Power dynamics and infidelity



Revisiting the questions (below) that i initially came up with and used as research for this blog has inspired me to put finger to keypad today. Partly due to the very loaded language that I now see I had used (highlighting very much, to me at least, where I was at when i wrote them) but also looking back on the answers given by all the participants, myself included.

I should start really by explaining that of the 20 people I interviewed, the vast majority classified themselves as monogamous and either heterosexual or bi-sexual. This is part of the reason that I want to/need to start again (to have a broader demographic) but working with and from the point of what I have, I saw some interesting patterns. The answers I got from question 2, which looks at the specific acts that people would consider to be infidelity and to what degree, I found very interesting. Most people suggested that the idea of their partner/lover wanting to be with/fuck another, but not doing it (presumably out of the respect to the commitment that had been made to be monogamous) was much more hurtful than the idea of them actually having strayed and admitting it. The actuality of their partner having had sexual intercourse with another person, not admitting it and then finding out from another source being (obviously) the worst, most hurtful form.

What does/could this say?

If a lover/partner is seeking forgiveness for an act of infidelity they have committed, that can potentially put the one ‘cheated upon’ in a position of relative power. It may not be comforting or a position they revel in but they occupy, at this point the higher moral ground and have leverage. They are the ‘good one’and also the one to be ‘buttered up’ to varying degrees. Whereas the cheater has to prove his/her worthiness and beyond that, their capacity for trustworthiness. So their penitence would (perhaps) make them into the type of lover/partner they know they need to be in order to earn (regain) the aforementioned states of grace. I have been on both sides of that fence. The one having ‘fucked up’ and feeling like I have to work really hard to tread carefully, be the best version of me I can be (so as not to destroy the fabric even further). And I have been the one who has been heartbroken and angry but somehow warmed by the efforts being gone to to please me and be the ‘perfect boyfriend’.

If the lover/partner has done nothing about their illicit, extra curricular desire, they are (perhaps) less likely to be seeking forgiveness or feeling penitent and that balance of power will be swung the other way. The one who has, to all intents and purposes, to stand by and watch as their lover/partner’s eyes lose focus every time a certain person’s name is mentioned, or whose posture all of a sudden becomes more erect, for want of a better word, whenever they enter a room, they will not reap the benefits of the one who has been ‘cheated on’. They will just have to exist in a state of discomfort watching the object of their desires, affection and love in torment over another. So not only would they be having to deal with the feelings of jealousy inspired but also with the indifference towards their pain.

My answer at the time (and theoretically still) would be in line with this and really, i have to ask the question why? Jealousy has always struck me as an obvious baseline reason for why people do not want to enter into the realms of polyamoury but maybe it’s not as simple or narrow as that. This also seems to boil down to power. And I think this is a really important aspect within any type of relationship. As i stated in my initial blurb on this blog, I am not trying to present myself as some kind of authority in anyway shape or form on the nature of how people relate to one another or relationships but in my experience, power dynamics underpin many of the struggles people have inter-personally.

One off shoot discussion that occurred in many of the sessions (i interviewed people face to face on film), was the difference, the theoretical difference between how it would feel for their lover/partner to engage in something ‘infidelitous’ with someone of the opposite or the same sex to them. And unsurprisingly perhaps, most people felt more threatened by their lover/partner being with someone who they felt could be in direct competition with them, someone who shared their gender, or more specifically, someone who represented a reflection of their heteronormative lifestyle (Most, bar one of the people i interviewed identified as heterosexual or bi). Many heterosexual men, for example, joked about the idea of their female partners being with another woman as arousing at best and just a bit silly at worst, not something to be taken seriously or as a real ‘threat’. For most heterosexual women, the idea of their ‘man’ being with another man was just farcical but definitely preferable to them being with another woman. And again, i have to say that i concurred. And again, i think this boils down to a sense of (perceived) power within that situation. I daresay that if a heterosexual woman had had a male partner leave her for another man at any point in her life, she may not see it as so farcical but still, does it simply boil down to how people are forced to look at themselves and their own sense of power and worth? And if this is the case, what does this say about the unspoken rule book, the silent contracts we, monogamous creatures, enter into when we begin a new relationship? How many people actually outline, clearly what their boundaries are, both practically and emotionally. How many people are honest with themselves about these things? Not many i would imagine but the dance of intimacy is a finely balanced beast. The line between (what should be) implicit and (what should be made) explicit becoming harder and harder to see clearly the closer one looks.

“I reach out and you pull away. I retreat in silent reaction and you, feeling a mixture of guilt and confusion, show vulnerability. Your inability to assimilate guilt means that your show of vulnerability is not made explicit enough, so i read the opening incorrectly and walk past it, seeing it as insignificant or contrived. You are hurt by this breach in my understanding and reach out to me, awkwardly…but knowing instinctively that I shouldn’t, I still pull away….” 




The Questions

1)     How would you describe your relationship status?

a)      Long term monogamous relationship

b)     Newly established monogamous relationship

c)      Long term non-monogamous relationship

d)     Newly established non-monogamous relationship

e)      Single and dating

f)      Single and celibate

g)     Other??

2)     Idealising a long-term relationship, not talking specifically about your current situation (if you have one) necessarily, would you feel it was infidelity for your partner to do any of the following? Explain how each scenario would make you feel and then rank them in order of which would make you feel most hurt.

a)      Slept with someone else and hadn’t told you, you found out via other sources?

b)     Slept with someone else and told you?

c)      Passionately kissed someone else in each of the afore mentioned circumstances?

d)     Really wanted to sleep with someone else in particular and didn’t, but was obviously in torment over it?

e)      Flirted with everything that moved?

f)      Watched what you considered too much porn? For some this may be any at all, for others this could be watching it more than wanting to make love, the bar is a personal one.

3)     What do you think are the pro’s and the cons to monogamy?

4)     What do you think are the pros and the cons to non-monogamy?

5)     Have you ever been in a monogamous relationship and done something that your partner considered (or would have considered) infidelity?

6)     If yes, what were the circumstances, inner and/or outer that led to the situation occurring?

7)     If no, what do you think sets you apart from people who have done something like this?

8)     Have you ever been in a monogamous relationship and your partner has done something you considered to be infidelity?

9)     If yes, did you ever find out what the inner and/or outer circumstances were that led to that situation occurring?

10)  If yes and you didn’t already touch upon it, did you feel that you were in any way to blame for the infidelity occurring?

11)  Do you think there is a basic underlying reason why (most) people have affairs?

12)  When you were 16, what things do you think you wanted/desired/looked for in a partner/lover?

13)  If you found yourself/or you are single now…what things do you think you would find attractive / you are attracted to and look for in a partner and/or lover now?

14)  Do you think jealousy has a place within a relationship?

15)  Which is more important in a relationship? Honesty about your own feelings/desires or sensitivity towards your partner’s feelings and needs?

16)  Idealising a ‘family’ scenario, whether you have a family (children) or not, what 3 things do you think children need to see happening with their parents in order to make them feel happy and secure?

17)  What are your 2 most positive traits as a partner/lover?

18)  What are your 2 most negative traits as a partner/lover?


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. johncoyote
    Nov 01, 2016 @ 20:07:47

    I believe people like change. If your relationship is weary and you seek more attention. You may find something you like more. Human nature is weak. Body needs can control the mind and heart. Monogamous relationship are for the few. Most of us after tasting something so sweet and so good. Can make wrong decisions.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: