“Jamais dans la paroisse,” one of our friends proclaimed with an air of nonchalance as he sipped his Champagne aperitif.
He was referring to the fact, practically publicly admitting (bragging?) during a dinner party that “never in the parish” is the basic rule for discreet marital infidelity. It’s one thing to be unfaithful, it’s quite another to humiliate one’s wife by having friends and neighbours au courant.
This is, MRFLIF tells me, les bourgeois rationalisation or explanation or definition of respect for one’s spouse. In other words, theoretically, no one he knows will see him wining and dining a woman who is not his wife. He keeps his dalliances far from home, as does his wife it should be noted.
We know several couples where both the husband and the wife have had extramarital affairs, in fact the mistress of a childhood friend of MRFLIF was often at table with his family. We have socialised with all of them — together. I must say, the situation gave new meaning to civility. Everyone was aware of the arrangement though no one ever spoke of it.
Lest you think the mistress was young and beautiful, she was not. She was, I imagine, simply different, maybe a break from routine. I have no idea really.
Another friend knew that her husband liked “professionals” but, again, she apparently accepted the situation. If she had affairs, no one will ever know.
American actor, Aziz Ansari, (I’ve never heard of him, but you probably have) traveled to France to investigate the apparent casual acceptance of infidelity. The result of his journey is a new book, Modern Romance.
Why in the world would he tackle the subject? Maybe the explanation is within the pages, but I don’t intend to read about what I already know.
He no doubt referred to a 2014 study by the French Institute of Public Opinion, which found that 55 percent of French men and 32 percent of French women revealed that they had cheated on their spouse or significant other.
According to the study, only 47 percent of the French see infidelity as “morally unacceptable.”
The current French president, François Hollande, is practically the poster child for infidelity. Although he might excuse his behaviour by pointing out that despite the fact he has four children with Ségolène Royal, currently Minister of Ecology; a fifth child with another prominent politician; a scandalous affair with political journalist, Valérie Trierzeiler (who went on to write a book trashing her former lover;) and currently (allegedly), actress Julie Gayet, he has never been married.
Some 63 percent of French people surveyed “believe they can love someone even if he or she has cheated,” according to the French Institute of Public Opinion, and the French were the most forgiving of the 39 countries surveyed by a Pew Research study noted by the Daily Telegraph.
Meanwhile, for whatever reasons, the French divorce rate has surpassed that of the United States. According to the most recent statistics from the United Nations Demographics and Social Statistics Division, 53 percent of U.S. marriages end in divorce compared to 55 percent in France.
The unanswered question is: Are the French really more blasé about their marriages when it comes to fidelity than other cultures or are they simply more accepting of what one friend of ours refers to as “human frailty?”
My French friends don’t think Americans are any more virtuous than they are, but probably less forgiving.
“This whole infidelity thing is sort of like an international conspiracy theory,” one close friend said, “we’re supposed to be romantic, great lovers, etc. so maybe we just pretend we’re not hurt when our husband or wife has an affair.”
Interesting. . .
What do you think?