Maybe Men Cheat Because They Love Their Partners

An insane idea? Mark McCormack thinks otherwise.

“Can men and women ever be just good friends?” This question has long been a staple of women’s magazines, self-help books, and day-time television shows. And as conservative morality lessens, inspiring a culture of ‘hooking up’ particularly among young people, the question has fresh relevance. As highlighted by the film Friends with Benefits, where Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis collide (passionately and repeatedly) in search of sexual satisfaction without commitment, contemporary culture is throwing up a host of scenarios where the question can be asked with renewed zeal.

Yet the question belies an aggravatingly simplistic understanding of men, women, sex and love. Ignoring the assumption that all men and women are heterosexual, it is problematic because it conflates emotional closeness with sexual passion. While a seemingly innocuous question about the tribulations of heterosexual friendship, its implicit beliefs are that sex has to be emotionally-charged and that romantic love is necessarily sexual. If you like her, you must want to fuck her. And while Hollywood, Disney, and almost all of popular culture continue to promote this view of sex and love, increasing numbers of people are dissatisfied by its tenets—including those in open relationships and the majority of those who cheat.

♦◊♦

In the past, I resorted to just grumbling about the inanity of the question, bemoaning the simplistic understandings of sex, love, and the exclusion of sexual minorities from the mix. It was therefore with great joy that I read my friend’s new book that provides a brilliant analysis of sex, love and the human condition. The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love and the Reality of Cheating, by Professor Eric Anderson, offers a provocative exploration of sex and love, critiquing monogamy as a failed social institution that works to limit our sexual pleasure and restrict our ability to form long-lasting, loving relationships.

While Professor Anderson’s main target is monogamy, the book resonated with me so powerfully because it draws on sociology and psychology, alongside several branches of science, to demonstrate the problems of conflating sex and love. He provides an array of biological explanations as to why these men’s illicit desires are fundamentally natural, arguing that sexual desire is not biologically linked to emotional relationships, even if it can produce an emotional response.

Anderson’s argument is that monogamy is a social ideal, and not a biological one. He shows that it normally comes at considerable cost, either through suppressing sexual desire or risking being caught cheating. Drawing on a wide range of evidence, Anderson suggests that monogamy is an irrational ideal because it fails to provide a lifetime of sexual fulfilment. Cheating becomes the rational response to an irrational situation.

Of course, one of the main reasons for this conflation of sex and love is precisely to keep monogamy in its hallowed place. For without the idea that sex is necessarily an emotionally-imbued act, the reasons to stick with just one sexual partner fall away. Academic feminists have long highlighted the links between monogamy and misogyny (arguing that monogamy has historically been about the possession of women), and rather than rehearse the same arguments, Anderson highlights how monogamy also does not work for men. He argues that just as we would grow bored of the same food day after day, and just as we need more than one friend to keep us emotionally secure and intellectually stimulated, our mammalian bodies need multiple sexual partners to remain sexually satisfied. This is why couples have less and less sex the longer they are together, even though women’s sexual appetite peaks in their mid-30s. Anderson shows that sex dies as love grows and his argument matters because many couples view this decline in sex as evidence of a problem in a relationship, rather than a natural phenomenon of monogamous sexual relationships.

♦◊♦

Anderson also charts how society is beginning to understand the problems with monogamy, arguing that the requirements of what it means to be monogamous changes over time: from not masturbating in the 1950s, to not thinking of another woman while masturbating, to not watching porn, to not kissing another woman, to some men today allowed to do no more than kissing another woman. From this historical perspective, the possibility of having multiple sexual partners while maintaining a committed emotional relationship looks closer than we might otherwise think. Indeed, it demonstrates the effects that a more expansive and open sexual morality has on socially-enforced institutions like monogamy. And it is at this stage that Anderson provides his most provocative argument: Men cheat because they love their partners.

It is the ‘because’ that makes the statement so challenging. Yet Anderson’s argument is convincing: Intentionally focusing on younger men unburdened by marriage and parenthood, he argues that if these men did not love their partners, they could break up with them. Existing in the open sexual marketplace of university culture, and fuelled by high consumption of both alcohol and porn, these men do not need to be with their partners for access to sex (unlike undergraduates of past generations). In other words, if the 78% of university-attending men he interviewed who had cheated on their current partners did not love them, they would have left them. The logic, then, is clear—these men are with their girlfriends because of the emotional bond they share. Having undergone a rapid process of sexual habituation in a culture that is highly sexualized, it is men’s sexual dissatisfaction rather than any emotional one which propels them to have sex with others.

Anderson’s argument is contrary to what we have been told by our parents, religion, and Disney, yet it is nonetheless compelling. And it also makes clear that yes, men and women can be ‘just friends.’ With the conflation between sex and love unpicked, the capacity for sexless friendship and emotion-free sex becomes apparent. I suggest that ‘friends with benefits’ is a further weakening of the dominant position of monogamy. While still removed from the anonymity of ‘hooking up,’ it is nonetheless a search for sexual satisfaction without emotional baggage. The next thing society has to learn is that emotional relationships can be stronger without the complications of sex, and certainly without the strictures of sexual fidelity. And it is for these reasons that Anderson’s book is a must-read for all those who feel strongly about sex, love, and monogamy.

—Photo seanmcgrath/Flickr

About Mark McCormack

Mark McCormack is a Lecturer in Education at Brunel University, England. His book, The Declining Significance of Homophobia: How Teenage Boys are Redefining Masculinity and Heterosexuality, will be published with Oxford University Press in January 2012.

Comments

  1. Eva Gorman says:

    This article and study should make every good man cringe.

    PEOPLE (not just men) cheat because their ego is flattered. Because they think they can get away with it. Because real life responsibilities seem overwhelming. Because they feel entitled. For a million other reasons, but NOT because they love their spouse too much to leave or hurt them.

    People who cheat are simply too afraid to first break up with their significant other before they try the new man or woman out. There’s good reason to be afraid. You risk losing half your assets, and half your family, at the very least. To say it’s because they “love women” is simply an insult to our intelligence.

    As a side note, being able to cheat has been made about a zillion times easier thanks to the internet. We are overstimulated by porn and we can use the anonymity of the internet to re-invent ourselves. I love technology, but this is one downside of it.

  2. This just sounds like the guy who wrote the book is giving men an excuse to cheat. BS in my opinion. The human race, at this point in time, is so oversexualized that all we do now is eat, sleep and breathe sex. It’s obnoxious, for lack of a better word. The constant pursuit of all things sex is bound to come back and slap everyone in the face at some point. The world can’t continue on like this forever. Just look at the Elliot Rodger story. That’s where the word is headed. I thank god I have raised my kid already and tell him on a regular basis not to bring children into this world.

  3. Cheating and having other sexual relationships when agreed upon/practicing non-monogamy are TWO different things. Cheating involves going behind someone’s back and breaking their trust. If you want to live that lifestyle, you should be in a relationship with someone who does too or at least be man enough to admit it and NOT get in a monogamous relationship.

    Plus, cheating happens in a variety of situations and we can’t blanket all of those…Sometimes it happens when people are bored sexually, but sometimes it’s about more than that–emotions, self unhappiness, not having enough sex….It doesn’t have to be that everyone cheats just because they are “bored” with their partner. This article puts a blanket statement on male cheating (and saying it might be excusable if there’s a biological reason–setting up a non-monogamous relationship IS ok, but breaking someone’s trust is NOT…) and therefore I find it quite poorly written.

  4. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    Sometimes DADT is just the thing in a relationship; sometimes, in another relationship, it isn’t. I know from experience I don’t like all the processing that goes with being poly. And I personally experienced manipulation in poly relationships.

  5. Cheating is deceit. If you and your partner agree to define an untraditional level of openness in the relationship, then you’ve set new boundaries for cheating. Whatever works for both of you (or all of you if poly) is healthy. Break those boundaries, and you’re risking your partner’s emotional and physical health; hardly a behaviour of someone who is in love.

    People who are in love are honest about their needs and expectations. People who cheat are acting selfishly, period. To pretend that they are acting in love—and to conflate it with troubled relationship dynamics—is destructive to any progress being made.

    Have the conversation about openness and social constructs—that’s healthy. Defending cheaters diminishes any respect for the opinion.

  6. Hi Mark

    Do also women cheat because they love their man.
    Yesterday I read about the new report about sex in the UK.
    Men that cheated :50-60% of all men in committed relationships
    Women that cheated :50-55% -“-
    If I rember correctly.

    More interesting was however how little sex people have. Usually only three 3 times a month.
    So with all our cheating,open relationships,porn.prostitution and polyamor most persons have few sexual happenings each month ,at least if they live in UK.
    And maybe three times is not few. Maybe that is natural. Who knows?
    Maybe we are brainwashed to believe we must have sex as often as possible and at least eight -nine times a month….

  7. Megan Sailsbury says:

    Lame excuses for bad behavior, and nothing else.

    And by the way, genuine monogamy may not be universal, or even common, but it does exist. Saying otherwise is the same inane “if I don’t like it nobody can” bullshit as the article claiming people all hate sharing a bed with their partners and it’s stupid to try.

  8. So why don’t we all just have open relationships? become swingers? have the toy boys and mistresses etc… Lets all drop this ‘its only the two of us for sex’ for the rest of our lives BS and be blood honest with each other. I realised this shizzle a little while ago and I genuinely think that an emotional/love relationship is quite crowded with more than one person, but sex can and should be with multiple people when needed. Why the fudge can’t we all just drop the expectation and sit dow hand have open, honest conversations about this so people don’t need to cheat. the reason cheating is frowned upon is because of the DECEIT and often not the act of sex with another.

    • This, seriously. It’s about the deceit, not the act. I’m in a healthy and yet open relationship, but my partner could still “cheat” on me by breaking one of our established rules.

    • Hi Natty

      Let’s guess .
      Take the excitement and danger aspect out of having a fling, will men still be as eager to cheat as when it taboo?
      Maybe the frequency of cheating goes down when it is something you no longer have to do in secrecy , when it is no longer forbidden , when it is no longer a challenge, and it is longer a little boy’s revolt against the cage marriage is for him.
      And the same goes for women.

      • If it’s not taboo, it’s no longer cheating, it’s just sleeping with Simeon else. My partner has two regular girlfriends and two girls he sees very infrequently. He’s not cheating when he sees them, because he has my permission. Likewise, I’m not cheating on my boyfriend by having a girlfriend, because it’s okay and within the established rules of our relationship. Neither of us would sleep with other people if we weren’t in an open relationship, but since we are, we both take advantage of it, and it has actually made our relationship considerably stronger.

        • Hi Wilson

          Sorry about my inability to write good English.
          The excitement to do the forbidden is the excitement some feel when they have sex with multiple parters while they are married or have committed your self to a monogamous relationship.

          I do not see polyamorous relationships as persons that cheat on each other, unless they the break the rules they set up for themselves.

          I am not negative polyamorous persons or their lifestyle. If they can live like that from their youth until old age and get their needs met,then I am quite impressed !
          But in today’s world where many have to move geographically to find the best jobs, it seems impractical or impossible to find jobs for the several persons in the same area.
          So this lifestyle is easy not adapted to modern capitalist society is it.

          • Why on earth would you have to move or find jobs for people? My partner and I are poly, and all our partners are pulled from the same city we already live in, and they all have jobs. I’m not sure I understand your logic there.

            • Hi Wilson

              OK.
              In my part of the world ( Europe) people move to where the best job possibilies are, and many also move because they have an education that demands that they do, like newly educated doctors( GP) they are ordered to move to the place that needs doctors the first year after they finish their education , officers in the army has to move with their family,…

              That is all Wilson. I wish you all the best, but to say that this is a familyform that is easily adapted to modern days society is questionable IF the relationship are long lasting and you are ordinary persons.. But if the relationships in the polyamorous family last a short time, then of course you can adapt to a changing environment, and move for economic reasons.

              You may live in a city with several million people, with jobs and perfect opportunists for all kinds of people at any time. Then you are fortunate. The rest of us adapts to the worlds economy’s ups and down, and the changing possibilies in our own countries.
              In my world people move when they have to or when they gain from it.

              Good luck Wilson. It is not as illogical as you think. Life is long, and committed relationships can last for up to 80 years, and until you are 60-65 most of us have a job to earn money.

              • I’m not talking about having a “polyamorous family”, I’m talking about having other partners, such as friends-with-benefits. There’s quite a difference. These are not relationships that would follow you with a move.

                • Hi Wison
                  Thank you for answering all my questions. I do understand better when I read all your commonts earlier in this thread.

  9. I think it is bold, courageous and a step in the right direction of having an authentic conversation, As a woman, I think we have lots to gain by listening and really hearing what men have to say.. I do believe that sex is a deeply primal drive in men, that I should try to understand more , if I want to have a long lasting relationship with a very masculine man. I love men fully free to be themselves.. My angle is that if we have that really deep conversation and face the primalness of sexuality, I truly believe that a man’s sexual needs could be met inside a monogamous relationship. What men are searching for is that deep primal soulful match.. We have been taught to marry for so many more reasons.. and they are not enough to satisfy that deep need for an intimate sexual relationship. If we are taught that,, I think we could be monogamous.. Touch that sacred place with each other, then who would want anything else… I think it is the seeking of a divine sexual connection that motivates the cheating.. This is just my theory.. I support your direction. .Men need intimacy..friendship, love, emotion and primal sex…… Cheating becomes necessary when a person settles for parts of the whole. I also have a theory that some men who have a lot of partners are seeking the wholeness the most.. We have not been taught how to have a divine intimate sexual relationships… they are definitely better than hooking up.. and many people are tired of hooking up. Divine sexual relationships are the next step in human evolution.. no doubts here.. cheating, hooking up are no competition..

    • It’s very interesting to me to hear your response amidst all these other more predictable ones. This article seems to offer an unconventional viewpoint for consideration, but instead of exploring its possible validity like you’ve done, these other responses are closed to the idea, with judgment not hidden. I am a man who would and will remain loyal in a monogamous relationship, but then I think I’ve probably always had a weaker drive than most men. You would think that would have made me a better candidate for women looking for a stable partner, but as a shy guy, that just meant I didn’t have the drive to overcome shyness and compete with the world of guys for female attention. I realized that it was male sex drive that allowed women to sit back, relax, and let the show come to them, and that women were not grateful for that advantage. Because if women were to acknowledge this advantage, if they were to accept that men were simply more hard-wired for sex, would they also have to recognize that he is capable of separating sex and love? If a woman were “cheated” upon in a monogamous relationship, then, might he still love her completely? With that in mind, should she be SO jealous? It’s a fair question, one whose answer may be that she has every right to expect fidelity; nevertheless, it’s a question that arises legitimately out of empirical data. And can women be capable of the same? I don’t know. I know I’m pretty much made for monogamy, so I like your focus on improving the sexual chemistry within monogamous relationships, but in any case, I’m philosophically curious about challenging social mores.

