Are we supposed to be with one person all our life, a recent HuffPost article asked. While not condoning infidelity, author Lisa Haisha wonders if “adultery may be inevitable,” especially since we live longer than ever before. As she writes:
(I)n the course of a long term relationship, taking into account the practical realities of our human need to experience life on our own, or through experiences with other platonic or romantic relationships, perhaps a new kind of conversation can unfold with your spouse or partner where you jointly communicate your needs and set reasonable and practical parameters of what is and isn’t allowed in your marriage, so the negative and hidden behaviors associated with adultery don’t take place. … Maybe the tenets of a successful marriage should not be whether the couple stays monogamous for decades, but rather whether the couple openly communicates about what their unique marriage will look like, what will be deemed acceptable and what will not, and then honoring that joint decision.
She certainly is not the first to suggest this. Not only do Susan Pease Gadoua and I talk about the reality of assumed monogamy in The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels, but many others, like columnist and author Dan Savage, have questioned why sexual fidelity should trump stability. Monogamy works for many, he says, but obviously not for everyone — why don’t we openly talk about that?
He proposes (and practices with his husband of several years) a monogamish relationship — one that allows some side action within certain boundaries. And while he admits sanctioned straying may not work for everyone, the monogamy conversation must be had nonetheless:
Folks on the verge of making those monogamous commitments, need to look at the wreckage around them — all those failed monogamous relationships out there (Schwarzenegger, Clinton, Vitter, whoever’s on the cover of US magazine this week) — and have a conversation about what it’ll mean if one or the other partner should cheat. And agree, at the very least, to getting through it, to place a higher value on the relationship itself than on one component of it, sexual exclusivity.
We know that many believe infidelity is “bad” — in fact, 91 percent consider it morally wrong. But, that doesn’t stop us from indulging anyway; while infidelity statistics are sketchy because they’re self-reported, some believe as many as 70 percent of married couples are cheating. A recent study indicates that 77 percent believe infidelity is more common today, and 37 percent of divorced adults saying cheating was the cause of their divorce.
So, do the math.