Lovers, Cheaters & the Sacred Institution of Marriage

The Sun newspapers  recently conducted a survey through QMI Agency and Leger Marketing to discover what Canadians’ attitudes were about infidelity. Here are some of their results:

  • One in three Canadians say they’ve been unfaithful to a partner
  • 55% say they’ve thought about cheating on their partner
  • Ontario has the most cheaters at 36%
  • The Atlantic Provinces have the fewest cheaters at 23%

Are these statistics are surprising to anyone? I think maybe I would have expected the percentage of cheaters to be a lot higher than that. But then perhaps I just mix with the wrong kind of people (No offense to all you people I mix with).

What was more interesting to me in this article were the justifications people gave for cheating:

  • A whopping 53% of Quebecers think you can love your spouse and still cheat on them.
  • 25% of Canadians think it’s not cheating if you have an intimate relationship with someone else as long as you don’t have intercourse with them
  • 28% of Quebecers and 18% of Canadians overall think a one-off affair can actually be beneficial to a marriage
  • 18% think it’s okay to cheat, as payback, if your spouse has been unfaithful, apologized and you’ve both agreed to stay married and to try and make it work
  • 15% think it’s okay to cheat if it’s a one-off thing and the spouse doesn’t find out about it
  • Only 27% think it’s okay to cheat if your spouse has a physical problem that prevents the couple from having a sexual relationship

Do you agree with any of these?

Some people, like Leah, at Daily Piglet , think the whole idea of monogamy is somewhat unrealistic . She’s not the first person who’s expressed the opinion that maybe this whole cleaving-unto-one-person-until-death thing is not something most people can really commit to.

I don’t know. Monogamy is nice in theory, I suppose. And there are people who seem to be able to stick with it. But then there are an awful lot of people who don’t. One in three people cheating on their partners is a lot. And I suspect that of the other two-thirds, a lot of them are just more honourable about breaking their vows and manage to get themselves out of one relationship before embarking on another.

What are the odds of a couple marrying (or shacking up), say in their late 20s or so and staying together and faithful to each other until one or both of them die somewhere in their old age? Probably some of you will accomplish that. Not many, I’d venture to say.

So why do people keep thinking they’re going to be that special couple that’s going to make it? What bizarre chemical clouds our brains when we’re “in love” that makes us ignore all the statistics and probabilities; that makes us deny our own natures; that closes our eyes to our partner’s weaknesses, frailties and flaws; and prompts us to vow that we will love this person and stay faithful to them forever?

We all know that the vast majority of these people will not be able to keep those vows. People change. Needs change. Feelings change. So why the need to “cleave”? What compels us to keep trying to be part of a married couple? What compels us to fight for the right to be part of a married couple?

Why can’t we love each other and enjoy each others’ companionship – even co-parent – without entwining our entire lives? Why can’t we allow each other the freedom to be in the relationship because we want to be, not because we’re obligated to be; to be sexually exclusive if we wish to be but to both understand that the situation may not always be like that. That one or both of us may develop an interest in someone else for a time — maybe even a long time.

It seems to me that the current system isn’t working out too well. The status quo is causing an awful lot of turmoil – legal, financial, emotional, psychological — it’s a mess. We’ve put the institution of marriage on some lofty pedestal complete with expectations that no human being can live up to. It’s so lofty that we’re actually excluding people from it because it’s so damn sacred. And yet, in reality, most of the time, it is everything from a stifling life of compromise and making the best of things to a horror freak show that brings out the absolute worst in everyone and leaves a wide and miserable swath of destruction in its wake.

But maybe I’m just old and cynical and ya’ll are going to tell me how wonderful marriage really is and what I’m missing out on?


60 responses to “Lovers, Cheaters & the Sacred Institution of Marriage

  1. I think open relationships – including open marriages – make a lot of sense. Variety is good, and people are far too quick to equate love with sexual exclusivity.

    Open relationships allow the benefits of long-term formal partnerships, without cutting off all avenues for excitement with new people, something I think all sexually healthy people probably at least occasionally desire.

  2. I agree. In fact, after you come to a mutually satisfying agreement in an open relationship, it makes your relationship feel even more special – because you have spent time ‘modding’ it.

    People are too ready to accept the pre-fab model of relationships, I imagine for the sake of simplicity.

    But the status quo leaves you far more likely to be killed by your spouse than any one else.

    Monogamy complicates everything. Aside from being potentially stifling, and breeding a sense of resentment for the other person, there is the pressure on you to be *everything* for the other person.

    We build our relationship models off of these unrealistic cultural models, like fairy tale love stories. I don’t care how in love fairy tale characters are, there’s no way that they want to blow, suck and fuck one another all the time.

    But, you know, Disney tends to keep those sorts of tawdry details to themselves.

  3. “And yet, in reality, most of the time, it is everything from a stifling life of compromise and making the best of things to a horror freak show that brings out the absolute worst in everyone and leaves a wide and miserable swath of destruction in its wake.” — Haha! So this is what I have to look foward to is it? Great, I’m feeling just a tad depressed now.

    As for monogamy and what makes us keep pursuing it … my theory is that it is an over-riding instinctual drive of some sort. It turns the brain off. Like having children. Both are not decisions of the rational, consider-full-consequences kind.

    But hey, what do I know? I’m still in la-la-la land. Married 14 years this January and I plan to be in the same bed (happily!) with this man until the day I die.

  4. I don’t think it has to be either/or. If you can make an open relationship work, or if you can cheat and your spouse takes you back, then that’s what works for you.

    I value honesty above all. To me, it is dishonest to cheat. If I was ever just thinking about cheating, then that would mean my marriage was in serious trouble. Then I would choose whether to save the marriage or end it. But there would be no cheating during the marriage for me. If I found out my husband had cheated, it would mean he was dishonest and I could not trust him. I am pretty sure I could not stay married to someone I couldn’t trust.

  5. Marriage is a fine institution, I am just not ready to be institutionalized.

    Oh, wait, I am an American Lesbian, I can’t. Oh well.

