that which triggered her revenge.

I use the affair to make the point yet again that this slavish adherence to monogamy is a costly business. Expecting people to be sexually faithful to one singular relationship for decades on end is unrealistic. To break up families with all their histories, duties and commitments every time there is an infidelity is madness. People need to get used to the idea that the statistical likelihood is fairly high that the person they marry will have sex with someone else at some point in their future. To turn the world upside down every time it happens is woefully immature.

When the breadth of our culture, from the movie theatre to the therapist’s couch, does everything in its power to reinforce this moral absolute, it’s a directive that will create more problems than it solves. I’m not saying infidelity is easy to endure. Just that it’s a fact of human relationships. There are many hard facts tough to endure which are handled with better fortitude and more intelligence.

When people marry young and live long, requiring them to remain faithful way after the sexual spark has dimmed is unreasonable. The current solution, to break up exclusive partnerships and create new ones over and over again, is no solution at all. The Huhne and Pryce affair is another high profile example of the failure of this unworkable modern day ideology. Their actions allowed an everyday misdemeanour (the speeding ticket) which otherwise might’ve fallen under the radar to provoke a personal catastrophe with broken relationships, careers destroyed and jail terms imposed. Society’s strict abidance to the sacred commandments of monogamy at all costs was the true and insidious culprit here.

written when a British politician and his wife

were jailed for lying about a speeding ticket



relationships • 17.03.13