There have been a number of articles on non-monogamy, and not just about Tiger Woods. He was the headline, but there were a number of page two stories-and if you picked up a celebrity magazine, you'd think there was no one on earth who had sex only with their spouse.
It's not true- at least not true for marriage. Some research says there is a fifty percent infidelity record among dating couples, but marriage still means something different to most people. Infidelity in marriage is nowhere near the reported fifty percent in dating couples, and while studies vary, the indicators tend to hover around twenty to 25 percent lifetime non-monogamy- AND about ten percent in a given year.
But all these statistics miss what I think is an important point: that even if the world or one's spouse never knew- infidelity has its own profound costs to the individual and to their perception of the relationship. First of all, keeping a secret of that magnitude is difficult. Tiger would have had to be balancing multiple realities at once- and while that may have seemed like fun some of the time, it must have kept him awake and anxiety ridden about how he could keep his different women happy, quiet and loyal. Assuming he loved his wife, and he must have at least loved their life together as a family- he would have worried what would happen if this all blew up in his face. And finally, when he was in bed with her- or with one of these other women- some part of his head would always be elsewhere. The present intimacy compromised by all the competing visions and scripts in his head. Add to this a niggling conscience that maybe he wasn't being fair to anyone in his life, and you hardly get simple sexual pleasure or a happy husband.
Fidelity has its own rewards, and they include more than just avoiding ending up on the front page of the Enquirer or the subject of blistering attacks in the mass media. It is what you promised, and there is the pleasure of fulfilling your word. Furthermore, your feelings are focused, your energy is directed, and your issues have to be solved with the one person who holds the key to a harmonious and supportive relationship. It isn't easy for people with a heavy duty sex drive or an ego that needs confirmation from others, but when it's hard to do, it's all the more satisfying to accomplish. Failing to do so has inevitable costs. Perhaps the worst cost is the dilution of the relationship- your intimacy is necessarily diminished and your energies are necessarily scattered.
That's why, I think, there are so few "open marriages" that last. So few people who can handle "swinging", and only a very small minority of people open up their relationship to polyamory (loving and having a sexual connection with more than one person in an honest relationship). It's not just that few partners will tolerate sharing the person they love; it's also because most people want to be faithful because it helps sustain and deepen a lifetime relationship. Furthermore, most people need to feel that they are uniquely loved and prioritized-if they love someone, they don't want to be one of two or three partners, even if the person in question is famous or rich. Sure there are exceptions. Watch Big Love on television and you can see how polygamy functions under a theological directive, but even in that religiously supportive framework, you can also see jealousy and jockeying for first position. Try non-monogamy outside of a religious community and the vast majority of people will experience heartbreak and relationship melt down.
I think that most people are faithful, not because they were told to be, but because sooner or later, they learn that it works for them better than anything else. It turns out that fidelity is a worthy goal, even for a man who can have anyone. Of course Tiger Woods could go into a nightclub and come out with a sex partner- so could most Hollywood celebrities, CEOs, etc. But sooner or later, all those men (or women) want loyalty and love . And it isn't having ten lovers that makes that happen-it's fidelity with one.