  6. I agree with everything Julie said above me. It’s all about the honesty – at this point in my relationship (shacked up, not married), I put a high-level of trust in my boyfriend, who I am in love with because I CAN trust him. Were that trust to be compromised, then I wouldn’t be in the relationship with him, as we’ve agreed to be monogamous. Anything outside of that is not ok with me (for a variety of reasons, the biggest being that I don’t share well. But if it’s an open relationship that works for someone, then that’s the type of relationship he/she should be in.)

    For myself, I don’t see monogamy as stifling, I see it as a fun challenge. Keeping things “spicy” forces us to be creative. Accepting that monogamy is stifling makes it stifling. I don’t accept monogamy as anything, other than the opportunity to spend my life with my best friend/favourite person in the world. If any of that were ever to change? Well, I’d be out of the relationship before anything but monogamy was an option. Cheating is a decision, and not one I ever intend to make.

    Does it make me weird that I want something deeper than just a physical connection with the people I “spend my time” with? I don’t think so.

  7. When I was in my teens and 20s it seemed very clear to me most males were commitment shy while most women wanted a commitment. As I got older I came to see the value of commitment. Very difficult to plan a life with someone without a firm commitment, assuming you see the value of sharing a life with someone. Over the long run I have come to view my single minded youthful focus on sex over commitment as one of the largest blunders of my life.
    I do recall there was a great deal of emotional turmoil connected to repeated attempts to have the sex without the commitment. I’m not so sure things have really changed in that regard.

  8. In fact, after you come to a mutually satisfying agreement in an open relationship, it makes your relationship feel even more special – because you have spent time ‘modding’ it.

    You sound like my sort of gal.

  9. Milan – Open relationships should, theoretically, work better than exclusive relationships. All the pressure of being all things to your partner is removed and when you’re together it’s because you both want to be. The key is that everyone has to be very honest with everyone all the way along. Open relationships is a difficult concept for people raised in this culture to accept. We have a whole set of rules about what love and relationships are “supposed” to be like and those rules have been completely ingrained over centuries. It’s not a natural human instinct as primitive tribes didn’t have such exclusive pairings. Jealousy is a learned feeling, not an innate one.

    Blackhats – Hi! Welcome. That pressure to be everything for each other, I think, is a real problem in marriages. People are all in love and become exclusive not only sexually, but in most other ways too. When I did a post on best friends a while ago, a good number of people wrote that their spouse was also their best friend and that they rarely see their other friends. Friend, spouse, co-parent, lover, confidante, financial partner, housekeeping partner, family, etc., etc. Really, I would think something has to give eventually with all that piled on each other. And yes, Disney and fairy tales end with the big, glamorous wedding (the most special day in a girl’s life) and then the rest of the couple’s life is written off with “happily ever after”. Because the important stuff is what led up to that one special day. Everything after that is what?

    Julie – Don’t be depressed. Enjoy your relationship. If it works for you and keeps working then great. There are people who beat the odds. If you made a good choice in spouses and you’re both on the same page, then who knows? 14 years and counting is a good sign, I think.

    Julia – Honesty is absolutely important no matter what sort of relationship you get yourself into. And cheating is dishonest. The worst thing about cheaters is not that they had sex with someone else, but that in order to do so they had to lie to their partner – either overtly or lie by omission. I’m totally not in favour of that either. You guys seem to know what you’re doing though, so I don’t think it’s going to be a problem for you.

    Cedar – Thank your lucky stars and stripes that Uncle Sam has taken this decision out of your hands. I don’t know why all yooze same-sexers even want to get into this totally insane institution anyway. It’s so flucked-up you’d be wise to stay well-away and avoid getting sucked into it’s happily ever after vortex.

    Meagan – No, you’re not weird at all. I think it’s normal for people to want connections with other humans beyond the physical. And cheating is a very dishonest and hurtful thing. There are a lot of people (that third from the survey for instance) who cannot be monogamous and they should, as you say, make it clear from the start that they’re not cut out for exclusivity. That way anyone they get into a relationship with will be able to make an honest and informed choice, too. I’m just curious though about when you say you “don’t share well”, you must share your man on a whole variety of levels with all sorts of people – I presume he has an entire work life that excludes you and includes different people. He must have personal, intellectual, philosophical discussions with others. He perhaps has friends that he has fun with without you. He has family that he has relationships with that don’t necessarily involve you. So you’re sharing his brain, his heart, a lot of what makes him who he is and yet you have such a strong reaction to sharing something relatively minor by comparison? I’m not talking about cheating. I’m saying if he was as honest with you about wanting to have a physical relationship with someone he’s attracted to as he is honest about the other relationships he has. Hypothetically?

  10. Whether or not you’re married (I’ll get into the whole marriage thing as I see it in a sec), it’s all entirely up to you. But, the first thing you absolutely have to do–which most people, as you sort of said, miserably fail to do–is come to the realisation you’re not going to be all things to this one person, nor is that one person going to be all things to you. That’s just plain not human. Further, if we were all born knowing what we wanted in life–professionally, personally, what have you–we wouldn’t have most of the problems we have now re: personal relationships etc. Of course, life would also probably be all kinds of boring. You may think you only want to spend your life with one person. Then, few years later when you’ve had a chance to consider things, you may realise no, you don’t. Does that mean you’re in the clear to cheat? Absolutely not. Do people still do it? Daily. And if you’re thinking about doing it it’s probably high time to get away from whatever relationship you find yourself in in the first place, as clearly what drew you to that person isn’t still doing that.

    As for the whole marriage thing, to put it rather bluntly, unless you’re of the religious persuasion, I fail to see any real difference–beyond whatever legal benefits there are–to being married. If you’re in love with someone, being married won’t change how you feel. And if you’re not, why get into something that’s only going to end up in a legal mess anyway? There’s really no simpler way to put that. Or, at least, I can’t think of one.

  11. The idea of monogamy drives me crazy and not in the good way.

    In my first marriage, I made it a condition that we were allowed to have outside dalliances as long as we were transparent and safe. That marriage ended for unrelated reasons, and although I didn’t make it a condition of my second marriage, it came about organically anyhow through mutual discussion.

    I do not believe we are programmed biologically to be faithful to one sexual partner for 40-50-60 years. (Just saying that makes me bored.)

    The occasional dash of spice makes everything tastier.

