The Way We Stray Today – An Excerpt from “Marriage Confidential”

Pamela Haag‘s new book “Marriage Confidential” has one of the best subtitles we’ve seen in a long time: “The Post-Romantic Age of Workhorse Wives, Royal Children, Undersexed Spouses, and Rebel Couples Who Are Rewriting the Rules.” That’s a lot to live up to, but the book delivers. And it’s getting good buzz. Below is an excerpt from the section “New Twists on Old Infidelities, Or, The Way We Stray Today”:

….We used to practice a default fidelity in marriage simply because of the expense and inconvenience of an affair (though even with these default obstacles, so many of us still cheated). Now the alignment of access and opportunity on the Web invites an almost default infidelity once you permit yourself that first exploration. Instant messaging, for example, is custom-designed for sexual rogue elements: teenagers and restless married people.

The conventional affair pushes like a tumor against the real life of a marriage. It encroaches on the marriage’s finite, discrete terrain. The new infidelity metaphysic has no boundaries in space or time.

On the one hand, the cheating wife or husband can always be called, always be tracked down through their electronic LoJacks[CE1] . You can actually buy an iPhone “Spouse Tracker” app, for $4.99. The icon shows two gold wedding bands, entwined, and asks, “Is your spouse really at work? At the office party? Where they said they would be? Be 100% sure of your spouse’s location.” The app uses GPS technology to “pinpoint your spouse’s exact location, and sends you an email map of it.” On the other hand, technology creates privacy and possibility across space and on multiple fronts simultaneously; many of us are no longer tethered to the office during the day and the home at night, and we have more potentially free, unaccounted-for time.

The Second Life simulation game, although not at all the exclusive domain of restless married people, allows players to simulate entire identities and relationships through avatars online. “Second life” is an apt term. It’s not an “other” life in a marriage but an added, unobtrusive one, a layer more than a secret. And if one life is added without rippling the surface of the marriage, then why not three, four, or five coexisting lives? It requires only a neophyte’s skills at prevarication, multitasking, compartmentalization, and a few free Yahoo accounts.

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