      • Hi Paul
        Do you kind if I break in to the conversation ?
        ✺”recognize that he is capable of separating sex and love? If a woman were “cheated” upon in a monogamous relationship, then, might he still love her completely? With that in mind, should she be SO jealous? “✺

        It is not my impression that men are less jealous then women if she has a fling or take lover.
        It is said it is easier for women in monogamous relationships to forgive that their partner had sex with others , than it is for men. But maybe this is saying in Europe and men tolerate far more infidelity from their women in America.

  10. Han Nee Chong says:

    Men cheat because they love their partners. <— I call bullshit on this. Sure, men can love their partners AND still cheat, but that is at best a correlational relationship between the two variables, NOT causal. Anderson claimed that the young men in his survey who cheated did not break-up with their girlfriends because they love them. Bullshit. They did not break-up with their girlfriends because they want to have their cake and eat it, too. Besides being in love, there are many other benefits to being in a relationship, and if you can get away with cheating (and justify your actions with articles such as this one), why wouldn't you?

    The definition of cheating, according to Oxford dictionaries is: act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage/to deceive or to trick. You don't agree with monogamy – I get it. You think men are biologically wired for multiple partners. I get that, too. But even among polyamory relationships, cheating is still frowned upon, precisely because it involves dishonesty and deceit. So, to say that because you love your partner, you act dishonestly or deceitfully is not only counter-intuitive, but deceitful. There are many definitions to love, but in all of the definitions, if you love someone, you do not want to hurt them. So, if you knowingly and willfully hurt them by cheating, and then, try to justify by saying, "it's because I love you that I cheated on you", it is pathetic.

    In fact, didn't the GMP recently did a poll on 'Why Men Don't Cheat'? In the survey results, many men tell us why they do not cheat on their partners, and many (if not all) said they did not cheat because they love their partners. There… you have it. Two different studies with bi-polar results.

    At the end of the day, whether you want to be monogamous or polygamous, it's up to you and your partner(s). However, if you decide to be in a monogamous relationship, please do not cheat and then, try to use articles like this one or Anderson's study to justify your action. For each of those study that claimed men cheat because they are biologically wired that way, I will find you a man who do not cheat simply because he does not want to. Just be honest, ok?

    • Phyl Harper says:

      Flawlessly said Han Nee!!

    • Agree with Han Nee, 100%. “Cheating” is dishonest and disloyal. There is deceit in that–that doesn’t scream “I love you” to me. There are plenty of men who would never dream of cheating, and are quite sexually satisfied! There are plenty of men who have cheated and are so consumed with guilt that they will never do it again, because it was a mistake. There are also those men who cheat compulsively. And still, there are plenty of men who are in wonderful, sexually active monogamous marriages that have lasted 20+ years. Cheating is a cop out. It’s having your cake and eating it too. You work with what you’ve got. It doesn’t have to be boring. The most successful marriages happen when both partners understand the need for sexual satisfaction and work TOGETHER to do so for BOTH parties. Mark, your article, and this PhD of sociology’s book, is exactly what’s wrong with society today.

    • you’re dead right.

      It’s as simple as controlling the urge, which in itself is natural. I think people will construct as many arguments as they need to validate their own behaviours.

    • Wow Han Nee…I couldn’t have said it better myself. I am a therapist specializing in Infidelity recovery for couples. What would be ideal behavior for those interested in having an open relationship or an affair is to be honest with their partner. Then there are no secrets or deceit and their partner can leave the relationship if they disagree with the affair or open relationship. Easy-peasy right? Except that most people who cheat do NOT believe their partner should have that choice. We (and are relationships) are as sick as our secrets.

      • Hi Sabrina

        ✺ “Except that most people who cheat do NOT believe their partner should have that choice. We (and are relationships) are as sick as our secrets.”✺
        Interesting information, and a good comment !

      • This this this. I think that a huge amount of cheating could be remedied by better communication, especially communication of needs. If your needs aren’t being met, TALK TO YOUR PARTNER. In many cases, a solution can be worked out. If it can’t, and the need is a critical one (like sex), then you have two options after recognizing this incompatibility: break up or agree to allow each partner to do what is necessary to have that need met.

    • But! While completely right, you’ve missed the entire point of the article. It’s not that “cheating/lying” is good or right, or that people should be proud of it and use articles to prove that it’s ok. The point is that cheating is the alternative to breaking up.

      Having sexual desire for other people, even if in a committed relationship, is normal and natural, even though our culture says it is wrong. Faced with the consequences of the acknowledgement of those desires, most men (and many, many women) choose to hide, or lie, even when it’s just desire and not actually cheating. To put it another way: do you tell the truth to your monogamous partner every time some other person in the world appeals to you, or turns you on, or makes you want to bend over and get fucked by him or her. No, you keep it to yourself because you love him/her and don’t want to ruin what time on this earth you get spend together.

      So cheating (even if it’s just in your head) only exists because there is a desire from the person who is cheating to stay with their partner. Cheating wouldn’t exist if it were ok for people to who wanted some other sexual experience (which is most people) to have it, regardless of the relationship they have with their partner. That’s the point.

      The articles wasn’t saying cheating is good or ok, it was saying it exists only because of the non-biological, cultural bias towards monogamy

  11. Victoria Sealey says:

    if polygamy is so natural, why does jealousy exist? i don’t believe that jealousy is a cultural construct.

    • Jealousy isn’t the issue – it’s insecurity.

      • Can you say more about this? I don’t disagree … my sense is that you are probably right, that insecurity is the greater issue, and that jealousy does arise from time to time, but exists more as a signal of an imbalance which needs to be corrected or a need which is not being met in the relationship than something inherently wrong in either individual.
        Jealousy in other contexts can blow the walls out, but I suspect those folks aren’t good candidates for polyamory to begin with.

        • To me, jealousy, as you mentioned, arises out of a need not being met. Some jealousy is fine, even expected. Heck, I get jealous of the fact that my partner’s girlfriends sometimes get to see sides of him that I don’t, or that they don’t have to deal with the day to day reality of being a couple that lives together. But none of that makes me feel insecure in my position. I have zero worries about him leaving me for a woman or for another man, because our relationship is strong. Likewise, even though I get to do things with my girlfriend that I don’t do with him (like indulging my kinky side), he’s not worried about me leaving him, because he knows that I love him very much and that we’re committed to each other. The people I have met who have been incompatible with poly/open relationships are the people who have low self esteem, who are prone to jealousy and paranoia, and who are unsure of the degree and love that they’re getting from their partner. That insecurity is what makes it not really work, and it’s sad to me that most people actually don’t have that much faith in their partner or their relationship, that they think it can be so easily taken away.

          • Hi Wilson

            Do we have good longitudinell studies of polyamorous relationships that can tell us how they develop over time?
            I would love to read novels that describes persons experience from young until their death living in these kind of families. I call it a kind of family organization since I have no other word for it. Their life must be quite different from the life the rest of us live.

  12. Libia Casas says:

    Sorry, don’t buy the argument. As a therapist I have never seen cheating, open relationships or even pornography work well in marriages. You mentioned the ” same food” every day in your argument. Well, think more of what happens when you eat too much or foods you shouldn’t.

    • Just because you haven’t personally witnessed it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. I’ve been in a successful, stable open relationship for six years. I have friends who have been in open relationships for 20+ years. A friend of mine is actually a “second generation” poly guy – he’s polyamorous himself, and grew up in a polyamorous household. All are in successful, healthy relationships that just happen to include multiple people.

      It’s not easy, nor is it for most people – it takes someone who is a good communicator, with few to no insecurities, and a good heart to make it work. I’ve seen lots of people try and fail. But I’ve also seen lots of people try and succeed.

      • Hi Wilson
        May I ask you two questions :
        1: Do couples in open marriage or open relationship promise each other commitment for life ?

        2: If you are in an open relationship, not a polyamorous one,what do you say to your new sex partner or lover about what kind of relationship you can have to her or him?
        I wonder if you say this will only be causal sex,or you say your wife will always have first priority in your life.
        In other words what can a third part expect when he gets sexually involved with a person that lives in an open relationship?
        The polyamorous seem to have committed relationships , while those in open relationships do not commit in any way to their multiple sexual partners.

        • 1. Many do, yes. There are lots of different types of open relationships. Some are more along the lines of being married to multiple people (often all living in the same house), while others are at the other end of the spectrum, mostly involving sleeping with other people without much emotional involvement. And, there’s a massive range in-between. My partner and I are effectively married at this point and will be such on paper in a few months, and we’re committed to eachother for life. However, we don’t feel that such a commitment necessarily negates being involved with other people in addition to our relationship. We’re two guys who happen to also have three girlfriends between the two of us.

          2. Again, there are as many answers to that question as there are people in poly/open relationships. In our case, we’re both very up front with what other partners can expect from us. We’re both very busy, even without our other relationships, so our partners don’t really expect to see us more than once or twice a week, and we specifically seek out people who don’t really want much more than that. We generally look for people who are looking for a friend with benefits, or for people who are already married in an open marriage and are looking for someone on the side, as it works out best for all who are involved. Further emotional connection isn’t against the rules, but it’s fairly uncommon simply due to the logistics of how often we see our other partners.

  13. Mark you have obviously never suffered the pain and indignity and suffering that being cheated on comes with. This is merely an excuse for men unable to keep it in their pants. It’s all rather pathetic really.

    • Angelique Kearney says:

      Amen. Adultery has nothing to do with love. Purely it is done out of selfishness. Betrayal, hurt, sadness, deceit surrounds cheating….there is no silver lining.

  14. Jesse James Speed says:

    I could go on for awhile about this subject, as I have been seriously contemplating it for some time now as it pertains to me. I found and find myself still in this same situation, I am a 52 year old married 23 years female. Many ups and downs in my relationship with my husband. He for years has used porn for money and not with and without my permission to get what ever it is he has been missing in our marriage, at one point running up a bill of 10000.00 dollars on phone and internet sex. All my fault every time. I have had many health problems over the years some of which have and had made me unavailable for sex 5 times a week which he has wanted for many years. His lying and cheating wore me out so I drank copious amounts of wine to keep from having to look at any of it or to examine myself. Last year I stopped drinking and started getting healthy and meditating 2 hours a day. As my health, mind, and body was slowly restored I could see what a mess our life and marriage had become. I ended up on Face Book to maybe find a few old friends from a very sad and tumultuous child hood and found D. We fell in mind and emotional lust on line and when I had to come home after 17 years away to be with my Mother during her illness and death I had a Mind, Emotional, and Physical Love affair the likes of which I cannot explain. I Love D. we are a much better match as Adults and Spirits even with all our many flaws. I have an enormous guilt for what I have done yet I do not regret it either I have grown in ways I cannot explain for the better, many hearts will be broken and this fork in the road I have taken will never be fixed in any way that I can see. I am going back to my husband filled with numbness and sorrow I owe it to him to try at least sober. I have asked God to just let me go in my sleep so I don’t have to face any of what I have done, I see I will not be let off so easy. I have read two books called Women’s Infidelity please read them before you judge me for some Women fit this profile too.
    It is from my heart felt observation in myself at least, that the Human Heart desires to love in a much broader way I think we all Love others deeply during our life on Earth and Love in a way that goes against our moral norms. I at least wanted to be loved for my intellect, and artistic abilities I wanted to be loved for my mind and with D. it is what I found and then came the physical experience. My husband is a more simple person seemingly stuck where we were in our twenties and still with a temper that goes beyond explanation, I agree none of these things in our society give a good reason to have an affair they are only the reasons that I did. Thank You

    • Someone would have to be at least half insane to judge you negatively for what you’ve done – if your husband racked up a $10,000 phone bill cheating on you while you were ill, it’s absolutely reasonable for you to want to find someone who appreciates you more than that.

  15. Conrad Eliot says:

    I think the problem here is the tacit assumption that people want to stay in relationships because of love – that if a guy wants to stay with someone he’s cheated on, it’s because he loves that person.
    I don’t buy that at all. A person might want to stay with someone they’ve cheated on for all kinds of other reasons: comfort, fear of loneliness, not wanting to face up to the resulting feelings of guilt/shame, and I’m sure there are dozens of others I could never dream of.
    I don’t see much alignment between loving someone – which requires respect, trust, intimacy and putting your loved one’s needs on par with your own – and cheating on them, which requires all of the opposite.
    I think the point about not conflating emotional closeness with sexual passion is pretty interesting, though.

  16. Sometimes it feels like there is an attack on monogamy. That monogamy is viewed as a bad thing and is so outdated or whatever one wants to think of it as. I prefer monogamy and that’s the type of relationship I have been in for 7 years. That’s what works for me and my partner. Our sex life isn’t suffering at all. If having multiple partners works for you, then that’s cool. When one commits to be in a monogamous relationship with another individual who has that same understanding, cheating is wrong in my opinion. If monogamy is not your thing, don’t do it, duh. I’m not saying everyone should know right off of their first or second relationships what type she/he wants to be in but one should openly express their intentions (you know, COMMUNICATE.)

    Point is, each relationship type should be respected (unless harmful to a minor or it’s abusive). Thank you very much but monogamy does serve a purpose, is not outdated, and does not set everyone up for failure. I don’t choose to be in a monogamous relationship because society thinks it’s right. Trust me, I like to go against society’s “norms”, but it is simply what I enjoy, brings me pleasure, and what works for me. I have no desire to be with a bunch of men. Lord knows one is enough (haha)

    Also, let’s not forget our animal friends who also have polygamous, monogamous and everything in between and beyond type of relationships. They all serve a purpose for each species and work just fine for them! We don’t hear of the animals debating so much about it because they’ve got it all figured out 😉

    Peace,
    Mari

    • Thank you for saying that Mari. I sometimes read these articles and find myself turning into that jaded cynical shell that I see in so many other people. I too am in a very happy monogamous relationship where we talk very openly about sex and what we want from each other and we are happy, not perfect but happy despite some very ugly times. Each to their own, but some men like monogamy as do some women… monogamy and polyamory simply two lifestyles, neither more perfect than the other. The idea that failed examples of either lifestyle somehow proves that they do not work is ridiculous.

  17. Hello. I’m a cheating husband–or I was cheating, until I got caught. People tend to try to universalize their experience when they talk about these kinds of issues, acting like if it happened to them then it must happen to everyone. Which I think is wrong. So I’ll just share my experience.

    I didn’t cheat, after 20 years of marriage, because I was sexually bored. I cheated because my wife had stopped saying “I love you,” had stopped asking how I was doing that day, had stopped sleeping with me, stopped working for pay and stopped doing housework, etc. This was all the result of a long bout of depression, and I held on for years, being the faithful spouse and supporting her as best I could. Then one day I couldn’t do it anymore. I just snapped. It was either leave my wife or develop another relationship. I had an affair with a woman my age, who had a child who was the same age as my child. The sex was fantastic. Of course. But the thing I’ll always remember, always treasure, is the conversations we had. She helped me to survive, and I learned a thing or two about myself–and also about my wife, for my lover was the only one I could really talk to about our problems. In short, we cared about each other.