  12. it is only in our Disneyfied society that people think it “normal” for a couple to remain monogamous for decades. Centuries ago the life span was so short and death in childbirth so common that it was “normal for adults to have multiple partners. Jewish law even spells out who is supposed to take over the care of widows etc.
    That said it is nearly impossible for us to avoid the happy ever after syndrome because of all the advertising, shilling, for the perfect monogamous life.
    It’s almost as if we are being led to do things that aren’t really the best for us. All of us except Bret of course.

  13. XUP – I guess I don’t see the comfort of going to bed (sex or otherwise) with him every night as relatively minor. It’s also his time. If he were cheating (which one can never predict, and I know that) or especially if we were in an open relationship, then I wouldn’t necessarily get the satisfaction of having him be the last person I say goodnight to, and the first person I see in the morning. I would be sharing his time, his attention, his body, in a sexual, intimate way–and that’s how I’m not good at sharing. I don’t want him to be intimate with another person in the way he’s intimate with me. And so I promise not to be intimate myself with another person the way I am with him. I see the sexual aspect of a relationship as a major aspect.

    I do share him in other ways because I recognize that we are independent from one another and that I personally want my own life, and he wants his. But that doesn’t extend to sexuality. I only want to be sexy with him.

  14. I think I want to add that I don’t think anyone’s forcing anyone in this day in age to be monogamous. I don’t think we can blame advertising and I don’t think we can blame societal norms. Especially with the internet! People who do not want to be in monogamous relationships are under no pressure to do such. There are plenty of places (particularly online) to meet like-minded people. The idea that we’re “forced” to do anything does not give enough credit to our free will. If you don’t see yourself as capable of monogamy, don’t enter into a monogamous relationship. Ever. Find someone who shares your values, there are plenty out there.

  15. Life is a smörgåsbord.
    I’m not going to look at the buffet and restrain myself to the potato salad.

  16. I think it’s important to note that “cheating” and “monogamy” are not strict antonyms. Nor are “open marriage” and “cheating” synonyms. Monogamy is two people choosing to be with only each other, open marriage is two people choosing to be with each other (and others)…but cheating is one person deceiving the other person. That’s why it’s called cheating.

  17. Well done XUP, I love how you got statistics on it. And how you always seem to understand what I’m saying b/c my GOD in the heaven did I confuse some folks on that post.

    One in three IS a lot and that’s precisely my point about the idea of monogamy. It’s unfair when a partner cheats, catches a disease and brings it home.

    People DO change and if a partner doesn’t change with the other, many times this means DOOM. Many times these changes happen right when they return from the honeymoon. This goes for men and women.

    Dan Savage also promotes sexual compatibility, it’s quite important but NO ONE wants to talk about it.

    This is an excellent sentence b/c it’s FUCKING true: “We’ve put the institution of marriage on some lofty pedestal complete with expectations that no human being can live up to.”

    Love this post, I’m guessing you would know that anyways b/c you GET ME 🙂 thanks for that too.

  18. I fully believe that if you do not feel you are missing out on something, then you’re not. People keep trying to convince me to try sushi and I don’t want to try it. So why would I try to tell someone to try something they are not interested in? People should be no more compelled by “societal norms” to couple up than they should be to have children. All marriages are unique and people get married for different reasons. My Sweetie and I would have the same exact life if we were not married but I would not have health insurance. My second husband (not My Sweetie) actually proposed to me by saying, “We should get married so you can get on my insurance.” And that probably answers your question to Cedar about why (some) same-sexers even want to be married. It makes legal stuff easier.

  19. I’ve been married for 14 years and would be really disgusted with my husband if he cheated on me because it would mean that he isn’t the guy that I thought he was. It’s the lies and deceit that hurts. If you are lying to the other person in the relationship, you are doing that because you know what you are doing is wrong and wouldn’t be acceptable to them. And we’re not animals, we can control our instincts and desires to account for the feelings of others and the consequences of our actions….if we want to.

  20. I used to believe in “together forever, till death us do part”. I don’t now. But I do believe in serial monogamy — if we are together, I expect it to be exclusive and monogamous for the duration of our time as a couple, however long that may be.

    I read a series of books years ago based in a society in which marriage was a renegotiable, renewable contract instead of a life commitment. You signed up for x number of years and if at the end of that time you both wanted to keep going, you renewed or renegotiated the contract; if not, it expired according to the agreed terms. I like that concept.

  21. The Human Animal is not monogamous by nature. There are any number of books that will explain and it’s best to read more several, but the two I highly recommend are The Third Chimpanzee and The Moral Animal both fascinating reads.

  22. I think it is possible to be in love with the same person for many years and I’ve known couples who have faithfully been together for 10, 20, 30+ years. The reason why the divorce rate is so high might be because people marry the wrong person for the wrong reasons. Or they rush into it.

    Ideally, you marry your best friend, who you know inside and out. You may get pissed off at them sometimes and fight and go through ugly times, but the commitment to stay together is a beautiful and underappreciated thing in our selfish and disposible culture.

    Also-Some people are wired for monogomy and some people aren’t. The important thing is to make sure that you’re matched with someone who has the same perspective on outside relationships and be honest with them as much as possible.

  23. I’m for marriage.

    I suppose as a male it would make my life much simpler if I could just live with someone, have babies and then decide that I wanted to live with someone else….

    Of course this already happens frequently as your post on child support, and the lack of, clearly pointed out.

    Open relationships are about sex. They aren’t about filling an emotional need that isn’t being met at home. People in open relationships are seeking out people to talk to about Shakespeare because their spouse isn’t filling their literary needs. They just want to fuck other people..

    The people I’ve known who cheated on their spouses ( and there have been many) generally expressed a couple of thoughts.
    The first was one of how cool they where getting away with it.
    The other was that if their spouse did the same thing they would kill them..
    I’ve always thought it odd that someone could think that it was ok for them to cheat but not for their spouse.
    Perhaps your not a real man or real woman if you aren’t in control of the relationship..

    As for the statistics I think that people tend to be less than honest in answering these types of questions.
    Statistics can say whatever the person compiling them wants them to say..

  24. Actually, and this is not going to be taken the right way by many people, the high rate of divorce is enabled in large part by women having financial independence through employment. As women have become more gainfully employed they have become empowered to leave husbands whom they would not have been able to leave historically due not being able to support themselves or their children.

