On Elon Musk, cheating and why marriage and human nature clash

Author, Musaazi Namiti. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • It is hard to tell what will happen to marriage 100 years from now. In many failed marriages, the root cause of problems has much to do with infidelity.    

The Journal of Wall Street, or Wall Street Journal, as the US newspaper is widely known, does not normally print stories about people’s private lives. But last Sunday, it published a story about the private life of a man who is not only a Wall Street heavyweight but is also the world’s richest.

That man is Elon Musk, the co-founder and chief executive of Tesla, a US company that makes electric cars. Mr Musk, the Wall Street Journal reported, had engaged in a brief affair with the estranged wife of his friend and Google co-founder Sergey Brin. The affair, the paper added, forced Mr Brin to file for divorce from Nicole Shanahan in January.

People who follow news about Mr Musk were probably not surprised. The alleged affair was the latest in a string of stories, some shocking, about Mr Musk’s personal life. He is the richest person with numerous children from at least three different women. Space X, another of his companies, paid an employee $250,000 to settle a claim that he sexually harassed her in 2016, according to Insider. 

Mr Musk dismissed the Wall Street Journal story and insisted that he and Mr Brin are still friends and that he had met 35-year-old Shanahan twice in three years, both times with many other people around, he wrote on Twitter. The denial was surprising because the very article Mr Musk called a fabrication stated that he had apologised to Mr Brin.

Mr Musk, 51, is not married. Like some of his fellow entrepreneurs, he married and walked out of marriage. Ms Shanahan, with whom he was involved romantically, had been married to Mr Brin, 48, for only three years. 

Some marriages manage to last for decades, some for even half a century, but many are failing like start-ups — and unmarried men and women are often heard saying that the days of marriage are numbered. Even marriages that last decades sometimes eventually fail. Bill Gates’ marriage had gone on for 27 years; Vladimir Putin’s for 30 years.

In many failed marriages, the root cause of problems has much to do with infidelity or cheating, which is not surprising at all. Humans are very sexual, and sex is an integral part of human nature. Sex is how we procreate, but it is for recreation, for the most part. The urge to have sex can come any time. Our hunger for sex is a bit like hunger for food. We do not eat one type of food. In fact, sometimes we eat food that we do not like very much just for change.

The problem with marriage, especially monogamous marriage, is that if it is to succeed, it has (to a certain extent) to work in a way that is incompatible with human nature. Humans want variety and hate a wearisome absence of variety, which leads to monotony and, by extension, boredom. Yet monogamous marriage means that your sexual hunger has to be satisfied with one person for years or decades even if the person you married bores you to tears sexually.

This is probably the best ammunition for critics of marriage. They view married people as pretenders. They know perfectly well that their sexual hunger cannot and will not be satisfied by just one person, but they sign a contract that means they must sleep with one person only.

It is hard to tell what will happen to marriage 100 years from now. Some people hate it; others are happy with it. But evidence suggests marriage and human nature clash.

Mr Musaazi Namiti is a journalist and former Al Jazeera digital editor in charge of the Africa desk
[email protected]    @kazbuk

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