Shameless Woman

Pursuing an integrated life of sensuality, health, healing and rejuvenation

The Monogamish Marriage: What If It's Not Cheating to Cheat?

"There have always been non-monogamous marriages."

The front cover of the New York Times Magazine section bears a startling headline, "Married with Infidelities" by Mark Oppenheimer which is the first time the gray lady has truly taken off the gloves in exploring that state of the monogamous marriage and infidelity in the United States.


Of course there are the studies, The New York Times cites several:

"There have always been nonmonogamous marriages. In 2001, The Journal of Family Psychology summarized earlier research, finding that "infidelity occurs in a reliable minority of American marriages." Estimates that "between 20 and 25 percent of all Americans will have sex with someone other than their spouse while they are married" are conservative, the authors wrote. In 2010, NORC, a research center at the University of Chicago, found that, among those who had ever been married, 14 percent of women and 20 percent of men admitted to affairs."

Infidelity, straying, or cheating is not news. As the article points out over and over again all you have to do is turn on the television on any given day to see the political sex scandal du jour. So what is up?

Perhaps, what is up is the fact that we simply cannot escape the cold hard fact that the dream of the perfect happily ever after story book monogamous marriage is simply not a reality for a great many people. Instead we have incredibly high divorce rates, and families with little stability left in it's wake. Is there another answer?

While the paradiam of straight monogamy may be perfect for many couples, for others it is simply so difficult that it creates bad behaviors such as Weiner- like "Sexting Scandals because for many - long term monogamy can  become sexually boring, stagnant and create the sexual death bed.

For some people in monogamous long term marriages - their pent up sexual energy can leak out in odd ways - as they look for some kind of sexual boost and excitement to their lives. As the article states - perhaps that is why many of us were repulsed by Anthony Weiner's sexting - not because he was so weird - but because it was too close to some of our own desperateness to find a way to play outside of our own monogamous relationships in some kind of "safe way".


For me, this subject hits incredibly close to home as  I will be celebrating 30 years of marriage this August. And as the famed Annie Sprinkle said in her reviewer highlight in The New York Times Art Section (Annie Sprinkle on Sex, Art and Activism)  of my memior this weekend (Shameless: How I Ditched The Diet, Got Naked, Found True Pleasure and Somehow Got Home in Time to Cook Dinner ), that it is perhaps the first book of a woman talking about paying for sexual healing and experiences as a way to understand herself sexually AND as a way of saving a monogamous long term marriage.

I believe that being "monogamish" as famed sex columnist Dan Savage would call it - and having sexual agreements in place that felt safe to both my husband and myself has been the key to saving my flourishing 30 year marriage.

I think that Dan Savage of Savage Love gets it right when he talks about marriage being about stability and love first. Critics of Savage say that he is working on a gay male model of partnership - but there is nothing gay in my marriage to my very straight military background husband. We just have really gotten to the understanding that  we are Two Unique Sexual Beings in One  Marriage - and that means that we can't always meet the other's sexual needs. I love it when Savage talks about the three G's - quoted from the New York Times article:


"Dan has always said if you have different tastes, you have to be good, giving and game, and if you are not G.G.G. for those tastes, then you have to give your partner the out."

Eventually, that is what happened in my own marriage - and we are happy, thriving and in our own private rules of engagement - we don't cheat, we eat! Taken from my fellow Psychology Today blogger - Rachel Clark who wrote a fabulous piece called "Shameful: What if It's Eating Not Cheating".


I am finding this new openness and discussion about the state of marriage and monogamy incredibly exciting. Perhaps it is the array of books on the subjects that have been making appearances at bookstores near you that have helped The New York Times, and the rest of us finally begin to have open conversations about the state of sexuality, marriage and monogamy in the United States and around the world.


If you want a really good reading list on this subject check out the following titles:


Mating In Captivity By Ester Perel
Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha
Jack into the Savage Love columns that are syndicated across the country - or listen to Dan Savages Pod Casts.
"Paying For It" Chester Brown


The floor is now open for this discussion to really hit the main stream. As for me - this is a huge relief. I always knew that I was not alone in needing more - I just didn't have a paradigm or language to help me out. I knew that I didn't want to "Cheat".

Along the way, my husband and I learned that by bringing extended monogamy into our lives by allowing me to attend sexuality workshops and work with trained hands on sexual practitioners was our answer to a happy, stable marriage. Everyone has to create their own way - but now at the very least the discussion is open.

Won't you join it? What do you think about being "monogamish"?  Could you imagine having such a conversation with your partner? Are you doing this already in your life?

Pamela Madsen is a fertility/sex educator, blogger, author of Shameless and founder of The American Fertility Association.

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