    Historically the man was responsible for his wife and the wife was responsible for raising children and taking care of the household. But at the same time 100% dependant on the man for financial support. I’ve read alot about this and it’s quite interesting.

    In any case I do support women and working and can’t imagine my wife not working – please do not misunderstand this comment, I’m not a misogynist nor am I suggesting we go back to the way it was historically.

  25. James – I read in the paper today that the average Canadian wedding costs just over $20,000. There’s a pile of money that could be put to better use, in my opinion. Your assessment is bang on. Be with someone if you want to be. You don’t have to tie it all up in legal knots, change your name, splash out on a huge event, land each other with astronomical expectations because now you’re “married”. And when you no longer feel committed to that person and no longer want to share your life with them, be honest.

    Susan – Aha! Nice to hear that from someone who is actually married. It’s easy for the cynical singles to say and all the marrieds are usually aghast at the idea. Rock on!

    Dave1949 – Ya, I can’t wait to hear how Brett has organized his partnership. The institution of marriage was invented originally as a financial thing to bind two families or even two countries together and only people with money did it. Then religion came along and reckoned this was something they could cash in on. So they added a bunch of rules and brought the concept of “romantic love” into it (which was invented by poets in the Middle Ages and is also not an innate human thing) and bob’s your uncle (so you can’t marry him).

    Meagan – That’s cool. As long as you’re both happy. And I agree that people shouldn’t get into a monogamous relationship if it’s not their cup of tea. But when I’m talking about relationships that aren’t necessarily exclusive I’m not exactly talking about swingers trolling the internet for lots of new partners. I’m just saying that perhaps, like Susan, you’re married or in a relationship and neither of you are as adamant about exclusivity as you are. That’s not to say they’re going to go out looking, just if something happens and they’re very drawn to another person, it doesn’t have to break up the marriage. As long as you’re also honest with the new person you’re getting together with.

    Lebowski – As a wise man said to me just yesterday, “at my age I can’t eat as much as I used to” ): But really, I gotta say, as much as I have no real affection for the concept of monogamy, after a certain point in your life I think it ends up being the default situation anyway because: a) you’re too busy and preoccupied to be flirting or to notice anyone flirting with you b) you’re too tired to take on one partner most of the time, never mind more than one c) finding one old fart you want to get it on with (and vice versa) is difficult enough.

    Kim – Exactly. I hope that distinction is clear. There’s not need for cheating, deception or lies in an open relationship. And now a question for you. What are the rules vis a vis the other person? Say a woman is in an open relationship and meets someone she’s attracted to. Is she obligated to tell that person that she’s in a committed but open relationship? Which is basically telling that person that there is no future really for them?

    Leah – Aw, you’re sweet. I thought your post was pretty clear, but I did notice some folks got a bit uppity about it. Dan Savage has quite a complex set of rules I find. I can usually tell how he’s going to respond to someone, but then he occasionally throws a twist into the mix that I wasn’t expecting. For sure, human sexuality is NOT a simple thing and there are absolutely no black and white answers to anything.

    Geewits – Ya, I do realize that there are a lot of legal benefits to getting married, though here in Canada you are considered married by common law anyway if: a) a couple has been living in a conjugal relationship for at least 12 continuous months; b) they are parenta of a child by birth or adoption; or
    c) have custody and control of a child together and the child is wholly dependent on them for support.

    Kimberly – You’re right.If you went into the relationship with a clear understanding that it would be monogamous then you should both live up to that. If one person decides he/she wants to be with someone else then they should have that discussion with their partner before doing anything else. “We didn’t plan it – it just happened” is one big crappy excuse in my books.

    Louise – What if you were with someone that you really liked and you’ve built something of a life together and enjoy the relationship and have no desire to separate but you become attracted to someone else for a time and want to pursue a casual, physical relationship with that person who wants the same from you. Is that a reason to break up the first relationship?

    Sean – Thanks. I’ll try and dig those out. I always find this topic so interesting. I’m always so fascinated by the fact that people want to blend their lives so fully with another – some random other person at that.

    Pauline – How can you ever know someone inside and out? People don’t even know themselves that well. And how can you know the subtle changes that are going on inside that person. You are not together for a large part of the day. You have lives, meet people, have experiences outside of the couple that impact you in many ways. You are not the same person at 25 that you are at 40. He is not the same person at 25 that he is at 40. You may be compatible at 25, but the odds are pretty high that you’ll be equally compatible at 40. But I agree that in any relationship it’s important to be honest.

    Glen – So you think less than one third of people have cheated? Or more? And I don’t think an open relationship is necessarily about just wanting to fuck other people. People who are just out to fuck as many people as they can shouldn’t be in any sort of relationship. Perhaps Milan and Susan can speak to this further but I don’t think that’s the intent. As I explained to Louise, there are all sorts of people in your life and you have all sorts of different relationships with them. You have work friends that you may have some really personal conversations with, but who you never see outside of work. You have friends you see on weekends that fulfill a different need – they maybe are good golf buddies or fun to go dancing with or good to shop with or whatever. Then you’ll have other friends that are better for having long conversations with. And so on. There may be overlap, but each person in your life fulfills a slightly different need and vice versa. So you have a partner that you share a lot of your life with for whatever reason – love, compatibility, shared life philosophy, etc… but like all the other people in your life, this person still only is part of your life – not all of it. You may meet someone else who’s company you enjoy and who you are attracted to. Should you shun that person from your life to avoid a physical relationship? You’d have to if you were in a monogamous relationship, but if not, you could explore, for a time, a relationship of some sort with this new person. I have no idea how well, or if at all, this sort of thing works out. I can see a lot of pitfalls, of course, but I can see a lot in a monogamous relationship, too.

    Sean – Yes, you’re right. The sacred institution of marriage was much more stable when divorce wasn’t really an option. I think what you’re getting at perhaps is that this doesn’t necessarily mean it was any better. People talk a lot about how no one can stick to a commitment anymore they way they did in the old days; how relationships are disposable now and how people took their vows more seriously back in the day. Well, mainly they didn’t have a choice and just gritted their teeth and got on with it. And, a lot of people I talk to today also feel trapped by their marriage. After a while you’ve got so much history together – all your finances are tied up together, your plans for old age, your kids, your house, your friends and family – that it’s just not worth getting divorced. They may be unhappy in the marriage, but it’s not horrible and they’ll stick it out because it’s just too much trouble to unravel.

