Is ‘Adultery’ the way to save a marriage, Paulo Coelho?
I first came across this novel when my roommate was reading it. Just the title, Adultery, caught my attention and intrigued me enough to ask him if I could borrow it.
This was when another roommate, and student of psychology, told me the psychological content in this novel. This further elevated my enthusiasm to start reading this book by Paulo Coelho.
To know what this book is about, the synopsis on the cover will give you an interesting gist:
“A woman in her 30s begins to question the routine and predictability of her days. In everybody’s eyes, she has a perfect life: happy marriage, children and a career.”
This is enough to get you going and anticipate what this woman will do and all that she can do.
The story of Adultery revolves around a journalist by the name of Linda who begins to question her life. The questions that cross her mind are:
What would she do if her husband died?
If she died, who will look after her children? Will they be in good hands?
Will her husband take a mistress if she gets old? Is he already having an affair?
She thinks about how she hasn’t shown any interest in sex in the past three years so it is possible that her husband has found someone else.
As more questions emerge, it gets difficult for Linda to answer them. Her dissatisfaction with life, her marital life in particular, grows. She begins to feel afraid of everything – life, death, love (or lack of it) and starts panicking over the feeling that she is wasting the best years of her life.
Then one day, she comes across Jacob Konig, a successful politician who also happens to be Linda’s former high school boyfriend. While interviewing him, Jacob makes a move on her and Linda reciprocates. As they get closer, they both feel like they’re back at high school, forgetting that they’re in their 30s and leading different lives.
From this point on, they both secretly meet and continue their affair. Owing to the affair, Linda feels satisfied with life and a new sense of freedom, but her illusions carry on. She decides to get psychological help. During this time, she interviews Cuban Shaman. They talk about adultery and he says something insightful:
“If married people, for whatever reason, decide to look for another partner, this does not necessarily mean that the couple is not doing well. Nor do I believe that sex is the primary motive. It has more to do with boredom, with the lack of passion for life, with shortage of challenges. It’s a combination of factors.
Because, ever since we have moved away from God, we live a fragmented existence. We try to find oneness, but do not know the way back; thus, we are in a state of constant dissatisfaction where society prohibits and creates laws, but this does not solve problems.”
Cuban and Linda further talk about why men cheat more than women, even when they know that this behaviour is self-destructive. They come to the conclusion that men and women have the same desire to cheat on their partners but women have more self-control.
The research and discussions about adultery make sense to Linda and her relationship with Jacob helps her overcome her depression and displeasure with life. The adultery, in some ways, strengthens her relationship with her husband and things begin to get back to normal.
The book talks about how it is important to face your inner feelings. If you want to live a successful and meaningful life, you need to give your emotions some consideration. Also, a true relationship, whether during, after or before marriage, is beyond the horizons of just physicality or sexuality. The psychological aspects of relationships are ignored by many and this is what causes bonds to break.
As a conclusion, according to Coelho, what kills a relationship is the lack of challenges and the feeling that nothing is new anymore. The book ends with a beautiful note that we should learn to love better and that life is not a vacation; it is a constant learning process that teaches you something new, through your relationships with people, with every passing day.
Additionally, according to the definition set in Oxford English dictionary, adultery means ‘voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not their spouse’.
The basic concept of adultery seems inapplicable in a Pakistani society – and it doesn’t have to be applicable either. The act is unacceptable for the purpose of a better and successful marriage. Nevertheless, the concept Coehlo portrays as with no sexual relation, it contributes to the well-being of a marriage. This is what may drive a marriage towards greater understanding if the partners agree.
But then again, Coehlo’s concept of adultery will never be seen as a means of improving one’s marriage in our society – it will be rather seen as something that ruins and breaks it further. The judgmental society we live in, will only consider it ‘wrong’ and that might ruin one’s marital relationship even further.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to delve into the subjects of inner feelings and what causes people to be unfaithful to one another. I would especially recommend this to married couples who at some point in their marriage have felt a disconnection from their partner.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.