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Sexologist Talks about being Monogamish

October 27th, 2016 Posted in SEX

We are in a time of crisis. We have a global epidemic on our hands and it’s airborne. That’s what Jessica O’Reilly says.

It affects the young and the old and knows no geographical bounds. Now, this problem is not unlike other widespread crises, the economy, climate change for instance.

But this crisis effects more of us, in a more personal and perceptible fashion. It tears families apart.

It takes the most detrimental toll on the most vulnerable among us and it’s contagious. It’s spreading.

Yet somehow, we’re captivated by it. I’m talking about the crisis of the modern monogamous marriage.

jennifer

Now, if I were to make you an offer in any realm of your life, would you take it?

If I said, invest in my fund, there’s a per cent chance you’ll see a return. Or sign this business deal, you’ve got a percent chance of failure, but hey, why not?

Or hop on this flight, you’ve got a shot at making it to your destination safely. Even if I offered you two free checked bags, you’d probably say no.

But the modern monogamous marriage offers even lower statistical odds when you factor in divorce rates and the rates of infidelity.

Now, in North America, divorce rates are over 50 percent, higher, if you count your second and third marriages. In my family sometimes we go on even above three. Four, five, and six. You know already about my husband’s fights because of Riaz.

So I might as well divulge some info.

Infidelity rates in North America are between 30 and 60 percent, depending on who’s asking and who drank their truth serum this morning. And research suggests that satisfaction rates in marriage plummet after the honeymoon phase, never to recover.

Scary.

Now, many young people are actually opting not to get married. Marriage rates are on the decline. Maybe because they’ve heard that research shows that married people are, in fact, no happier than their single counterparts.

And have you heard of mate poaching?

Apparently, percent of men – shame, shame – and percent of women – we’re not better, not much better – have tried to woo someone away from their current spouse. What is going on?

So when we combine these statistics, we look at the numbers. We see that in marriage it is in fact a best case scenario.

Marriage is in a time of crisis.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we do away with marriage; I’m a fan of marriage. I even picked one up for myself. I’ve been happily married to my husband for eight years, living with him for 12 .

What I am saying is that marriage is a failure in human design. It doesn’t matter that research says that marriage is good for my health and even better for men’s health, somehow they always win. And it doesn’t matter that we all go into marriage with the most noble of intentions, right?

To live happily ever after, to love our partner unconditionally, to help them grow into the best version of themselves. Because it doesn’t always end up this way. Because of this failure in human design, marriage can be restrictive in personal growth, and even repressive in its demands of absolute monogamy. In any other realm, if we saw failure rates like we see in marriage, we would do something about it. When the markets tumble, we do something about it; we adjust interest rates, we enact austerity measures, we develop stimulus packages.

Right?

If a car malfunctions in some way, we issue a recall, so that we can repair it. And if a superbug is unresponsive to a current vaccination, we go back to the lab to develop a new formulation. When something doesn’t work, when anything doesn’t work, we innovate. So why do we accept the monogamous marriage in its current form, despite its design flaws?

Could our relationships not benefit from a stimulus package?

A temporary recall. Just overnight. Isn’t it time we go back to the lab to dissect the issues, challenge the failing norm, and innovate? Now, some couples have already done this. They reject monogamy altogether. Swingers for instance, I know a lot of them. Surprise, surprise, the sexologist says. They have sex with other people and it works for them.

Polyamorous have emotional, intimate, loving, and sexual relationships with multiple partners and it works for them. And open relationships come in a huge range of forms that are custom designed by every couple or threesome or foursome, or moresome, however it comes. Now, I know many couples for whom open relationships have worked, Rosa and Dan for instance. After years of marriage, they said, "Something’s gotta give." Their words, not mine.

So they decided to open their relationship up and now they have lovers across North America, and they couldn’t be happier. But like monogamy, open relationships only work for a very small number of people.

An estimated four to five, not , four to five percent have tried it with a good degree of success.

The problem with open relationships is that most of us just don’t want one. We’re okay with other people being open, but we don’t want to share our partners. Happily ever after with one true soul mate has been too firmly ingrained in our sub-consciousness, since birth. So what we’ve determined so far is that over here we have the monogamous. Monogamy works for a small number of people. Over here we have the non-monogamous, and that works for an even smaller percentage of people. And the rest of us, we fall somewhere in between.