  26. OUCH! Hoisted by my own petard! Serial monogamy is the best one can ask for. I know that when I have box of “Cap’n Crunch” I always want some “Franken Berry”

  27. There’s not need for cheating, deception or lies in an open relationship. And now a question for you. What are the rules vis a vis the other person?

    Disclosure rules are one thing you need to negotiate, and there are lots of options. One book that provides good information on setting up and maintaining healthy open relationships is The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt.

  28. I knew a couple that eventually moved into an “open relationship” basically because he wanted her permission to screw around on her – but what he didn’t know was that she saw more dick-ends then weekends….. another story…. LOL!
    Anyhow he became really open about when he was going out to get a little…. as in “Honey?!? I’m going out to bang “so and so”…. don’t wait up!”
    That lasted all of 2 months…..Curiously enough once they agreed to the Open marriage her knees slammed together more tightly then the vault at Fort Knox…..

  29. I notice that the post uses the word “cheat”, but the commenters all refer to “open relationships”. How you phrase the question affects the poll results. See Kim’s comment.

    I also don’t think it’s black-and-white that monogamy does or does not exist. Whatever the “human animal” may be programmed to be, there are always exceptions (e.g. are we programmed to be straight, too?) I think it’s perfectly reasonable that a monogamous relationship can work for some people, when they’re in a relationship with some other people, at certain times of their life. My grandmother’s still faithful to my grandfather, who died many years ago. Whether this is a product of nature or nurture is immaterial.

    As for me, I’m in an open relationship. I’m married to my job, but I can still pose for photos in the paper for other organizations.

    Milan – I think (in the most hypothetical, cynical sense) the problem where monogamy fails the most is that it has rules. Clear cut rules. Be faithful, period. A relationship that works–monogamous or otherwise–doesn’t use blanket rules but instead requires the two parties to treat each issue on a case-by-case basis. For example, one party might be okay with open relationships in principle, but wants to be with the other exclusively for a while, which would be complicated if the other party is seeing many people. There are too many varieties of situations for any rules to comprehensively cover them all, and the same situation might have a different resolution at different points in the relationship.

    – RG>

  30. Brett – Since when? You’re pretty vociferous on every other topic.

    Lebowski – You have to stop that self-petard hoisting. It’s just not healthy. Also, perhaps you need to stop choosing nutritionally–bereft, tooth-rotting cereal just because it has a colourful box. Some good, rib-sticking steel-cut oats would stop you from ever wanting cereal again, let alone another type of cereal.

    Milan – Who are you negotiating these disclosure rules with? Your partner? What about the 3rd party? What do you tell them, if anything?

    Lebowski (again) – You have such an eloquent way with words.

    Grouchy – The survey was definitely about cheating – lying, sneaking around betrayal. Not about open relationships. The rest of the post opened the door to alternate types of relationships. And you’re quite right about the programming except that if we’re not generally programmed for monogamy then that should be the exception. And it seems to be the exception in practice. It is, however, still the “norm” in theory and social acceptability. I think where monogamy fails the most is the expectations. Never mind the rules. Every couple makes up/develops their own rules, but there are huge expectations internally and externally on monogamous relationship and on each person in that relationship. Better, worse.Richer, poorer. Sickness, health. Forsaking all others. Till death us do part. Those are some mighty gigantic promises. And expectations. And yet people seem to believe it when they’re saying it.

  31. Meh. Pretty simple for me.
    Why cheat? Too much of a bother.
    I mean, all that lying and making excuses and hiding cell phone bills… just wouldn’t be worth the effort no matter how good the horizontal bop…
    I guess I’m just lazy…

  32. Okay, so I’ll give an opinion without a personal example…


    Perhaps monogamy is or isn’t natural, but in our current society, it is and/or has been because of potential penalties that may affect those who go against it due to artificial systems.

    What I mean is, ten thousand years ago, you could just “walk away” from your monogamous relationship because your former spouse couldn’t sue your ass off.

    Sure, she could hit you on the head with a rock (then again, she could do that now…) but that’s about it.

    Plus, life being a bit different, she would probably have a support group (tribe) to help her raise the kids and feed them and so on.

    It’s a bit harder these days (no tribes), and so you’ve got your lawyers to sue the asses off the people who infringe…

    Artificial power bestowed upon certain parties by society.

    That’s the subject of a whole other discussion.

    My favourite is the artificial power structure in the workplace.

    Has anyone at work ever given you shit for something, because they *could* due to the artificial power base they have?

    i.e. you’re under their thumb since they could negatively affect your career or fire you outright

    Ask yourself the question, would that person have had the guts to give you shit like that outside of work if he/she didn’t have that little “advantage”?

    When I ask myself that question, the answer is always “no” – because *every single spineless little bastard or bitch* who has used this against me at work would have been a bag of bloody bones in about 30 seconds flat…


    Bring back the tribes, I say!!!

    (Grok out.)

  33. Who are you negotiating these disclosure rules with? Your partner? What about the 3rd party? What do you tell them, if anything?

    The rules are negotiated with your primary partner, but I think it makes sense to have rules about telling third parties about the open relationship.

    One way is to have a threshold: “You have to tell the 3rd party before you do X.”

    You can also negotiate exceptions, say for spontaneous one night hookups.

  34. There is one and only one real advantage to the supposed monogamous, forever relationship and that is the creation of a solid family unit for raising children. When this was the norm the average pers on lived 35 to sixty years and the kids were capable of living on their own and forming their own families in mid to late teens.
    Now you are signing up for about 60 years of monogamy when you wed and the kids require about 25 years of nurturing. It is no wonder that more and more people are going nuts in this system and looking elsewhere for some satisfaction in their life. Sexual frustration is I think the least of the worries. Anyone who wishes will be able to satisfy their sexual urges without involving the partner but you can’t hide the loss of social compatibility for decades on end.
    In the society we find ourselves in now it is pretty foolish to think that there is one special person who is now and forever will be the centre of our universe. Better to be honest about that and enjoy each other for what we can, and share our life with as many others as it requires to keep us sane without guilt and recrimination.

