Article in brief: The writer presents interesting survey results that challenge the traditional ideology of relationships.
Preface: This column is based on a survey that received over 125 respondents. It serves as an informative piece rather than one that is based on the writer’s opinion. All responses and quotes are strictly anonymous.
My curiosity with the evolution of traditional monogamous relationships began after a “Scandal”(TV Series) marathon where I found myself rooting for (SPOILER ALERT) the passion between President Fitzgerald and Olivia Pope while I constantly rolled my eyes every time Mellie(the President’s wife) got in their way. That was the classic love triangle that is more talked about in society. A wandering husband, a scorned wife and a mistress blinded by love. The wife is unhappy when she discovers the affair and ends up staying in the relationship for whatever reason she may have; a pretty ordinary love triangle.
When I finished watching Scandal, I quickly started “House of Cards”(TV Series). Here’s where things got a bit messy and, naturally, where my curiosity peaked. (SPOILER ALERT) The open relationship between Francis and Claire Underwood is far from what I have ever seen in shows and movies, and was even further away than the stories I hear discussed (or gossiped about) in social circles. A relationship that genuinely accepted extramarital affairs and was open enough to identify the third parties that Francis and/or Claire were involved with. I couldn’t help but wonder, are there functioning relationships like that off screen?
A short and simple survey was circulated and answered by over 125 respondents. At a high level, the questions were leading to the matter at hand: are open relationships the new standard relationships?
Let’s take a look at the pudding:
It strikes me as a somewhat expected surprise that when ~90% of respondents think that extramarital affairs are either unacceptable or completely unacceptable, nevertheless a significant number of the respondents seem to be in exactly that kind of relationship where either they, their partner or both have done just that. Before considering that such a large number of people are hypocrites or think they are holier than thou, let’s think about what would get people to look the other way or accept their situation as is.
Now here’s the good part. For the romantics reading this, rest assured, love is the number one reason why people choose to forgive their partner or ignore the behavior. Other reasons include children, security, society, and history among others. The survey allowed for respondents to add any observations they may have that the survey didn’t necessarily capture:
“Monogamy is not a particularly ‘natural’ condition – very very few animal species are monogamous. You can love someone very much but have a physical/emotional relationship with someone else – the two are compatible. Much of the hurt and shame that comes with affairs is because of society’s view of them.”
“Society and media make affairs ok to have and with how women in our society throw themselves at men who have wandering eyes anyway, it’s hard to secure a non cheating spouse.”
“I have been ‘the other woman’ for several men who were in committed relationships. I would like to say that I am against extramarital affairs but I know that without them I would not have met or developed some of those great relationships with these men.”
So what’s the conclusion here? To help out with tying it all together, I reached out to a regional family therapist who seemed to be all too familiar with this topic. Her valuable insights put things in perspective. She said, “Traditionally, a woman who’s married to a wandering man was meant to swallow her pride and raise her children in fear of society and in respect of her family.
Today, a woman who’s married to a wandering man vents her anger to her nearest and dearest friends, to therapists, to life coaches or whoever will lend a listening ear but, in the majority of the situations I deal with, still swallows her pride and raises her children. The burden in our society usually lies with women. The funny thing is, when women wander, they rationalize it by doing it in spite of the men; a tit for tat so to speak.
You’d be happy to know that this situation is not unique to the Gulf or the Arabs. It’s a global phenomenon.” It boils down to a couple of high-level and somewhat unhelpful conclusions; love is a funny thing and relationships are complicated. Two people who are committed to a relationship are the only two people who decide where to draw the lines. For the love of love, let love be, let others decide what love means to them.
Haif Zamzam is a bon viveur who just can’t get enough of life. Her inflexibility for the norm coupled with her constant hunt for a challenge pushed her to the private sector where she is a professional in a top-tier consulting firm. Haif has an MBA from INSEAD and a Bachelors degree from the AUS. Through her column, Joie de Vivre, French for “Joy of Living,” Haif hopes to show how living with your head in the clouds is highly underrated.