Regardless of the story, is it historical romance, sci-fi, Dark Fantasy, or documentary, somewhere in a marriage if there is infidelity, there will be controversy. Even in the most accepted of cultures of arranged marriages and multiple wives, one wife “trumps” another wife usually over when they married and how many sons were born, depending on the culture.
So when I see historic series on television, it’s interesting to me how human feelings transcend the centuries; because not matter what, if a man chooses another woman, the first wife will not be happy about it in most cases. Why should she? After marriage and supporting her man, giving him children, and taking care of things while he’s away, he brings home another woman? What gratitude!
But am I being too hard on men? I’ll point out the Victorian period and a Churchill biography I read where a woman told him if he didn’t take a lover then he was “selfish.” Really? Wow, that’s an interesting take on things. However, the upper classes had their own agenda, certainly not to exclude Winston’s mother, known for her lovers.
I’ve had a few men (very few) give me the argument that a single man is really needed to “provide” for many women for breeding children. OK, I get that. But for most societies, the population is generally 50% of each gender. I’ll take the high road for that discussion and leave it for the sociologists.
What does infidelity have to do with the writer? Answer: If you’re writing about marriage, everything. One has so many possibilities in character development and taking in a culture to consider the risks and consequences of the behavior. Generally it’s thought women don’t have the upper hand and depending on the time in history, they didn’t. But I don’t believe it made things easy for men with integrity. Men needed wives to raise their children, and most of us understand the importance of a parent’s relationship to a child, and when the father is away, the mother is paramount.
It’d be convenient to say there should be marriages that are completely open without jealousy and if so, that’s great. But so often, marriage vows are considered sacred, and breaking them breaks more than just a ceremonial promise. It breaks hearts, breaks families, breaks relationships, and sometimes forms opportunities.