  35. Dave, a monogamous relationship only helps in raising children if one of the parents devotes nearly all of their time to child-rearing.

    I could see a polyamorous relationship actually helping spread the parenting responsibilities around, while giving the parents opportunities to live lives of their own beyond the role of ‘parent’.

    – RG>

  36. Speaking as one getting married in less than three months, I wonder if we are products of our environment. My parents have been married for almost 40 years and they are still together AND they still like each other! It’s outrageous! It’s impossible!

    I used to think I couldn’t hope to find someone I was going to spend the rest of my life with. I’m now in my mid thirties, a “fully formed” adult, and I’ve found someone suitable, I think.

  37. Trashy – It IS rather labour intensive, isn’t it? The stories you have to think up. All the extra showers. All the head space it takes up. Sometimes there are hotels or love nests to arrange. Extra birthdays and anniversaries to remember. Sheesh.

    Brett – HA! I knew you couldn’t NOT say something. I think tribes are an excellent idea. I’m a big, big fan of tribes. A tribe would have come in so handy when my daughter was small and I know a tribe would be great for when I’m old and feeble. There are a lot of intentional communities around (communes) still who are trying to recapture the best things about tribes. But they all seem kind of weird to me.

    Milan – That’s a lot of negotiating. I would like to think that my partner has enough common sense and respect for me and others that there doesn’t have to be a long list of rules attached to this open relationship.

    Dave1949 – I think Grouchy has a point about the value of monogamous relationships. The church established them as a way of keeping women under control. Because before the Christians came along most of our ancestors lived in matriarchal societies. Women controlled the goods and chattels of the family and men fought and hunted. So, by making women part of the chattel, the guys got all the power. That worked out real well for everyone but the women until about the 1960s.

    Grouchy – Polyamorous is getting close to the tribe Brett was talking about. We were very foolish to ever give up tribal living. Now we’re all sequestered in our own tiny little shells we call 4,000 square foot suburban homes with 3 car garages.

    Heather – I like that you added that “I think”. It’s fabulous that you’re parents are still great together. It’s not the usual thing, though. And yes, perhaps if you grew up with a model marriage then you’ll have similar expectations for your own and maybe have a better chance of making it. You both seem like fairly sensible people, so who knows?

  38. I was thinking about this thread while driving today. In my mind it comes down to evaluating the alternatives to marriage. By my assessment, as challenging as marriage might be, it absolutely beats the pants off the alternatives.

    As I mentioned in another post/comment, a world without family values (caring for other people) is not very pleasant. All the alternatives to marriage don’t support family values as well as marriage.

  39. Having detailed rules is very helpful, and not a sign of a lack of respect. What it avoids is misunderstandings, in which each party interprets a vague or implied obligation differently.

    In my experience, the combination of clear rules and full disclosure of all activities with other partners works best for avoiding jealousy and other problems.

  40. 🙂 well, you know me…

    I guess tribes like this do exist even today – I’m thinking of the Italian families I knew in Hamilton, with large houses and multi-generational living.

    My brother-in-law and I chatted at length years ago just after they had their first child about buying a big house together (our wives are sisters, obviously, and get along well) – the idea was that we could take advantage of “economies of scale”, sharing on the cost of different things, as well as other benefits i.e. there’d probably always be one person at home so no need for daycare.

    The sisters nixed the idea… dammit…

  41. Xup — re: the $20000 wedding, there be the catch right there. Why in the bloody hell does anyone want to spend that much on anything? I mean, okay, if you’re going the traditional church, reception, fancy dress, 500 people type thing, and that’s something you *really*, and I mean *really* want, then okay. But that could just as easily be accomplished with the same result by a trip to the justice of the peace with a couple witnesses for… what is it these days, maybe a couple hundred? Then just throw a small party or something afterwards if you even want to do that. Or, if you happen to live in Canada, just do the common law thing–it’s cheaper and the benefits are pretty well the same. End of the day though, common law or not, married or not, if you want to be with that person for however long, what’s the difference? I don’t see one.

  42. As someone who was cheated on by her first husband, I’m totally for monogamy. It’s the worst feeling in the world. I’m sure I had expectatations that were very naive but I made a promise and I expected him to keep his. I just don’t think you should get married if you can’t be monogamous.

  43. OC – You should go to the US, they’re doing a lot to maintain “family values”

    Milan – I would find that stifling – detailed rules. I’m not saying drawing up rules shows a lack of respect. Just that I would assume my primary partner to be someone I respect and trust, so it would be enough for me to say that whatever we do will do with honesty and respect. I don’t want to sit down and make a list of people I would not like you to get involved with (my co-workers, your co-workers, relatives, friends, people that are too young or too old, or whatever); maybe a rule about how long a 3rd party relationship can go on; a rule about what you are and are not allowed to do with that 3rd party; whether or not you talk to your primary partner about the 3rd party relationship; can you take them on holidays? Can they meet your family? Etc., etc. Once you start making rules, it doesn’t seem so open to me anymore. Also, the rules can’t possibly cover every scenario so then there’ll be questions/discussions about loopholes. When I was younger I used to share accommodations with other people. We always had a big list of rules – cleaning rules, shopping rules, cooking rules, bringing dates over rules. There were a lot of rule and they inevitably got fudged because they prevented people from doing something they really wanted to do so they’d find a way around the rule and that would cause resentment and arguments. Then one day I got a roommate who said, “I don’t like rules. We’re both grown-ups, I’m sure we can manage to live together and keep the place clean without a stupid list.” And it worked beautifully. Because she and I were both sensible respectful people and had similar idea on what constituted privacy and cleanliness.

    Brett – Yes, a lot of immigrants tend to stay together in communities and support each other like this. While they don’t integrate too well with the rest of society, I think they’ve got the right idea.

    James – I don’t know James. People seem to enjoy that whole wedding thing. I don’t for the life of me understand it either, but apparently little girls grow up dreaming of the day they get to walk down the aisle in a fairy princess dress and marry their prince charming. Me, I’d much rather spend that $20,000 on a kick-ass vacation.

