In a scenario that happens to many couples, Valter Viglietti poses the question: “What would you do?”
After several hours reading posts about philosophy, love, sexuality and stuff (mostly on this website), the following scenario came to my mind. I thought it could inspire readers to share their opinions.
Imagine a man and a woman, in their late 20s. They’re still young, they’ve had several experiences, but they don’t fully know who they are or what they want yet. They meet, they like each other, they fall in love. They feel a strong attraction, the passion is pretty intense, they sincerely love each other, and they have lots of fun together. After a while, they decide to marry. Partly it’s because they feel so good together, partly because people around them slightly push them toward marriage, and partly because “that’s what people in love does”.
At the wedding, they both feel elated and excited. All the parents and friends look at them, and they see an happy, loving couple, that is going to last.
Fast forward five years.
The passion has quite vanished (after all, if experience wasn’t proof enough, even science tells us that falling in love is “designed” to last two or three years, tops). They still make love, but it’s usually lukewarm. They still feel affection for each other, but the relationship has slowly faded into a routine.
They had a child. They didn’t plan for it, but she got pregnant and they decided to keep the baby.
They both feel vaguely dissatisfied. They are not really unhappy, but they aren’t happy anymore, either. Mostly they try to ignore their own discomfort, keeping busy; he pursues his career and works long hours, she works part-time and tends to the baby.
One day, one of the spouses meets someone, a friend of friends, or a colleague. There’s a good feeling, they get along well, they become friends. There’s some awkward flirting, but this spouse is honest and straight, there’s no room for cheating. (Is this happening to him or her? It doesn’t matter, because it could happen to both.)
After a while, this spouse realizes they have an amazing affinity, a deep bond, something never experienced before. This new person could very well be his or her soul mate. Being with this person could bring an extraordinary level of happiness, a union that usually happens just once in a lifetime—if ever.
I think that, so far, this scenario can be common. It might even describe many couples nowadays. Sooner or later, it may happen to you.
Of course, at this, point the problem is: “What to do next?”
The person who has just fallen in love is good hearted and would like to do the “right thing”—but there’s no way to make everybody happy. Whatever the choice, somebody will suffer.
- Staying in the marriage? This means feeling even unhappier, knowing that the chance to be happy and fulfilled would be lost; becoming bitter and resentful—and that’s not a good environment to raise a child. This saves the marriage, but the relationship between the spouses will likely go downhill.
- Leaving the marriage? The new couple will probably be happy, but the broken marriage left behind could be a shadow over their happiness. The spouse left will be crushed; the child will feel he’s “losing” a parent, and he will feel abandoned or shaken.
- Having an affair? This might seem the lesser of evil (keeping the marriage and having the soul mate). But it creates more problems that it solves: the marriage becomes a farce, the new couple cannot have all the time, intimacy and dedication they would like.
What this person should do?
What a good man would do?
Can you see other possible choices, apart from the three listed above?
Whatever your opinion is, can you accept it is just one of the possible choices, and it’s coming from—or at least influenced by—some kind of social construct?
Some points to consider:
- We usually think in term of “right” or “wrong”; we want to do the right thing, and that should mean that everybody involved is happy or—at least—not hurt. But often it’s just not possible.
- We then could think about the best possible outcome, or the least damaging one. In other words, thinking in terms of what could be better or less worse, a continuum of possibilities, instead of a “black or white” attitude.
- Besides, what looks right to someone, might look wrong (or worse) to someone else. I’m a relativist: I believe there’s no absolute, universal good or bad. Moral values are set or shaped by the culture we’re living in; different cultures may have different values.
- One of the issues between genders is they often have a different set of values; hence their own “right” or “wrong” may not be the same.
- Lastly, while sacrificing oneself might seem a good and noble thing to do, we have to remember that a gloomy person makes the others miserable. We can give only what we have, thus only taking care of our own happiness allows us to give it back. While sacrifice is sometimes required, it’s often a double-edged sword.
Please add your own answer to the question “What would you do?” in the comments.
—Photo yaketyyakyak / Flickr