What I’ve aimed to do is to begin a conversation about infidelity that is multicultural, that is nuanced, that is non-judgmental, and that is relativistic. Non-judgmental doesn’t mean that because I don’t condemn, I condone. I have also aimed to look at infidelity and expand the model beyond a trauma and betrayal model, but also a model from a dual perspective: infidelity as story of the complexities of love and desire, an experience of growth and expansion for one, an experience of hurt and betrayal for the other. “What it meant to me” and “what it did to you” and “what we will do with it together.” Every infidelity challenges a whole relationship but every relationship will decide what the meaning of the infidelity or the legacy of the infidelity will be.
I was doing the conversation hour called Rethinking Couple’s Therapy: A Radical Approach To With Working With Love, Sex, and Infidelity at Brief Therapy Conference in 2012. This comment came up that I was observing in my work in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Brazil: the subject of female infidelity cannot be understood without putting it in the context of patriarchy and the double standards, the men’s status quo. The kind of long term set of discourses that have made men natural conquistadors roaming around, needing to put their seeds in various places. Evolutionary psychology oblige. Then at the same time seeing women as naturally domesticated creatures who don’t want to go anywhere. And so the infidelity of women is definitely seen in that context as an upheaval and a kind of a resounding “No!” to a certain system that has existed too long and has basically privileged men and suppressed women.
Typically when we talk about betrayal, and we are looking at the concept of betrayal within adult intimate relationships, it is generally seen as a negative. But I would like to invite you to imagine that sometimes you need betrayal to upset a wrong social system. We think sometimes that other forms of betrayal have the moral high ground. I have a lot of people who come to my office who think that they are the virtuous people because they haven’t cheated. They have just been neglectful, indifferent, contemptuous, asexual, demeaning, insulting, but they haven’t cheated. But betrayal comes in many forms. Betrayal is a breach, the breaking or violation of a presumptive contract, trust, or confidence. While it is always involved in an affair, in most cases it isn’t the motive of the affair. An affair may be about completely different things but it implies betrayal. That is the context in which I’m looking at infidelity. It’s basically “No” to the status quo.