Is Adultery Ever Justified?

By White, Mark D. | Psychology Today, August 2012 | Go to article overview

Is Adultery Ever Justified?


White, Mark D., Psychology Today


You be the judge! bymarkd.white

MANY PEOPLE OFFER theories explaining why adultery happens and what factors make it more likely. Some argue that monogamy is unnatural, therefore cheating should not be surprising. Buttheories can t tell us whether adultery is right orwrong, becausesuchjudgments do not depend on explanations. Scholars can explain why it can be hard to stay monogamous, but we would n't even try unless we had a reason to, and most of the time, that reason is moral.

Before we plunge into the morality of adultery, let's agree on what adultery is. If we define it by what counts as cheating, we're stuck, because different things imply cheating for different people. For some, it may be just sex, but for others it may include kissing or even coffee with another person.

Cheating iswhateverone'spartner is uncomfortable with. Each partner has the right to set boundaries for what is acceptable, and the other person has no right to violate those boundaries. If you don't like the boundaries your partner sets, then either talk about it or leave, but don't stay in the relationship while doing things thatyou know wilt upset your partner. No one deserves that.

However it is defined in any relationship, most people- including ethicists- agree that adultery is simply wrong. Adultery involves the breach of a commitment, a broken promise by one person to be faithful to another !according to the boundaries upon which they agree), which is a basic violation of trust. It also usually involves deception more broadly, since the adulterer must sneak around his or her partner's back. And as a result of the betrayal and lies- which are usually considered wrong in and of themselves- adultery simply hurts the other person, adding personal harm to general wrongfulness.

However, simply saying that adultery is wrong is not much help when it comes to specific cases. All the things about infidelity that make it wrong allow for exceptions themselves. Lying iswrong, but we can think of situations in which it may be justified, such as to save a life or to avoid hurt feelings. Promises should not be broken, but there may be cases i ? which something more important is at stake, such as an emergency. …

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