    To make a long story short, I got caught by my wife. She didn’t kick me out. I didn’t throw myself at her feet and beg forgiveness; I didn’t lie and say that it didn’t mean anything, that it was “just sex.” Instead, the revelation triggered an intense series of conversations between the my wife and I. I stopped trying to protect her; she stopped hiding from me. We have talked about things that we hadn’t dared talk about before, and we’re making progress. I’m glad I had an affair. It gave my marriage some breathing room. I’m glad my wife found out. It’s been difficult and heartbreaking, but we’re being honest with each other. She’s taking her meds and fighting her illness, and doing a better job holding up her end of our partnership.

    I think what I’m saying is this: Fuck you for suggesting that it’s all about sex. Fuck you for playing to the stereotype that men just want one thing. We have emotional lives, too. Maybe this is just my experience and mine alone, but I resent this article and what it implies about guys like me. At best, it’s simplistic. The reality of cheating is so much more complex than this moronic evolutionary tripe.

    • speaks from experience says:

      I agree that the book is simplistic and flawed.

      But you’re still a dickwad!

      I get that it was hard to be in a marriage while your wife was suffering from depression, but instead of being open and honest about how it was affecting you, instead of going to counseling and getting the support or working on a dialogue with your wife, you cheated on her.

      You exposed her to STDs (yep, even with the condom–did you use one each time?). You took the TIME you should have been working on your relationship with your wife and invested it in the affair.

      Now you’re just blame-shifting. It wasn’t your decision to cheat. Your wife’s depression DROVE you to cheat. Yep. No question about it. It was all HER fault. You had no decision in the matter.

      Listen up. If you wanted conversations, you could have gone to therapy. You’d have learned a thing or two about yourself and your marriage without shattering your marriage vows.

      The really tragic thing here is that you seem to think your actions were justifiable. You do realize that cheating is a form of emotional abuse, right? Well, pretty much every abuser feels that it’s just fine to abuse the other person. She drove you to it, after all.

  18. In my judgement, the word ‘cheating’ says it all. There is no ambiguity if someone is cheating, their actions are now taking advantage of someone else. The person being cheated on did not give their consent, therefore continued sex and relations with that person becomes nonconsenting. How many people, man or woman, do not feel betrayed to discover they have been lied to and manipulated by someone who claimed to love them? Sure, they may think their emotions toward that person constituted love, but their actions demonstrate a deep lack of respect for them, or their right to choose. In that way, the behavior deemed ‘cheating’ becomes selfish and abusive and an act of entitlement, not an expression of sexual drive but of control of the other person, and lack of practicing control for themselves.

  19. A dick has no conscience. Men cheat because they think they can get away with it. Period.

    When I worked on the AIDS Hotline in mid-1980s we had more calls from straight men from gay men. The straight men had inevitably been unfaithful and were more afraid of being found out than of anything else. I told a straight woman about this phenomena and she said, “No one runs faster than a married man when he thinks he got caught.” Nor more fearful, apparently.

    • anonymouswoman says:

      the more i read this site, the more committed i am to a lifetime of single celibacy if the man i’m with ever leaves me. i keep trying not to read it anymore. maybe this will finally do the trick.

    • Dicks aren’t attached to human beings? Your dick *really does* do the thinking for you?

  20. I’m sure there are lots of ways that this argument is flawed. e.g. Man stays with girlfriend so that he can have sex whenever he wants? And cheats so that he can have sex that he actually wants?

    As a college student, I have met some horrible men. (But mostly wonderful ones!)
    (And I’ve met horrible women too!)

  21. Quick confession to the ether: I’m a man who is currently “cheating”. I use the scare-quotes because I’m not married, but I’ve had two relationships with two women for the past year, with only one knowing the full story. It’s also important that the sex isn’t transactional or random, but is with two women who are pretty damn well self-actualized (graduate degrees, great careers, smart cookies).

    Being in this situation, i can tell you that it is far more emotional on my end than I expected. I’ve realized that I was pretty satisfied sexually in my primary relationship. it was the emotional aspect of the relationship that made woman #2 (not just any woman, mind you) such an alluring option. And while all the Rom-Coms and feminism i remember from college tells me that I should break up with #1 because “you don’t really love her” or “we’re not working out,” we’re still together out of a combination of the sometimes-great- sometimes-terrible nature of our relationship and a degree of guilt on my part.

    Now that I’ve done it, I think there’s a reason why the pattern of a man married to one woman and having a pattern of long-term side relationships is historically common. Or polygamy. Its not just about sex, but emotion.

    (Before anyone responds with nasty comments, i’m not being notified via email. I may pop back for a visit, but probably not).

  22. Why is the assumption that only men have a biological and innate desire for sex? I’m a woman and I cheat on my partner precisely because I don’t think his lack of sex drive (relative to mine) warrants severing our true bond and the nurturing love I feel for him. I am committed to him for life. I’m not convinced that the occasional meaningless romp with another man can negate that, sorry.

    • Jamie Parsons says:

      How about you don’t cheat on your partner, because unless you have permission (which then I don’t think it’s really cheating) it’s a pretty good way to sever a bond. When you’re with someone, sex with someone else isn’t meaningless. If it is meaningless then there is no need to have it.

    • Occam’s Razor applies here. I think you cheat on your partner because you’re an asshole.

  23. Any kind of relationship, whether friends with benefits or poly or monogamous, can be healthy if everyone in it agrees to the terms. I get the argument that maybe monogamy isn’t right for everyone, but that people do it anyway because of societal expectations. But that’s still not an excuse for cheating, because the other person is going to be hurt when their want/need of a faithful partner is not being met. I personally think that monogamy can work if people adjust their expectations to be more realistic, and also if they are willing to put in the work. I also think that poly relationships probably don’t work out as well in reality as in theory. But I am not against poly relationships on a moral level, so long as it is mutually agreed upon. That is NOT what happens when one partner cheats.

  24. I am a bit confused about the methodology of the research.

    a) I don’t know why it only focuses on men

    and

    b) It seems as if all the interviewees were students which is a very narrow sample.

    any response to that Mark M?

    • Mark McCormack says:

      The methodology is covered in great detail in the book – obviously this kind of article isn’t suited to explaining that in detail. In answer to the specific questions on sampling, I’d suggest:

      a) There are likely to be differences between men and women, so focussing on one sex seems reasonable given time constraints. One could also ask what about race, class, dis/ability, geography, ethinicity, almost ad infinitum. Given that the book recognises that it is only talking about men, I don’t see this as an issue. I also believe Eric is currently working on a project researching women’s attitudes to cheating and monogamy.

      b) Yes you’re right. But as my article said, this captures men at a time when they are (mostly) unconstrained by fatherhood and marriage. Of course there will be differences across the life course. I would suggest though that given this book is presenting new, provocative findings it is clearly a group that required further study.

      QRG – you’re more than welcome to conduct the research on women and non-students. Any one academic can only do so much.

      Mark

      • thanks. I’m not an academic. I can’t afford it.

        I only asked about the methodology. I won’t be buying the book I know why people cheat.

        • I mean I can’t afford to do a research study.

          Non-academics have the right to criticise academic research without being told they should do it themselves. I am sure you criticise things like government, media etc without doing their jobs!

  25. http://sci.rutgers.edu/forum/archive/index.php/t-72777.html

    Monogamy is possible. There are more studies to support this. But this is a start.

  26. I think it’s always a bad idea to try to diagnose the cause of a failed marriage you weren’t in. Always. It’s pure judgement and speculation and extremely prone to confirmation bias.

    • In the case of people who are close friends and I have more than a surface amount of information, it’s not always a bad idea. I’ve learned a lot from others’ experiences that has helped me in my own life and also helped me to help others in similar situations. I don’t have any illusions that my interpretation of the situation is going to be 100% right, but it certainly isn’t a harmful or meaningless exercise.

      • Yeah, I figured you’d say that.
        I kinda wish I could glitter-bomb you LF.
        Keep up the judging. You’re good at it.

        • Kids, don’t make me turn this thread around. Now let’s stop fighting and go get some ice cream! Surely we can agree on ice cream! 😉

          • I’m done Julie, for real this time. Gone for ice cream – great idea, btw.

          • Totally un-PC and exclusionary. Some people are lactose intolerant. I demand ice cream produced by union workers using milk from grass-fed, humanely treated, free-range, non-antibiotic, non-hormone cows who have pensions and good health benefits and sustainable methane-powered cable TV in their individual stalls. 🙂

        • Please explain how I am “judging”. I’ve seen people get hurt badly by this. I’m sharing that experience. I don’t think it’s meaningless or harmful information any more than you or Julie or anyone else sharing anecdotal information about positive experiences of polyamory. What’s the problem exactly?

          • RIght but instead of saying, “I’ve seen this and seen this result, I don’t prefer it so I’m not going to try it.” You keep saying, “It’s not healthy, it destroys social mores, people’s lives are ruined over it.” You sound to me, and I’ll accept that I’m the one “hearing” it this way, like doom and gloom about it because you know best. That’s my own stuff I’m owning in that.

            I’ve seen lives not ruined by it, but I’m not over here saying it is the only way to go.

            Far from it. In fact, I think most people that try poly? And this is veryveryvery judgmental of me….aren’t mature enough or prepared enough to manage the complexities of it and do it for reasons to justify bad behavior.

            Does that mean the form is inherently flawed? I don’t know. Would the form be more successful if we had a culture that supported (really supported) a wider base of relationship styles and narratives?

            Would the form be more successful if we didn’t have a paternalistic (sorry fellas for using that term), individualistic “me” mentatlity, chockfull of love for violence and ownership?

            Would it be more successful if we actually taught kids sexual education and relationship skills and didn’t stick our heads in the sand?

            Hell, monogamy proper would probably be more successful if that was the case.

            We have the culture we live in now. There are people seeking alternatives to forms that have not worked well (50% divorce rate etc, people still cheating actively). Some are seeking it through poly. Some through more focused monogamy and even celibacy. Neither group is being supported well because that is not the social norm and narrative that gets support.

            I’m not surprised marriages fail upon the introduction of a chaos-maker. A new baby can cause marriages to fail. A death in the family can cause it. A job/move/illness can cause it. Anything that disrupts a consistent pattern can shine a light on the cracks in the foundation. Cracks that are hidden well by short cuts, assumptions and mutually enforced patterns and expectations. Like a waltz turning into a tango, the partners often step on each other’s feet and quit in despair.

            Sometimes they are better for quitting. Sometimes they take a time out and keep dancing with each other.

            The only way anyone will know if poly or any of the new forms are ultimately successful is to live until our culture ages another 100 years and see what things look like then.

            I’m curious about the future. I’m curious about how creative people can be. I don’t necessarily see failure in all divorces (sure there is a lot of pain short term, even medium term) but there are places for improvement and growth as well.

            Anyway, I’m not sure it’s worth going on about here.

            • wellokaythen says:

              “I’m not surprised marriages fail upon the introduction of a chaos-maker. A new baby can cause marriages to fail. A death in the family can cause it. A job/move/illness can cause it. Anything that disrupts a consistent pattern can shine a light on the cracks in the foundation. Cracks that are hidden well by short cuts, assumptions and mutually enforced patterns and expectations. Like a waltz turning into a tango, the partners often step on each other’s feet and quit in despair….Sometimes they are better for quitting. Sometimes they take a time out and keep dancing with each other.”

              Wow. Very well said.

            • Julie, I do think you’ve definitely read my comments wrong. I have, in fact, said many times in this thread “this is what I’ve seen”, not that I know best or that I know my experiences apply to everyone. I simply have not seen any good come of it, myself, and that’s all I’ve said. I’ve already said several times as well that I don’t deny the experiences of other people like yourself who have a different perspective. Still, I think that my perspective is valuable too, for anyone considering poly. We simply have different perspectives on it and one does not invalidate the other. I’m sure they are both valid in some cases and not in others.

              I also never said that poly “destroys social mores.” I wouldn’t say such a thing because I don’t have a problem with social mores being destroyed, if they suck. 😀 And many social mores really do suck. What I did say was that social mores may, or may not, exist for good reason, and we should always question them but that doesn’t necessarily mean we reject them. Monogamy is one of those things that I happen to think endures for good reason, even as often as we fail at it. And it’s really not for lack of anything else having been tried, because just about everything has been tried by some culture and at some point in history.

            • You keep saying, “It’s not healthy, it destroys social mores”

              Except she never did. You put those words in her mouth.
              But whatever, we’re not enlightened like you. We poor “unnatural” souls who prefer one partner just have to admit we’re all just hardcore fundamentalists that just want to repress people.

              • Julie Gillis says:

                You are projecting and assuming I believe that. I don’t. I don’t want anyone to take on any relationship that doesn’t work well for them. I think human beings are infinitely creative in how they build and support relationship models and it should be up to the people involved (so long as it’s legal and consensual) as to how they create partnerships. If poly isn’t good for you, then I’d never want you to do it. If you are happy in your relationship and satisfied, I’d be happy for you. I don’t think that we can say definitively if one form of relationship style is going to be a creative or destructive force on a society without looking back in time to see what happened, and then to pick out which thread was most influential on the outcome of that society.

  27. If her having hot hot sex means that I get to have hot hot sex with other women, I think I’d be able to look on the bright side.

    Not to mention there are men who are actually turned on by the whole cuckolding thing. I’m not one of them, but they’re out there….

  28. I’m not trying to relativize cheating to make it excusable, because there are no good excuses.

    Cheating is to some degree a product of selfishness. However, let’s not pretend that monogamy is an inherently unselfish relationship. There are some selfish aspects to expecting fidelity from your partner. Usually one partner finds monogamy more difficult than the other partner but the expectations are the same for both.

    I don’t want my partner to cheat on me because, well, I don’t want my partner to cheat on me. I’m not against her cheating because I’m trying to uphold the high ideals of civilization or even because I’m trying to maintain the integrity of our muutal relationship. It’s primarily because I would feel hurt. It’s primarily because I would feel like a sucker. Not exactly selfless reasoning, there.

    This is not to say cheating and being faithful are equally selfish. That would be absurd. But, I suggest we avoid making some sort of false dichotomy between selfish cheating and noble monogamy.

    • I don’t think anybody said that monogamy is an inherently unselfish relationship, only that cheating is inherently selfish. Everyone has things they expect and desire of a marriage, and well they should. Hopefully they also work to fulfill their partner’s desires and expectations and it evens out somewhere along the road. So marriage is both selfless and selfish.

    • You touch on a point that no one has mentioned. You said you don’t want your female partner to cheat. Historically, men have rarely been expected to be faithful. (Perhaps that expectation was there in theory, but rarely in practice.) Women, however, could suffer extreme consequences for infidelity. Monogamy, in practice, operated only one-way.

