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Monogamy – Is it viable long term?

8 May 2014 7 comments

A few weeks back a friend arrived at my doorstep crying and shaking uncontrollably. He'd just found out his wife of eight years had been cheating on him with multiple men over an extended period of time. They've been together for fifteen years and have young children. His world changed the moment he confronted her about her infidelity.

Will it last?Will it last?

He and I have spent many hours since, discussing how and why it happened. Given he had access to her phone and laptop he was able to view the full extent of her cheating. Seeing photos of naked men and the lewd photos that she had sent them was very painful for him. Reading the message exchanges between them made it worse. Rage and anger threatened to swallow him whole. His life morphed into an emotional roller coaster leaving him with mixed feelings and many unanswered questions. Why did she do it? Did she still love him? Did he still sexually satisfy her? Was she unhappy? What will he do now? And there were many more questions he and I debated. Of course I didn't have many answers. Like him I was very angry so it was hard for me to see a way through the confused mess of questions and feelings.

Over the years many friends have confided in me how they've cheated on their wives or partners. And sometimes, although not as common, they've told me how they've been the victim of infidelity. A question I've often discussed with them is; can we maintain long term monogamous relationships? Having an emotional and sexual relationship with one person long term surely must have benefits, right? What's the definition of long term?

I think we'd all agree that the honeymoon period of a relationship is the best. Sexual desire and frequency is at its peak in the first few months of a relationship. It can continue for many months after and sometimes even a few years before it begins to wane. Prolonging that passion is a challenge for all couples. We all know it. And we've all been in relationships where the sex just keeps on getting better over time. The sex gets better because you develop a deeper emotional connection, you're more comfortable with each other, you know what turns each other on and what each other wants, you develop feelings for each other and because you want to pleasure each other. Unfortunately there often comes a point in time in most relationships when you or your partner is sexually bored and needs more. So, where to from there?

There's an old wives tale that goes like this; new couples should take a large jar and put a jelly bean into it for every time they have sex in the first year, then they should take a jelly bean out of the jar every time they have sex thereafter. The theory goes that they'll never empty the jar. I believe this theory could certainly be proved correct in many relationships however I also believe there are ways to disprove the logic.

So is it the diminishment in sexual desire, and hence sexual frequency in a relationship, that makes long term monogamy unsustainable for many adults? A monogamous relationship is usually defined as an emotional and sexual relationship with one person, however what if a couple decides that their relationship is their primary relationship however they're both free to have other sexual partners? Is that defined as a hybrid monogamous relationship? I believe most people when discussing monogamous relationships are usually referring to sexual activity, thus if a couple conceded their relationship was their primary relationship however they could both have sex with others (an open relationship) then this wouldn't be deemed that they were in a monogamous relationship.

Western societal beliefs and attitudes, along with community standards, generally command that monogamy should prevail. We 'think' we should be married and that we should only ever have a sexual relationship with one person at a time (and those relationships should be long term). Every now and then I think its good practice to challenge the norm and ask questions. Is the logic sound and does it suit you? We're all different. What works for some adults doesn't work for others. I try not to judge. I'm of the view that adults should be able to do what they want providing no harm is done to others, however therein lies a problem. Cheating is harmful!

Let's go back a few steps and ask ourselves a question; what are the benefits of a monogamous relationship? I think male and female views may differ here however most of us crave the security and emotional stability monogamous relationships bring.

Bed hopping may satisfy sexual fantasies and desire however most of us still want to live with someone and have a happy stable life. Perhaps they could do both but that'd really mean they were either in an open relationship or they were cheating. Bed hopping versus a stable monogamous relationship? It's a quandary many adults often find themselves faced with. When considering options in business one would normally do a cost-benefit analysis (including risk assessment) before proceeding. I'm sure if most cheaters thought logically and rationally and did this analysis before they strayed then they wouldn't bother. Similarly adults contemplating multiple sexual partners versus one at a time (and in a long term relationship) might also conclude that monogamy is a better option. The problem we all often have is that it all becomes a bit confusing sometimes and the grass is often perceived as greener on the other side (until you go there).

Anyone who's in a relationship will sometimes be attracted to others. And that's where it will often stop, however attraction can lead to flirtation and beyond. What if that attraction becomes an infatuation? What if they decide they can't resist temptation? Life's journey can take us on many paths. We don't always pick the right ones. It's the challenge of picking better paths that often becomes difficult.

Sexual liberation makes it easy to stray from a relationship (as do websites like tinder.com, adultmatchmaker.com.au and redhotpie.com.au where sex is virtually only a few clicks away). Opportunities for extracurricular dalliances abound, particularly for women (many men are hopeless and powerless if a lady starts flirting with them). Dr Hook was right when they sang about it in the song 'Girls can get it'. Ultimately however we all need to know what we want in a relationship (and hopefully life in general) and then we simply need to be honest with ourselves and others.

Divorce rates in Australia are horrendous! Whilst couples divorce for many reasons high divorce rates might suggest that monogamous relationships are difficult to sustain long term. So what should someone do if they find themselves in a relationship where they, or their partner, no longer want monogamy? Ideally they should confront the issue and be honest with each other however many adults would probably be guarded and reserved when discussing this lest their partner didn't have the same view or outlook. If they had liberal and mature views they could discuss the option of an open relationship or swinging (swapping partners with other couples) on even introducing a third person into the bedroom. It's a seriously heavy discussion to have that could go potentially pear shaped if not approached with caution. If however someone feels very strongly about not being in a monogamous relationship and their partner has a different view, then this will more than likely create a chasm of resentment and distrust between them. Ultimately, if they're not on the 'same page' then their relationship is probably doomed.

