Marcel Currin: You're a hero if you stay faithful

By Marcel Currin

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On the topic of infidelity, Paul Newman famously said: 'Why go out for a hamburger when you have steak at home?
On the topic of infidelity, Paul Newman famously said: 'Why go out for a hamburger when you have steak at home?

Now that we've finished sniggering and tut-tutting, has anyone learned anything from this Len Brown nonsense, aside from how to enjoy a really juicy scandal?

Amidst the public debate about acceptable moral standards for wayward mayors, it strikes me that there has been very little reflection about acceptable standards for the rest of us. We're quite happy to say: "Len shouldn't have had an affair," but we seem to stop short of adding: "and by the way, neither should anyone else."

Let's not turn the spotlight on ourselves. No, that's not comfortable at all.

The reality is that it's not just the Mayor of Auckland who wrestles with illicit emotions. Ordinary families will continue to be rocked by extra-marital affairs long after this particular news cycle has passed.

Well, I don't mind being blunt for a moment. Hey, everyone! Don't have an affair! Affairs are really dumb!

On the topic of infidelity Paul Newman famously said: "Why go out for a hamburger when you have steak at home?"

That analogy has always seemed problematic to me because I really like hamburgers. If I had the best steak in the world every day I would still get bored. I'd probably grab a burger at the first opportunity. After a while even Georgie Pie might look attractive.

Variety is the spice of life and that's the problem. Other people are fascinating, interesting and appealing. If you're stressed out running a city and one of those other people is 25 years better looking than you, I bet opportunity knocks pretty loudly.

Paul Newman's steak and burger analogy is too selfish for my liking. It focuses on the variety of tastiness we want for ourselves, rather than the depth of nutritional goodness we can offer to our partner.

To be married is to say: "you are the person I choose to feed and nourish with all I have to give." Marriage prospers in this exclusive context. It's a rich exchange of nourishment.

In contrast, an affair - even one that doesn't get physical - squanders precious emotional resources that should be reserved for your other half. The result of spending that currency with someone else is that everyone gets robbed.

Perhaps you've grown giddy on pheromones and found yourself tiptoeing into the wrong hotel room. People justify this behaviour with the standard cliches: "I deserve some happiness," and "how can it be wrong when it feels so right?" Some call it escapism, some call it lust; others will dare to call it love. Whatever you call it, however you try to justify it, it's guaranteed to result in a train wreck.

Has anyone ever had an affair that turned out to be a great idea? We've all seen people's lives smashed upside down.

Yet there go the humans, merrily shunting their trains in the wrong direction. We are self destructive creatures, aren't we?

Maybe this is an overly sanctimonious response to the Brown affair. Real life is complicated and it's just not that simple to flick off your emotions when those hot and spicy feelings start sizzling. But faithfulness is a measure of the world's greatest heroes.

The truest romantic heroes are husbands and wives who return home from work with nothing to hide except birthday presents.

True heroes are those who honour their partners in public and in private.

The children of heroes grow up knowing that their mum loves their dad and that their dad loves their mum.

You're nobody's hero if you're chasing an affair. It might feel romantic and exciting, but who are you kidding? Affairs are really dumb.

To treasure your husband or your wife, that's the greatest pursuit.

Marcel Currin is a Tauranga writer and poet.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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