I’ve been busy interviewing couples for The New I Do recently who experimented with opening their marriage (these have been fun interviews!), and was struck by what one woman told me.
Monogamy can be dangerous, she says, because if you’re unable to express your sexuality, express being attracted to other people and be able to flirt with others “it just shuts down a part of you. It changes who you are in your marriage, and so long-term that can be really damaging.”
We are sexual beings, and our sexuality attracts someone to us. But once we become a monogamous couple, something changes. Ever been with someone who tries to corral your sexuality by not allowing you to dress a certain way, or not act a certain way, like flirting? How did that make you feel?
Of course, not everyone who’s monogamous isn’t able to flirt or openly discuss who’s hot. Many couples don’t have any jealousy around what they — and I — consider trivial matters.
But others do, and if you are forced to suppress that part of your sexuality, then she’s right — it changes who you are in that relationship, and perhaps not for the best.
At Gawker, one woman says that although she’s been living with her boyfriend for more than a year, she isn’t too keen to being defined by her monogamous relationship:
“It’s not because I’m permanently on the prowl, but because I just have a romantic idea of being a rugged individual, or something. I am an army of one, at least in my head, even when I have a boyfriend. I recognize this is totally ridiculous, but it’s a habit that’s been tough to break. Part of it might come from feeling that men pay less attention to me when I have a boyfriend, but not in the obvious, sexual sense. I genuinely like hanging out with dudes and the fantasy of being ‘one of the guys,’ or whatever, and I’ve found that when men immediately know you have a boyfriend they’re less likely to want to hang out, even if it’s in an office environment. So they won’t even want to be ‘friends’ with me if I am with a guy, and while I know that’s lame on their part, it also kind of bums me out.”
It’s as if she’s being seen as a temptation instead of a person; she’s taken, and therefore has no other value.
But some say flirting is, well, flirting with disaster:
You may justify what you’re doing by telling yourself that it has a positive effect on your home life because it boosts your mood. … In a marriage, you’re supposed to share your resources with your family. But you’re secretly diverting away the best of what you have to offer and lavishing it on yourself. Why? Because you think you deserve more than everyone else. Face it: Your ego is the problem.
Not so, says Mating in Captivity author Esther Perel. She believes the way for monogamous couples to get out of their sexual rut is to make their sex lives more conscious and deliberate. She laments the fact that we don’t flirt. If we did and encouraged our partner to do the same, we’d be able to not only enjoy our own power to attract but also our partner’s. Instead of seeing flirting as threatening, it could be a turn-on.
Couples need to define for themselves what they consider cheating and set boundaries so both can feel safe and secure in the relationship. Some may see flirting as cheating, others not. Regardless, it’s a good idea to explore the ways in which monogamy can make us feel the need to adjust or change our sexuality, for better or for worse
- Are you able to flirt in your relationship?
- Is flirting cheating?
- Can you talk about whom you find attractive with your partner?
- Do you try to control your partner’s sexuality, or does your partner control your sexuality?