      If we are talking about modern polyamorous or non-monogamous relationships, a lot of men will have to adjust their thinking and accept that their wives and girlfriends may be out having hot, hot sex with other men. How many men could really handle that?

      • Not a lot, I’m guessing.

      • I honestly don’t know how I would handle it. If it meant I got the much more freedom without any guilt, I like to think I could to focus on my enjoyment more than any jealousy I might feel. Perhaps I would try to drown my jealousy in meaningless physical encounters….

        Imagine if men really COULD handle it more than you suspect we could. Would that be frightening to you? Would that mean the end of the world?

        • I know some men who have and can. The world didn’t end.

        • Dunno about the end of the world, but I don’t think it’s very healthy for the individual or the relationship. If the fact of the matter is that it really bothers you to think of your wife sleeping with other men and being really into it, but you’re able to “drown it out” by having sex with other women, that basically fosters denial and callousness – neither of which are good things to bring to a marriage.

        • I tend to get emotionally attached to men I have sex with. I have a feeling that if my boyfriend was okay with me sleeping around with other guys, there is a pretty good chance I would fall for someone else. It is just natural — the hot sex, the excitement, the intimacy with someone new could very well kill my feelings for my original partner. I have thought about this, and knowing myself, I think my partner would have rather good cause to be jealous and feel threatened if I had other lovers. I’m not saying I’m representative of every woman, but I know what I’m like. I’m a romantic and sex is very emotional for me.

          • Well, yes – poly is about more than sex. Poly is not swinging. So,, yes – people in poly relationships fall in love with more than one partner. In fact, that’s the whole idea – that I can fall in love with someone new without having to fall out of love with my current partner(s).

            If the way it works for you is that you is that falling in love kills your feeling for the existing partner, than poly is probably not for you. In my experience, poly is not or everyone. Neither is monogamy. To me, trying to establish “the right” model is pointless. Why must there be a way that is right for everyone? Diversity is great.

      • I don’t know “how many” men can handle it. I know I can. I also know that other men feel that same way. After all, it’s how poly relationships work. We’re not talking theory here – many of us have practiced poly for years and years.

  29. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. ~ Daniel Patrick Moynihan

  30. I’ve read through most of the comments, so if someone has already hit on this and I missed it, I’m sorry.
    The criticisms here, in their desperation to legitimize marriage and monogamy, seem to be completely leaping over the point that marriage/monogamy are patriarchal/religious institutions created out of the concept of owning and possessing women. They were designed with the intent to control and limit others.
    Whatever your take on this discussion, we miss a significant point if we fail to start with historical reality.

    • I know that’s a popular argument these days but it really isn’t true, if you look at hunter-gatherer cultures. Those tended (and still do where they still exist) to be monogamous, with multiple spouses only permitted under certain circumstances such as gender or fertility imbalance due to environmental factors, a widowed woman being allowed to marry her sister’s husband, etc.

      In many Native American cultures, inheritance of property runs through the female line (they are matrilineal), so there’s no “patriarchy” involved and the problem of determining a child’s paternity goes away, but they still tend toward monogamy. Patriarchal systems are not correlated to monogamy, and in fact polygamy (a man having many wives) and patriarchy go hand in hand just as often.

      • “…if you look at hunter-gatherer cultures. Those tended (and still do where they still exist) to be monogamous, with multiple spouses only permitted under certain circumstances such as gender or fertility imbalance due to environmental factors, a widowed woman being allowed to marry her sister’s husband, etc.”

        LF, you are absolutely wrong about this. In fact it is the opposite that is true. The very foundation for hunting/gathering requires sharing – of everything.

        I thought I had a cross to bear but you take the cake in that regard! Your bitterness is all over your sleeve.

      • Actually, the truth is, we’re all speculating on what happened in pre-history.

        • Yes, we are speculating about what happened in pre-history, but we still have plenty of evidence of observed behavior in hunter-gatherer cultures over the past several centuries.

          Please cite examples of hunter-gatherer cultures that were or are polyamorous in some form or another, if you believe that such cultures shared “everything.”

          • I’ll show you my references if you show me yours.

          • I’m going to risk stepping in here and playing peacemaker. It’s clear we don’t have all the facts on pre-history. It’s also reasonably clear that a wide variety of partnerships have been designed and implemented throughout the course of human history.
            I’m on a limb here, but no one is “right” at this point. We all get to make our decisions at this cultural juncture and live with the outcomes. BC might want poly. LF might want mono. That’s all fine.
            There isn’t much point in lashing at each other is there? I mean, if there by all means, go lash, but I think it’s a bit of a derail from the subject matter.
            Couples should think well and hard about how to design their relationships to match and meet mutually negotiated expectations (with the awareness that those expectations might change and shift over a long term relationship). That’s my opinion anyway.

            • I don’t really disagree with you Julie – my main point in all this was that Andrew made a statement that isn’t true, namely that monogamy is a construct of a patriarchal society based on owning and possessing women. In other words he attempts to de-legitimize monogamy with a bogus premise.

              In fact, monogamy (serial monogamy, most commonly) is a normal and frequent tendency in non-hierarchal (and therefore presumably pre-hierarchal) societies. I say tendency because there usually is no “law” against any other arrangement, but as a practical matter that’s how it ends up. Divorce is usually fairly easy in these cultures. If a man is carrying on with multiple women, his wife usually leaves him. If a man is an exceptionally good hunter and/or the climate is such that fertile men are rare and a man has been proven to be fertile, he might have more than one wife. But generally the wife in such a situation doesn’t put up with it for too long before divorcing him and finding another man, if at all possible. Likewise there are some cultures where a woman has multiple husbands, either because of population imbalance or because the environment is such that multiple hunters are needed to support the children. But usually, when these conditions change then people drift back toward more or less monogamous arrangements.

              In other words, monogamy has always had problems but it usually seems to be the most equitable and least disruptive of any other alternatives, so people keep tending back toward it when they can. There is a lot of speculation about whether prehistoric people had more polyamorous relationships, but no proof, whereas we do have a lot of proof of how hunter-gatherer cultures have operated the last few centuries, and they are not polyamorous in the way that we define the word. This isn’t to say they’re models of monogamous fidelity – people divorce, and cheat, and so forth, and this is tolerated or not tolerated to varying degrees. But I don’t see a lot of evidence that polyamory per se has ever worked.

              Obviously, I agree with you that people should “design their relationships” in this day and age – it’s obvious that humans are highly socially adaptable and that there are also always people who will want to (and successfully can) operate outside social norms. In a progressive society we should strive for having social norms that are determined by what does the least harm, and people who break from the norms in mutually consensual situations should be tolerated and accepted. In other words social norms should be useful defaults, so that people aren’t re-inventing the wheel at great cost to themselves in every case. But social norms should not have to be destroyed in order for people to pursue their own desires either. That’s my basic feeling on it.

              • I put this comment up at the “where’s the Sex” post, but it may have some use here too. It’s about the expectations of modern sex.

                “Maybe this is a thoroughly modern problem. If marriages back in the day (100 years past) were completely DADT kind of deals (with mistresses and brothels to serve needs of men), maybe there was no worry about marital sex at all. Maybe she got herself a new fangled vibrator from the victorian doctor and he saw ladies of the night. No one felt terrible?

                In today’s world not only are we to commit to each other for the family, to each other for perfect love, but also never stray. It seems like we are all strangling ourselves somehow. I don’t know the answer, but it’s clear from talking to many long term married men the lack of sex is not good. And also from talking to many long term married women, the lack of sex is not good.

                When people first get together and are in the throes of lust/love-there are physiological changes in the brain-adreneline, norepinephrine, increased dopamine. We are hyper horny pleasure seekers. It’s kind of like sex-crack.

                That wears off and endorphins (soothing hormones) are produced. Maybe it’s just plain impossible to recapture the sex crack with an “old” partner, not only for the cultural reasons (we stop truly seeing them as separate, as “the lover” and start seeing them as an extension of the self) and the brain numbs you out with bio-morphine.

                New lovers hike the sex crack back up. There are some anecdotal indicators showing that if you get the sex crack going with one person, it can layer itself back over the old one.

                We place wild and possibly impossible expectations on each other to be perfect for each other for all time. Also, the worse the economy gets, the harder it is to feel unstressed, to have money for sitters, or to have family to take kids for a weekend. We as couples, as you pointed out, are isolated and isolation only enhances a sense of desperation.

                Is non monogamy the answer, as Dan Savage and others posit? I don’t know. I do know we don’t have a good cultural narrative for sharing, compersion, lack of jealousy that would help build a culture of safe and ethical non monogamy. We have a TRUE LOVE FOR LIFE narrative. The stories we tell ourselves are find the man and happily ever after, but as we can see, that’s not always the case, at least not sexually.

                The stories a culture tells itself are important to note. The ability to tell new stories is often difficult, it’s fraught with cognitive dissonance. Often new story tellers adopt old stories (LGBT communities seeking heteronormative marriage rather than queer partnership structures) because the fight is so hard.

                Not because the forms are abnormal, but because creating a cultural “truth” is hard work.

                I do know there is sex out there. It’s just not the sex I think most people have built a powerful fantasy about.”

                I’m not sure that non-monogamy destroys social norms. I think that social norms change constantly. I mean, 40 years ago gays had to be in the closet and African Americans couldn’t marry whites. 100 years ago, women didn’t have the vote or access to birth control. 500 years ago, slavery, women as chattel in various parts of the world. We did change those norms (and are still in a process of changing them). I’d say the change there is for the good in many cases.

                The norms change all the time, but we can’t live long enough to say, wow, 200 years ago that really sucked. The change is slow and inexorable, but also sudden and difficult.

                If people seek sex it’s probably because it gives us pleasure and happiness. (See here, the three things that make people the most happy. http://www.chatelaine.com/en/blog/post/33406–the-three-times-people-are-happiest-you-may-be-surprised) I think it’s cool that all involve engaging the brain, two the body, and one STORIES.

                If people seek sexual and become very unhappy without it, we surely have some problems on our hand if no one in marriages is getting what they want. How to we change the story? Can we? Should we?

                This is not a call to non-monogamy. But it is a call to be pragmatic, to avoid things that seem repressive simply because we are used to them (for less than a century), and to be creative in how we commit. Yes, commitment is vital. Trust is very important. But so too is curiousity and a willingness to risk together.

                • Again, I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. The thing is though, I don’t think it’s true that “no one in marriages is getting what they want.” Married people still, in the main, report being happier married than single, married people live longer than single people, have more sex than single people, and so forth. And when couples divorce, it’s usually incredibly painful (even aside from issues of dividing property/finances/child custody), which it would not be if couples weren’t extremely emotionally invested in their marriages.

                  The trouble is that there are a whole lot of things that might cause people to be unhappy in marriages. One possibility might be that an individual is just not cut out for monogamy, just as it might be that they’re gay and therefore not cut out for a heterosexual marriage. But often, it seems that people leap to the conclusion that “marriage just isn’t for me” because they’re hurt, when it was really something else, such as:

                  – They chose the wrong partner (as evidenced by the fact that many people are happier in second marriages, indicating they matured and learned from their previous mistakes in the first marriage)

                  – They lack some basic relationship skills which can be improved (better communication, self esteem and expressing needs and desires, the art of compromise, dealing with one’s individual stresses and life changes or their partner’s, etc.)

                  – They have unrealistic ideas and expectations of marriage, e.g. they think it means they can have sex whenever they want it, or that they’ll never have sex when they aren’t really in the mood… or that the relationship doesn’t need regular “maintenance” in the form of trying new things both together and separately, re-affirming love and empathy for one another, re-invigorating the sex life, etc… or that their partner won’t change as a person or they won’t change themselves… or that the relationship won’t change when kids come along or a career change happens or other major upheavals.

                  I guess the bottom line is, shit happens. You will be bored and unfulfilled and miserable at some points in your life regardless whether you’re married or what kind of relationship you’re in or not in. Obviously there’s a point at which it doesn’t pay off to be married anymore (at least not to the person you’re currently married to), but I do think a lot of people leave marriages, and reject the whole idea of marriage, when really they’re just dealing with individual problems.

                  • I’m truly not in much disagreement with you at all. Or to put it more positively 🙂
                    I think we agree on much.

                    As someone who has been in an 18 year partnership filled with moves, degrees, debt, new jobs, kids, sick parents and more, yes. Sh$t does happen. Things get boring. Yes, the individual needs to deal with their own issues, and couples need to as well. We do live in a culture where one of the stories is “I GET WHAT I WANT RIGHT NOW!” And that’s not sustainable.

                    I just think it’s important for all of us to be as conscious as we can about our own needs/desires, our joint needs and desires and make agreements we can follow best we can.

                    And the social norms will keep changing to reflect that.

                    • Yes, I do think we mostly agree. And I’m not *opposed* to anybody trying whatever they want to try in their relationships, so long as they are talking about it honestly and not engaging in emotional blackmail.

                      But I just don’t think we should start with the premise that monogamy is “unnatural,” “outdated,” “doomed to fail,” “patriarchal,” and all the other scorn that is often heaped on it by progressive people. Trying other things doesn’t have to mean disparaging monogamy, which many, many people still value greatly for reasons having nothing to do with religion, biology or social acceptance.

      • wellokaythen says:

        In response to LF:

        I think you and I probably agree much more than we disagree, certainly agree more than I thought we did.

        “In many Native American cultures, inheritance of property runs through the female line (they are matrilineal), so there’s no “patriarchy” involved and the problem of determining a child’s paternity goes away, but they still tend toward monogamy.”

        Sort of true, I think. There’s a difference between matrilineal and matriarchal. You can have a matrilineal social system, or at least have clearly matrilineal elements, and still be a patriarchy. For example, you could trace your family name through your mother, and married couples could move in with the wife’s family, and it could still be a male-dominated society.

        “…in fact polygamy (a man having many wives) and patriarchy go hand in hand just as often.”
        Totally true.

        All kinds of mixtures are possible. It could be a polygamous, patriarchal, AND matrilineal society, like some of the medieval West African kingdoms. The question of paternity was very central, boys were named after their mothers to denote which of the multiple wives gave birth to which boy, and males had more power and prestige than females.

  31. Yeah, I think the term “Cheating” is what is causing the uproar and misunderstanding here… Cheating means lying, secret-keeping, and deceit. Cheating often happens addictively, too, as a way to escape/avoid pain, hurt, or vulnerability. Cheating comes from so many, many different places inside of humans that it can never be narrowed down to one reason.

    Nor should “love” ever justify cheating. I think that’s just an attention-grabbing title and statement. I think the crux of what we should pay attention to here is this:

    “Anderson’s argument is that monogamy is a social ideal, and not a biological one. He shows that it normally comes at considerable cost, either through suppressing sexual desire or risking being caught cheating. Drawing on a wide range of evidence, Anderson suggests that monogamy is an irrational ideal because it fails to provide a lifetime of sexual fulfilment. Cheating becomes the rational response to an irrational situation.”

