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Affair is Fair(?)

February 24, 2011

If it isn’t one already, I think that a standard interrogatory in the Truth-or-Dare line of party questions could be “Would you rather your significant other leave you for someone of your gender or their gender?”  Now, for this question to have the intended resonances and implications, you should presume that you had been in a sufficiently serious heterosexual relationship to consider yourself both utterly surprised and totally disappointed by the unexpected infidelity.  Of course, both situations involve the sheer devastation of the infidelity.  And granted, the question is highly heteronormative on the surface; you can just switch the default sexual orientations if necessary.  But think about it.  What would your response be?  Do me a favor: vote now before continuing to read on.

I would expect that both responses would occupy a significant swath of the responses, and not just because of standard statistical response baselines (you know, the sort of response bias that allowed Dubya to maintain a 25% approval rating during the doldrums of his presidency).  So far, my informal polling has yielded an even split of responses on first blush.  But on further examination, I think the correct answer is indisputable.

The “your gender” response certainly holds some logical allure.  You would hope, for the sake of your lingering love for your partner, that he or she was not so dishonest with him or herself–or with you–that you would not have seen an inversion in his or her sexuality coming.  You would hope for the sake of your own romantic experience that the relationship was truly mutual, and that the feelings perceived were more than fiction or self-delusion.  You would hope for the sake of your own romantic prowess that you weren’t so sexually illiterate that you failed to read and communicate with your partner to the extent that you didn’t see this coming.  You would hope that your partner had found you attractive as a member of the your own gender and not the opposite.  And, perhaps most provincially, you might hope that you hadn’t “turned” your significant other gay/straight.  At least, these are the rationales that have been expressed by decades worth television sitcom characters, supposed stand-ins for American life.

But, despite all that, I will posit that you would rather have your significant other turn to the opposite end of the sexuality spectrum, no matter how persistent your feelings of love, no matter how strong your personal insecurity, no matter how vicious your homophobia.

First off, the significant other’s newfound sexuality might also allow for polyamory, and maybe the love isn’t actually lost.  But if you’re not the type to accept polyamory on your own account, I suppose that doesn’t offer much consolation for the future.  At the very least, you could rest assured knowing that you were not necessarily displaced by your partner’s infidelity; the feelings may well have been real, warranted, and mutual.  Self-delusion need not have even entered the picture if the partner turns out to have been bisexual.  As such, there need not be any animosity or incompatibility between you two as friends in a platonic sense.  The friendship could surely be salvaged, depending on your own response.

But let’s say the situation is a full-on flip, no turning back.  In retrospect, you might feel cheated, that the relationship was less meaningful than you originally thought it was.  You might think that no real connection could have existed in the first place if all along your partner was interested in their own gender and not yours.  Just think about it this way: how much you must have connected with your partner on a deeper level to allow your partner to come to these great realizations about him or herself?  How meaningful and open must your relationship have been to shake them out of their preexisting state of repression?  And if you truly loved the person, wouldn’t you want to enable the person to discover their true ability of attaining happiness?

If you are fretting more about your own personal or sexual worth, you should be much more assuaged by the notion that your partner simply wasn’t constituted to be attracted to you; there would be no judgment on your prowess in attracting partners with the gender/sexuality combination you seek.  Conversely, if you were replaced by someone of your own sex, the direct comparisons would be rampant and all too obvious.  The prospect of being replaced by a slightly more attractive/funny/wealthy/young version of you is a far more terrible prospect than being displaced by something you could never replicate.

Even as for the hyperbolic, yet fictionally stereotypical, fear of “turning someone gay” (often voiced by neurotic characters insecure in their own attractiveness or sexuality), the exact opposite is the case.  If in fact your partner made the decision to engage in his or her homosexuality after being with you, presumably after struggling to reconcile their biological identity with social norms, then logically you should have been the very best specimen he or she has had to date.  It’s not as though someone still unsure of themselves would quit after having a relatively worse experience as compared to other people of your gender; they’d be able to say to themselves, “I know it’s not always this bad.”  But if you were the best they’ve ever had, they’d have no choice but to go gay with the full knowledge that they would never be able to get off from someone of your gender.  Might infidelity implicitly compliment?

Though this arbitrary premise is arguably the most ham-handed way to celebrate and encourage the honest discovery of one’s sexuality ever, perhaps you can use this line of reasoning to take solace and comfort in the possibility that the ex- in your most recent recollection has gone gay/straight.

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