It affects the young and the old and knows no geographical bounds. Now, this problem is not unlike other widespread crises, the economy, climate change for instance.

But this crisis effects more of us, in a more personal and perceptible fashion. It tears families apart.

It takes the most detrimental toll on the most vulnerable among us and it’s contagious. It’s spreading.

Yet somehow, we’re captivated by it. I’m talking about the crisis of the modern monogamous marriage.

Now, if I were to make you a  offer in any realm of your life, would you take it?

If I said, invest in my fund, there’s a per cent chance you’ll see a return. Or sign this business deal, you’ve got a percent chance of failure, but hey, why not?

Or hop on this flight, you’ve got a  shot at making it to your destination safely. Even if I offered you two free checked bags, you’d probably say no.

But the modern monogamous marriage offers even lower statistical odds when you factor in divorce rates and the rates of infidelity.

Now, in North America, divorce rates are over 50 percent, higher, if you count your second and third marriages. In my family sometimes we go on even above three. Four, five, and six. You know already about my husband’s fights because of Riaz.

So I might as well divulge some info.

Infidelity rates in North America are between and percent, depending on who’s asking and who drank their truth serum this morning. And research suggests that satisfaction rates in marriage plummet after the honeymoon phase, never to recover.

Scary.

Now, many young people are actually opting not to get married. Marriage rates are on the decline. Maybe because they’ve heard that research shows that married people are, in fact, no happier than their single counterparts.

And have you heard of mate poaching?

Apparently, percent of men – shame, shame – and percent of women – we’re not better, not much better – have tried to woo someone away from their current spouse. What is going on?

So when we combine these statistics, we look at the numbers. We see that in marriage it is in fact a best case scenario.

Marriage is in a time of crisis.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we do away with marriage; I’m a fan of marriage. I even picked one up for myself. I’ve been happily married to my husband for eight years, living with him for 12 .

What I am saying is that marriage is a failure in human design. It doesn’t matter that research says that marriage is good for my health and even better for men’s health, somehow they always win. And it doesn’t matter that we all go into marriage with the most noble of intentions, right?

To live happily ever after, to love our partner unconditionally, to help them grow into the best version of themselves. Because it doesn’t always end up this way. Because of this failure in human design, marriage can be restrictive in personal growth, and even repressive in its demands of absolute monogamy. In any other realm, if we saw failure rates like we see in marriage, we would do something about it. When the markets tumble, we do something about it; we adjust interest rates, we enact austerity measures, we develop stimulus packages.

Right?

If a car malfunctions in some way, we issue a recall, so that we can repair it. And if a superbug is unresponsive to a current vaccination, we go back to the lab to develop a new formulation. When something doesn’t work, when anything doesn’t work, we innovate. So why do we accept the monogamous marriage in its current form, despite its design flaws?

Could our relationships not benefit from a stimulus package?

A temporary recall. Just overnight. Isn’t it time we go back to the lab to dissect the issues, challenge the failing norm, and innovate? Now, some couples have already done this. They reject monogamy altogether. Swingers for instance, I know a lot of them. Surprise, surprise, the sexologist says. They have sex with other people and it works for them.

Polyamorous have emotional, intimate, loving, and sexual relationships with multiple partners and it works for them. And open relationships come in a huge range of forms that are custom designed by every couple or threesome or foursome, or moresome, however it comes. Now, I know many couples for whom open relationships have worked, Rosa and Dan for instance. After years of marriage, they said, "Something’s gotta give." Their words, not mine.

So they decided to open their relationship up and now they have lovers across North America, and they couldn’t be happier. But like monogamy, open relationships only work for a very small number of people.

An estimated four to five, not , four to five percent have tried it with a good degree of success.

The problem with open relationships is that most of us just don’t want one. We’re okay with other people being open, but we don’t want to share our partners. Happily ever after with one true soul mate has been too firmly ingrained in our subconsciousness, since birth. So what we’ve determined so far is that over here we have the monogamous. Monogamy works for a small number of people. Over here we have the non-monogamous, and that works for an even smaller percentage of people. And the rest of us, we fall somewhere in between.

So what about the rest of us?

Cheating isn’t an option.

