Why we should stop judging people for extramarital affairs

Anand Nair
Broken Heart Infidelity

I was visiting Malaysia around the time when the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal was in the news. I remember a colleague declaring with total confidence, “The day Clinton steps down as President, Hillary will walk out on him.”

Well, now we do know. Hillary did not abandon her husband. By all indications, the Clintons remain a close knit and happy family. With hindsight, there is little doubt that Hillary’s reaction to her husband’s ‘indiscretion’ was mature and wise. Some may argue that my friend went wrong in his prediction only because this was not a typical reaction by a wife towards her husband’s sexual diversion.

Why does extramarital (or premarital) sex often lead to jealousy and unpleasant reprisals?

From a male point of view, there is the risk that he may get conned into contributing to the care of some other male’s offspring. As for the female, the risk is that the male may abandon her for another female – and thus escape his contribution to rearing the offspring.

Related reading: The bait

Basic instinct

The above factors explain why sexual jealousy evolved as a basic instinct among many animals in nature, particularly among species where the male contributes significantly to childcare. Males evolved sexual possessiveness, while females evolved to instinctively prefer mates who are judged to be sexually ‘faithful’ (and willing to contribute to childcare).

In case of human beings, this is the genesis of patriarchy, and the general contempt towards women who are perceived to be sexually promiscuous. Women evolved to instinctively withhold sexual contacts, except when there is a perceived commitment to lifelong support.


‘not everyone can be like bonobos’ Image Source

The point is that sexual jealousy is essentially an animal instinct. It is true that there are some animals – like the happy bonobo – that are naturally promiscuous. But it cannot be doubted that our own instinctive attitude on this had its beginnings while we were still animals. Our sexual taboos are not in any way uniquely human!

Related reading: What to do when you fall for a married man

No longer animals

With this knowledge, we can better nuance our own attitude towards changing sexual values. Unlike animals, human beings have acquired the know-how to delink sex from pregnancy.

That is to say, we now know how to make love without making babies – except when this is intended. This mitigates the main rationale for sexual jealousy – both for the man and the woman.

Of course, there will remain the underlying expectation that those who occasionally indulge in extramarital sex do so with discretion and responsibility. This is not too unrealistic an expectation, considering that most such affairs are not intended to produce babies or scandals, anyway. Women will certainly expect that their husbands do not divert resources away from family care. Both these are reasonable expectations.

Related reading: I love my husband, but sometimes I love the other man a tad more

How about the moral angle?

Beyond expectations as above, can there be any moral objection to extramarital sex? If matrimony is not purely for sex, then why sustain this objection to sex outside of marriage? Why should extramarital sex necessarily be seen as a threat to a committed relationship within marriage? Especially as marriages are based on bonding and mutual affinity, both of which can go beyond sex.

Without the social taboo against extramarital relations, many otherwise good marriages may not have broken down. Is it justified for one party in a marriage to threaten the home and nursery of the young, just because the other party was found to have had pre- or extramarital sex? I would think that this by itself is rather weak grounds to wreck a marriage.

We would do well to reconsider our animal instinct for sexual jealousy. Human beings, who know better, ought to rise above such petty instincts. We can, with advantage, afford to be more tolerant and indulgent in our attitudes towards our partners who are otherwise caring and considerate towards the family…

Is there danger ahead?

Will the institution of marriage weaken as a result of these (perhaps unavoidable) changes in sexual taboos?

I don’t think we need to either glorify or denigrate the institution of ‘committed’ relationship (a.k.a. marriage) between a man and a woman. So long as individuals are free to choose the type of relationships that they need to get into (or not get into), all is well. Some of us can choose to marry, and others to remain single. There ought to be no social pressure on individuals, either way…