    • Yes, the article is poorly written because it conflates cheating, polyamory, and male/female platonic relationships in a way that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. So for the most part, the comments reflect that.

      I still think Anderson’s point that you quoted is bunk, though, on so many levels. I’m not sure who ever said that monogamy was a “biological ideal” or whether that matters. In point of fact, there’s never been a successful human society based on “free love” or polyamory, and most societies allowing polygamy or polygyny only do so because environmental factors have dictated that there aren’t enough fertile men, or enough hunters, or whatever the case to provide for a family. So marriage has always been based around practical considerations like economics, and has always involved a considerable amount of sacrifice on somebody’s part. Monogamy seems to be the least troublesome of all the various options, and that is why societies tend toward it if all other conditions allow it.

      Certainly, marriage has never been about providing “a lifetime of sexual fulfillment.” That’s the part of Anderson’s argument that is the most laughable. People have always had to suppress sexual desire to a great degree, even if for no other reason than the men were/are often away on hunting trips or at war. Sex has always been important to married life, of course, but not in the sense that anyone has been guaranteed sexual fulfillment any and every time they want it. That a marriage or a marital custom such as monogamy should be considered a failure or “irrational” because it doesn’t always fulfill everyone’s sexual whims, and that cheating is therefore a “rational” response, would be hilarious if it weren’t so obvious that a lot of people really believe this.

    • Who says ? I see one more category. Why does being married have to equal suppressed sexual desire. I believe that if your upfront and honest with your spouse about your wants and needs as the marriage progresses you can have a continually fulfilled sexual desire. These are also things people don’t talk about before they get married. Which starts the whole cycle. It’s all starts with being yourself and letting someone know the real you.

  32. The Bad Man says:

    “Academic feminists have long highlighted the links between monogamy and misogyny (arguing that monogamy has historically been about the possession of women)”

    Source please?

    It’s strange that when the subject comes to cheating, many feminists become religious fundamentalists in their criticism of men’s “inability to commit” rather than critical of monogomy itself. I would posit that the feminist claim that monogamy is about “possession of women” is merely feminist projection and that monogomy’s sole purpose has always been for the benefit of women.

    There is good reason to believe that monogomy doesn’t work. Most marriages don’t last forever and most divorces are initiated by women. Of the remaining marriages that do last, many of them are sexless. Personally, I find that it is too much trouble to keep up with more than one woman at a time, so for that reason I am a serial monogomist, but I have no misconceptions about the permanence of monogomy/marriage. Friends with benefits is the best arrangement for me, but many women want so much more…they want a man to commit and provide for them when they hear their biological clock ringing.

    • Monogamy seems to benefit both men and women ultimately, albeit maybe for different reasons, and that’s why people keep trying to make it work. It also has disadvantages for both men and women, but the majority both seem to get on board with it in the end because the advantages seem to outweigh the disadvantages.

      Not to say that all individuals do, or should, come to that conclusion. It’s fine if they don’t, so long as they don’t lie to get what they want.

    • First and foremost, this is a debate on preference, not naturality.

      Anyways, what you quoted above is true. The idea of monogamy started out as being oppressive to women. It began when agricultural societies emerged. Because property came in to play(compared to nomadic hunter/gatherers), men seeked assurances that their property was actually being handed down to their own children. You can guarantee who the mother is, but not the father. This led to the eventual control over the female sexuality. And this also created what has transcended to now, feelings of sexual possessiveness, aka jealousy which had no existed in hunter/gatherer societies. H/G actually did not care for monogamy-for both men AND women.

      Source: Sexuality in World History by Peter N. Stearns
      Chapter 2.

      • Sorry, Cat, but it simply isn’t true that monogamy didn’t exist before agricultural or that it doesn’t exist in matrilineal societies. Nor is it true that jealousy (or monogamy) doesn’t exist in hunter/gatherer societies. You can find examples of tribes where it doesn’t exist, but there are also plenty where it does. There are still hunter/gatherer tribes today and they have been studied a lot the past few centuries, so your statements are easily disproved. The few books that try to deny this are being extremely selective as far as the tribes they discuss because it suits their agenda – which isn’t good science.

        In any case, children still care who their fathers are, fathers still care who their children are, and mothers still care who their children’s fathers are – even when there are no questions about property.

        • Times like these I wish I was the Sherriff of Bloggersville. I’d like y’all up like gunslingers and make you walk ten paces then turn and throw out your cites so we all could read fer ourselfs!

          thing about data is, we all can find it, write it, fix it all up so it says what we want it to say. Look at Andrew Sullivan and the whole issue of race based intelligence. How long has science been bunking and debunking that. Measuring skulls indeed.

          The human race is capable of a long of forms, we don’t have adequate data from 10k BC, and I’m quite sure that agriculture was a major game changer for EVERYTHING.

          But Cite if you got em. Always fun to read more.

          • Yes, agriculture was a game changer in terms of just about everything. And I certainly agree with you that anybody can make data say anything they want to, which is why I tend to reject any kind of evo-psych definitions of what is “natural.” It’s pretty obvious that any type of sexual or social behavior has been “natural” at some point in history and some culture or other. Neither monogamy nor non-monogamy is “natural” or “unnatural”, and it doesn’t matter a whole lot if it is – what matters is what works for us.

            • Now THAT I agree with… “Life” is alot more fluid and complex than how it’s structured and represented to us.

        • “Sorry, Cat, but it simply isn’t true that monogamy didn’t exist before agricultural or that it doesn’t exist in matrilineal societies”

          Monogamy as we see it today did not exist. There was no need for it. H/G nomadic tribes shared everything. Possessions were limited; they constantly moved. Maybe serial monogamy DID exist, in order to help/provide for the mother while she nursing a small helpless baby. This is prehistory however, these conclusions come from artifacts and cave paintings, actually written proof did not exist.

          “There are still hunter/gatherer tribes today and they have been studied a lot the past few centuries, so your statements are easily disproved”

          From which region are you speaking of? Which tribes? I’d honestly like to search further in this.

          “In any case, children still care who their fathers are, fathers still care who their children are, and mothers still care who their children’s fathers are – even when there are no questions about property.”

          This is according to western social standards that agree with our lifestyle. Relationships are cultural, and vary accordingly. In prehistoric nomadic H/G tribes, the idea of sexual possessiveness and monogamy served no purpose in survival.

          Anyways, the source I got it from is from a class I’m taking at University. I’m getting my degree in Anthropology and I’m really open to hollistic views, so please give me some sources so I can further learn your opinion this matter!

          • Well that’s just it, Cat – there may have been no “need” for monogamy and hunter-gatherers did, and do, share possessions and so forth, but the fact remains that many are (and therefore likely were) still monogamous anyway. Not to say that they had any “laws” against other forms of marriage and mating, just that in practice many tribes tended toward monogamy, adultery was still frowned upon, and polygamy is only available to a small percentage of the population. If nothing else, humans have been aware for a very long time that inbreeding is a bad thing, and so they’ve had taboos against sex with close relatives. Most tribes have some requirement that someone marry into a different clan, etc. so that in itself would preclude a lot of “sharing” of sex partners within the same band.

            What usually does happen is serial monogamy – divorce is pretty easy in most hunter-gatherer tribes, and if someone isn’t happy with their spouse they’ll usually just leave, and marry someone else. And people do, in many cases, become unhappy if their spouse is carrying on with other people on a regular basis. Jealousy does exist even where there’s no possessiveness involved. Not in every single tribe, but my point is that being a hunter-gatherer tribe or a matrilineal tribe does not preclude monogamy, jealousy, or people caring about paternity.

            A couple of good places to start, if you want to do more research, are the Iroquois tribes here in N. America (or any of the eastern woodland tribes such as the Cherokee and Creek), which are matrilineal and tend toward monogamy, and the Hazda of Tanzania, a hunter-gatherer society which tends toward monogamy. There are examples from just about every region, really.

            At the other end of the spectrum you have Australian aborigines, who are hunter-gatherers and they practice polygyny – a man can have multiple wives but a woman can’t have multiple husbands. They have a very bizarre (from our perspective) way of determining who can marry, based on clan relationships, and it has nothing to do with inheritance or property since the tribes are mostly nomadic and don’t have any. Yet, it can’t be said that jealousy doesn’t exist, or that competition doesn’t exist among wives for their husbands’ attention, or any of the things we’d normally expect in our own society if we allowed polygamy and arranged marriages.

            Again, I’m not trying to say that any of these tribes reflect the behavior of every hunter-gatherer society. In fact my whole point is that there’s no such thing as a way to generalize the marriage and mating customs of hunter-gatherer societies, and we certainly can’t leap to the conclusion that because they shared other possessions they must also have shared sexual partners freely and jealousy didn’t exist. That’s easily disproved by the examples I’ve given and many more.

            • Modern ‘tribes’ cannot be provided as examples of ‘primitive’ tribal behavior. They have all been heavily influenced by Western cultures. Hundreds of years of influence regarding land ownership, which members of the society were allowed to make political agreements with the Westernized governments, etc.

              The word is ‘cheating’. Cheating is a betrayal of trust, of going back on one’s given word, and proving oneself dishonest and selfish. It is a value statement about one’s worth about their own commitments, and a double standard in what they expect from someone else. Men do it. Women do it. Children do it. If someone believes they can get away with something, and gladly look themselves in the mirror or explain it away and blame someone else, then those are the values they are living.

              Can someone truly love someone and still be willing to cheat, lie, deceive, mislead, all while expecting that other person to still be honest, faithful, and to behave loving towards them? That they provide a definition of love to someone, then do not live up to their own definition? But they would want the other person to believe they actually love them?

              I think not.

        • wellokaythen says:

          There’s another very ancient category here that doesn’t quite fit this debate as it’s currently constructed: polygamy/polyandry. This means some degree of marital exclusiveness but with more than one person. It’s not monogamy, but it’s not necessarily open-ended polyamory either. Having clearly delineated marital boundaries has not always meant strict monogamy.

          It’s fascinating from an anthropolical perspective that in the West polyamory, no matter what kinds of hostility it faces, is still much more acceptable than polygamy, which is nearly universally reviled and legally banned. Open marriage? Whatever you adults want to do. Multiple spouses? Inconceivable.

          • That’s probably because most modern versions of polygamy involve one male, many women, repressive religious structures and children under the ages of 18 being married off to old men.

            Also because our entire marriage system (courts, property etc) is based on a dyad. We have no legal paradigms for multiple spousal divisions of assets.

            • wellokaythen says:

              Very true, in terms of how it’s practiced among some North American religious sects. Polygamy doesn’t have to be like that. Kidnapping, rape, and child abuse are immoral and are already illegal, as they should be. But I’m not so sure that means that polygamy itself should be a crime.

              There are all sorts of complicated domestic and sexual arrangements out there, many of which come pretty close to polygyny or polyandry already. You’re right, making it legal would require a huge overhaul of marriage, family, and divorce law. But, society already takes into account all sorts of family complexities – children from different marriages, stepparents, joint custody, multiple alimony payments, Woody Allen, etc.

              Polygamy would only be fair and equitable if all the spouses involved consented and were all married to each other. (Consent naturally means being old enough to consent and doing it of your own free will.) That would make divorce more complicated – what if you wanted to divorce one of them but not the other, and the other two wanted to stay married to each other? Maybe the court system could just borrow from corporate law and treat it like one of those big companies that splits into its subsidiaries. That stuff is about as complicated.

              I’m not pushing polygamy. I don’t have any interest in pursuing it. I just think it’s a theoretical possibility that is not as horrible as everyone thinks. It could stand to have an objective look.

  33. I think men (and women) in relationships that cheat do it because they love themselves the most, not their partners. Usually cheating is about getting your needs met while holding onto how your other needs are being met through someone else and not letting that other person the same oppurtunity by keeping it all secret. Cheating is never about love or loving your partners. It’s about one person meeting certain needs through two people, their committed partner and the person they are cheating with, while keeping their committed partner in the dark so that they can continue to reap the benefits for the dual relationships they have. If it was really about love, a man (or woman) would sit his partner down and tell her (or him) he (or she) wasn’t happy so they could work on a solution together.

    I also disagree with the idea that monogamy is unnatural. Monogamy is just as natural as the desire to sleep with different people. But systems provide positive and negatives. The real issue is that today people want their cake and to eat it too. They don’t want to use self control and they don’t want to deny themselve anything because everyone things they *deserve* everything. Most people, at some point of their life, seem to desire a connection and relationship with one person over anyone else. I don’t think people only desire these things because of Disney movies. And just because it doesn’t always turn out perfectly, doesn’t mean it’s unnatural or you give up on it.

    Lets just take a look at having children. There is so much risk involved with having kids. Despite the risk and fact that no child turns out perfectly either, people still want to have kids. So just because kids don’t turn out perfectly does that mean it’s unnatural to want kids? There are bound to be problems with any child you bring into the world. Life isn’t perfect. But just because things sometimes don’t work out how you wish, doesn’t mean something is unnatural.

    Men don’t cheat because they love their partners. They cheat because they want to self gratify themselves from two different angles.

    • Yeah, I would have to agree with this.

    • But, I don’t think the issue of love is so black and white. Cheating can certainly be morally black and white, but saying that cheating never has anything to do with love is just not very realistic, it seems to me. If a partner cheats, that doesn’t mean he or she feels NO love for the committed partner. Maybe the love is not respectful enough or considerate enough, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t love at all. I’m not sure when “love” came to mean never doing anything your partner didn’t want you to do.

      Why can’t something be clearly wrong AND be driven in some way by some sort of love? Those do not have to be contradictory.

      Again, I don’t think continued love for one’s partner excuses cheating, because that’s almost like blaming the affair on the cheated person. You can love someone and do something wrong. Maybe it’s dysfunctional love or love undermined by selfishness, but it’s hard to say there’s no love at all. The cheated partner has every right to demand that the other partner not cheat and has every right to say what kind of relationship shows real love. But, that doesn’t mean that the cheating partner has no love.

      This sounds a bit like “If you really loved me, you wouldn’t….” That’s from the injured person’s point of view, but that doesn’t mean the cheating person doesn’t feel love. In a way, that argument itself sounds a little selfish – “don’t be so selfish – think about ME!” I’ve heard the argument before that if men really knew how much their affairs hurt the people they love, they would never have affairs. I’m not so sure that’s really true.

      • Well, I do know a lot of people who didn’t think cheating was so bad until they were cheated on, and then they could never again consider cheating.

        But in general, I agree with your basic point that someone can still love their spouse and yet cheat on them. I think a lot of people who cheat believe they’re dealing with a frustrating situation in the least hurtful way toward their partner (thinking the alternative is to leave them), and that’s how they justify it. Obviously, it doesn’t occur to them that they could choose not to cheat OR leave, and that’s where the dysfunction comes in. But you’re right, it doesn’t literally mean they don’t love their spouse anymore.

