A philosopher's blog on the ethics of monogomy/infidelity


It is one of the most horrendous societal norm violations that one can commit within a relationship, yet what is the secular, reasonable argument about why cheating is wrong?

In other cultures, it is perfectly acceptable. I heard about one (Japan, was it?) that finds it acceptable to have the physical act of sex with someone to "get it out of your mind," so to speak, as long as you are still intimite with and love your wife.

What's your secular argument for why infidelity is wrong? What if it was with permission and therefore not dishonest?

What about polygomy?

I actually truly have a neutral opinion because I have never heard the reasonable argument for or against. I'd like some secular input. The only arguments I ever hear are theist.

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Comment by Ogden Lafaye on November 20, 2009 at 12:24am
The Nerd: I have been in every combination of relationship and experienced the problems and fall out. Living with muiltiple women was the best arrangement. Monogamy isn't difficult, it is just that the relationship loses a lot of vigor over time and the habituated existence is not fulfilling.
Comment by Johnny on November 19, 2009 at 11:25pm
Still... it's risk assessment just like any sexual relationship. Is that a good reason to slap the ankle shackles on a teenager? That approach is proven to fail in the long run. Perhaps people don't use contraceptives because they're afraid their spouse will find them? I don't know... I'm not all to experienced in the cheating area nor plan to be.

What brought all this up for me was when I watched this horrible movie where the woman was cheated on one time and the wife broke up the home, the relationship, and their entire life just because of her horrible jealous rage despite his begging of forgiveness. Now, there's a difference between "risk assessment" and "indefinately ruining the family."
I find the woman much harder to forgive... the crime doesn't match the punishment to both him and the children who now have to grow up in a split home.
Comment by Mel on November 19, 2009 at 8:38pm
People who cheat seriously do not use contraceptives. Also, they sometimes make no attempt to protect themselves from STD's. Also, some STD's aren't stopped by condoms - crabs and herpes come to mind.

Also, how do take into the equation a man cheating on his wife with a woman, who then gets pregnant, but who refuses to have an abortion for whatever reason?
Comment by Johnny on November 19, 2009 at 7:57pm
"I think this assumes that the contraceptives are always used when they should be."

Well, yes... I did make a slight assumption that under the conditions between two people, they would discuss their terms and decide on contraceptives when having sex outside of marriage... I'm too optimistic at times LOL. For the most part in culture the way it is today, I wouldn't think that it would be too much of a problem...do people who "cheat" seriously not use contraceptives? Twould seem extremely stupid to me... I need to stop hanging around so many smart people lol. It makes me think the world is smarter than it is
Comment by Glenn Sogge on November 19, 2009 at 4:38pm
...but we have 99% effective contraceptives now and the option to abort the other 1%. Family planning is no longer a significant danger in infidelity.
I think this assumes that the contraceptives are always used when they should be. I don't have the numbers but it is clear that it is not the case--either pre-marriage or in a marriage or in a stable relationship.

To the larger topic, by definition, infidelity is the breaking of a trust. I think that is what is wrong with it. A huge problem, however, is that folks entering into some kind of relationship make assumptions about the nature of their relationship and the trusts involved. They don't actually talk about it and agree (monogamy, polyamory, polygamy, or whatever.) So, when one or the other does something that the other feels breaks the agreement, then the difficulties begin.
Comment by Johnny on November 19, 2009 at 4:18pm
Good. I hoped someone would bring up evolutionary psychology. I understand why people feel jealous emotionally (the EvPsy reason) but we have 99% effective contraceptives now and the option to abort the other 1%. Family planning is no longer a significant danger in infidelity.

When will we get over the reliance on "feeling" as a species? Reason should supplement feeling, not suppress it. Reason can teach us to take the "demon" out of what makes us dispair.

Obviously, there is the added risk of an unstable third partner (fatal attraction scenerio). That is a calculated risk, but I think that this kind of thinking is close to the "abstinence education" argument. Just because something is risky, the ones they love forbid it? Hate them for it? Divorce them for it? This kind of thinking I can't fathom.
Comment by Mel on November 19, 2009 at 1:16pm
There is a lot of evolutionary theory attached to this, obviously. The current, although my view severely troubled, theory of human monogamy is based on the idea that husbands are sticking around to ensure the best possible outcome for their children. Wives trade future reproductive opportunities for help with the babbies. (Evolutionary psychology cares not for your childish notions of true love!;>)
Husbands object to wives cheating because then they might be spending their investment on someone else's DNA - major evolutionary faux pas. Wives object to husbands cheating because it is an indicator of abandonment.

All of this goes down the shitter when you realise that even in hunter-gatherer communities it's sometimes the wife thats bringing in the majority of the calories and the husband brings home a buffalo maybe once a month and when he does he usually shares it with his buddies.

There is also the fact that infidelity leads to stress in the pair, can lead to introduction of diseases (herpes isn't stopped by a condom y'know) and violations of trust are not a good way of creating yourself future reproductive opportunities or convincing your buffalo-bringer to stick around.
Comment by Johnny on November 19, 2009 at 12:57pm
those are all environmental factors. To one who examines things as objectively as possible, things like "seldom work" aren't really a good basis for argument.

I do understand that. I won't likely practice what I preach in this situation because of the rigid social structure, but I'm just kinda prodding the idea that there's nothing technically wrong with it, so why aren't more secular people more open to the idea? We don't follow a lot of theist norms, so why this?
Comment by Ogden Lafaye on November 19, 2009 at 12:04am
Extra-marital relationships are a tar baby. You reveal secrets, violate trusts and resort to lying and deceptions...in addition you are splitting your resources to the detriment of the security, economic ease and quality of life with your partner. However, a relationship with two women and one man living together will work. The two men and one woman thing never seems to work and is seldom tried...the male dominaance thing is part of it. It is just that when women are secure and can do the mother thing, it matters little that they are sharing a house/man with another woman.
Comment by Johnny on November 18, 2009 at 11:42pm
right, mel. I did use the word cheating too loosely



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