The Greatest Myth
The HEA ending is vital to romance, and to most erotica. Happily Ever After, ever true, ever faithful, ever fulfilled. It’s something we all chase after in our own lives, too. The man of your dreams, the giant wedding, the blissful life afterwards. We want that one real soul mate, to be true and faithful to him forever, and get the same in return. But is this idea of lifelong monogamy no more than a myth?
In spite of the thousands of white-dress dreams lying wrecked on the rocky shores of reality, we still strive to achieve that state of perfect bliss. And so often, we find ourselves also stranded on that bleak, stony beach: battered, bruised, disillusioned. Betrayed, or shocked and distressed that we ourselves could have betrayed the ones we love.Recently on the radio I heard an email from a listener read out on a kind of group agony auntie thing, where other listeners can weigh in with advice and opinions. This man was married, had two little children and another on the way. He loved his wife with all his heart, and he was having an affair. The situation was tearing his heart and soul apart. He loved both women, or so he believed, and it killed him to be deceiving his wife.The majority of reactions from listeners were, predictably, condemnations: what a pig, what a jerk. I listened and wasn’t so sure.While it’s notoriously difficult to get accurate figures on cheating due to the very nature of the act, some studies suggest that up to half of married people are unfaithful at some stage. A huge number of us who pledge to devote our lives to another will at some point break the promise we made on our wedding day. What’s wrong? Why can’t we be forever true? Is modern society just sick?In a radio talk on the court of Elizabeth the First I heard the other day, the numerous dalliances of the atistrocracy were discussed by an historian. It seems infidelity is nothing new. It’s understandable, to a degree, as arranged marriages were the order of the day, especially among the upper classes. I’m sure most people will have more sympathy with a philanderer who’d entered into wedlock for mutual convenience or benefit rather than feelings of love or affection. In old Brehon law marriage seems to me to have been a much looser bond than we think of it now, with provision for people to hook up for a year and see how things work out before committing to a more lasting contract.Then there’s the study of animals genetically close to humans, and their sexual behaviour. Though we’re not animals, we also actually are. We’re different from all other animals on earth, but still, the animal kingdom can perhaps give us clues to what our bodies are hardwired for beneath the added input of intelligence, culture and conditioning. What prejudices and preconceived notions might not stand up if we take an honest look at nature? One thing is certain: most animals do not mate for life.Should we look on infidelity as an unforgivable sin, or should we consider it a natural phenomenon? Can a case be made for us to change our views on unfaithfulness?Divorce is the most common outcome of a marriage in which one partner had an intimate relationship with someone else. It’s a destructive, horrible experience for the married couple who bring things to an end, for their children and often for their friends and family also. I’ve never been through divorce, bit I imagine there are times when this is the only course of action to take. I just wonder how often a change of point of view could prevent a lot of sorrow and preserve a partnership that still has a lot to offer for everyone involved.Realistically, when you’ve been married a number of years it’s very possible that initial infatuation can have progressed to a deep and comfortable love. A love affair can have settled into a precious friendship and life partnership. Is it possible that such married partners might both feel a desire to explore, to develop relationships with others, but don’t want to give up their very valued relationship with their other half? Should their choices be to force themselves to be happy with only what they have, or is there scope for us to allow each other secondary relationships?It’s not necessarily a sign that you’ve stopped loving each other, I think. What it is I don’t know, and whether it is possible for most people to be secure and comfortable in an open marriage is doubtful.Infidelity is often a cry for help, a sign that something is wrong. Something that can be fixed, in many cases. Accepting it as natural and making provision for it in our lives might be a disastrous sticking plaster on an open wound. Still… I can’t help but wonder, when I see the popularity of multi-partner erotica, if there are not at least some of us who need more than one love in our lives.It’s a question with no easy answers.Anida Adler is an author of fantasy erotica. Her book The Ancient was rated Best Book by Long and Short Reviews. Under her alter ego’s name, Nadia Williams, she wrote fantasy romance The Pebble, rated 5 by LASR and 3.75 by Night Owl. You can find out more about Anida and read some of her short stories here.
I think in the end an anthropologist would be the best person to answer these questions. There are cultures in which polygamy is the norm, and often the practice is motivated by practical considerations. Yet it leaves the individuals involved vulnerable to so much that can go wrong.
I also think that the norms and practices around you have a huge influence on whether your choice of relationship will work or not. Personally, for me, it’s better to have one partner, and build that relationship. I wouldn’t have the emotional energy to work on two intimate relationships. Yet just as some people are born homosexual, so I wonder if there are not rare individuals who have a combination of physiological and environmental influences from conception which might make them more happy if they have more than one love relationship.
I think hope is the answer to life. Even if we know things may not go our way, we have to have hope that it will. I don’t have to have a HEA but it sure is more pleasurable than one that isn’t.
Oh, I should mention that I don’t mind reading about a multi-partner relationship in erotic romance books…it is fiction and diverting to see how the author would explore the issues and charms.
Interesting and thought provoking post. However, I still think that straying is a betrayal under the usual current circumstances. If a union is not working, why not simply divorce or break up before moving on? There appear to be plenty of difficulty in polygamous unions as well in societies that allow say more than one wife. Undercurrents of discontent and jealousy are prevalent. What to do then?
I could see spending a whole semester discussing the pros, cons and psychological intricacies of this topic. Are our usual social mores causing more harm than good, when it comes to relationships and fidelity? Why are most people opposed to having multiple partners, when the idea is clearly a turn on for so many (as evidenced by the number of people who like to read about it)? How could it be done successfully? Lots of food for thought here!
I love HEAs but sometimes you just gotta move on. I also have started getting into the multi partner stuff, if thats what makes you and yours happy who’s to say thats not how your HEA was supposed to go.
Interesting points here. I love HEA and everyone should get at least one in their lifetime. I think love has the possibility to come around more than once.
I love the HEA. I know it is elusive but books are about escape and I want that to happen