        At some point though, the question becomes moot. I dated a guy for awhile who kept saying he loved me, yet he ignored me most of the time and rarely did anything to show love or caring. Of course, I broke up with him, because whether or not he “felt” any love for me really didn’t matter if it wasn’t manifested in any way. 😀 And I think a lot of people feel the same way about a habitual cheater – while it might be true that the cheater still feels love for their partner, the partner may well say “Who cares, if that’s how you show it?”

      • Anonymous, I do think people can love someone (at least the best way they know how to love someone) and still cheat. But I don’t think the cheating itself is about a great love for their partner as it is a great love to fulfill themselves. Not everyone loves equally and some people don’t really know how to give or receive real love.

        I also agree that love doesn’t mean doing everything your partner didn’t want you to do but a big portion of love is being open and truthful with your partner about your needs so that you create an open relationship, not a closed off one. After all, love and relationships are about an open space of intimacy and affection and to create that, you need vulnerability and honesty.

        I think people can still love someone and hurt them but usually in those cases, those people have a greater love for themselves and their own needs then they do their partners. It doesn’t mean love doesn’t exist at all but it doesn’t mean it’s a healthy love either.

    • MariposaNegra says:

      I could not have said it better Erin. Thank you. I will share your Spoken Mind with Others.

  34. wellokaythen says:

    There’s a difference between excusing something and explaining something. I think the article makes a good stab at trying to explain some aspects of infidelity that are true for some people. Just because there’s a clear explanation does not mean there is an acceptable excuse, however. It is valuable to examine what our assumptions may be when we hear that someone has cheated – what we think is going on in that person’s head may not be what’s really going on. That’s what I got from the article.

    There’s a difference between an individual failing at monogamy and monogamy itself failing. The fact that so many people seem to fail at something suggests there is a larger systemic problem, but I’m not sure that means we should scrap the whole thing. Very few people follow the speed limit, but I’m not sure we should toss out the whole institution of speed limits. (Okay, probably a bad example. Just keep the number of sex partners below 70 in rural areas, below 60 if you’re a truck driver?)

    • Well okay, you are absolutly correct. I respect you standing up as a good man and speaking the truth. If we all just did what we felt like at the moment, I mean why stop at any limits? If it is truly in our libido and more sexually satisfying to be with multiple partners, I mean why draw the line at multiple partners? Why not expand ones choices sexually and and permit picking someone at the grocery store you are attracted too and telling the cashier to wait a minute, because for this person in particular, their particular biolgocial make up will not permit them to achieve sexual release unless they grab a stranger and hump them on the grocery conveyer belt and telling everyone else to go to another line. After all “this is all that gets this guy off.” I hate how crude all of this sounds but my logic is very clear. If we keep moving back the lines of morality to make way for peoples every growing lusts, then where do we ever draw the line!?! Look what is happening to society. so many kids dont know who their daddy is and then turn to drugs, then some turn to violence. then they become less productive citizens of society. Then they need to go on welfare or assistance to help them get back on thier feet further using up societies resources. Self control takes Gods help for sure. Everyone needs his loving help for us as individuals and believe me he loves and wants to help each and every one of us. Without self control, their would be complete chaos. This man is arguing, just push back the line or morality a bit so that his concience doesnt make him so uncomfortable. Well his philosophy Im sure makes his girlfriend uncomfortable (unless shes already given up hope due to low self esteem and is putting on a pretense to feel some sick watered down version of “love” from this guy.

      • Hey, Karen – just to clear up a few errors in your post: I’m gay and don’t have a partner, so the motivation for the article isn’t what you suggest. The other key point to address is that the article is talking about consensual sex – there’s no slippery slope from people engaging in open relationships consensually to rape; your argument is clear, but the logic is deeply flawed.

        • Karen might have been wrong in some of the particulars, but I think she’s still asking a valid question: Should we always indulge our sexual desires any time we want (assuming we can find a consensual partner), just because we can?

          • I think it’s clear LF that you think we shouldn’t. As a thought experiment, what would happen if you had a consensual partner and you indulged every time you wanted? Consensually of course. Would would the positives be and what would be the negatives? In your opinion.

            What is “everytime you wanted?” Every time you think of sex? Or everytime you really feel aroused? That’s going to be different for every person. If I indulged every single time? Probalby once a day.

            You clearly seem triggered or annoyed by the folks on the thread that are, if not advocating for new norms, at least thinking about them.

            I’m not sure why this is such a irritating thing for you, but it’s clear you think polyamory is not good in any way, that everyone trying it has failed terribly, and that the people who say they’ve not failed, are obfuscating.

            I don’t in any way think that people should be rutting and gorging every lust or impulse every second of the day, but I also don’t have a fundamental distrust of a pleasure focused life. Pleasure meaning, not rutting, but something quite different than how I perceive our entirely repressive, anti sex ed, kids being accused of sexual harassment at 5 years of age, don’tlet your daughter get the HPV vaccine, slut shaming and also (as a result of that) hypersexualizing, torture porn world.

            I know a lot of goofy, nerdy, pleasure seeking poly/mono/asexual/queer folk. They seem ok to me.

            And with that, I”m off to the theater!

            • I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding of my position going on here. I have no problem with what you’re calling a pleasure focused life, and I don’t like the “entirely repressive, anti sex ed, kids being accused of sexual harassment at 5 years of age, don’t let your daughter get the HPV vaccine, slut shaming and also (as a result of that) hypersexualizing, torture porn world” any more than you do. I am completely against sexual repression by society.

              I don’t think polyamory is necessarily always a bad thing, but I do see all too many people presuming it must be a good thing simply because it’s “anti repressive” and there’s lots of sex involved. I also get extremely irritated with all the “monogamy is bad and unnatural” crap, as I’ve said before. That is the main source of my irritation – well, that and the fact that after 30+ years of seeing a bunch of people’s marriages crash and burn because they decided to try polyamory, yes, seeing people you care about get hurt badly does tend to get irritating after awhile. If you know people who are happy in poly relationships, I’m not going to quibble with that – but that doesn’t invalidate my own observations which are the complete opposite, and people ought to go into these things with their eyes open at least, yes?

              So I’m not saying don’t discuss other alternatives or think about them. I’m saying don’t think you have to have this knee jerk response to our repressive history by vilifying monogamy and feeling obliged to try something different – and to the extent that you do try something different (if you do), tread very carefully. Don’t try to manipulate things in your favor in an existing partnership. Don’t underestimate what it will feel like in reality versus when you’re just discussing it in theory. And so on.

              • LF I think you’ve made your point very clear. And it’s entirely possible that the marriages were on the rocks at the time poly was started (people trying to fix something the wrong way) and they used poly (or marriage counseling, or babies, or whatever it was) to justify their desire to change.

                People’s marriages break up. There might be a correlation to divorce and poly. There might also be a correlation between there not being a damn bit of narrative history for poly-no common language with friends, few poly friendly or aware therapists, an isolation of how the form works, having to be in a closet of sorts.

                Or it could be entirely bogus thinking.

                I’m not advocating anyone do it. Though I’ve had good experiences in the last 8 years and am still happily married. I have friends in long term partnerships (like over four years and married for longer). I’ve got history with older folks who’ve done the more traditional queer partnership and DADT for over 25 years. My experience is different than yours.

                Do I see people fucking up their marriages all the time for selfish reasons? Yes I do. Poly is but one of the things I’ve seen be “straw: for the disaster, but it is not necessarily the full cause.

                Anyway, we are just arguing in circles and it wears me out. I don’t give a good goldarn what you or anyone else does, so long as you do it with truth and honor and ethics. I don’t however see poly as some kind of evil slippery selfish slope that’s going to destroy social norms. Hell a lot of the poly folk I’ve met have sex less than many mono people. It’s not like a big orgy all the time.

              • LF I think you’ve made your point very clear. And it’s entirely possible that the marriages were on the rocks at the time poly was started (people trying to fix something the wrong way) and they used poly (or marriage counseling, or babies, or whatever it was) to justify their desire to change.

                People’s marriages break up. There might be a correlation to divorce and poly. There might also be a correlation between there not being a damn bit of narrative history for poly-no common language with friends, few poly friendly or aware therapists, an isolation of how the form works, having to be in a closet of sorts.

                Or it could be entirely bogus thinking.

                I’m not advocating anyone do it. Though I’ve had good experiences in the last 8 years and am still happily married. I have friends in long term partnerships (like over four years and married for longer). I’ve got history with older folks who’ve done the more traditional queer partnership and DADT for over 25 years. My experience is different than yours.

                Do I see people fricking up their marriages all the time for selfish reasons? Yes I do. Poly is but one of the things I’ve seen be “straw: for the disaster, but it is not necessarily the full cause.

                Anyway, we are just arguing in circles and it wears me out. I don’t give a good goldarn what you or anyone else does, so long as you do it with truth and honor and ethics. I don’t however see poly as some kind of evil slippery selfish slope that’s going to destroy social norms. Hell a lot of the poly folk I’ve met have sex less than many mono people. It’s not like a big orgy all the time.

                • Nah I don’t think it’s a big orgy all the time either (although I do know people who think it would be). And I don’t really think we’re arguing – we just have different perspectives.

                  I do think that the marriages I spoke about were having problems prior to “trying poly” (at least in 2 out of the 3 cases, not so sure about the third), but I don’t think they were necessarily headed for divorce. Only one of the couples actually did divorce, and I honestly don’t think they would have, if they hadn’t gotten into the poly thing. In a nutshell the husband fell in love with someone else, he told his wife he still wanted to be with her as well as his new girlfriend, and she agreed to it but soon found she really didn’t want to do it, and got really angry that he would put her in that position. Of course, her being angry all the time wasn’t very attractive to him and he soon wanted to leave her, when it was obvious she wasn’t really being herself and she was just lost and confused by the whole thing. She wanted to be the cool, progressive wife, and she wanted to make her husband happy, but she couldn’t just will away her feelings of abandonment and jealousy and I don’t blame her one bit. The whole thing was very sad and I think it could’ve been saved with some truly honest communication and maybe counseling. It was obvious they still cared about each other a great deal and they have a young child. 🙁

                  As for social norms, as I mentioned, I don’t think any of this would have happened if they hadn’t had friends who were into it, and thus, support behind it. In a way that just made it worse, because their friends were going on about how great it was, which made them feel more pressure to make it work. The same thing was even more true of the crowd I hung with in the 80s, who were very much into social engineering in various forms. They had plenty of poly friendly language and guidance.

                  Funnily enough, the only time I’ve been in an ostensibly open relationship myself, I really wasn’t bothered by it. I thought when I was very young (which I was at the time) that I was pretty immune to jealousy. I realized later that 1) I loved the guy I was with at the time, but I wasn’t fully, deeply in love, and 2) I’d been going along with the open relationship thing mostly to score “cool points” with my boyfriend. I thought he would think it was cool that he could brag to his buddies about what a great girlfriend he had, who loved him so much and was so secure in our relationship that I was OK with him having sex with other women. And I thought, ultimately, that this would make our relationship stronger.

                  In reality though, he was pretty self centered, and the situation didn’t lead to our relationship deepening, but it led to me getting neglected more and more as he took more and more advantage of my “coolness.” As I say, it wasn’t that big of a deal at the time because I wasn’t all that much in love with him. But if I had been, as I realized later once I got into a more mature and deep relationship, I could never have done some of the things I did – like assuring one of his “playmates” on the phone that yes, it was fine with me if she had sex with my boyfriend. I genuinely got a kick out of that at the time… can’t imagine it now…LOL.

              • I always find it amusing when people point to poly relationships that broke up as proof that poly can’t work. I mean, look at all the mono relationships breaking up, every day, all around you. If a couple of poly relationships that “crashed” is proof that poly is impossible, what can we infer about monogamy from the countless failing mono relationships?

                I agree with you that one should not underestimate the complexities and difficulties of having a poly relationship. The same can be said of monogamy. Making a long-term relationship work is hard work at times, and requires a good deal of reflection.

            • Now about your thought experiment: you asked: “what would happen if you had a consensual partner and you indulged every time you wanted? Consensually of course. Would would the positives be and what would be the negatives? In your opinion… What is “everytime you wanted?” Every time you think of sex? Or everytime you really feel aroused?”

              Let’s just say every time I really feel aroused. Let’s say that’s around once a day. As far as I’m concerned, I have 4 options as far as what to do about it, and I’ll list them here in my personal best-to-worst order:

              1) If I’m in a committed relationship, and my partner will have sex with me, great. As far as I’m concerned that’s all positive and no negative.

              2) If my partner is not around, not in the mood, or I’m single, I could masturbate. Not as good as option 1, but it gets the job done and I don’t see any downside.

              3) I could do the equivalent of taking a cold shower, and focus on something else besides my arousal. Negative: it’s frustrating and may be easier said than done. Positive: it builds self discipline; it assures my partner (if I have one) that I’m capable of feeling lust when he’s not around and dealing with it without doing anything stupid; the other things I could choose to focus on, which might be creative or productive or spiritual or fun or perhaps just getting in a good workout or having a great conversation with a friend, could give me pleasure too, perhaps a more lasting or substantial pleasure than satisfying my immediate sexual desire. Sublimation can be a very, very positive thing.

              4) If I have a willing partner with whom I’m not in a committed relationship, then that complicates things considerably as opposed to the other 3 options.

              Potential positives: My desire is fulfilled; I have a good time; I learn some new thing that really turns me on; he has a good time too and maybe that’s the end of it, or maybe we both like each other and want to see each other again.

              Potential negatives: The guy is lousy in bed and has no idea how to get me off; I get pregnant or get an STD (still possible even with condoms); we are both single and one of us ends up wanting to get more involved than the other so one of us gets hurt; I have a committed partner at home who might be jealous/hurt/bummed out that I’m too tired to have sex with him tonight (even if he knows and has agreed to our “open” situation); I have a committed partner at home and I start to fall for the new guy pretty hard and feel conflicted; the other guy has a committed partner at home and I start to wish I could supplant his primary partner – perhaps he ends up agreeing and his partner (and their children if they have any, and my partner and our children if I have them) gets terribly hurt, or perhaps he doesn’t agree and I end up now being emotionally as well as sexually frustrated; perhaps the tables are turned and he falls madly in love with me and starts stalking me… etc. etc. etc.

              So, given all the potential negatives vs. positives of option 4… as opposed to any of the other 3… I don’t see why I would ever choose 4. I just don’t see where the short term pleasure (which may not even turn out to be much pleasure if the guy is sexually inept) is worth all of the risks, when there are at least 2 and possibly 3 other ways of dealing with my arousal, that have plenty of positive benefits and none of the complications.

