Russia, June 5, 1999
Are you more a man with her than your wife and kids?This past week I returned to Moscow, hanging with Lidia while she studied for her ACCA accounting exams. The whole time I've been trying to figure out what to write about since I pretty much wrote myself out of topics in this city last fall. Then, Saturday night I went to a friend's dinner party and a new topic literally stared me in the face.
Walking into the dinner party, I saw a co-worker from PwC. I'm not really friends with the guy; he and I had serious disagreements about the proper way to run a department to the point where he became one of the main reasons I was happy to leave the Moscow office. Needless to say, I was disappointed he was at the party, but I'm not one to let personal differences simmer over to public life so I kept a smile on my face and neutrality in my voice. He did the same, and the night progressed peacefully. Well, that was until I realized who he was at the party with.
As far as I know, he has a wife and two kids. They, not finding Moscow to be Eden, went back to the country where he is from. I'm not sure about their relationship, for I didn't even know he was married until recently, when he took her to an office party, but I am sure that he is doing something all to familiar on this side of the globe. At the party Saturday night, he was with a young Russian lady who he obviously was more than just friends with.
I was shocked! I never thought to highly about the guy, but this definitely cemented my disgust for the man. I still didn't say a word to him, though I did want to ask how his wife and kids were, or be really mean and ask her how much she was getting paid, but I didn't. I didn't because infidelity is so common here that it is almost expected. There is no way I could slam the girl, she probably knew he was married and didn't care. And he was just following local custom, though by bringing her to a party with his co-workers, he made everyone a silent accomplice to his sin. Well, everyone but me.
The level of infidelity here is shocking to the average Westerner brought up with the ideal and hopefully with the obvious role models in their parents, of marital fidelity through the entire marriage. Of the married Russian couples I know, roughly half of them I personally know, or have been told, that one partner is not faithful. Sometimes it's the wife sneaking around with a lover, but usually, as it is with most cultures, it's the man following his wandering eye with a wandering hand and more.
Shockingly, Russians usually don't try to hide their actions and they don't feel any guilt about it. At one party, a wife attempted to seduce me while her husband was drinking in the next room, and a husband I know even brings his flings back to his apartment. At least he has the decency to make sure his young daughter is at her grandmother's and the wife is out of town.
I was about to condemn the entire country as a den of sin until a friend of mine sat down with her married lover and explained the method behind the madness. As she explained, and he agreed, Russians get married very young, usually around twenty years old, to their first love, before they have a chance to play with the opposite sex. So by the time they are twenty-five, they feel like they've missed out on the fun and they are getting bored with the same (and maybe only) lover they've been with for the past five to seven years. They want to see what other lovers are like, with the same curiosity that we all have, but usually burn through as single twenty-something's in the West.
Some couples do it on the sly, with the partner kinda knowing its going on, and maybe even having lovers themselves. Some couples do it in the open, but this is rare. Many couples, not surprisingly, fall apart around five years after they form, giving Russia a new phenomena that was rare in the Soviet days, a high divorce rate.
Therefore, with all that cultural and social mix in play, when I saw my co-worker with his lover, I was shocked that he was a Westerner doing it, but not really shocked that it was happening in Russia.