I’m not even going to go there. So how do we find our happily ever after? Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed guests, I submit to you that the solution is to consider the gray area of the monogamish.

This term has been around for some time. I remember hearing it as a kid when I shouldn’t have been listening to my parents friends back in the s, but it became popularized by sex columnists, Dan Savage, more recently.

And Dan used this term to describe his relationship in which he is emotionally, and practically, and lovingly monogamous with his partner, but sexually they’re allowed to do other things. So to me, that’s more of an open relationship.

So what I suggest is that we fine-tune the term – the philosophy of monogamish – to make it more accessible to the rest of us, who fall into this gray area.

Let’s use monogamish to take the monotony out of monogamy in a way that preserves the sanctity, the safety, and the comfort of our relationships.

So, monogamish, what might this look like?

Monogamish couples might look to extramarital sources for sexual stimulation.

But only in thought, not in action. So if I’m monogamish, there might have been a volunteer backstage that was kinda cute. So I took a second look.

I hope I didn’t make him uncomfortable, never making him uncomfortable. I might have had a break and thought about him a little. I might think about him later tonight.

But I’m never going to act upon that thought. And this thought and thoughts like it

that are forbidden in so many monogamous relationships, admitting to this thought serves to further stabilize my relationship because when we put these forbidden thoughts

out in the open, we serve to reduce their power, and we decrease the likelihood that we’ll actually act upon them.

So, we have thought, but not action, and then we have talk, but not touch. So monogamish couples might look to extramarital sources for sexual arousal and pleasure in a talk format with no touch.

Flirting with other people comes to mind as a really good example of this.

So, bear with me a moment. Picture this you’re at a bar, you’re with you partner. Say you’re with your husband. And there’s a waitress and she’s kinda cute. Not too cute.

We all have our limits. So you tease him a little "She’s really cute, isn’t she? I think she was checking you out.

You look hot tonight, Babe." She totally wasn’t checking him out,

but they all like a good stroking of the ego. With your coaxing, maybe, he even flirts with her a little. Maybe you get in on that flirting, too.

Obviously showing her the utmost respect and respect for your relationship. At the end of the night, you go home together, you and your husband, not the waitress.

Let’s be clear here. You go home and you continue the fantasy. You weave it in the bedroom.

You even talk about having a threesome. "Oh Babe, you look so hot tonight. I totally want to bring her home with us. Yeah, I’d love to, absolutely, don’t you want four hands on you? Can’t you imagine, I’d love to share you."

It’s just talk. You pull out all the stops.

You drive him into a frenzy and then you both get off, you have a great time.

When you’re done, you take him by the hand and look him in the eye and you say,

"Don’t even think about it."

And he knows and says, "Of course not, Babe, that was amazing, thank you.

You’re all I want. Can I get you anything, a beer or a cheeseburger?"

Isn’t that how it should always end? Alright. You break the norms of rigid monogamy without ever touching another person.

It’s just talk.

All the flirting, all the fantasy, the four hands, the waitress. You’re never going to that bar again, by the way. So one shot deal. It’s just talk, nothing more. Now, we have thought, but not action.

We have talk, but not touch.

And then we have couples, who make this foray into monogamish territory, and they love it.

They relish in it, and they say, "You know what? Things have never been better.

Let’s take it to another level." Those couples might decide, "Let’s go to a strip club.

Let’s get a couple of lap dances." A few years later, maybe they work their way into the back room, the champagne room. I don’t even know what goes on in there.

Maybe they love the dirty talk element and they want to bring a third person in, but they don’t want the threat of a real live person in the flesh. So they call a phone sex line together.

I know, it’s not, but they still exist. And they make a lot of money, it’s a profitable industry.

Maybe they know someone who is a swinger, and they’ve been invited to swinger parties.

Now, they do not want to swing, but they like the idea of the environment, of being around this kind of erotic element; the edge, the sights, the sounds, the smells.

Not the smells, forget that. Just the sights, and the sounds, and the energy.

What we have to remember is that monogamish is a mindset, not a manner.

You make it what you choose. If the strip club doesn’t appeal to you, don’t go. If the idea of flirting with a real live person seems just too risky,

don’t do it. Maybe you opt instead to sign into a chat room together or use a cam service for a little bit of nighttime fun on a Saturday night.

There is no universal formula for happily ever after.