              None of this, as I hope is obvious by now, has anything to do with a repressive society. It just seems like common sense and kindness to me, and I feel that over the long haul, the pleasure and fulfillment of sex and relationships is enhanced when both partners are able to willingly exercise restraint (which is very different from repression) for one another’s sake.

              • See, my reasons for not having sex whenever the mood strike are far far more mundane. Let’s say I’m at work. I don’t just leave my post, run home and do it. Or what if I was at a concert or play with my partner and I felt the urge. I wouldn’t just run off the bathroom with him.

                People exercise restraint a great deal of the time. I show respect by staying at my job instead of going into the bathroom to ….um… I show kindness to fellow arts patrons by not doing it during Chopins Etudes.

                All three of your points are fine with me, but four is the one that has so much judgement attached to it. Well, those things might be true for you, but it is within the realm of possibility that it could be different and actually GOOD for someone else to have a second consensual lover.

                I mean my thought experiment detailed one consensual lover, not stalkers. But you went from poly to disease and stalking and divorce in one paragraph. Yes, those are also within the realm of possibility but wow. That’s one slippery slope.

                My thought experiment was about sex. Yes. But one of the reasons I have always found monogamy to be limiting, is that it is possible (without ever having sex with someone) to be in love, to love, to care for, attend to and adore, more than one person at the same time.

                I mean, and am talking about, relationships with or without the sex. To me sex is probably in the bottom five reasons I’d want another partner. Because people are wonderful (or can be) because discovering people and being discovered is a rich joy. And it’s a rare joy too, but it can happen multiple times in a life.

                You might argue are those friendships? Yes. And they can be more. And one can love in system of plenty. There can be beautiful moments of richness with multiple people. And no, sex isn’t always the point.

                I promise I will never ever ask you to accept polyamory into your life. But I’m guessing it’s possible that you could love more than one person. Imagine not having to hide it. Even if you never acted on it. I find the honesty of not hiding strong feelings takes a lot of power (the “need”) out of the feelings. I love being able to love. Even if I never act.

                • Well yeah, of course there are a lot of times and places (like work, concerts, etc.) where sex isn’t appropriate, so I agree with your mundane reasons. 😀

                  I don’t think I’ve ever said it isn’t in the realm of possibility that one could have sex with more than one consensual partner and have it turn out OK. Sure it is. But the “judgmental” statements I made in option #4 are real. I’ve seen every one of them happen, more than once. Sometimes we “pass judgment” for good reasons, and what I’m saying is that while options 1 thru 3 have little or no possibility of developing these types of complications, it’s a game of Russian roulette with #4, and the more people you become involved with the more bullets are in the chamber, so to speak, and the greater the odds become that things will not end well. You said your experiment involved “one consensual lover, not stalkers.” But the reality is that one consensual lover (sex partner) can turn into a stalker, or any of the other scenarios I mentioned, because you may go into the situation thinking it’s “just sex” but it rarely really is, and at the point people realize that (that they are in over their head and they have agreed to be in this situation where they can never have the other person exclusively), they can do very, very irrational things. More often, it’s simply painful, but a lot of people don’t deal with that pain well.

                  Now as for being able to love more than one person? Of course! I have and do. I’ve always had close male friends that I adore, no matter whether I or they are married or in exclusive relationships. Yes, there’s sometimes sexual attraction there, but we don’t act on it, or give our partners any reason to be insecure about it. Someone else mentioned elsewhere in the thread that people can have “emotional affairs” that can actually be more of a threat to a spouse than a sexual affair, and I agree with that. So there has to be a certain amount of restraint in those situations too, and it has to be clear that the spouse is still the #1 priority. But as long as there are clear boundaries there, geez, yeah – there’ve been quite a number of people in my life that I’ve loved deeply, whether sex is involved or not. And I don’t hide it – I just make sure that my partner doesn’t have any doubt that he is more “special” to me than anyone else, and sexual exclusivity is one of the ways (though not the only way) I do that.

                • Actually, just to weigh in with another view, I find it very difficult to find people who I want to get particularly close to … when I’ve been single and dating, it’s a nightmare trying to find just one man who I can connect with on an emotional, sexual and spiritual level. Trying to find 2, 3 or 4 men who all fit the bill, and who also feel the same way about me … Wow, I can’t even imagine what an awful process that would be! One of the key advantages of being in a relationship is that I can stop trying to meet men! 🙂 Honestly, that’s a major reason why I would never want to try polyamory. There is an assumption that there are just all these great, quality men out there just waiting for an opportunity to have relationships. That sure hasn’t been my experience (yeah I’m a little cynical).

      • My child is fatherless and I resent the fact that you assume all children from single parent families end up on drugs and welfare.

  35. black iris says:

    I think this is an insane idea. Women get hurt when men cheat. Women don’t like it. They leave you. You will lose them. If you love them, don’t do it.

    Remember – women have evolved, too. Women who stay with cheaters are bad mothers. Women who get jealous and fight off their rivals are more likely to pass on their genes. If bad conduct by men is genetic, well so is women being upset by it. Use those great human brains that evolved.

  36. zigy kaluzny says:

    a fascinating and evolutionarily cogent argument, despite what moralists and other such excuse-makers may say — as in the responses above (and i am not in any way excusing the BS that so many men spew when caught cheating).

    However, my question is, WTF does the sexual variety issue have to do with this excerpt from the concluding paragraphs??

    “Anderson’s argument ….. makes clear that yes, men and women can be ‘just friends.’”

    and FYI, the men i have known who claimed they “could not just be friends” with a woman were EXACTLY the kind of men i would not want as friends; they were too desperately wrapped up in needing to prove something to themselves.

  37. In this discussion there are two things getting conflated together here that are not quite the same thing: being monogamous and being married. These are obviously related to each other but are not quite the same thing.

    As someone pointed out, the divorce rate is much higher today than it was in the past, no question. People were more likely to stay married in previous generations. But, that does not necessarily mean that people back then were more faithful than people today. In many cases, people in earlier generations stayed married DESPITE infidelity, not because of a lack of cheating. Given how often infidelity was swept under the rug in previous generations, it’s hard to calculate one way or the other if it was rarer or not. (I suspect it was much more common than most people think. What do you think the Greatest Generation servicemen did overseas all those years far from home? Just wrote letters and prayed?) Sure, as far as I know my grandparents were faithful to each other – but I doubt they would have told me if they weren’t….

    If the measurement of marital success is not getting divorced, that’s a very low bar to set in terms of happiness or faithfulness. For one thing, separation and/or abandonment were much more common in earlier generations – just because a century ago a couple didn’t get divorced doesn’t mean they were actually still together. (Not to mention the process of annulment, something that doesn’t count in the divorce statistics but was much more common in the past than today.) In many ways, divorce was much more difficult, virtually impossible for many people generations ago – would that actually force people to be faithful, or would it have the opposite effect?

    Another conflation of two related but different things: staying married and being happy. Obviously two people can be in a miserable marriage and never cheat and never get divorced. I suppose that’s some sort of achievement. A mixed blessing at best. That is one sort of functional monogamy.

  38. Just throwing this idea out for debate — according to one view, monogamy evolved to benefit men. In polgymous societies, there is more competition for women and many men will never have the oppotunity to marry or have children. Monogamy promotes social stability by ensuring there is one woman for every man. Abandoning monogamy will not necessarily benefit men. It may mean more available women for the men with higher social status, looks and material goods, and worse chances for men lower in the social hierarchy. Again, I’m not necessarily advocating that theory, just mentioning it.

  39. You bring up multiple points here, some of which have merit and others which are complete bunk.

    First of all, no one is saying monogamy is ideal for everyone. They are saying monogamy is ideal FOR THEM. Frankly I had a large number of sexual partners before I was married. I wouldn’t change a thing. And while I absolutely look at other women, admire them and even think about what it would be like to sleep with them, I refrain because I’m satisfied with the emotional and physical relationship I have with my wife.

    But more importantly, since we agreed we both wanted to be monogamous, it would be a gargantuan breach of trust if I slept with someone else. It wouldn’t translate into “I cheated BECAUSE I loved her.” Quite the opposite actually. It’d be more like “I knew she didn’t want me to cheat, I cheated anyways and completely disrespected her in the process.” Trying to pass off infidelity as a benevolent act is extraordinarily lame.

    However, I agree sex does not (and I’d argue SHOULD not) be an indicator of an emotional connection each and every time. There’s a lot to be said for quickies and raw, animalistic sex. It’s great under the right circumstances. But you can be monogamous and fulfill this need.

    As other comments have previously said, there is nothing wrong with being polyamorous or having an open marriage. If that’s your thing, have at it. No one is stopping you. But the backlash against those who choose monogamy is unnecessary. And insulting.

  40. There are some real problems with the book Sex at Dawn. Someone once pointed me to a very cogent review on Amazon which I don’t have the link for, but my point is simply don’t accept the book as gospel. It has apparently been widely criticized, by people in the field, as making unwarranted conclusions on thin evidence. Just FYI

    • Jill,
      Why don’t you read the book and then give us your opinion. There are some real problems with the Bible too, probably shouldn’t accept that book as gospel either.

      • I’m an atheist, but thanks for the articulate response!

      • I have read the book and I agree that it’s very flawed on several levels. The whole idea of whether it’s “natural” for humans to be monogamous or not is poor science – real anthropologists and sociologists know that humans are nothing if not incredibly adaptable to their environment, and therefore what is “natural” is mostly dependent on culture and environment, not biology. So it’s true that monogamy is not “natural” – but then neither is any other mating custom.

        The idea that because hunter-gatherer societies shared most other resources, they probably also shared sexual partners, is pure supposition and there’s no evidence for it – after all hunter-gatherer societies still exist today and we’ve been studying them for several centuries, and although they still do share many resources in common, they do not necessarily (or even often) share sexual partners as freely as everything else. If history is any indication, humans have been aware of the effects of inbreeding for many thousands of years, and any tribes that have survived have prohibited sex with close relatives. Humans have also cared about paternity of children for many thousands of years – even in matrilineal societies it is obviously considered to be in the best interest of children to know who their fathers are. So, while serial monogamy (marriage/divorce/remarriage) is common in hunter-gatherer cultures, and polygamy (men with multiple wives or women with multiple husbands) is also commonly accepted if not widely practiced, adultery is nearly always frowned upon, and premarital sex isn’t looked on too fondly either except in certain circumstances (puberty rituals etc.) There are lots of odd exceptions – some tribes believed that a woman needed to sleep with more than one man to get pregnant or some such thing – and not a huge percentage of people stayed with one partner or had only one sex partner their whole life. But I don’t know of any lasting society that has allowed unbridled polyamory, “free love” or otherwise indulging sexual desires whenever they felt like it. There is no reason to think that existed in primitive humans if it doesn’t exist in latter day hunter-gatherer cultures who have similar social structures. There is no reason to believe jealousy didn’t exist, or violence when affairs were discovered, etc… all of those things exist in most hunter-gatherer cultures today. Sex at Dawn ignores this larger context and pretty much everything that doesn’t suit its premise.

  41. The article makes a great point when trying to support open relationships. Irregardless, cheating indicates a lack of RESPECT for your partner. If it is so important for you to “spice” up your life with another partner, you really need to discuss this with your current one! Monogamy truly works for many people (I haven’t yet decided what works best for me, though right now I’m enjoying just that).

    A friend of mine once said, it is YOUR responsibility to take care of YOUR relationship, not anyone else’s. It is YOU who chooses to cheat, NOT your mistress!

    Someone may tempt you; you may be attracted to another person, but its up to you to show how much respect you have for your partner. If you need to move on, you need to tell your partner BEFORE you do it! If you think you have the kind of relationship that can survive an open relationship, you NEED to discuss it BEFORE it happens!

    Love indicates respect! If you cheat, you dont respect your partner. If you dont respect your partner, you cant possibly love them!

  42. Someone might have said this already but …did Anderson write anything about how people who cheat *might * just be failing to commuicate what they what to the partner they have, then cheat because they feel unsatisfied?

  43. So sad that everyone seems to miss the point. I think you all jumped to your conclusions before you even read the article, let alone the book. Not surprised though, I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the topic and these responses are pretty much par for the course.
    Questioning monogamy is important for the same reason as questioning heterosexuality. It’s not to say that monogamy is wrong, just that it’s not the only way and if it feels wrong to you it’s not because there’s something wrong with you. Many people don’t realize that non-monogamy is an option because we are so strongly conditioned in our culture to accept monogamy as the only and true path.
    People who cheat have failed at monogamy. Cheating is wrong because it breaks trust, puts the other at risk and takes away their right to make informed decisions. Questioning monogamy is about opening up disscussion around the topic and taking away the stigma of loving more than one so that partners can have honest discussions rather then cheat or divorce.

    For those with an open mind, I highly reccomend the book ‘Sex at Dawn’ by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha. I’m surprised the Good Men Project hasn’t reveiwed it already?

    • I don’t see how I’ve failed to see the point. I’m a staunch advocate for people designing their own relationships. I agree that hallowing monogamy as an end all be all is problematic in our culture. I disagree that cheating on a spouse is an act of love though. It’s the lie part that is the problem for me, not the sex.
      I think being present and connected whether in mono or poly or serial relationships is the goal.
      And yes, I’ve read Sex at Dawn.

      • Julie,
        You were one of the few open-minded respondents on here. I disagree with the conclusion you and others made though that the author says cheating is an “act of love”. I don’t think anyone would be so bold to say this is how you show love, rather what he’s saying is that a person may feel between a rock and a hard place and rather than leave the relationship (maybe there are children) the partner cheats.
        “Men cheat because they love their partners. It is the ‘because’ that makes the statement so challenging.”
        Notice he didn’t say “Men cheat to show their partners love”
        Because cheating in this context is done with out the other partner’s knowledge it can’t be considered an “act of love”. It’s tricky syntax if you ask me.

        • I believe those men and women feel as if they are stuck between a rock and a hard place. And it is possible that some cheat as a steam release valve and hope to god they don’t get caught. Because they do love their spouse. But I also believe that there is so much justification tangled up in the act. “I’ll cheat so I won’t leave her, or she won’t leave me. Because I want to, no, because I have to, she won’t know, it won’t hurt her.” etc. Why not have the painful conversations?

          Because they are painful. No one wants to face the conversation where the spouse says, “yeah, I don’t want to fuck you or anyone anymore so I guess you’ll have to deal.” So the options are cheat, deal, or separate. The options COULD include “work it out during a long and arduous process.” but that’s not nearly as fun as the thrill of cheating and justifying it.

          I think women do this too, so it’s not like I’m trying to bash men here, I”m not. I think human beings are amazingly skilled at figuring out how to get their cake and eat it too in a number of scenarios.

          Unless folks are willing to consider what that cheating actually means in connection with “love” as an action, I think the cycle will just continue.

        • Yes, it’s “tricky syntax” and I don’t think that is by accident. I do believe there are people who love their partners and yet cheat on them. That doesn’t mean it’s OK. People try to convince themselves it’s OK and that they’re hurting their partner less (or not at all) by cheating than leaving, and most of the time they have not looked at the situation honestly.

