By Chris McGinty
On March 25, 2010, Miguel wrote a post to this blog. It was dealing with a news story in which a woman sued for emotional damages from the woman who her husband was cheating with, and she won. $9,000,000. There are lottery winners who are wishing they did so well.
Miguel brought up one of our previous conversations concerning home wreckers. The question was whether or not having an affair with someone’s spouse is theft or not. A lot of times Miguel’s problem when having discussions of this nature is that he already has his mind made up about something, and doesn’t hear what the other person is saying. To be fair, maybe he hears, but doesn’t comprehend.
Miguel deals with this issue in a couple of ways; first by dealing with laws and other facts, and then by dealing with his personal opinions on the matter. This is fine, and he did a reasonable job of dealing with both. I’d like to deal with two things myself; first where he fails to understand my position and then where he fails to successfully reason out his logical conclusions.
Biblically speaking, adultery is pretty much the only way you can divorce. This is old school law. As I understand it (and I have no facts to back this up, but it’s not integral to my point) it was a lot more common before to be able to legally sue in cases of adultery. Miguel points out that there are seven states where you still can. I believe this was once much higher.
The fact is that divorces are not so hard to push through as they once were. It seems that the courts don’t want to be bogged down with yet another argument. If the two people agree to the divorce, they don’t question it much. Dropping charges of adultery speeds along this process. My first wife and I split in November of 1995. I met my first post-divorce girlfriend in June of 1996, and started dating her in late July of 1996. My first wife was still convinced that I left her for another woman. The courts probably want to avoid that kind of bickering.
Miguel makes the mistake of presuming that I was talking in absolutes that applied across the board to everyone when I was talking about a specific incident. He also makes the mistake of misunderstanding what I mean by theft.
In most cases when two people get married, one of the vows is staying together forever, and one of the vows is sexual exclusivity. If most marriages were “open” in the respect that it was understood that each spouse would sometimes have sex with others, we would be dealing with a different topic here. But since it is understood that a high percentage of marriages are founded with sexual exclusivity in mind, it is at the very least a disrespect to both people involved in the marriage to either allow one of them, or to push one them, to stray from their marriage with you.
If you walk into a convenience store and the clerk has made a vow to protect the merchandise from theft, then that person is betraying their employment contract with the store if they allow you to take something without so much as a call to the police.
Miguel says, “The second problem with this line of thinking is that it takes the position that the cheating spouse is completely incapable of making his or her own decisions.”
So you walk into the store, and the clerk says, “Hey you want that twelve pack, go ahead.” You leave, and they never do or say anything to make it right. In this case they are violating their employment contract willingly, much like Miguel’s cheating spouse from his quote.
On the other hand, if you walk into the store, and you coerce the person behind the counter to allow you to take something, either through smooth talking, promises of other services, or fear; what may happen in this case is that they may violate their employment contract when they normally wouldn’t have because you disrespected the basic understanding of how purchases are done in our culture. Much the same way that you could disrespect how most marriages work by coercing a spouse to cheat.
Miguel says, “It is irrelevant that the mistress might have provided some kind of temptation.”
But it is not irrelevant.
And the law backs me up on this. There are entrapment laws. The reason why is because people can be coerced into making decisions they might not otherwise make. And if TV and movies are portraying this accurately, this applies to sex as well in the form of prostitution. If an undercover police officer offers sex for money, or talks the person into paying money for sex, it is entrapment. Same as if an officer walked into the store and pushed the clerk to let them take something it would be entrapment. If people could not be swayed then salespeople wouldn’t have pitches.
There is a third possibility in this in which the “customer” walks in and says, “Hey let me take something,” and the clerk is like, “Fine.” And maybe that was the case in the situation Miguel and I were discussing.
Lest my analogy be invalidated as “that’s not the same thing.” No, it’s not the same thing. It’s an analogy, idiot. But as an open relationship would go: It’s ok to let a customer suck on a free fountain drink every once in a while as long as you show up to work everyday.
Further there is letting the store know that if product starts to go out of date that you’ll be giving it away freely.
I’ve said the following to many of my exclusive relationships. It’s mildly humourous, but it is meant to get across a serious point: “If we don’t have sex for a week, I have porn, I’ll be fine. If we haven’t had sex for a month, I’m not going to overreact, but you know. If we don’t have sex for three months, I will have a girlfriend by then. If we don’t have sex for six months, I’ll bring her home and introduce you.”
My reasoning for this is that if I’m in a sexually exclusive relationship, there needs to be some sexually to back up the exclusivity. This is not to suggest that anyone is obligated to have sex. Sex is not to be expected, and is never an obligation. This is merely my way of saying that this is when our contract of exclusivity ends. And to be honest, if I didn’t put out in the same timeframe, I would expect nothing less of my partner.
This is where I’m not about the absolutes, because obviously at that point somebody would have to be willing to disrespect my marriage, or at least understand that it’s not quite as disrespectful as just trying to break it up. And this is where the fine line is drawn at a little thing called intention.
Miguel says, “The problem I have with this line of thinking is that it presupposes that a person has some kind of property interest in their spouse.”
No, it doesn’t.
The problem with opinions is that people will argue that they are subjective; and therefore, they can’t be wrong or right. When an opinion interferes with fact it easily becomes wrong. I could say, “In my opinion murder is not illegal.” That is wrong unless we change the definition of either “murder” “illegal” or “not.” If you believe your opinion can’t be right or wrong then try it, and see what happens.
Take the recent issues with NBC and Conan O’Brien. Conan O’Brien was in a contract with NBC. Marriage is a contract between two spouses. Conan O’Brien was not NBC’s property. A spouse is not the other spouse’s property. NBC had exclusive rights to some of Conan O’Brien’s services, as was agreed. A spouse has rights (sometimes exclusive) to some of their spouse’s services (love, honor, obey, cherish, have and to hold, fidelity) as was agreed. If Conan O’Brien, not being property, breaks this agreement it’s actionable. If the other spouse, not being property, breaks the agreement it’s actionable in the form of divorce. If another network coerced Conan O’Brien into breaking contract then NBC can go after the offending party, and likely win. As was shown in the $9 million suit, it is so in marriage sometimes too.
Miguel did say “property interest,” and I see the fine line in possible definition differences, but I think I made it pretty clear up there. If he misunderstood my saying theft as “theft of the person” as opposed to the “theft (or estrangement) of services,” then I can see the misunderstanding.
I do agree with Miguel’s assertion about infidelity not hurting any less when not tied to a marriage, which is why I my rule isn’t just the married. It’s more, “Don’t get involved with the involved.” It’s easy to remember. But if I’m to be fair to my line of reasoning, spoken contracts are still legal, but not as easily actionable.