Chris Lee is a skeezy cheater, and a hypocrite, but he’s also another reminder of the waste and pain caused by our contradictory, one-sided and archaic views of marital fidelity.
Any regular Dan Savage reader/listener knows that one of his most common caller/writer is one part of a married couple who’s sexually frustrated. Usually there are children involved. Often, this person knew that they were sexually incompatible when they married, but was hoping things would change. Usually, their marriage is under a sexual death penalty: if there’s an affair, there’s a divorce.
This kind of call or letter is pretty boring because there’s really no solution accepted by mainstream society. Most of these marriages would be a hell of a lot better if the sexually unsatisfied partner had a discreet affair, but that puts the other partner in a socially untenable situation. “Open marriage” is something for dirty hippies or sleazy swingers, not an upstanding member of society. And, since the first stop for marital therapy is often a pastor or priest, it’s very unlikely that the open option will even be broached.
So, instead of negotiating an outlet, these marriages move on to a badly executed affair, tears, recriminations and, usually, divorce. The cheated-on member of the pair has the moral and legal high ground, they’re under intense social pressure to make the cheater pay, and by the time the cheating happens, the cheater’s resentment over their lack of satisfaction has probably already poisoned the well.
If we want to do something about the high divorce rate, we might want to get real about making sexual satisfaction a precursor to marriage, and also about the role of a discreet, mutually agreed-upon affair as a safety valve. Of course, religion and social norms rule that out-of-bounds. That’s too bad, because the only person more miserable that Mr. and Mrs. Chris Lee this morning is their little boy, a kid who’s in a world of hurt that might have been avoided if mom and dad had been able to negotiate a piece on the side.