And there’s no formula for monogamish. I’m simply suggesting that we might benefit from considering options beyond the rigid norm of monogamy.

So now, you’re thinking, "Okay, monogamish sounds good, I love strippers."

Right?

And now guys don’t even have six-packs, they have eight-packs. It doesn’t sound bad.

You’re thinking, "This sounds okay, but how do I get over my insecurities?

How do I deal with the jealousy? Part of me would want to tear that sort-of-cute waitress’s hair out. Or I don’t want this ripped guys grinding up on my wife.

I can’t handle that. I gained weight during her pregnancy, had a lot of cravings. Can’t expect a man to have a six-pack after pregnancy, right?

So these are all valid concerns. I can’t help you with the six-pack, but every couple deals with these jealousies, these insecurities, these challenges, in their very own way.

Some take baby steps. They don’t dive into monogamish, they do it a little bit at a time. They might start by simply admitting to which celebrities they find attractive.

It could take them years to work their way up to actually divulging their deepest, darkest fantasies. But these years, that process, is what makes it hot. A little bit of fear and anxiety, balanced with love, comfort, and security is the perfect recipe, not only for love, but for lust.

Other couples, in addition to taking baby steps, they decide to compartmentalize their monogamish element of their relationship. They say, "I really like our relationship as it is.

I love a little bit of monogamish, but not too much." So maybe, they make a rule that they only talk about fantasies that include other people on special occasions.

Or Tuesdays, or the month of March, whatever works for them.

Maybe they love the idea of flirting with other people because flirting is so much fun, it brings out the sexual animal in you, it boosts your self-esteem and it can actually be kind of hot to watch your partner flirt with someone else, under the right consensual circumstances.

But maybe they only do this once a year, when they’re on vacation. Or maybe that bar with the waitress is just too close to home, so they only do it when they’re together at least miles from their hometown; whatever works for them. Some couples, they go after monogamish and they push their boundaries too far and they end up regretting it, but regret is not tantamount to disaster. Mistakes are the most important learning and growth opportunities in a relationship.

When we think of monogamish or we think of relationships, you can think of it as a rubber band.

You can stretch it in this direction, but it still goes back to its solid form.You can stretch it over here, and it doesn’t mean that you ever have to do it again if you don’t like it.

And if you stretch it this way, it doesn’t mean that the next time – the next day, next month, next year – that you have to pull it further.

In fact, you may not want to because it can snap. What we have to know is that progress and relationships are elastic. They are not rigid. Now, as we look at monogamish, we can’t just look at anecdote and conjecture, we also have to look at the science of why monogamish relationships might be the panacea we seek in response to this epidemic of the failing monogamous marriage.

There are, of course, no universal set of rules for a successful relationship.

However, there are some components that tend to be present in happy, lasting marriages.

The first is habit-formed, emotional expression. Scientists like to sound fancy. It means talking.

Talking about your feelings. The good, the bad and the ugly. Admit when you’re jealous,

admit when you’re feeling a little bit off. This is important. The second involves a balance between connectivity and freedom. It is all based in self-expansion theory.

The self-expansion theory explains that we are most happy in our relationships when our partners offer us opportunities for growth. Humans; we’re animals, and we’re programmed to seek change, to seek novelty. We have a hunger for it. And when our partners feed this hunger, we are more happy with them and more attracted to them. Now, the third component of a happy relationship is an active sex life. An active sex life doesn’t mean that you need to be swinging from chandeliers or doing it every day,

or every week, or every month. It just means that you put some effort into your sex life.

Even the Pope and the Catholic cardinals and the bishops know this. Do you know why?

Last week at the Vatican, these celibate men had a symposium on marriage.

They got together to discuss what makes a marriage work, but they did invite in experts.

And one expert couple from Australia, who has been married for years, told this group of entirely celibate men that their sex life has been, and continues to be, of paramount importance.

Very interesting to me.

Now, in my job, I work with couples from all around the world, thousands per year.

And what I’ve seen is that when couples consider opening up their definition of monogamy, even in the smallest of ways, it forces their relationship to thrive on these core elements.

Emotional expression, connectivity balanced with freedom, and an active sex life become the norm, as soon as you start to see monogamy along a continuum.  We need to update and get a new set of rules for marriage.

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