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Trust is, as is widely accepted, important in a relationship. But trust your partner with what? Usually 'trust' implies that you're being faithful to your partner; you're pursuing one person romantically at a time. It can also mean that you're confident about your partner's values & his morality.

What is trust from the point of view of a romantic relationship for an Objectivist? And, is it right to have a relationship with two or more persons at a time? If it is, isn't trust (as in being faithful) redundant? Was Ayn Rand right when she had an (informed) affair while already married?

asked Oct 18 '11 at 03:35

HarPea's gravatar image


The question describes Ayn Rand's affair with NB as "informed," which seems to refer to the fact that Ayn Rand, unlike nearly all other participants in extramarital affairs, insisted on she and NB informing their respective spouses of their intention to have an affair, and even obtaining their spouses' consent to do so. Ayn Rand lived up to that principle, while NB blatantly failed to do so, "cheating" on both Ayn Rand and Mrs. B in a second concurrent affair. This cannot properly be described as a breach of trust by Ayn Rand. (More information on all of this can be found in The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics, by James S. Valliant, which includes an extensive collection of material in Ayn Rand's own words, from her private journals, posthumously released for publication by Ayn Rand's Estate.)

Ayn Rand's approach (an informed affair) illustrates the proper principle for anyone who feels the need, as Ayn Rand apparently did, to enter into an affair with someone else while already married. (See also Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life, by Michael Paxton, pp. 142-143.) Still, if the question is fidelity rather than trust, and what even an "informed" affair would do to the original relationship psychologically, even if the spouse consents to it in advance, then I can see considerable room to wonder. Yet Ayn Rand's own marriage clearly survived her painful experience with NB, and Ayn Rand and Frank remained together all the way to Frank's natural death in old age.

Most people who cheat (even NB) simply do it without discussing it in advance with their spouses. That certainly is not condoned by either Ayn Rand or Objectivism. At the very least, it's a breach of contract; and an uninformed affair cuts far deeper than that psychologically.

It should also be noted that Objectivism regards sexual love as a major value in human life, not to be treated lightly or casually. For Ayn Rand, her affair with NB developed in exactly thay way, even though NB's role seems to have been very different in motivation, and thoroughly value-abnegating (as Valliant's book explains)..

answered Oct 19 '11 at 03:57

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

  1. Is it in the best interest of a rationally selfish person to stay in a psychologically-devastating relationship of that kind (even if his partner's affair is an informed one)?
  2. I've heard the reason why Frank chose to stay with Ayn Rand was that he was an old man & had to financially depend on her. Is it true?
(Oct 19 '11 at 08:29) HarPea HarPea's gravatar image

I certainly don't think it would be good for the children, if there are any. That issue didn't apply to either Ayn Rand or NB. Whether or not an informed and consented affair would necessarily always be "psychologically devastating" for the other spouse is hard to say. I don't think Objectivism (or any objective standard of value) has any basis to prejudge that unconditionally in all cases. Remember, also, that in general there is no objective moral obligation to remain in a "psychologically devastating" or otherwise unhealthy relationship at all; one can always opt to end one's relationship romantically or even entirely, although Objectivism does hold that it should be a serious value-choice, not something done lightly or casually. Objectivism basically says that one's life is best served by choosing one's values rationally (which includes thinking long-range), and then acting accordingly.

(Regarding Frank's state of mind, I have no idea. It certainly appears that Ayn Rand valued him very highly, even as her "top value," especially after the shock of the NB debacle, as well as throughout her many years with Frank before NB's ultimately stunted "blossoming.")

(Oct 19 '11 at 22:13) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

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Asked: Oct 18 '11 at 03:35

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Last updated: Oct 19 '11 at 22:13