How to Pick a Lover

We don’t call it sin today—we call it self expression.
—Baroness Stocks, British politician

At the same time that premarital sex was becoming increasingly tolerated, there was a gradual recognition that nice people—even otherwise normal, moral, and successful people—did have affairs and had them without necessarily suffering dire consequences. In 1948, Alfred Kinsey and his associates published Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, followed in 1953 by the equivalent book for the human female. The implications were shocking. If the data were accurate, nearly one-half of married men had had extramarital sex at some time in their lives. Worse, of all wives, about 20 percent did so. That represents one in five. Suburban housewives were shocked and surreptitiously viewed each other with suspicion and each night faithfully checked their husband’s coat pockets.

ACTION Magazine..October 1954..PAGE 11...the K...

ACTION Magazine..October 1954.  (Photo credit: marsmet462)

Albert Ellis and other liberal psychologists of the 1960s began to suggest that under some circumstances, extramarital sex could be beneficial to the individual and even to the marriage. In 1966, John Cuber and Peggy Harroff published Sex and the Significant Americans, which showed that many supposedly successful marriages involved covert liaisons often of long duration. Moreover, even when these affairs were exposed to the light of day, their revelation did not necessarily precipitate a divorce. The flower children of the day were beginning to bloom and to talk openly about such unheard of alternatives as “swinging” (couples having sex with other couples) and “open marriage” (where one or both partners in a marriage permit their partner to have lovers outside the marriage).

The jig was up. Americans began to understand what the French seemed to have known all along. Marriage is one thing, involving a long-term partnership for children and real estate and social status. Sex is something else, and love is something else again.

Sometimes, love and sex and marriage go together; sometimes, only two are found together; and sometimes, they are totally separate. Sometimes, they start out together with love’s young dream and get separated later on. A very few lucky people find sex and love and marriage all at once in one relationship; a few unlucky ones never really find satisfaction in either sex or love or marriage.

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Comments on: "Sexual Affairs: The Extramarital Connection" (5)

  1. NormalDeviations said:

    I wonder how much (if any) those numbers have changed over the last sixty years. It also begs the question: if it’s that prevalent, how come there’s so little public approval voiced for it?

  2. By all accounts, It has certainly increased since the days of Kinsey. Recent studies show the 50-60% of married men have had at least one affair during the course of their married life, compared to 45-55% of married women. It is presumably higher among couples who are in non-married, long-term relationships. Why is there so little public approval, when it’s so prevalent? I suspect it is because of how we tend to rationalize our own personal behaviors that might reflect negatively on us as good upstanding citizens. For example, while most of us would agree that talking on a cell phone while driving is probably not good thing, most of us have probably done it all the same. We don’t see ourselves as bad people when we do bad things – we tend to rationalize our participation in behaviors we don’t condone by saying something like – I only did once and it was an emergency. I think it’s basically the same thing with extramarital affairs. While we may not condone extramarital affairs, it doesn’t mean we won’t necessarily have one should the need arise. We’re masters at rationalizing away behaviors we don’t publicly condone but privately participate in. It’s the he or she made me do it defense. If only they had done such and such, I wouldn’t have had the affair. However, it takes two to tango and it’s rarely just the actions of one person in the relationship that leads to one or both of them having an affair. We generally find a way to interpret our own behavior in the best possible light, while at the same time condemning others for the exact same behavior.

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