French President Francois Hollande and his now ex-partner Valerie Trierweiler at the Elysee Palace in Paris. File picture: AFP
French President Francois Hollande and his now ex-partner Valerie Trierweiler at the Elysee Palace in Paris. File picture: AFP

‘An affair is never cool or sexy’

By VIV GROSKOP Time of article published Jan 20, 2014

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London - Is it unrealistic to suggest that people just shouldn’t have affairs? Really, is it that outlandish an idea, to just keep your pants on when you’re with someone who is not your partner?

I am trying to avoid shouting here. Because it feels a bit like telling off a toddler. Don’t pick your nose. Don’t draw on the walls. No, you can’t have a fourth Frube. And no committing adultery. I have no sympathy. It’s childish.

I am not talking from personal experience. Yet. Just keeping my husband of 14 years on his toes there. Only joking. Because the thing is, I would not have an affair. Ever. And I know this. This is why I am married.

If I wanted to have an affair, I would stop being married.

The whole point of being with someone – especially being married to them – is that you want to be with them and you don’t want to be with anyone else. Or did I misunderstand something?

If you don’t want to be with the person you are with, either talk to them and try to improve the relationship, or leave.

It’s like that line in When Harry Met Sally that sums up what happens when someone cheats.

‘Marriages don’t break up on account of infidelity. It’s just a symptom that something else is wrong,’ wheedles Jess, Harry’s best friend. Harry replies: ‘Oh, really? Well, that symptom is f***ing my wife.’

It’s the worst sort of ‘grass is always greener’ thinking. When we all know the truth is that when you cross over into the other green patch, you look back to where you were before and realise that it now looks much better.

But when big, glamorous-seeming affairs involving powerful, exceptionally attractive people (I am talking about your lovers, Monsieur Le President Hollande, not about you, you are not all that) come to light, it’s very tempting to think: ‘Ooh, wouldn’t it be nice to be just a bit continental? Why are we so uptight?’

You would have thought that adultery would have died off by now when divorce is so easy and common. But no. In one US study 29 per cent of men admitted to cheating on a partner versus 18 per cent of women.

Other UK and US research suggests that one in four women and two in five men have had some sort of ‘extra-marital activity’.

This makes it sound as if we can blame men. But I don’t think we can. These numbers are close enough to suggest that women seem just as culpable.

No, I blame the obsession with the sexiness of sex and the cult of youth. Be young! Be cool! Be sexy! Be a bit French! An affair has become like another consumer choice, the Buy One Get One Free of the 21st Century partnership.

The only way you can get a piece of this if you’re in a long-term relationship is to go off with someone else. Or see it for what it is: a lie and a sham. Life will not be exciting if you lie to someone you once loved. It will just become more complicated.

In any case, the whole grown-up-about-infidelity French thing is a myth. First Lady Valerie Trierweiler’s hospitalisation pretty much proves that.

When someone you love and trust (and possibly thought you would spend the rest of your life with) goes behind your back, it can’t be anything other than destructive

Am I saying that people can never get past it? No. But it’s a near-impossible task and no one should ever have to undertake it.

Affairs are about betrayal and the death of trust. I can see why people would commit robbery or murder. I obviously don’t sympathise with people who commit random violent acts (except for throwing shoes at the television when Putin comes on, that is acceptable), but I see why they happen.

I do not see why affairs happen. It’s not as if you are not allowed to have sex with anyone else ever again in your entire life. You just have to leave first, that’s all. Is that really asking so much? Mail On Sunday

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