    Linda – Well, that sucks. The alternative to monogamy isn’t cheating though. When we talk about open relationships it sort of means both parties have agreed to this openness. One spouse messing around behind the other spouse’s back is never okay. You’re absolutely right that if a person can’t commit to a monogamous relationship they ought not to get into one. Or if they find out somewhere along the line that they’re not as monogamous as they thought, they should dissolve the relationship BEFORE getting into another one

  44. Simply put, if one doesn’t want it, both don’t get it. If You go for it and don’t tell me, that’s going to cause a crap ton of problems. If you go for it knowing I don’t want it, and tell me, that presents a whole new list of problems–especially if it’s something I’m not okay with. Either way, that relationship probably just got a whole lot less ever lasting.

  45. XUP wrote: OC – You should go to the US, they’re doing a lot to maintain “family values”

    Are you saying Canadians don’t have an interest in family values? Do you have an interest in family values?

    Imagine, for a moment, what our society would be like if everyone discontinued any and all interest in being married. I expect the issues connected to child support would become a very high priority as everyone would be dealing with the very same issue. Keep in mind, activities close to marriage should also decline if interest in marriage disappeared. It would logically follow for there to be a decrease in couples living together as I believe marriage and living together share the same origin: a desire for structure and having a partner to share life with.

    True, 50% of marriages may fail, but what about the influence on society from the 50% which thrive?

  46. And I suspect that of the other two-thirds, a lot of them are just more honourable about breaking their vows and manage to get themselves out of one relationship before embarking on another.

    Call me a cynic, but I can’t help think some of them aren’t owning up to cheating…

  47. XUP…in answer to your question, I think you shouldn’t lie about anything to anyone if you can help it. So if you are engaging in a fling while in an open marriage, yeah, honesty is still the best policy….Maybe not the best policy for getting you laid, but still…

  48. This whole topic really messes with me, because I was raised by a mother who believed in the whole free love, fuck whoever and how many ever you want notion. She was 16 when she had me, and after that began bringing a different strange guy into the house every day. When I got older, she married men she didn’t love, and as a result, found reasons to cheat, thus bringing more strange guys into the house, or being out until all hours of the night, or spending the night out. She was deceitful to me, and the husbands she had.
    My father was also just as bad when it came to relationships, as he also married someone he didn’t love, and cheated.
    So this subject is a very hard one for me. I have also been cheated on over the years, and When I was dumped by my last boyfriend, I had a friend blaim me for the breakup, because I expected him to be exclusive. Keep in mind that sed boyfriend told me he wasn’t into polli-amory.
    So all background out of the way, I feel that if a person wants to be polli-amorous, that’s their choice, so long as the parties involved are in agreement and there are no hurt feelings. Personally, I am monogamous, but that’s probably because of all the instability of my childhood, but it works for me. I would never force that on someone else. What I do have a problem with is dishonesty. Cheating is exactly that. They don’t respect you enough to say, “gee, I’m atracted to someone else, and You and I just ain’t jiving.” so they go out, do the horizontal labamba with whoever, and then come home to you like nothing ever happened. Then, you end up with herpa-sifa-goneria, or HIV/AIDS. And don’t get me started on all the labels society puts on people. Yes, we’re going to be atracted to others. We wouldn’t be human if we weren’t. But I feel that it’s all in what the person does about sed atraction. Do you want to throw away a long relationship with someone you’ve been with for twelve years plus, over a quick scrog with that really cute blond you work with? Or can you just say “Oh, she’s cute.” but not act on it. It’s the person’s choice, and unfortunately, some people aren’t honest about it.
    As far as the marriage thing goes, Honestly, I don’t see a problem with it, so long as you have thought it through, and you really know you want to spend the rest of your life with that person. Unfortunately a lot of people–me included–get married without thinking about it. They are only thinking about the wedding, how nice it’s going to be, the party, the people, but not about the long-term effects it will have. Then, people end up absolutely miserable in their marriage. I had to learn that lesson the hard way. I don’t see what all the hubbub is, however. I don’t see anything wrong with a justice of the peace, and a couple of really good friends as witnesses. I think weddings are way too comercialized, and the couple ends up more stressed than excited in the long run.
    Just my two cents, for what it’s worth. I came across your blog because my Boyfriend, James mentioned that he really liked it, and I’ve found that I really enjoy it so far.

  49. Here I am coming late into the discussion again but what an interesting discussion this is.

    I have to say that I strongly support the concept of the family unit. The best family unit is centred around a loving couple providing care and love to children. I truly believe that this is the best psychological, spiritual and social model for happy development of lives.

    Of course, it is not without its problems and difficulties but as with life, we just have to work it out.

    Unfortunately, I also believe that all around the world, we are all being taught to be more self centered and less selfless in society today. This makes it more difficult to fit into that family unit model with a monogamous life partner.

    We are all more inclined to cut our losses and run when things don’t go well. We are now more likely to feel trapped and obligated and there after resentful. We say things may change, that we may change.

    All true. But, we forget the concept of “commitment”, of pledging to be together in sickness and in health, in abundance and in poverty. We forget the call to be mutually willing to put the other first above all, to be part of something greater than ourselves.

    I have been married now for 17 years. Our relationship had a lot of early challenges which has only helped to build our love and trust. Before I got married, I asked myself a simple question. If my wife were to become seriously ill, would I be willing to spend the rest of my life nursing her? Only when I knew I could answer “yes” did I really know that I was ready for marriage.

    On the issue of cheating, I believe all of us are capable of cheating if we place ourselves or find ourselves in certain situations. Similarly, we could all be thieves, drunks, addicts ….etc. In the end though, it is still a matter of choice. We can choose not to put ourselves in temptations way. I have been tested a couple of times but my worst nightmare is to betray my wife and that keeps me from acting on impulses and stray opportunities. I am not shy to say that I flee from such temptations.

    In Malaysia, arranged marriages have been the norm until the last couple of generations. We often speak about how unfair and even cruel it is to force people to marry outside of “love”. Yet, I find that the “love” does develop from the basis of trust and commitment in many cases. The facts, speak for themselves, in that many of these marriages do last a lifetime and seem at least content if not happy. Compare that with modern Malaysian Society where most now marry because of love but almost 50% now end in divorce. Love and commitment must come together, I think.

