Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Meditations on Monogamy

Major cyber-action going down on the old parkslopeparents listserv lately. You know things are heating up when you see a long string of anonymous posts. Nothing brings the crazy out in people like anonymity. There’s been a whole bunch of anonymous debates recently but the most fascinating by far had the subject heading, “Desire to Cheat.“

It started with this woman writing in about how she caught her husband browsing the craigslist personal ads and she’s worried that he wants to cheat and that if things continue the way they are, he’ll end up doing just that. And she wants to know what can she do to stop it?

As usual, the responses ran the gamut from really insightful to flat-out nutso. The most wackadoo advice was that the wife should encourage her husband to go to a few strip clubs in order to deflate his overblown fantasies about other women. Of course, the poster warns, she should not, under any circumstances, allow him to go to a “nice” club like Penthouse or Scores, where the other women would meet his expectations, if not exceed them. Instead, send that man to a “local” club, a seedy place with saggy, baggy women who will make his wife look like a centerfold. And, the poster cautions, don’t give him a credit card or he might get into more trouble than you bargained for. OK, so STD-ridden Brooklyn joint. Washed-up strippers. Cash only. And that’ll solve your problems.

Now I’m no Dear Abby but I do say that the above advice, besides managing somehow to insult everyone involved, is the the worst piece of cockamamie crazy talk I ever heard.

There were, however, some useful points made.

A husband wrote in, saying he’d been married for 7 years, never cheated, never thought about cheating but searched browed the craigslist personals all the time. Fodder for fantasy, he said. Someone else echoed this, offering these words of guidance: “It doesn’t matter where you get your appetite, as long as you eat at home.” Some posters suggested hooking the husband up with plentiful porn, stocking up on sexy lingerie, scheduling plenty of date nights. And some people said infidelity had nothing to with sex but with feeling trapped, insecure, unhappy in other areas of life.

But there were also some posters who pointed out that maybe there was no need to stop the infidelity from happening. Maybe monogamy isn’t the best option, they suggested. It’s only cheating if it’s done deceptively: if both members of the marriage are on the same page, then having intimate relations with other people might be OK. One woman wrote about how she had two monogamous marriages but was now on her third marriage, and finding that being polyamorous was working out for her and her husband. Before she slept with anyone else, she talked it over with him, and made sure he was OK with it. The first time she did it, the fallout with her husband was tough, she said, lot of arguments. But when the opportunity arose a year or two later, he gave her his blessing again and afterwards, it was fine. In fact, the wife says, she feels more in love with her husband than ever, grateful to him for his generosity, and energized sexually by the excitement of being with someone else.

Yes, my local listserv has been better than a romance novel lately. Pretty titillating stuff.

All I really know is that every marriage is different and each couple needs to find their own way forward. If polyamorousness works for you, go for it. If having sex through ha hole in the sheet is what you’re into, who am I to stop you? Judge not lest ye be judged.

I don’t know if monogamy is the best way or the most successful strategy certainly but it’s the only way that could work for me and David, for better or worse. I don’t think I’m self-assured enough, magnanimous enough, or maybe even open-minded enough to let David be with anyone else. Plus, if I did ever give him my blessing, I’m so competitive that I would not rest until I got an equal amount of action, whether I wanted to or not. And then how would I know that person I’d entered into a dalliance with wouldn’t fall head over hells, madly in love with me? Initially, I’m shockingly lovable. And David, though he drives me batty sometimes, is a pretty great catch himself. Chances are his mistress would never nag him about how many beers he drinks or ride him about loading the dishwasher, and this lack of harassment might make him fall in love with her or at least think that his current situation was more of a nightmare than he’d suspected. The last thing I want my husband to have is a wake-up call.

But that’s me and I’m fettered by neuroses. What do you think? Is monogamy impractical? Or just hard? What advice would you give the PSP poster?