Trust and the Monogamy Myth (Relationship Series: Part 4)

Series intro: Relationships – An Intro
Part 1: Open Yourself to the Possibilities
Part 2: What a Woman REALLY Wants
Part 3: The UnMarriage


300px 1883 wedding lic Trust and the Monogamy Myth  (Relationship Series: Part 4)
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What gives us the right to ‘own’ another person and when did we decide that a marriage certificate was akin to ownership papers?

How many people have been completely and utterly convinced that if their boyfriend/girlfriend would just marry them everything would be better in the relationship?

Why is the thought of our spouse loving or caring about another person so threatening for us?

These are the questions I ask often. Because I think their answers are telling. They reveal a lot about the level of trust and respect in a relationship.

If Bil approached me tomorrow and told me he wanted an open relationship, I wouldn’t blink an eye. I would let him have it. Because there is one thing I will never doubt. And that is the fact that he loves me.

I trust him. TRUST him. Implicitly.

I trust him to hold our relationship above all others. I trust him to always put me and our daughter first. I trust that at the end of the night it will be my bed he comes home to.

For me, that is what matters.

If I told Bil that I wanted an open relationship he would give it to me, as well.

Because he knows our relationship is sacrosanct to me. He knows I would never do anything to break that trust or let anything interfere in ‘us’.

The reality for Bil and I is that we are two very different people. As much as we love each other, and get along, and are happy together, there are places in our lives where we are very different. And to be able to give the other person what they need, would be to change who we are. I would never ask him to change, nor would he ask it of me. To do that would be to deny the people we fell in love with.

I have never been a great believer in monogamy. It’s just not who I am.

That doesn’t mean I run around sleeping with every man (or woman) I meet. That’s not me either.

That doesn’t mean I cheat on my partner. In fact I never have while in a committed relationship. That’s not who I am.

Who I am is someone who’s passionate. Passionate about life, about love, about lust, about intimacy.

To share this passion and lust with someone else would not mean I don’t love my husband. In fact, for us, the opposite would be true. It would allows us to make sure the lines of communication are open. It would ensures we talk often and review our relationship and make sure we’re both still happy with how things are. It would force me to be more aware, sensitive, considerate of our own relationship dynamics.

And it does.

Yes.

Bil and I have what I would call a quasi-open relationship.

Our ability to play outside the marriage is dependent on the approval and agreement of the other. It is VERY limited and VERY controlled. It is not an open invitation to screw around on each other. It is very specifically to fill a need that the other person can’t or won’t meet.  It is not necessarily sexual in nature.  Unlike Mr.O and his wife, we’re not married. That doesn’t however mean we’re any less devoted to each other. In fact, I might argue that the fact we’ve decided not to rely on a piece of paper to validate our relationship makes it even stronger.

The ability to successfully manage such an arrangement is highly dependent on our trust of each other, our level of communication, and our belief that monogamy is not a natural human state.  Quite frankly, if it was, so many people wouldn’t have so much difficulty adhering to it.

Here’s an interesting statistic for you…  Only about 3 percent of animal species are truly monogamous.  Humans?  Are not in that 3 percent.   That’s not my opinion.  That is fact.

Another interesting little fact?  Monogamous does not necessarily mean sexually exclusive.

I’m not saying that we/you/me can never have a successful relationship with just one person and remain faithful and committed to that person.

But look at it this way… If your spouse passed away tomorrow, would you remarry or enter into a committed relationship again?  If so, then you are not mated for life.  Simple facts and reality.  Our genetic make up allows us to feel love for other people.

What I am saying is that I believe monogamy is the product of rigid social norms, not base human nature, and it sets us up to feel ownership over another. And that, for me, is a fundamental issue. No one owns me. No one.

Don’t believe me?

What happens when someone starts flirting with your spouse? What is most people’s automatic reaction to that situation?

“Mine. Back off”

Mine. In that one word you exert your ownership and possession of another person.

But here’s the problem. I am a human. Not an object to be owned.

I know this part of my lifestyle is distasteful and beyond comprehension for many people.  But, the big question is why?

Let me put an imaginary scenario to you…

Now that you’ve read all this, how comfortable would you be inviting me into your home for dinner with you and your spouse?

If your first thought was ‘Hell would freeze over first’ then I would ask you to examine that.

Are you attracted to every person you meet?  No?  Neither am I.  In fact I have very specific (and quite frankly, eclectic) tastes when it comes to who I’m attracted to.  And just because I’m attracted to someone does not mean I would ever act on it.

