Book Review: 'Our Cheating Hearts'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 June, 2013, 5:23pm


Our Cheating Hearts: Love & Loyalty, Lust & Lies

by Kate Figes


The signs are usually there: you might have noticed some upgrades in the lingerie drawer, surges in car mileage, or you're wondering why your partner has started taking the phone into the shower. Computers, mobiles and social media activity have become by far the most common means by which a cheating heart reveals itself. Infidelity is so common, this book contends, that it is likely to happen, "at some point in a long relationship", to us all.

Kate Figes is a family mediator who now asks if long-lasting monogamy is possible in an age when we all live longer, and when many of us have so much money and personal freedom, and are bombarded with images and assertions about other people's sex lives all the time. Expectations about what we should get out of life generally, and sex in particular, have risen, she says, to the point where affairs don't simply look like an answer to the disappointment, boredom and unhappiness that are "the norm in many marriages", but something akin to a reasonable self-maintenance choice, made as easy to arrange by the internet as any other shopping. Figes has persuaded scores of people to share their stories of cheating, betrayal and marital pain, and they bear plentiful witness to the insanity lust can provoke: the bunny-boiling rages, the histrionic phone calls, the unscheduled appearances at the office.

Her contributors often sound quite nostalgic about the turmoil they have lived through, and can be refreshingly honest. Figes's most surprising assertion is that monogamy is valued as never before, and that fidelity has "assumed more meaning as a marker of their commitment" in the current generation. A book like this demands closure, and in her last two chapters, Figes strains every fibre to provide it. She goes from caring and sharing to deploring all in a trice, and in a chapter on the effects of divorce on children, blames unfaithful couples for just about every evil in society.

Guardian News & Media