Originally published Friday February, 6th 2015 in the wonderful Brooklin Town Crier, I’ve posted it here, because, well, not everyone lives in Brooklin. 😀 xo
Happy Valentine’s Day Brooklin! (And everyone else reading this no matter where you live! ;).
A time of love, romance, roses, and chocolates, relationships bloom in the frigid temperatures of a Canadian winter, but what makes a relationship? How do we define it? For the sake of this conversation, my good friend Webster defines relationship as: a romantic or sexual friendship between two people. That casts a wide net to include parameters such as: same sex, married, common law, dating, casual, and open. Is one type of relationship better than the other? Is one method right, making the other wrong: married vs. common law, dating vs casual, open vs monogamous? Every couple must evaluate their own relationship and define it in a way that suits their needs and desires, not by the expectations and/or judgements of others. I like to think we live in a pretty open-minded community. But how open are we?
To play devil’s advocate, I watched a fascinating panel discussion yesterday. The video, recorded at the French Institute Alliance Francaise, featured Esther Perel and Dan Savage.
The talk was entitled Infidelity: The Truth About Love, Lust, and Loyalty, and as always when Perel is involved, it made me question society’s beliefs about the institution of marriage. Depending on culture, upbringing, and personal experience, we all come into marriage with a list of preconceived notions, one of which involves a moral aversion to adultery. In fact a Gallop pole cited in the discussion discovered that 91% of Americans felt that cheating was the most morally reprehensible act out of a list of options that included, among others, suicide, polygamy, and cloning.
There’s a good reason for this. Infidelity hurts. Divorce rates are soaring, and just as many women as men are likely to cheat. Today’s relationships place an awful lot of expectations on our partners. Not only are we looking for the ‘other’ to complete our need for acceptance, validation, love, safety, and comfort, we want variety, adventure, fun, and passion to boot. A dichotomy that Perel feels is very difficult to balance. So what is a couple to do?
Apparently, we live in the swingers’ capital of Canada, though I’ve yet to see any actual proof of this. There are wonderful rumours that if a star is placed somewhere on the outside of a home, it means swingers live there, or if that fails, one can always examine the garage door, for if it sits half open, you better guard your keys because the swingers are open for business.
Savage described his relationship with his husband Terry as ‘monogamish,’ saying that they were more monogamist than not, but they allowed for freedom of exploration within the relationship. Savage believes that for many, marriage is doomed to fail if there is a binding, clad in stone, no wandering eyes or other body parts policy. He believes humans are not monogamist by nature and feels marriage is often a time bomb waiting to detonate. In fact, he encourages many of his readers (he has a syndicated column where he gives poignant and blunt sex and relationship advice) to cheat, or become open to a polyamorous relationship, acts which he believes can actually strengthen and save a marriage.
In her book, Mating in Captivity, Perel titillates with the concept of ‘inviting the third’, whether that third person is welcome within the bedroom or a part of the couple’s outside interests and pursuits. She feels it can add an element of the erotic and spark renewed passion in couples who may be experiencing the strain and lack of mojo often found in long-term, committed relationships.
Savage was quick to point out that commitment does not necessarily mean monogamy, and that often, having outside sexual interests is what keeps a couple together, actually supporting lasting commitment. He believes all people want to sleep with other people, some of us just don’t want to admit it, and trying to ignore the elephant in the room only leads to deception and cheating.
Emotional monogamy and sexual exclusivity are apparently not the same thing. One can be emotionally monogamous with their partner, keeping all the love, security, comfort, and joys of raising a family, and building a life together within their committed core relationship, yet remain free sexually to explore eroticism outside the typical boundaries and notions of a traditional marriage.
What do you think? Is it time to renegotiate the contract, open the garage, and introduce a little monogamish into our lives? 😀