I’m off a late summer hiatus (one that involved moving house as well), and back to writing new things. My column at Role/Reboot is up this morning: Should We Be Happy for Cheaters Who Find Love Again?
Infidelity hurts. The fact that cheating is invariably banal and terribly common does little to soothe the shock that comes with learning that a partner has been unfaithful. It’s axiomatic that sexual betrayal causes ripples of damage; children are often devastated, family members deeply hurt, friends confused and disappointed. Few reading this come from families completely untouched by the trauma of extramarital affairs. And whether we regard cheating as the inevitable byproduct of our absurd insistence on monogamy or as a grievous sin against the sacred institution of marriage, we’ve read about, gossiped about, and devoted acres of bandwidth to writing about the devastating impact of marital infidelity on our lives.
Not all extramarital affairs lead to divorce, and far fewer still result in re-marriage between the cheaters. Sometimes, these new marriages are disasters; other times (as appears to be the case with Charles and Camilla) they are far happier unions than their predecessors. While in the case of public figures we’ve never met, their private lives are none of our business, if we’re dealing with a loved one who has married their illicit paramour, it’s almost impossible not to have conflicted feelings. As all the songs go, cheaters often wonder, “how can something so wrong feel so right?” The family and friends of cheaters who end up marrying may wonder, “how can something that started so wrong ever turn out right?” When and how should folks segue from expressions of disappointment to proffering congratulations and best wishes?