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Infidelity. The word conjures up images of trauma, grief, pain. But let’s get to the bottom of what it means in different contexts.
R: Infidelity as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is the act or fact of having a romantic or sexual relationship with someone other than one’s husband, wife, or partner.
Centuries of cultural conditioning has made infidelity a bad word. But is it really?
S: Isn’t it?
I don’t know. Growing up Masoom used to be one of my favourite movies. I loved how they’d explored the relationships… of the kids, of the grown ups, of adult friendships, and most of all the relationship with someone other than one’s partner, that you just mentioned. I do not think in the movie, it was either romantic nor sexual ‘relationship’. It was just a ‘slip-up’… a moment of weakness.
But the aftermath is what the movie is really about. It affected everyone, even the ‘masoom’ – innocent – kids (or especially them), who didn’t have any idea what the word meant. It left the family shattered, perhaps never to be rebuilt the same way again. They do come together in the end…as they often do in movies…but something deep and meaningful is broken irreparably.
That was something I could never come to terms with. How could someone betray someone they obviously cared about so easily? What goes on in their minds? Do they think about the consequences? Do they realize how it would affect others? Most of all how it could affect them?
This is turning out to be quite the review for Masoom, but the best thing about it was how realistic the characters were. Even Tanuja’s character who is a friend of Shabana’s character, who supposedly rebuilds her own life as a single career woman after her husband cheats on her, only to later return back to him at his bequest.
And that’s how it is I suppose. People are human, who make mistakes without always stopping to think about consequences. The ladies in the movie end up forgiving their errant spouses ‘for the greater good’ of the family. But I’m not so sure it will always be that way.
What are your thoughts? Would you be as forgiving? And if the shoe were on the other foot, and you ended up being the errant one… what would you do?
R: Yes, giving the space reserved for one relationship, to another, would affect the former relationship in an ever lasting way. Breaking ‘relationship rules’ just for a ‘slip up’ is way worse in my head than breaking them for something deeper, something more meaningful to us.
I wanted to digress here a little bit though, before I come back to the topic on hand…
Ever wondered why it is only that one relationship where the term ‘infidelity’ applies…We are allowed to have as many friends, as many relationships of brotherly/ sisterly love. I might end up calling my grand moms ‘Mom’ and probably even loving them as much, and I don’t think my mom would mind, or doubt that I love her any less.
It could be that the only thing that sets all other relationships different from the one we have with our partner, is the fact that we can potentially have kids out of the relationship and ‘polygamy’ might not work well in bringing up kids.
So yes, one has to be responsible with choices especially when kids are involved as any decision which could have a detrimental effect on their lives, is on us.
Barring the ‘physical aspect’ of the relationship, as seeking that outside can have a lot of complicated implications; what if one seeks the emotional connect missing with one’s partner somewhere else?
What if the ability to have fun conversations with a spouse ceases and one finds that with someone else?
One could find those in purely platonic relationships, and in that case is that still ‘infidelity’?
And then to answer your question ‘Would I would be forgiving with the errant?’ – well to me, there is no error here. People change, relationships change. If the ‘errant’ has taken a step to seek something missing in his/her life I would stand with that person on the decision.
S: Fair point – why do we demand exclusivity from our partners? Marriage has been an age old institution, and its norms demand such commitment. For the sake of everyone involved, it is easier. In nature, too we usually see that. Birds will build a nest together and stay until the little ones are old enough to fly away. Animals are a little different that way…
Humans try to have the suitable parts of both…as they so desire. And yes, as they say, it is one life we get. So why not make the most of it and cast everything aside for what you want?
And sometimes, partners who stay together are so toxic for each other that it is better if they move different ways for all involved.
If we’re talking about partners who do have a good enough relationship, and as you say we are keeping the physical connect aside, then any emotional connect is just a friendship isn’t it? That wouldn’t necessarily be infidelity.
As we see news of well known couples who decide to separate after 15-20 years of marriage, you cannot help but question this institution called marriage. Is it worth it still? Has it become obsolete? Are the inevitable adjustments worth it?
And then you have the Great Indian Arranged Marriages – which despite all odds against it survive for years. Sure, many of them so far have been because of simple lack of options, cultural taboos and several other things… and still more of them simply survive because of the people involved who choose to stay together despite everything.
I don’t know… at the end of the day it is a commitment you make. And if you have good reason to break it, then break it. And then go your way.
So R, you tell me – is infidelity a bad word or not?
R: To me S, it is not…
First published here.
Image source: a still from the film Masoom (1983)
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