We live-in together with my boyfriend’s parents

It was supposed to be only sex and I spoilt it by falling in love with him

No more a ‘backup’: Here’s how to make sure you come first

You May Also Like


Karma August 13, 2019 - 4:59 pm

Writer is totally misunderstood why the marriage is broken down i.e he thinks because of social taboo. Marriage is not getting broken down because of social taboo but because of (Cheating-onenight stand or affair)
1. The partner has betrayed, caused hurt on loyal partners emotions inspite of commitment in marriage. Cheater has caused emotional hurt which loyal partner has to carry for lifetime.
2. Cheating partner proved that cheater is a coward (not walked out of relationship before committing cheating) , selfish , has no respect/love towards loyal partner and also cheater has no self respect, no self dignity and no personal integrity and is no more trustworthy or dependable in the relationship.
3. Cheater by allowing third person to use his/her body has become more or less a prostitute. What is the difference between a normal prostitute and a cheater in a marriage. Money is the motive for a normal prostitute to have sex whereas lust and selfishness is the motive for cheating partner to have sex with outsider. Both are allowing third person to use their bodies. Only thing is Cheating partner does selective prostitution i.e pick and choose type wherein withselected person/s and no of times -single/multiple. Why a prostitute to be allowed in a sacred marriage.
4. Persons who can’t commit to basic principles of marriage i.e Honesty, Loyalty, Integrity , through & thick and thin and can’t keep the sacredness of the marriage ( Marriage is not only for eating,mating and sleeping apart from producing offsprings, it also involves spirutuality) , need not get married or can marry a prostitute who can be a selective in choosing partners. Why to marry a decent guy and then upon exposure then crib about breaking of marriage.
5. What values are a cheater can impart to the children of a cheater. It is better marriage gets broken because atleast children will learn what their mother or father had done and for what reason their parents got separated. Atleast children will not repeat the mistake what their parents did as they are already aware the consequences of cheating. If you cover-up, their children also can commit what mistakes their parent did because a cheater can’t impart any value to children and a cheater can’t become a role model to emulate. Also as cheaters evolving with time on how cheat and justify the cheating, children also evolve with time in facing the situations.
6. Cheating by the partner is not a mistake. It was a conscious made by the cheater to betray the spouse. Mistakes can be forgiven but not conscious decisions. If that is the case, even a murderer need not be punished. Thief has reasons to do thefts, murderer has reasons do murder so as a cheater has reasons for cheating.
7. Cheaters taking precautions and not producing children by onenight stand or extramarital affair- IF This is LOGIC, Prostitute will never have children with their customers. one need not marry a decent guy, Marry a prostitute. It is shameless and stupid logic to justify a partner can cheat while staying in a marriage just because he/she taking all precautions so as to not produce children in affair.
8. If any one wants live like animal he/she has right to live the way. But either spouse has no right to play with emotions of loyal spouse in normal marriage and also it is loyal spouse right to know the truth & loyal spouse prerogative to decide whether to stay with the cheater and continue the marriage or to end the marriage. For the sake of animalistic /lusty/selfishness partner, loyal spouse need not make his life miserable if he is unable to forgive and no one can crib about that.

RA July 12, 2019 - 3:51 pm

Few more views which were left above.
1. As you said, animals have no protection and hence they get offspring from different animals whereas humans using protection and hence as they are not producing children inspite of being in extramarital affairs and hence it is OK to have extra marital affairs as per your view.
I would give other angle to above. Eventhough we are humans, I would say people who want to cheat or have affairs are nothing but animals in human form as they are not satisfied by their spouse or they like variety like animals and hence they are nothing but animals in the human form. If this is the case, it would be better to live like animals rather than humans. Hence, they don’t need normal marriage. They need either open marriage where there is no need for commitment, loyalty etc can sleep with anyone they want or else they can be single and enjoy. They can live like animal rather be in a normal marriage and inflicting pain and hurt to loyal spouse.
2. If cheating can be accepted in normal Marriage, what you are going to teach your children. Do you want teach children that they can sleep any one while staying in marriage. If that is the case, they steal money also as per your view it is not cheating and acceptable.
3. People who stay in normal marriage and yet cheat their spouses are nothing but shameless cowards doing things secretly under back of their spouse. They can’t tell their mothers or spouses that they need variety and hence remain single and enjoy or walk out of marriage. They are highly selfish because they need
their husband as slave/ worker to
1. Show case to the society that they have husband as ornament and a family.
2. To clean the shit whatever they receive from sleeping with other men outside of marriage.
3. Nurse them when they fall I’ll.and get admitted in hospital
4. As the age passes, they no longer become attractive to other men, they need husband to sleep with
5. Husband to take family struggles, children responsibility and family stresses
6. When they reach old age husband required to serve them
vice versa for cheating husband ,
Hence cheaters , one time or affairs are highly selfish, shameless, without self respect and dignity allow others to use their bodies and enact drama of love and loyalty at home. Hence they are like parasites or worms in the stool and not fit for normal marriage.

RA July 12, 2019 - 2:55 pm

It is wrong to justify extra marital affairs. I don’t agree on this. You have not touched few other angles.
1. For people who believe in religion and God. Introspect what is the purpose of marriage. It is not only producing offspring. It is not only eating, mating and sleeping. Marriage is sacred thing and love making between spouses is divine when body, mind and soul are connected. Wife is Dharma patni but not Kama Patni to sleep with anyone outside of marriage. All rituals are done by husband along with Dharma pantni. Marriage is part of total path in self realization. (For God and religion believers)
2. Both spouses takes vows during marriage to standby each other through thick and thin. Also vow to be honest , loyal and committed to each other. ( This applies to both God and religion believers as well as non believers of God).
3. Why are you suggesting extra marital affairs are OK in a marriage ? Why are you not suggesting open marriages for people who are lusty like animals or for who can’t stick to one person and need variety or who can’t commit to loyalty and honesty. Why loyal spouse has to accept cheating, back stabbing by their partner by breaking his/her vows committed during marriage. People who can’t maintain their integrity unfit for normal marriage. Never ever suggest just because of they are not producing children because of extramarital affairs, it is OK. It is totally wrong. Cheating is heinous than murdering. When murdered person leave the world. With cheating, loyal spouce has bear shame, low self eseem, betrayel all negative feelings life long. Either spouce has no right to cheat in normal marriage. Take divorce & do your adventures or else remain single and enjoy with whomever u want or opt for open marriage and enjoy but not in normal marriage.
You have made marriage system and it’s purpose a mockery by supporting extra marital affairs which is totally wrong.

Leave a Comment


Be a part of bonobology for free and get access to marvelous stories and information.