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One curiosity about the major religions of the world is they in common forbid adultery. If this is not a coincidence, then it must be founded on some pro-social rationale. It could be because in the past adultery was rampant which destroyed family ties and caused social tension if not violence so that religion became a preventive tool to maintain social cohesiveness.|
Or it could be that all the major religions have in their common root a single Entity who/which abhors the breakage of a vow and that could be because the Entity administrates the human universe on the basis of a quantitative unit - the family - meaning more luck for one family member entails less for the others.
Of course this is all pure speculation and, over time, the tendency to excuse adulterous behavior becomes easier. Which would explain why per capita divorces have increased as social mores loosen their hold. Coincidentally the relaxation of such personal regimes runs in parallel with the increase in work stress and lifestyle changes.
Which brings us back to the matter of vows. Monogamous vows are made as socially recognized contractual testaments of lifelong personal commitments between two persons. In most cases, these are sealed when both are young during which their hormones are biologically optimized for cohabitation with view to procreation.
However, as they age, they get more used to each other and it becomes easier to take each other for granted, a process facilitated by the paucity of the chemical drive that was animated before as the emotion of husband-wife love.
This decline inevitably comes to a plateau when both reach menopausal stage where the hormones are an ebb and what holds the relationship together amidst questions how each has really lived for decades are just memories of great times together. Since the function of memory is itself declining at the same time, the end-result could be just a resigned accommodation of each other, especially of faults which become more noticeable because stress from weakening faculties and the increasing inability to adapt to changing conditions of the world sharpen both criticism and cynicism.
Yet the same Entity hypothesis about the primacy of the family unit can come to the rescue. Both should remember it is because of them that they have a unique family and what they should do is remember that fact every day of their lives even if it seems they are drifting apart.
However, these days the family unit itself is losing stature because to find work, both may have to live apart in different locales, and as the child(ren) grow up and develop their own lifestyles apart from their parents, the notion of a family made of husband, wife and child(ren) soon loses traction.
So where does all this leave us? The notion of love that seals a marriage vow. It seems reasonable to say when one loves someone to the extent of setting personal commitment, that love has to be unconditional, especially with regards one's personal gain or loss. In other words, 'i didn't marry you for me; neither for us, but only for you'. And vice versa.
So if the 'you' has changed over time for one reason or another, the original rationale of the vow should still hold. Which means "since i love and married you for 'you' only, 'you' can do what you now like, although i would caution taking safety measures and going in with eyes wide open because the other party may not see 'you' as separate from her or him."
In conclusion, it's personal how one should treat an affair. Should it be a test of lifetime loyalty, especially when life itself loses meaning and value, or can it be ships passing and fog-horning away in the foggy night, fridays as usual?
To answer that question, one must however ask another. 'How deep is the resigned understanding that one can continuously look the other way - out of the original love of and for the person exclusively even if the new behaviour shows the person is found lacking in reciprocal compassion?'
So the buck finally stops at ......compassion.