The French are known as the lovers of the world, their culture romanticised in films and songs. This easy hedonistic lifestyle is very different to the more prudish Anglo-Saxon views popular in America and the UK. But should we embrace the French attitude to cheating?
The rate of infidelity in France seems to be a lot higher than in other parts of the west. Some research claims around 40% of French people do not believe sexual fidelity is needed in love. Rather, many believe that love and sex are totally different things and their views on infidelity reflect those opinions.
It’s not that the French support cheating. In fact, there’s a large amount of expectation that any such dealings need to be discreet and being indiscreet is both rude and selfish. However, they don’t see it as a mortal sin. This can be seen in the different ways the public reacted to their leader’s personal affairs.
Bill Clinton in the USA was heavily condemned for his actions. Many believed it to be entirely morally wrong. The overall atmosphere of people’s perceptions is extremely different to how the French reacted to finding out Francois Hollande had a mistress.
Honesty might not be the best policy
The way affairs happen in France is that they are simply not talked about. The cinq-à-sept translates to 5 to 7, referring to the time after work and meet their lover before getting home. Now it’s often used to refer to affairs in a way that shows it’s no big deal.
The affair is a sex thing. You are sexually attracted to someone (who is not your partner) and they are attracted to you. As consenting adults, you may meet once or more regularly for a casual fling. It doesn’t hamper your time or affections towards your formal spouse, and they never need to know.
The emphasis is on the fact your spouse is who your heart belongs to. They get your affection and attention and passionate love. As long as that isn’t affected, then what’s wrong with a little outside sex here and there? Some believe it even helps keep them more sexually interested in the partner and that it actually helps spice up their sex lives.
But this happy scenario only works if the affair remains unspoken. It’s a thing, but at the same time, not a thing. As soon as it’s brought up, it becomes a problem. If it’s brought up, then questions arise on how serious in nature the relationship of the affair is. If it’s simply casual with no consequences, then why bring it up?
Some may even believe it’s better to lie to your spouse about it. “Of course he lied. That’s what a gentleman does.”
Not for everyone
Of course, don’t believe this lifestyle is how all French people believe. Numbers-wise, it’s actually still the minority that lives this way. Mostly the middle and upper classes.
One of the reasons it works is because it’s inherently part of a culture in France. One that both the men and women have a mutual but silent understanding of. If you wanted to have an affair in the US, your partner probably doesn’t want you to lie about it.
There’s a much bigger emphasis on how love and marriages work long-term that seems to play a large part in the lifestyle as well. Women continue to work on themselves, to always be desirable and have the ability to catch the attention of other men. Men have to continually win the affections of his partner.
This can sound either tiring or exciting. Many in France believe this is the key to keeping the spark going in a long-term relationship. Some believe that affairs help keep them motivated or remind them to cherish their spouse.
The logic doesn’t make sense to everyone. It’s not something you can simply switch to either. You would have to find like minded people first, and probably be quite open about it. Unless you end up having a French lover, or live in France, a better solution would be to embrace the idea of just having an open relationship. Which isn’t too far off what the French do.