And if your initial reaction was ‘not on your life’ then I would encourage you to examine the level of trust that exists with your partner.   That reaction says ‘I don’t trust my partner enough to be around her.  I don’t trust them to know that they would never let anything happen that I was not 100% OK with’.

Sometimes the things we react the strongest to are those that are rooted in fear.

Let me make something clear.  Cheating = bad.  It’s not OK.  It’s never OK.  Because it’s based on lies and deception that erode the relationship.

A relationship without trust and honesty is nothing.

There are ways to strengthen trust in a relationship, though.

This is an article I like to read.  I don’t know the author, it’s just something I’ve found in my great Google searches. It’s based on rebuilding after a spouse cheats, but it applies to any relationship, no matter what the level of trust.

http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/6-28-2005-72248.asp

I would encourage everyone to read it and DISCUSS it with their partners.

What areas can you improve on and what effect will that have on your relationship?

Because strength in a relationship can only mean happiness for everyone involved.

 Trust and the Monogamy Myth  (Relationship Series: Part 4)
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28 Responses to Trust and the Monogamy Myth (Relationship Series: Part 4)

  • Allyson says:

    You can totally come to dinner at my house.

    Jenn Reply:

    @Allyson,

    Ha! Thanks girl. I promise to be on my ‘best’ behavior. ;-)

  • Jenn, you are blowing meaway left and right with this series.

    I am not someone who could live in the kind of relationship that you have. I have also realized that it is not because of the feelings I have with Jim, but because of feelings that have evolved from past relationships. Horrendous relationships.

    Experiance has taught me to see a woman who flirts with my mate as dangerous. However, retrospect was taught me that it was my current partner that made her dangerous. She had no power without him being weak.

    I envy your ability to give the sort of trust that you do, not only to Bil, but to many people.

    I on the other hand, is a cynical bitch.
    But we knew that :)

    Loves you…but lets not let Jim read this or I may not be “allowed” to be your roomieat Blogher!
    .-= ali (adil320)´s last blog ..2009 beeshes =-.

    Jenn Reply:

    @ali (adil320),

    Ooooo…. now there’s something we should explore in this series. How our past relationships influence our current ones and what we can do to mitigate that effect.

    I don’t think it’s so much you’re cynical as cautious. You have very distinct reasons not to trust. And it takes two people to build and maintain trust. It’s not a one way street.

    And if you think you can use this as an excuse to get out of being my roomie for BlogHer, you’re sadly mistaken. lol

    ali (adil320) Reply:

    @Jenn,

    No way. The #FattyPattyLivesOnBakedGoodsExtravaganza is one. I’m already getting nervous about going though. I still think you should come pick me up…I’ll show you Philly! :)
    .-= ali (adil320)´s last blog ..2009 beeshes =-.

    Jenn Reply:

    @ali (adil320),

    You’ll be fine. (You cannot back out. I will hunt you down) And me picking you up means you’re coming with me to NYC on the Wednesday… If you’re OK with that, then I can do that.

  • new reader to your blog and i just had to say kudos on this series. my husband and i are in an unconventional relationship – married, me working mom, him stay-at-home dad, both BDSM switches (meaning we both like to give and receive the pain as well as take turns with Dominance), open to polyamory – and most of our friends and family have no idea. why? because most would balk at the idea of how we’ve structured our relationship. at times, juggling all these aspects gets stressful but we communicate openly and honestly to work through it. our relationship has been the longest for both of us and i think it’s because we both feel comfortable enough expressing our needs and desires to each other. sorry to drone on but i’m loving your blog so far and look forward to reading more :)
    .-= darkfairymomma´s last blog ..Happily Ever After =-.

    Jenn Reply:

    @darkfairymomma,

    Thank you so much! It’s funny how many of us hide our lifestyle choices because they go against the grain. And yet, I’m discovering, it’s more common than not. Just no one wants to talk about it!

    I’m the same, that this has been my longest relationship by far because I don’t have to fight to be who I am or compromise that. What a difference that can make in your happiness.

