Before our expectations of relationship take on such epic proportions. We still want everything the traditional family was meant to provide – security, children, prosperity, and respectability – but now we also want our partner to love us, to desire us, to be interested in us. We should be best friends, trusted confidants, and passionate lover. The human imagination has conjured up and that means that love will remain unconditional, intimacy enthralling, and sex oh-so-exciting for a long haul, with one person. And the long haul keeps getting longer.
We want our chosen one to offer stability, safety, predictability and dependability – all the anchoring experiences. And we want that very same person to supply mystery, awe, adventure and risk. We want comfort and edge, familiarity and novelty, continuity and surprise. Lovers today seek to bring under one roof desires that have forever been separated.
“My needs aren’t being met, This relationship is not working for me anymore, Its not the deal I signed up for” – these are laments
This statements apply the values of consumerism. We still believe in commitment, but powerful voices coming from inside and outside tells us we are suckers if we settle for less than we think we need and deserve in our relationship.
In our consumer society, novelty is key. The obsoleteness of objects is programmed in advance so that it ensures our desire to replace them. And the couple is indeed no exception to these trends. We live in a culture that continually lures us with the promise of something better, younger, perkier. Hence we no longer divorce because we are unhappy; we divorce because we could be happier.
We have come to see immediate gratification and endless variety as our prerogative. Previous generations were taught that life entails sacrifice. “You cant always get what you want” made sense a half century ago, but we doggedly reject frustration. No wonder the constrains of monogamy can induce panic. In a world of endless options, we struggle with so called FOMO – the fear of missing out. The minute we get what we want, our expectation and desire tend to rise, and we end up not feeling happier. The swiping culture lures us with infinite possibilities, but it also exerts a subtle tyranny. The constant awareness of ready alternatives invites unfavorable comparisons, weakens commitments and prevents us from enjoying the present moment.
Mirroring a shift in Western society at large, relationships have left the production economy for the experience economy. The quality of relationship is now synonymous with the quality of the experience. What good is a stable household, a good income, and well behaved children if we are bored? We want our relationship to inspire us, to transform us. Their value, and therefore their longevity, is commensurate with how well they continue to satisfy our experiential thirst.
It is all these new prerogatives that drive the story of contemporary infidelity. It is not our desires that are different today, but the fact that we feel we deserve – indeed, we are obligated – to pursue them. Our primary duty is now to ourselves – even it is comes at the expense of love : Our high expectation for personal happiness might even make us more likely to cheat. After all, aren’t we entitled to an affair, if that’s what it takes to be fulfilled? When the self and the feeling are central, a new narrative of justification is added to the age-old story od straying desire.
By Vesna Jarc