Every now and then, you read a feature story in a major newspaper and, as you read and read, you think to yourself: "OK, at some point, the reporter just has to raise a moral or religious question about all of this. Don't they?" That's what happened to me last weekend as I flew across America and finally got around to reading the USA Today business page feature by reporter Gary Stoller titled "Infidelity is in the air for road warriors."
Here is the opening of the piece.
Melissa cheats on her husband on business trips but not in her hometown. "That would be lethal," she says.
Like many frequent business travelers, she uses the protection of the road to live a secret life of romance far from spouses or partners. Their affairs range from one-night stands to relationships that last for years. They're usually with a co-worker, a business associate or someone they encounter often during repeat visits to a city.
"Business travel creates an opportunity to cheat away from prying eyes," says infidelity expert Ruth Houston, author of Is he Cheating on You? 829 Telltale Signs.
This is a pretty basic moral question and there are several ways to answer it. Here is a short list.
(1) Infidelity is wrong, but we don't really know why.
(2) Infidelity is wrong, for a very specific, some would say "eternal," reason.
(3) Infidelity is not wrong or, perhaps, not always wrong.
(4) Infidelity is wrong -- especially with business associates or those under your supervision -- if your business says that it is.
(5) Infidelity close to home is stupid and we really can't talk in terms other than that unless the lawyers say that we can. What's the big deal?
You can probably tell which angles the business page of a national newspaper would emphasize in this story. What amazed me -- call me naive -- is which angle hardly appeared at all, in a nation with Judeo-Christian DNA in its system.
Here is the closest we get to a chat with Moses.
Infidelity studies show that extramarital sex occurs in up to 25% of heterosexual marriages in the USA, according to Adrian Blow, a Michigan State University professor who is a marriage and family therapist. The studies show that more men than women are cheating, but none have specifically looked at business travelers.
That group is likely to have a higher infidelity rate, Blow and other experts say, because many factors make cheating easier. Among them: freedom from a spouse's scrutiny and home responsibilities, more opportunities to meet new people, and the near-constant availability of alcohol at after-hour meals and social events.
Chris Arnzen of the National Institute of Marriage, a non-profit Christian counseling service, says business travel often involves competition for a sale or contract, and some people view sex as "a way to celebrate a success or soothe a defeat." If that's their outlook, "It sets them up for infidelity," she says.
So the religious counselor is an expert in ways to celebrate victories and recover from defeats. But that's about it. Does this "ghost" in USA Today seem strange to anyone else?