I happened to read an old post of mine about my views on marriage. One of the readers had raised a question regarding the role morality ought to play in a marriage. If the husband was otherwise a responsible person and provided well for his family did it matter if his morality was questionable?
This question does not have an easy answer. In fact it does not have an answer at all. Let me explain. Till about a hundred years back it was common for men folk to visit prostitutes and was considered a status symbol and indicative of affluence. Their womenfolk could not object. I am sure they were not happy about the arrangement but could do little to prevent it even if they wanted to. With time such visits became hushed shameful affairs and women began to have a say in the matter. Fear or rather awareness of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases have acted as deterrents. I happened to be part of a team that conducted a survey on AIDS awareness long back and we had a session with sex workers as part of our training. They all had a single message for society. "We don't go to men. They come to us. If wives could check their husband's desire for sex outside marriage we would automatically be out of work".
It is easy for me to say that morality is a very important factor in a partnership including marriage. But don't women or for that reason men to a lesser extent have umpteen reasons to look the other way if their partner is not loyal to them? Does not the security provided by marriage matter? Or if children could get affected in the crossfire between parents would it perhaps be better to ignore the husband's philandering habit? I tend to talk as if morality in a marriage is the responsibility of the husband alone. It is the responsibility of both partners although the clandestine affairs women have outside marriage are not reported often.
The reason for my choice of this topic stems partly from what I heard about a neighbor whose husband wants a divorce. I have known the woman from the time her son was a two year old. He is twenty two now. The husband and son are apparently fond of a mother/daughter duo also residing in our complex. Initially I rubbished the story saying that the son could be interested in the daughter and the mother being a family friend could have expected the boy's family to approve of the match. Differences might have cropped up when the boy's mother objected. But I hear that the husband squanders hard earned money including his settlement dues on the neighbor and her husband is a silent spectator. He does not have a problem as long as the money keeps coming. I really don't know what to make out of the story. If both husband and son have turned against her, the lady ought to opt for separation. But with no income of her own can she afford to do it? Wouldn't she throw morality to the winds and wish to remain married. Those living in their block are fed up with the constant fighting and had to call the cops to settle their dispute when things got out of control.
A relative of mine some ten years younger to me is a lawyer by profession and has a soft corner for the assistant who works in his Office. His mother advised the daughter in law to keep quiet saying that if she objected he may be more open to making his affair known to the world. It was in her own interest that she chose to pretend that she did not know about it. With children to educate she could not afford to confront her husband lest he stopped supporting them. Selfish it may sound but the practical aspects cannot be ignored.
Every arrangement, including marriage, that is endorsed by society has evolved over several years. Morality is a matter of individual perception. The middle class sets high standards for morality be it loyalty in marriage or earning money by fair means. A look at those in governance and administration tells a different story. One scam is hardly dealt with and a new one comes up. In the slum where my domestic help lives they have no time to even define morality. Affairs outside marriage are ignored unless it involves fist fights between the couple in question. So I suppose morality matters to people who can challenge it. But if a person chooses to ignore it let us give them the benefit of doubt.