Monogamy is an old construct based on a patriarchal tenant to track ownership of property, which has now become a belief system about love and sex and a strict set of rules of operation for life with someone.
It’s also basically impossible to maintain over a lifetime.
I grew up with the idea that I would find a man who would fill all the gaps in my life that I couldn’t fill on my own. He’d be a compliment to me as a grown woman, he’d support me in my endeavors to reach my goals outside of him and I would do the same. We would understand when the other needed time with friends or to immerse ourselves in our own careers.
Even with this understanding that we would each need many to feel fulfilled in most aspects of our lives, I also understood — without a shadow of a doubt — that I could only actualize my sexuality via him and him alone. Where I could turn to the world for everything else, sex was strictly off limits.
Maybe I have it wrong, but here’s how I perceive our basic, mainstream monogamy today:
It is unacceptable to:
- have non-professional contact with anyone but your partner – this includes emails, texts, sending photos, and touching
- speak in a sexual manner to a non-partner
- look appreciatively at anyone who is not a partner
- have sexual, lustful thoughts about someone else
- have desires for any of the above
There’s that old cliche, often drunkenly delivered by a bro in the wedding party, that sums it up pretty clearly: Marriage is basically like eating steak and only steak for the rest of your life. And it is if you try to follow the rules most of us know about, but then we wake up one day and reality takes a shit on our dinner plate. Oh hi, Reality. Is that you?
I can’t quite figure out why, when it comes to sex, we close the shutters like we do. Why are our partners not allowed to even talk to another woman? Or think about another man? Or engage in a dance of wits and sexual energy? Is it all the fear of our partner fucking someone else? Of loving another? Of being left?
I’m not at all saying the answer to our monogamous society is polyamory or open relationships (those are as difficult in their own ways to navigate as a monogamous relationship, for the record), but I can’t help but wonder if we aren’t making our relationships all the more impossible because our expectations are completely outer limits. Why not attempt monogamy, but understand your wife really needs for other men to get off to pics of her naked body or that sometimes your man needs to jerk off to a real live woman who thinks he’s available? All while trusting no one will abandon anyone.
I’m thinking about this for a number of reasons. First, because some of you have shared with me that you think The Soldier might be married. His unwillingness to share his last name, his disappearance, his general unavailability. It’s raised flags for some of you.
Second, an old lover messaged me a couple of weeks ago. When we did our little naked dance 5 years ago, he was dating a woman and lived with her; it was very serious. Today, they’re married.
And third, there’s another man, a tall, green-eyed fella who duped me into thinking he was single. After our date, on a grey rainy morning, he texted me his confession. I felt like the rain streaking my bedroom windows were my hopes of an “us” symbolically slipping away. We met later that night to hash it out and as it turned out, to make out some more.
The thing of it is, I’m not out to wreck homes, but neither am I out to tell people what to do with theirs. I know how hard monogamy is, I know how painful it can be to leave, and if I can provide some kind of respite, then I am happy to play along.
I’ve never known anyone, man or woman, who breaks a promise just for the thrill and not a greater gain: the ability to stay in a sexless marriage, the resolve to keep the status quo, the strength to stand a failing relationship, the stamina to wait until the nest is empty.
There might be better ways of handling feelings of neglect, anger, or desire than turning to someone new in secret, but I get it. The problems of a relationship might seem simultaneously insurmountable and precious. No one wants to walk away from a stable home just because his wife won’t suck his dick anymore, but the dick must be sucked, figuratively speaking. Everyone’s dick must be sucked.
When I’ve cheated it was while under the influence of alcohol. In my 20s, belly-scorching Southern Comfort would strip me down to deeply suppressed feelings of dissatisfaction and twice I found myself writhing on the dance floor with strange men who were neither of my boyfriends at the given time.
In the following days I contemplated my actions, which had been a surprise to even me. I didn’t confess, I didn’t even feel all that guilty. The men whose mouths I’d latched onto were irrelevant, already forgotten specters in my cloudy thoughts. What was important was that I had been compelled into their arms by some unseen force, my sub-conscious. It was telling me I wasn’t happy.
That sub-conscious muscle is what propelled me into the arms of another man while I was married, too, and it was impossible to ignore. It forced me to review my misery to a life-altering degree.
Without telling my husband what had transpired between me and the other man, I described my heartache, my sadness, my complete unhappiness in our marriage. We even briefly opened up our marriage, but had the disastrous rule of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which felt disingenuous and wildly impractical. I spent most of my time hiding my texting activity and arranging trysts. It was exhausting.
Technically, I have cheated — the Rules of Monogamy say I have — but I have never had to look at someone and see the hurt in his eyes or watch his heart break. Even knowing the technical definition, I was still able to do some emotional gymnastics in order to believe that maybe I didn’t really cheat-cheat because it wasn’t with my vagina. Is a slut a slut if no one is there to judge her?
My stumbles outside the cinched belt of monogamy were basically in the dark. The boyfriends likely wouldn’t have been too pleased, but I’d have defended myself vociferously that it was just a drunken night. Certainly my husband would have had serious grounds for seismic outrage. I count myself as lucky that a) no one witnessed my mistakes and b) I didn’t wait for them to become even bigger and either ended the relationship or attempted to fix it immediately.
This entire blog is based on my set of sexual morals which are loose compared to the majority, therefore none of this may come as a surprise to you. The fact that I am apologetic towards those who cheat and also engage with it on the other end means that I accept a broader understanding of what a person might need in life and that sometimes we’re forced to find it outside of a partner. And I don’t judge.
It also means that I don’t feel any kind of responsibility to police a relationship. As I told the tall, green-eyed man, “I don’t mind being with you, but the second I get a whiff of drama about this, I’m out. I don’t want your girlfriend to know I exist; it’s your job to use me to better your life, not fuck it up.” He understood and agreed. We’ve yet to engage in anything beyond some cum art on my tits, but I’m open to more.
And if The Soldier has a wife, well, I assume he has his reasons, too, and if our lives remain in positions to benefit from our knowing one another, then great. If not, peace out.
The married man, the one who was attached 5 years ago, has long used other women to supplement a sexless, neglected life. When I asked him why he didn’t just leave her he said he loved her and felt he could get his needs met this way while still building a life with her. Ok, I’m in.
I have some rules that help me decide what to do: 1) He may not talk shit about his woman. Ever. 2) Finding outside companionship can’t be in retaliation. I’ve turned men down because they’ve called their wives prudes, frigid, and cows. How dare they.
I don’t want to split hairs with anyone on this; I know lots of people might think I’m depraved, a bad woman, a scourge on society. If he’s married, he’s off limits, right? But I am dissolute, truly. Some people are very black and white, but it’s a black and white that resembles prison bars, not a Hitchcock movie. There’s no tension, plot, or climax.
Maybe people wouldn’t hide and sneak around if they were allowed to be a fully sexual person within parameters everyone felt comfortable with and agreed to. An understanding that not just one person could possibly fulfill the endless depths and needs of a single individual. A regard for your partner’s needs, both physical and emotional, in an honest and open way. Being forced to break your vows in order to survive a relationship is a heart-crushing process; we do it to find peace, not to maim.
If you are lucky enough to find that person, then I applaud you, but for the rest of us, we need more than just the one and we need the freedom to find it. If we did, no one would be accused of cheating, they’d just be living.