Monday, July 4, 2011

Infidelity Keeps Us Together

That’s the title of yesterday’s cover story in the New York Times magazine. Mark Oppenheimer writes about sex columnist Dan Savage and Savage’s suggestion that marriages need less fidelity and more flexibility. Basically what Savage is suggesting is that monogamy isn’t quite natural and that we do relationships a disservice by pretending or insisting that absolute monogamy be the standard.

What’s good is that Savage is not espousing secrets or affairs or running around—rather he’s advocating for talking to your partner before, after, and during marriage to say, “This is who I really am; what I really want; and “Will you still love me if I need to try this out?” In a way, he’s talking about a very high form of commitment.

But just the title and then reading the article was disturbing. (Click on the link below to read the article). Right away I found myself asking, “What if John said he needed something –some kind of sexual experience—I couldn’t offer or even try?” Would I love him enough to say, “Ok, go be you?”

I doubt it.

In the article other experts on sex and marriage weigh in to say that some open marriages work but most do not—not because of the sex but because of the emotions and the dishonesty—again, not the dishonesty of the partner who needs to go outside the relationship but the dishonesty of the partner who agrees or acquiesces and then realizes they really are not OK with that.

But then the bigger and more personal question to myself is this: Do I have the right to want and insist on monogamy and fidelity in our marriage? This is a marriage that came to be from infidelity—so did I forfeit my rights by marrying a man who left his wife? Or do we painfully know just how high the cost is and not wish that on ourselves or on any others?

Reading this article provoked a deep and daring conversation with John about our love life and our sex life and our intellectual lives—and how we keep all of those alive so we can keep things fresh and exciting. And what it means to be sexually “good, giving and game” in a monogamous marriage.

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