Okay, so the title of this post may be a little misleading because I'm not actually here to "excuse" infidelity, but to examine the concept itself.
Earlier this week, I took a trip in the Way Back Machine (tm), though I suppose it was more like the Just-A-Little-Bit-Back Machine, as I only went a year and a half or so into the past. (Via the internet, of course.)
Back in July of 2011, the NYT posted and article (here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/03/magazine/infidelity-will-keep-us-together.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&ref=magazine ). This article is mostly about Dan Savage and his thoughts on monogamy, and while I'm not one of those people who thinks Dan hung the moon, I also don't think he stole the stars from the sky and dragged them down to Hell with him so he can gloat over the sparkly and shiny in private. I think he's an exceptionally bright and plain-spoken man who some people find scary because of his views on certain subjects. (I also find that I usually agree with him, for the most part, and even when I don't I can see how he arrived at the wrong-for-me-personally conclusion he reached.)
So this article (at 7 pages, it's fairly long) addresses the question of monogamy as a functional, rational template for long-lasting, serious relationships between adults. To me, this is the the operative word -- adults.
To be plain, here, I don't necessarily think that non-monogamous relationships are for everyone, but I also don't quite grasp the idea of being so possessive that your own sense of worth is bound up in having your partner solely to yourself. I've been confused by this for a very long time, and chances are this sense of WTF is partly responsible for my consistently single state. (The rest of the cause of singleness for me possibly has something to do with the fact that I'm a bitch... and that I'm always convinced that I'm the smartest person in any room. Not saying it's true, mind you, just that it's true to ME. P)
So the question becomes, how can I be dubious about monogamy and yet write romances in which my characters find each other, fall in love, and live happily ever after in committed, monogamous relationships? The answer is...
Like most romantics, I WANT to believe in that one person who may not be perfect, but is perfect for me... or more to the point, perfect for my characters. Hell, part of the reason I write in the first place is because the world tends to treat people badly and it makes me happy to put my boys through all sort of angsty drama only to have them grab the golden ring in the end (so to speak... because there are rarely any rings, gold or otherwise, in my stories).
It seems to be well known and accepted within the gay romance genre (and probably the het romance genre, as well, I would assume) that cheating, when it involves either member of the main pairing, ruins the story. In fact, I'll even go so far as to say that it's a common thing in romance books for the villain of the piece to be the nasty, cheating ex of one character or the other.
So here's what I'm presenting as a serious and sincere question, and if any of you have time to type out a quick response in the comments section, I'll enter all commenters in a drawing for an e-copy of any of my books in current release. What I want to know is...
Do you find it acceptable to have a couple with a non-monogamous relationship as the main pairing in a romance?
What about when an established couple in a book decides to bring a third person into their relationship -- meaning, does the process of bringing that third person into things count as cheating, even though both of the original pair agree to it and the third person becomes and integral part of it all? (If it does count as cheating, would it make you stop reading the story? If it's NOT cheating to you, why not, and how does this scenario differ from someone in an open relationship having sex with people he doesn't love, with the knowledge and acceptance of his partner whom he DOES love?) In what situation would "cheating" be acceptable and how do YOU define cheating? Is it having sex with someone? Just kissing them? What about jerking them off? Is physical fidelity more or less important than emotional fidelity, or do they rank equally?
And just so there's no misunderstanding, I'm asking solely because I'm curious and want a bit more insight into how people feel about these things and why. I'm not planning on writing a big bunch of stories with this theme.
Hope to hear from some of you. Until then, this is Bitchy-Bitch, signing off! D