  50. James – Agreed!

    Jazz – I’m pretty sure one-third is a very conservative number. Like you, I think there are a lot more than that cheating, just judging by the number of married men I’ve come across who’ve made it clear they’re up for it.

    Kim – Ha ha! It would be a difficult position for the 3rd party to be in.

    Jessica – I agree with everything you said, but was really saddened by the story of your parents and the shit you had to grow up with. Your mother is not a good example of “open relationships” and the “free love” movement. Because she was dishonest about it. Also, I don’t think open relationships need to be equated with promiscuity. I was just mainly saying that some people might feel less pressure and less confined in a relationship if it’s agreed by both parties that they are not obligated to only love or be attracted to or want to have sex with that one person for the rest of their lives. They may very well end up doing just that. I hope you’ve found a good guy in James and that you finally have the sort of relationship you really want.

    LGS – I think there’s something to be said for arranged marriages, too. Who knows you better than your family? And who cares about you more than your family? A good parent will choose someone suitable, kind and caring for their child and is not blinded by “love and passion”. Anyway, I’m curious what you consider to be a family unit? A loving couple and some kids? I think there are so many other, even better ways, to organize a caring, nurturing environment for people that the stereotypical husband, wife, kids model. We spoke earlier about tribes, for instance. Communities. Extended families living together. People once had this, so it was much easier to maintain a good relationship between the couple and with the kids. They had help from neighbours, grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends. There were a lot of people involved in the “family unit’s” lives. Today the couple is isolated with their kids. They have to be all things to each other and to their children. Along with this now both parents work at full time jobs. Kids are expected to be involved in any number of extra-curricular activities. Money pressures are immense. It’s no wonder people are cracking under the pressure and running away from the family unit. It doesn’t have so much to do with lack of commitment and selfishness I think as it does with the structure of society, the expectations. I’m very curious that you face such strong temptations on a regular basis that you have to flee. Why are you so tempted? Why are you so frightened?

  51. XUP,
    Your comments are as usual, wise. I agree that the extended family is probably an even more supportive model (although being an anti-social loner type, it is less attractive to me). As to the isolation, pressures and high expectations faced by the nuclear family these days……again you hit the nail on the head.

    As for fleeing from temptations, I just think that it is wise to choose a path that has no banana peels to slip on rather than to walk down a path littered with banana peels, arrogantly thinking that you can avoid slipping on them. Pride comes before the fall and I’d rather not fall at all.

  52. LGS – Hmmm. You’re going to have to face temptation and know how to deal with it, won’t you? What if you end up having to work next to someone you find really attractive and she is also attracted to you? Don’t you have the strength to appreciate her without carrying it any further? I would have thought that the love and respect you have for your wife, your relationship and your family would be enough to prevent you from giving in to temptation. Learning to navigate a path strewn with banana peels is a lot more valuable and character building than just avoiding them altogether.

  53. First, let me say that I’ve been on both sides. Yes, I have cheated and have been cheated on. I learned my lesson the hard way. I was young and foolish then and my actions didn’t affect my whole life as we didn’t have children. However, I learned a valuable lesson.

    I have many friends who are in an open relationship and they are happy. However, these relationship started that way. It was not something that was pushed upon their partners. It’s something that was clear, out in the open. And as a single woman I never, ever felt pressured to enter into the game with them. My neighbours and running buddies are in an open relationship. And their relationship is healthy. These two love each other. They also have a polyamory relationship. Of course, it can get a bit confusing sometimes lol but overall, it seems to work well. Honesty and communication is key. The gay culture is very much into the open relationship (at least it is in Toronto…) concept.

    I would be saddened if the institution of marriage and fidelity was to be discontinued in favour of totally open relationships. I know that I wouldn’t be able to sustain an open relationship because that’s how I am. But I think they are better IF both parties agree to it AND are totally honest with one another.

    As for the percentage of cheaters? I think the numbers are much much higher although I think many “fantasize” about it but not many have the courage to go through with it. Just visit Ashley Madison or Lavalife Intimate websites, this alone will open your eyes.

  54. Sylvie – All so true. I think the numbers are much higher too, judging my the number of married guys I’ve met who were totally up for it as I mentioned to someone before. And yes, absolutely an open relationship will only work if everyone involved treats each other with honesty and respect. I figure if I’m in a relationship, the person I’m with is either going to be interested in someone else along the line or he’s not. I would rather he’s honest about it than sneaking around and lying about it. So, we might as well say from the outset that if it happens and it’s something that feels important to do, no one is going to freak out about it and it doesn’t have to break up our relationship if we both don’t want it to. I don’t know. It sounds rational in theory, anyway.

  55. I would argue that once you have a child with someone, on some level you are in a relationship with them — good, bad or otherwise.

    The Man and I only have one rule in this house. No other people. He’s my best friend, my rock… and yeah, we have sex. It may be old school. But it’s been 18 years. In fact, I love him more today than I did a year ago. We’re growing and changing together. The commitment is to make room for each other, always. We’re not married, so it’s choice we make every day. (Also he’s totally hot.) It’s not all moonlight and roses… oh. Right. Well, it is a lot of roses in the summer. 🙂

    We live in a disposable society. I think sometimes we treat each other that way too. (Royal we.)

  56. Nat – What if the unthinkable happened and he fell head over heels in lust with some hottie and in a moment of weakness succumbed to her charms. Would that mean the end of your relationship? Is that an absolute deal-breaker — since you have that rule? If not, what’s the point of the rule? If so, how can such a relatively minor thing negate 18 years of good stuff? Not that I’m challenging your choice to be monogamous. I totally understand that. I’m just curious.

  57. XUP, capital punishment isn’t the penalty for breaking every rule. If the rules proscribed the penalty for every and any offence, we wouldn’t need judges. You hope this kind of thing doesn’t happen, and if it does, you deal with it on a case-by-case basis if and when it happens.

    – RG>

  58. Grouchy – Ya, I know. I was just asking what Nat’s take on that would be. Some people have indicated that any extra-marital sex would mean they couldn’t trust their spouse anymore and that would mean the end of the relationship. I know a lot of people who do sort of get over an infidelity or two or three and move on. It’s almost never the same though. Which is why I wondered what the purpose of such a rule is exactly.