The recent revelation that one of the highest ranking former generals in the United States armed forces participated in a consensual extramarital affair brings up a lot of issues, not the least of which is the discussion of sex outside of marriage and whether this is acceptable or not. In this blog post, I would like to keep the focus on the issue of infidelity, for lack of a better term, and leave the discussion about impacts on national security to the experts. There seem to be a lot of people who bring their own set of morals to the table in any discussion like this, and I would like to offer an alternative view that I share with clients and friends, but which I haven’t as yet discussed in this blog.
What I didn’t hear a lot of pundits even touch upon about this, except for maybe CNN senior political analyst and former presidential adviser David Gergen, is that perhaps General Petraeus and his wife may have had an agreement between themselves to allow extramarital activity to take place. As of this post, Mrs. Petraeus has not made her thoughts on the matter public, so we have no way of knowing whether this was in fact something that she consented to and allowed. Couples, within the sacred bonds of marriage, make all sorts of arrangements, and non-monogamy can be one of them. The commonly accepted idea, largely of religious influence, that couples should remain monogamous, is one that has been negotiated and revised since it’s inception, and it’s time we stop acting as if everyone should play by the same rules and if not, condemn them.
The point most commentators and political analysts are missing when they try to explain this situation in terms of power dynamics and gender politics, is that many couples are consciously choosing non-monogamy and that our national discussion on this issue is largely clouded by our religious beliefs, which should not come into play when we are discussing consenting adults and their choices. Many traditional couples of deep religious faith feel as if any kind of marriage, gay marriage included, that does not reflect their own is somehow a threat to “traditional marriage,” but I’d like to point out that in the United States of America, we have the right to choose to conduct all areas of our lives as we see fit as long as we do not break the law. In this specific case, it is up to those who oversee codes of military conduct and national security to decide whether General Petraeus in fact did do that.
If we all respected the fact that sexual choices among legal, consenting adults are no one else’s business, we could stop putting aside the important discussions that need to take place about more pressing issues instead of focusing on how people choose to conduct themselves in the bedroom.
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