  • Lu says:

    I agree with Ali about how you are able to bow me away with this series.
    In a way though, I could always tell (even though we only have an online relationship) that you and Bil were probably non-conventional b/c you are SO COOL. (No offense to conventional types, shit, I may be one.)
    Anyway, We are married, but our marriage was more about what was right for our legal situation at the time. We were already married in our hearts and minds. You know what I am talking about so I won’t go into detail. I would so pull a Brad and Angelina right now and say that I won’t get married until gay couples can get married. We *technically* have the longest marriage (my mom has been widowed twice though, obviously out of her control) in my family. BUT my Aunt and her wife have been together for over 20 years…since I was five. They have always been together. They are married, to me. They don’t have the paper that says so, but they have the trust, love, commitment, and all the other stuff that REALLY makes you married. So of course I always say we have the second longest. Because I want what they have. It’s beautiful.
    Changing gears a little…
    Every time a bachelor’s party comes up and all the girls get upset about the clubs and the staying the night in the hotels I just think, well you guys must have major issues in your relationship. (I personally can’t take the strippers cooters getting by my drink, I have a problem with cooter germs.)
    You could lock Mike in a room with 5 naked girls and he might get a chub, but he won’t act on it. He won’t. I know he won’t. If we had discussed(which he NEVER would I think he may be more conservative than me) allowing something to go down, I still know it wouldn’t. I trust him fully. Right now, and probably forever we are devoted to each other and each other alone. I can’t even pretend to get jealous or even tease him about flirting or cheating because he loves me so much it literally hurts his feelings. He doesn’t even like to play around about it. (Maybe that’s why I do it, because I am a bitch and I like to see him squirm.)
    I do believe that monogamy is possible, but I also know that every human has needs. Some are different than others. I make sure Mike’s needs are met and then some, so he has no desire to get something elsewhere. I think a lot of cheating goes down when one party isn’t getting their tank filled. Then they don’t communicate (or if they do, they are still refused) and then they look elsewhere for satisfaction. It’s a need. Like food. Needs must be met. It’s only human.
    P.S. Feel free to block me from commenting. I ramble, can’t spell, and I am not sure I made ANY sense or even had a point.
    .-= Lu´s last blog ..It’s an Award YAY! =-.

    Jenn Reply:

    @Lu,

    First off… love you, but lay off the pain killers before you comment on my site dude. lol

    You bring up an interesting point about bachelor parties and strip clubs. So many women freak if their husband/boyfriend/whatever you call him, go and see half naked women. My theory on that, like you, is that I trust Bil so if he wants to watch strange women take off their clothes to music? Go for it. Because in the long run, he’s coming home to me. And? If he just…oh… I don’t know… happens to get turned on my said naked women, then I’m the one getting the benefits of that when he comes home. Then again, I’m the type that would go to a strip club and buy my husband a lap dance, so what does that say about me?

    I agree, though, when you say ‘needs must be met’. If you’re not willing to meet your spouse halfway, explore other options, or at least talk about it in detail, then it’s not a big shocker to me when I find out the relationship has gone downhill and someone was probably cheating.

    Ultimately, it comes down to trust.
    You don’t have that and your relationship is already on rocky ground.

    Lu Reply:

    @Jenn, Um, yeah it comes down to trust. Guess I could have said that more directly and less wordy. Bwhaahahaha! Dilaudid much?
    .-= Lu´s last blog ..It’s an Award YAY! =-.

  • Vixen says:

    I am loving this series, Jenn, really interesting stuff. I’ve been around a while (bwahahaha) and so much of what you say is very on target. How’d you get so smart so young?

    I have what most would consider a “conventional” marriage. This year will be 28 years. As our relationship was growing we tried lots of things we considered taboo (yes, we are old-fashioned) and grew together into a perfect relationship. One thing we always had was trust, so we could both flirt to our hearts content knowing that we had trust and no one would be hurt. And that we would always be only with each other, our choice: hearts and minds.
    .-= Vixen´s last blog ..“Once you have mastered time, you will understand how true it is that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year – and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade!” =-.

    Jenn Reply:

    @Vixen,

    Wow! 28 years. That is awesome.

    My parents have been married over 40 years and I’m always in awe of that fact.

    Here’s a question for you though… Do you think if you and your husband met and married in today’s social environment and attitudes that it would have been different for you?

    Vixen Reply:

    @Jenn,

    That is a difficult question to answer. Mike and I are pretty open to change in the world around us and accepting of others choices. In other words, today’s social environment doesn’t bother us they way it does some other old folks. But the question is difficult because it has a ‘depends’ in the answer.

    If we are the same people (inside) we are today, then no. I don’t think today’s social environment would have changed how things worked for us. However, if we had grown up in a different environment and been raised in a different lifestyle? Then possibly I think today’s social environment may have affected how our relationship worked. But then again, our souls know each other. So who knows, it might still have all come out the same.
    .-= Vixen´s last blog ..New Year, Same Shit =-.

