Sunday, February 17, 2008

Time Travel and Fidelity

In theory, time travel is possible. Of course, we currently do not know how to do it. If we do, the knowledge is being hidden. And if time travelers from the future (or past) are visiting, they are not talking about it.

Despite this, I still got into an interesting argument with my wife Kate yesterday about marriage, time travel, and sexual fidelity in marriage. If a married person could travel in time to the distant past or distant future with the intent and ability to return to the present, and during this travel had sex with someone from these time periods, would it be cheating? Could it be classified as an affair?

Here is what I am thinking on this. When you get married, you promise to be true until death do you part. If you travel into the future after your spouse is dead, death has parted you. Also, if you go back in time to long before your spouse was born; the marriage has yet to take place. In either case, by definition, no adultery has happened.

My wife views this differently. Regardless of what time period you travel to past or future, you still are married. If you can and will return to the present time, the vows of marriage apply. It does not matter if your spouse has been born yet or has died already, the act of time travel does not negate any of the rules of marriage.

I realize this is a strange post for this history blog. I also realize it is an academic topic as the vast majority of people will never travel in time. However, it is an interesting topic and one I had not thought of until recently.

Any thoughts from the readers of this blog? Drop a comment if you have a view on this.


Anonymous said...

If you consider yourself married, time travel does not change anything. You are married and your promise to your wife (or husband) still applies.

Technecalities change nothing. I guess I vote in favor of Kate's view.

The Minstrel Boy said...

i would also have to say that intention is what tips the scale. if you're married in one dimension, and have the intention to return to the other one, then you are married where you are. technically parsing the fine points doesn't soften the error. count my pebble in the wife's basket.

Ben said...

The key point here is that you are able to travel back to your own time, which means you are able to maintain the commitment you made, and thus to have a relationship with someone else while this is possible is infidelity.

Linear concepts like 'til death' only apply when you are bound in one time period. So if on the other hand you were stuck in another time with no chance of a return to your own, you could hardly be bound by those vows.

M said...

OK, I concede the point. Kate was right.

However, I have to think this idea might make for a great plot line in a book or movie. Has this been done before?

The Minstrel Boy said...

the time traveler's wife

as i recall, does address this very issue.

the author voted with your wife too.

M said...

I read that book. The time traveler is a librarian. And he has an affair with his wife when he is an older man and she is a teenager years before he meets and marries her in his 20s. Nice book but not quite the same topic as he is sleeping with a younger version of his wife while he is married to her in the present. She of course knows this and approves!

Tess said...

Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series deals with just this question and my husband could never get past it, so never read past Book 1.

doughnuts said...

Marriage vows would need to be amended to take in this new concept..."Do you take this woman in sickness and in health, in good times and bad times, for richer or poorer, till death or dematerialisation by space-time discontinuum do you part...?"