Having your marriage and cheating on it too

Aug 22, 2012

It’s the stuff of daytime soaps, country music lyrics and French cinema – and it usually ends badly. There’s no good way to cheat on your spouse, is there?

Not true, says controversial sociologist Catherine Hakim. In a recent op-ed in The Telegraph, Hakim says that a “playfair,” with clearly defined rules and zero expectations that either partner will leave their spouse, is perfectly okay. In fact, she writes, it can be a healthy outlet for unmet expectations of intimacy at home – as long as everyone understands the parameters.

Just as the pill freed both men and women to break long-held taboos against premarital sex, the internet has changed the concept of dating for both singles and the well-hitched. Married people can now meet others who are outside their social circle and out for a fling, giving them ample opportunity to quietly arrange for a matinee or a weekend away. Other countries are way ahead of Britain and the U.S. in this respect, says Hakim. Nordic countries embrace “parallel relationships,” French couples accept that “adventures” are a part of married life. But are U.S attitudes towards l’affair shifting?

Some online dating sites now cater to married men and women who are strictly in the market for a dalliance. Is having an affair an acceptable way to “fill in the blanks” in a marriage that has outlived its sexual vitality? Could you accept your spouse having a bit on the side, if it meant you could do the same? Have you explored the idea yourself?


Catherine Hakim, author of the forthcoming book The New Rules: Internet Dating, Playfairs and Erotic Power (Gibson Square Books); social scientist at the Centre for Policy Studies and author of numerous books, including Erotic Capital: The Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and in the Bedroom (Basic Books)

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