  • Chibi Jeebs says:

    You with the making me think – gah! ;) Once again, so much of what you’ve said has given me a lot to mull over, chew on, and ask MYSELF.

    (Chebbar talks to an ex (who WON’T tell her husband she’s talking to Chebbar, has hidden it from him for over a year, and has no intention of filling him in), and it makes me unbelievably jealous to the point I don’t even recognize myself, even though I also trust my spouse implicitly and know he’d *never* cheat on me. I try to explain that my not trusting HER is completely different from not trusting him, but even as it comes out of my mouth, I can totally see why he takes it that way. *sigh* Life is tough.)
    .-= Chibi Jeebs´s last blog ..I’m glad THAT’S over =-.

    Jenn Reply:

    @Chibi Jeebs,

    See the fact that *she* won’t tell her husband that she’s talking to Chebbar makes it something sneaky and dirty and I probably wouldn’t be comfortable with it either. I think the line of thought is something like: she’s obviously OK with hiding stuff from her husband, so what else would she hide?

    But there’s a respect piece there, too. You’ve told your husband you’re not comfortable with him talking to this woman (especially since her husband doesn’t know) and yet he is continuing to converse with her. By doing that, no matter how innocent the intentions, I imagine what you’re hearing is “I care more about talking to this woman than I care about the fact it’s upsetting you”. Then that starts to get into a vicious circle.

    If you really trust him, should it upset you like it does? Maybe, maybe not. It’s always good to look at our triggers when we have a pure emotional anger reaction. Is there some other background that makes this particular woman such a hot topic for you?

  • breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack time… open invitation. you know you wanna get with paul anyways. *snort* xoxo. on a serious note, you are doing a fantastic job with this series and giving readers somethings to really reflect on and explore.

    Jenn Reply:

    @nic @mybottlesup,

    BWAHAHAHA… well, duh! Paul is smokin hot! lol

    Thanks, though. It means a lot to me that people are actually getting something out of my writting

  • Karie says:

    I am a new reader and thoroughly enjoyed this post. I think to each his own on their relationship choices, who is anyone to judge or say what is right. I do believe that the open or quasi-open as you say has to be on BOTH parties. I think if only one party is playing, something just isn’t right in my opinion. I think both parties should always be equal. I too am like you…would buy my husband a lap dance because we both enjoy a good time and the results we reap from the good time. Great post and series…off to read more.
    .-= Karie´s last blog ..Monday Mingle The New Year =-.

    Jenn Reply:

    @Karie,

    It’s an interesting point you make. But in the case of Bil and I, only I play. He has the *option* to, but he probably will never exercise that option. That’s just what works for us. I constantly check in with him to make sure he’s still OK with the arrangement and he is, so… I think it does take, perhaps, an extra level of trust and respect to maintain a relationship like this and it’s certainly not for everyone.

  • PsychMamma says:

    OK – you know I’ve done a lot of thinking on this, and before I play devil’s advocate, I just want to say that the bottom line for me is “to each his/her own.” I’m not going to judge anyone, for any reason, even if it might not be what I’d choose.

    Now, putting on my “devil’s advocate” hat:

    You (and Mr. O) say that the bottom line is trust and that you always know that you and your partner or going home to each other. But at some point, it was mentioned (Mr. O’s post?) that IF you would happen to come across someone who “fits” with you better than your current partner, you would be honest with your partner and split. The argument being that it happens sometimes dishonestly (i.e., cheating) – wouldn’t it be better if it all happened openly/honestly?

    This seems to me like you ARE actually opening yourselves up to at least the POSSIBILITY of finding someone else. If the relationship was not open, you wouldn’t be taking that chance. As much as I’d like to think that I’d be the big person, and be happy for Hubs if he found someone who suited him better, the reality is that it would be somewhat devastating, and would totally suck, considering that I’D still be devoted to HIM and the world would be turned upside down for J and I. Just as much as if he had dishonestly “cheated” in a closed relationship.

    So, does that mean I don’t “trust” him. I’m not sure trust is entirely the appropriate word. I think fear might be more accurate. I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say that I’d always have a little bit of fear that he would find someone else and leave me and J. I’d also have a little fear of sexually transmitted diseases. Even though precautions could be taken, there’s always still a risk.

    I love this series and the fact that it’s thought-provoking on a different level than what you typically find on blogs. Thanks for provoking my thoughts.

    Love you big time!
    xoxox
    .-= PsychMamma´s last blog ..Easy Christmas Gift Idea =-.

