When I interviewed Eric Anderson, an American sociologist at England’s University of Winchester, a few years ago, when his provocative book, The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating, was published, I was disturbed by his claim that cheating is a rational choice for people constrained by the social dictate of monogamy.
According to Anderson:
The reason men lie about cheating, however, is mostly because they know that if they ask for permission to have recreational sex: 1) they will be denied 2) (after they are denied) they will be subject to scrutiny and increased relationship policing; 3) they will be stigmatized as immoral, and most likely broken up with. Thus, honesty doesn’t meet their desires of having both a long-term partner and recreational sex with others.” tweet
I thought about that when I stumbled upon an article in the Washington Post that culled GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s comments on women, sex, marriage and feminism taken straight from his books.
If you’ve paid attention to some of his recent comments about women, you probably thought you’d heard it all — and perhaps more than enough.
So I was shocked to discover that he once considered asking Ivana, his first wife, to open up their marriage, according to his book Trump: Surviving at the Top:
I even thought, briefly, about approaching Ivana with the idea of an ‘open marriage.’ But I realized there was something hypocritical and tawdry about such an arrangement that neither of us could live with — especially Ivana. She’s too much of a lady.” tweet
Right. Clearly he realized it was an arrangement he couldn’t live with (but of course decided it’s something she couldn’t live with, being the “lady” he pigeonholed her to be). So here’s how he treated his “lady” — he cheated on her with Marla Maples, who ended up being wife No. 2. So much for any concerns about being “hypocritical and tawdry.” Sorry, but you don’t get to decide for your spouse what may or may not be “hypocritical and tawdry” for him or her. At least give your spouse the option to decide for herself.
Non-monogamy, but not for all
It’s too bad he didn’t present it to Ivana and let her make up her own mind about whether it would work for them or not. Maybe that would have salvaged their marriage. Maybe not. Who knows, although let’s be honest — many men want the non-monogamous option for themselves and not their partner, as Anderson discovered, and I would pretty much guess Trump would be no different. He was no longer turned on by a woman who was a “businessperson rather than a wife,” according to his book. He never gave her the option and instead decided to cheat on her with Marla, which clearly excluded Ivana from the discussion about her own sexual needs and their needs as a couple.
No one knows how many people are having affairs — many say the infidelity rate hovers around 20 percent although, let’s be honest; people who are cheating aren’t always truthful about their infidelity (especially, evidently, women). But we’re much more likely to disapprove of it nowadays; as one sociologist puts it, the “increasing hostility towards affairs is located in the discursive context of the ‘specialness’ of sex and the centrality of trust and communication to constructions of contemporary relationships.”
Do we prefer cheaters?
There are many, many, many things to not like about Trump; this is yet another reason, although in the grand scheme of things not to like about him, perhaps it’s a mere blip — if even that much. Even if Trump and Ivana stayed together because they had an open marriage, I still wouldn’t want to have him be my president, and my guess is that if they stayed together as a that way, Trump would never, ever have become the GOP presidential candidate.
We’d much rather elect a cheater than someone in a consensually non-monogamous marriage — at least we can relate to cheating. But an open marriage? Shudders!!
That may change, however. More millennials are experimenting with consensual non-monogamy. This makes sense as they’re also delaying marriage, so they have many more years to explore relationships. Will that change once they tie the knot, if they tie the knot? We’ll have to see.
But we’ve had a black president and we are on our way to having a woman be president. Maybe a single, or asexual, or LGBTQ or consensually non-monogamous president is next.
Want to learn how to have an open marriage? Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). Order the book on Amazon, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.