I think there is some argument to say that a couple could be in a monogamous relationship even if they participated in swinging and/or had introduced others to the bedroom to play with together. Let's debate this another time as the issue is complex and confusing when you first try to embrace it.

I'm not entirely convinced that long term monogamy is possible (although the romantic in me wants it to be). I can appreciate the benefits however I can also see how monogamy can fail. And we all know firsthand that lust in a relationship drops off over time. Extending that period of raw passion in a relationship is something all couples want; achieving it is the real challenge.

I acknowledge I don't have all the answers that's why this has been a difficult post for me this week. It's why I'd really like to hear your views.

Delivering passion and pleasure.

Mal

Diane 8 May 2014 at 4:40 pm
Well Mal you certainly opened a huge can of worms with this Blog .☺ I think this has been a question pondered over for many generations , and probably many more to come will look for a answer . I think its a hard thing to maintain a vigorous sex life after the lust dies down . Most couples end up having children a mortgage and all the related issues that go with being either married or in a committed long term relationship . Life gets in the way , so to speak , we all get stressed and a little self absorbed and forget that your partner is feeling all the same things . There does come a time though when the kids grow up , leave home , you down size your home and are ready to settle into a life less stressful , both emotionally and financially , you look around and you are alone !! A lot harder to find that special life partner when you are older , so what to do ??? There in lies the question , do we agree to have others sexually , or stay only the 2 of you . I have been married 3 times, and divorced 3 times, so I am not the best person to give advice except to say always try 100% not to hurt the people you love or once loved . This conversation could go on for years , lol. Fantastic Blog Mal , very thought provoking .Regards,Diane.
MrsP 8 May 2014 at 7:14 pm
I was in a long term marriage that was fraught with many issues over the years. Whilst we parented well together, no matter how much we tried, in the last 5 years of the marriage, there was nothing between us. So the discussion come up about opening up the marriage. We sat and discussed rules and how we would go about it. It was decided that we would keep it private, never give out the home address, family details, or ask one another about their dalliances. This was in the last years of a 25 year marriage. While others may think its a solution, a good idea, innovative etc etc, to me, I think what it brought about was the end of an era. Opening the marriage up only showed me what I was really missing out on. In the end I felt I did not want to continue with the farce of being married. So I ended it after so much thought and contemplation. It wasn't easy, but was best. Now would I do that again? No. I would never want a 3rd party involved in any relationship of mine again. I do believe in monogamy. I believe in being true to one partner. Working on a marriage, relationship, partnership or what ever you are in is like showering, it must be done daily. However in saying this, those who live with open relationships and they work, then its obviously meant for them, thankfully, what we all do is up to us.
SamBam 9 May 2014 at 4:02 am
If you can't be happy with one person then don't get married or enter into a long term relationship. Simple!If you don't love someone enough to have enough respect to love the whole person, physically, emotionally etc, then go ahead, get divorced, break up because sooner or later your marriage ill be doomed and you'll have damaged a lot more in the process.Love isn't just about getting laid. What about the friendship with your partner and the shared love of togetherness,fun and working at your relationship to please each other!? Why are people so selfish nowadays...it's not all about ME Me Me!How about if we used our children in a similar scenario...not happy with the ones you got? Not working for you any longer?Just tell them you're no longer happy being their parent and you want to go down to the park and find some nicer ones to bring home. Abhorrent isn't it? I rest my case!When you have the love of a person and you feel loved, it filters through into every aspect of you relationship and it cannot get any better.Sambam - divorced after a 30 year marriage/1 long term relationship and now engaged to the most wonderful man after finding what true love really means at age 50...and after more than a year we are as HOT for each other as the day we met! (Multiple times a day!)
Jetgirl 9 May 2014 at 8:53 am
Hey Mal, very provocative subject. There will be a great many varying views on this one, and they are all right/wrong in their own way. Each couple must do what is best for them. I found that many years ago, during my long marriage when things got stale, I would flirt with other men just to get that tingly feeling. I would not go over the line however, but go home and take all that sexiness with me and just give it all to my hubby. It still meant that I mingled with the testosterone 'out there' but used it to my advantage when I got home. To a certain extent my hubby would do the same, but unconsciously, as I could see him flirt harmlessly with other friends, just to make him feel good. We had trust in each other and thats the best we can do. We finally split after 27 years but remain the best of friends.
explorer 9 May 2014 at 9:46 am
I do not believe you are meant to be with one person till death do u part. Think about it, what u want at 20 is not what you want at 30 and 30 not you want at 40. You grow (well some of us) lol, as a person. Men are hunters women are gatherers generally speaking. If a man is comitted to a woman who is his best friend who after the lust has dulled and still enjoys her company and have a lot in common he is probably less likely to stray. Same for the woman. Now the curveball... back to the hunter men generally stray in content relationships because they can be easy overwhelmed with attractive pussy in their face especially if the woman is a good manipulater but its just sex to the man. A woman will generally cheat because her man is not giving her what she needs emotionally. A whole new set of rules apply for the narcissitic people of the world which is unfortunately growing in society but that is another subject. So to answer your question is NO. But then I do not follow society's rules where is it written in stone a person must grow up to marry and have children?
explorer 9 May 2014 at 9:50 am
SamBam you know a thing or 2 about life :)
Chooks 10 May 2014 at 11:45 am
I Agree Totally with U explorer, I am at a stage in my life where I am supposed to be settled but the truth is I am NOT!!! I have not brought these issues up with my partner, Fear has played apart in that. I think its time him & I need to have a talk about it. Thank U 4 reaffirming my ideals
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