    Jenn Reply:

    @PsychMamma,

    I have been struggling to respond to this. I do understand exactly where you’re coming from.

    What needs to be taken into account, though, is those of us who maintain open relationships like this generally don’t think the same way as most of the population. We have the unique (strange?) ability to separate love from sex. So when I’m interacting with someone in a play encounter, it’s sex. There is an intimacy there, but love and all those smushy, mushy feelings are reserved for Bil alone. I’m happy with him and I don’t WANT anyone else. I’m not looking for anyone else. And because I don’t apply the emotional feeling to my play partner(s), there is a separation.

    As soon as you step foot out of the house, you are running the risk of finding someone who suits you better. Every person you meet, you talk to, has that potential. You don’t need an open marriage, or to cheat, to find someone who’s a better match for you. And I honestly don’t think being in an open relationship makes it any more likely.

    In some ways an open relationship is safer. Because there are rules around any encounter and every partner. If feelings start to develop for your play partner, play ends. That’s it. There is no other option. Because your primary devotion, focus, and importance in your life is your spouse. Always. And it would be disrespectful and tantamount to cheating if you pursue a play relationship where those feelings are involved. The knowledge that this is the situation is part of where trust really comes into play. You trust your partner to end the relationship if feelings start.

    I think what you need to understand is we’re not going outside our relationship because we’re unhappy in our current relationship. In fact, with the higher level of communication and understanding, I could argue that we’re happier than most couples. So we’re not actively looking for something better.

    And Bil never has to fear that I will leave him because he trusts that my devotion is to him and him alone. It takes a very special relationship with your spouse to even consider opening it up to other people.

    And let me just touch on STD’s for a moment. This is always a concern. And exactly why I only play with people I know well and who’s sexual style I know well. There are a ton of rules in place here too. Condoms are a must. There are lots of precautions taken. It’s not an area or topic taken lightly by those who play because that would be disrespectful to your spouse.

    The bottom line is that this type of relationship isn’t for everyone. It takes a very different mindset and that ability to separate the feelings from the act.

  • I wouldn’t invite you to dinner. No way no how…..No dessert is a WHOLE different occasion :o)

    Love the discussions and thought being brought to the surface through these posts. It is an open and interesting world out there and if we each learned to live with what is best for us and know that what Jane Doe does may not work for us and that’s ok, life would be so much happier for many people.
    .-= Katie (aka Kekibird)´s last blog ..Tripping At The Finish Line =-.

    Jenn Reply:

    @Katie (aka Kekibird),

    ROFL! Dessert hey… a little bit of whipping creme here… some chocolate sauce and strawberries there… lol

    I agree with you, though. If people were allowed to live in the manner that made them happy and without the judgment of others who don’t understand, life really would be happier for so many.

  • Deidra23 says:

    You’re always invited for dinner at our house. (and yes, i finally got around to blog reading!)

  • alyssa says:

    WOW this is some serious great stuff here… I can’t say that I would be ok with my hubby sleeping with someone else EVEN if he came back to my bed at night after I know he would LOVE it and he would be all for it. Of course the times when I have seen a hottie that I would like to sleep with are so far and few that maybe that makes the difference? I don’t know maybe we just need some hot men in Philadelphia area! Great writing.
    .-= alyssa´s last blog ..I Beg You To Ask The Maven PLEASE…Did I Say Beg? =-.

  • Before we were married, my husband was fine with me playing with other women, almost always with him there, and ALWAYS with his blessing.

    Now, we’ve been married 7 years and I recently found out that he cheated on me repeatedly while we were dating. It just changes things. Cheating is completely different from playing. His guilt surrounding what he did makes him feel terrified that I’m going to find someone else I’d rather be with – male OR female. It’s something we’ve been struggling with for a few months, and are going to counseling for.

    It’s interesting how something he used to be OK with is now terrifying to him. And because I know he’s not OK with it, I would NEVER play, but he’s afraid it’s a “need” I have, and would possibly do in the heat of the moment, without his permission.

    Gah, this comment is getting long and WOW, not something I thought I’d share on the internet. Great series!
    .-= Andrea’s Sweet Life´s last blog ..At Least One of us is Laughing =-.

    Al_Pal Reply:

    @Andrea’s Sweet Life, SO much admiration for your sharing.
    (You too, Princess!)

    I definitely see monogamy as more of a social construct. How much is my spirit & how much is reading sci-fi from a youngish age? I don’t know. ;p
    .-= Al_Pal´s last blog ..My new creative outlet: Bread Puddings! =-.

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