          • I definitely don’t think cheating is OK. But I think the author is trying to get us to ask a larger question of ourselves, which I think is important and I find it unfortunate that these discussions get side-railed into whether or not cheating is “OK”.
            It’s more a question of why then why not don’t you think?

            • How do you mean it’s more a question of why than why not? Can you clarify that?

              • why cheat? vs. why not cheat?
                What would compel you to want to cheat on someone you love?
                The reasons why not to cheat seem obvious and don’t really need answering, in my opinion….

                • Oh, I see. Well there do seem to be a lot of people who need to be told why not to cheat… LOL.

                  As for why people would want to cheat (in the case of someone who still does love their partner and isn’t just staying with them for the children or the social status), it seems the most common reason is that their sex life has gotten boring or very infrequent and they are frustrated by that. Some people feel that by cheating, they’re removing the pressure from their spouse to have sex and therefore it’s making their marriage better. But since they have no intention of leaving the marriage and don’t want to bug the spouse to change anymore, they feel it’s better not to tell the spouse about it.

                  All of these feelings are understandable. I just think there are a lot of other possible responses to them than cheating or divorce.

    • That point wasn’t lost on me, BC. Most of my life I’ve been around people who are very open to questioning the status quo, and I’m all for that. I just don’t happen to agree with the conclusion in this case. If someone cheats or divorces, yes, they have failed at monogamy, but a lot of people then jump to the conclusion that monogamy is somehow bad and it’s not because the person may have made some bad decisions.

      There is probably some relatively small percentage of people who are better off in non monogamous relationships, and that’s fine. Discussing it is fine. What’s not so fine is saying it’s unnatural and an outdated institution and all this other BS. Just because we accept that gay people exist as a minority doesn’t mean we start saying heterosexuality is unnatural, and yet it seems that a lot of “advocates” for polyamory feel they have to say this about monogamy.

      • It’s the “natural” part that irritates me. It’s either all natural (since it’s in the natural world we live in) or it’s none of it natural, but socially mediated. In the history of humankind, we’ve had polygamy, polygyny, hermits, homosocial societies, and more.

        Greek men and boys.
        The isle of Lesbos, anyone?
        Courtiers and mistresses.
        Male and Female genital mutilation.
        New religious factions created in part to gain access to divorce.
        Sharing wives with siblings.
        Two Spirit People.
        Sibling marriages for royalty.
        Harems and burkhas.
        Bikinis and American Apparel ads.
        Victorian suppression and the invention of vibrators to help with female “hysteria”
        And countless more from countless cultures, many forgotten in the annals of time.

        We do sex and relationships in whatever form and fancy comes next. Romantic love as a construct isn’t that old, folks.

        We are in a culturally applied hetero focused mono (or serial mono) society. Cheating and/or divorcing has been norm. You marry, you pledge to monogamy, you cheat but you don’t actually talk about it. That could change. When people push back against it actively (Sex at Dawn), there are all manner of reactions.

        1000 years from now, if we are all around and haven’t killed each other, one could imagine a world when men live on one continent and women on the other, and they meet up once a year for medically regulated breeding. They might say, Oh how civilized we all are now, compared to the dark ages of the 21st century!

        Or we could all be asexual, perhaps, and enjoy art and dance and cooking. Or maybe we’ll find ways to merge mentally and wars and violence will end as we know it.

        Either way, will any of that be natural? It’s either all natural or not natural at all.

        I think it gets down to how aware you are of what you want, and how honest you can be in getting that, while doing your best to harm none. If you are harming? Step back and take a look.

        • Thank you for that Julie. I agree the word “natural” sets off a lot of unecessary defensiveness.

          I like this quote to summarize:
          The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.

          • Also, http://www.thebigview.com/buddhism/fourtruths.html#truth3

            Life means suffering. I suppose I’m torn between the idea that happiness is attainable through freedom, because that seems like a very personal happiness that could come at the cost of others unhappiness. Then again, we are all we have. But we are group creatures and don’t live in a vacuum. We need each other, and yet we are alone.

            It’s about doing the least amount of harm, and giving the greatest amount of respect and love. If you can do that in a poly situation, amen. If you do it in a mono one? Amen.

            Having the ability to think through the choice is important.

        • Yeah, I agree that “natural” gets us way off track. Most sexual and marital customs in times past have evolved out of necessity, environmental factors, or subjugation (or some combination), not because they were “natural” or “unnatural.” That doesn’t make them all equally viable, though, given that we now have the ability to make choices in our sexual and mating habits based on what we think is the most fulfilling and/or will do the least harm. That is what should inform our decisions, IMO.

          Also sometimes social constructs evolve precisely because people have realized over hundreds of years that certain sexual or marital behaviors lead to instability of the individuals, family or society. So we do have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater just because we pride ourselves on being open minded, progressive and questioning of societal norms.

      • What the author says is that “monogamy is a failed institution”, the key word there is “institution”, meaning a societal dictate.

        Monogamy is not supposed to be an “institution”… it’s just an idea, not a good one or a bad one, just another construct of humanity. When it becomes a societal dictate then it is less of an idea and more of an institution.

        Excuse me if I come out swinging when everyone starts throwing out BS this BS that, excuses, excuses.. at the mere mention of non-monogamy. I think there is no need to prove that many people prefer monogamy. I think there is a need to prove that monogamy is not the only way. All relationships take work, something we can agree on. Poly or cheating is a band-aid for nothing. “Natural” is a loaded word.

        • Maybe I’m just really on the bleeding edge here, but to me it seems obvious that non monogamy is an option. I thought that was obvious to most people by now. I’ve been hearing about this stuff for 30+ years and have known many, many people who have tried it. I just haven’t seen much good come of it, and I’m tired of seeing good people get hurt.

          So feel free to discuss alternatives to monogamy, and I’ll feel free to say that from what I’ve seen, the alternatives suck. Not because I am judgmental of anyone’s sexual preferences or think anybody is going to Hell for it, but because I’ve seen how much it hurts people.

          • I respect that position LF, and I wondered what your perspective was. I’m 31 (12 years monogamous) and no, non-monogamy was not an obvious option for me and in discussing it with peers I’ve found the same with them. So there is some generational aspects here. I think anyone who came of age in the “free-love” days will have a different perspective perhaps a “been-there-done-that” attitude. But please don’t take it for granted that it’s as obvious to everyone as it is to you.
            And good people get hurt in monogamous relationships all the time…
            That’s what I’ve seen anyway but that’s because I don’t know any openly non-monogamous people.. again, maybe a generational thing.

            • Yes, of course good people get hurt in monogamous relationships all the time, and people like to talk about the high failure rate of marriages. But while 50% of marriages end in divorce, my experience from a very large and diverse social circle is that where polyamory is involved it’s at least a 95% failure rate. As mentioned, I only know one case where it has worked out.

              And bringing the idea of polyamory into an existing monogamous relationship has been just devastating. A lot of these folks are well intentioned. They think it will make their marriage stronger because they’re “being honest” instead of going behind their partner’s back, and in theory that sounds like a good thing. But in hindsight most of them come to feel that an “open” relationship is at least as bad as cheating and in some cases worse. This is because once it’s “acceptable” for each partner to see other people, there is in essence no security in the marriage anymore. As devastating as it is to be dumped entirely for someone else, what’s worse is the slow and creeping hell of feeling that your partner is finding greater satisfaction with someone else and you just have to live with it, because you’ve agreed to this. It’s one thing to agree to it in theory and another thing entirely to have to live with the reality of it.

              You’re probably right that I take it for granted that “other options” are as obvious to everyone as they are to me. From what I can see, we live in a society of unprecedented sexual permissiveness and open mindedness, and have since at least the 1970s. So it is a little unfathomable to me that someone wouldn’t know about other options, and I apologize for that. But that makes it all the more important, IMO, that I share my perspective because polyamory and other forms of non monogamy certainly have been tried for a long time, and I don’t see them having contributed much real fulfillment to people’s lives (quite the opposite in most cases), whereas I do know plenty of monogamous couples who’ve had very long and fulfilling relationships, even despite marriage getting such a bad rap these days.

              Obviously it’s a lot more difficult to make a long term commitment and keep it than to fulfill short term desires. But difficulty doesn’t equate to repression. Repression is a societal thing, a constraint that is imposed on you. The restraint that one needs to cultivate in a long term commitment is a choice, one that you enter into out of love and respect and because you believe that the greatest rewards come from the greatest challenges. People seem to realize the truth of this in other areas such as sports or business, but in relationships a lot of people now seem to be in denial about it.

              • I like your last paragraph here because I think it applies to both types of relationships. They both take work. “The greatest rewards come from the greatest challenges” – amen to that. I also think “security in marriage” is an illusion that can lead exactly to the kind of comfortable relationships that get boring.

                • I completely disagree that security in marriage is an illusion, or that it necessarily leads to boredom. Real intimacy only happens in an atmosphere of trust – trust that the other person is putting real effort into having your back and not hurting you unnecessarily. It’s impossible to avoid hurting someone all of the time, and it’s impossible to avoid boredom all of the time. But how one responds to these things can mean the difference between healing and making it worse.

                  That’s what the challenge is: keeping trust intact and overcoming boredom without feeling entitled to succumb to instant gratification. We’re all going to go through periods of our lives, whether individually or in relationships, where we are bored, unfulfilled or otherwise unhappy. But a lot of people seem to try to “cure” these things by doing things that hurt themselves and/or their partner irreparably or close to irreparably. Cultivating some grace and restraint in those situations means there is always the chance for healing and revitalizing the relationship, as opposed to having even more scars and barriers to trust and intimacy to overcome.

            • Also, I don’t think it’s so much a generational thing as perhaps a “where you live and who you hang out with” thing. I know a lot of twentysomethings nowadays who are not in monogamous relationships, many sleep around with a lot of different people or have “friends with benefits” or other non traditional relationships. And while they may have fun doing that for a couple of years, they don’t seem to be very gratified by it ultimately.

              I also have married friends in their 30s and 40s who have experimented with polyamory within the past few years, and it hasn’t worked any better than it did with people I knew in the 80s. In one case the marriage fell apart (tragically, because they have a very sensitive young child), in another case the couple was (fortunately) strong enough to work through it and went back to being a monogamous couple (though it took several years of therapy and depressive episodes), in another case the couple is still together but I don’t think their marriage has really recovered… etc.

              The couple who ended up divorcing were kind of “inspired” by the experiments of the other two couples I mentioned, incidentally. At first they were appalled by what their friends were doing but then they decided to try it. And that’s really the problem with something becoming an accepted “norm” vs. a fringe practice – people think it’s OK because their seemingly happily married friends are doing it, and they think it will make their marriage more interesting or progressive, and the emotional cost isn’t really calculated very carefully.

          • I’m with you, swinging is nothing new, and I haven’t really seen it work for anyone long term. Personally, I feel if a relationship is at a point where one person wants to try an open relationship, maybe the relationship is over. Expending time and energy on someone who is “better” (more sexually exciting, better looking, younger) than one’s boring old partner is certainly not going to help things.

            I’m not interested in staying in a relationship with someone who is having sex with other people. I realize some people have different relationships. And that’s fine – for them. My significant other is always free to do see other women of course — by breaking up with me! I don’t think that’s complicated.

            • Who said anything about swinging?!

              • That’s what people used to call polyamory.

                • We’re not talking about the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s anymore!!! It’s 2011 and they are not the same thing better get out there and educate yourself a little more.

                  • Yeah, I hate to be a stickler but swinging and poly are two ends of a long non monogamous pole. Swinging is non-monogamous behavior which is generally more recreational and social than polyamory (which tends towards longer term committed relationships). “open” relationships seem to me to be a new designation in the middle which could include DADT, hook ups and so forth.

                    The poly people I have met have placed a pretty strong emphasis on the relational aspect of the sex (even going so far to have relationships sans sex), and the swingers I’ve met have mostly focused on the marriage as a dyad with occasional swaps, but fewer emotional connections.

                    Both have their challenges. I’ve also seen, just anecdotally, more swingers in rural or conservative areas, and more poly folks in urban or liberal areas but that could just be me.

                    Poly-

                    • You say tomayto, I say tomahto!

                      But, seriously, I realize there are nuances, but from what I understand, “swinging” used to be the catchall term. I know people who call themselves polyamorous who appear to have pretty short term flings and encounters. On the other hand, there can be old fashioned swingers with fairly stable relationships. But no point arguing semantics, really all I’m referring to is the idea that there are arrangements where people in a LTR agree to have sex on the side with other people.

    • I read the article and I sure as hell didn’t miss the point. If an open relationship works for some people, they can rock on with their bad selves. The point I was trying to make is that the idea that a man has sex with other women and doesn’t tell his partner “because he loves her too much to leave her” is bullshit. If he really loves her, he’ll be honest with her, not keep trying to selfishly have it both ways when she thinks he’s being faithful to her. Honest, truthful, upfront dealing is the key. Lying and sneaking around is not love. People in open relationships don’t lie and sneak around; what they do is out in the open to themselves. I know it’s not for me, but if other people can make it work, that’s their business. But calling dishonesty and bad-faith dealing “love”? Bullshit.

    • I think this is a great point – The problem at the moment is there is one socially acceptable way of doing relationships – monogamy (and, maybe, serial monogamy). What is fundamentally necessary is that there are a range of ways of living ones life – and if these are consensua,l, work for the people involved and don’t harm others, they should be respected.

  44. Tom Matlack says:

    I really don’t judge anyone else’s sexual preferences. But as for me, I think monogamy is very important. But then I am an addict. So I can’t drink and when it comes to women I really need to focus on just one, my wife. I suppose I could try drinking and sleeping around, but I don’t want to see the consequences very much. I think of it as a spiritual pact I have with myself, even if the opportunity were to present itself. I am better sober and devoted to my wife. The joy I receive in that state is far greater than the pleasure I might get from being a drunk sexual bandit.

    • See, I think that’s an amazing statement, Tom. Clarity about where you are and what makes you feel joyous and complete. Awareness.

      What I”m opposed to, no matter for monogamy, polyamory, or whatever else is the justification for bad behavior….It shows a lack of awareness and personal clarity and an ability to just do what one feels entitled to regardless of the potential outcome.

      That would go for cheating, or stealing, or drinking, or changing jobs all the time to avoid whatever it is. I don’t buy the cheating out of love thing. No one gambles out of love, behind someone’s back. Or lies out of love. Separating from the beloved, hiding a core piece of the self and guarding that hiddeness out of fear, that’s not love.

      • Yes!!! Awesome points, Tom and Julie.

        I have a fairly simple philosophy in life: Love is paying attention. This applies not just to relationships but any type of love. If you love chess and you want to become a master chess player, for instance, you have to focus a great deal of your attention on chess. Your attention can’t wander onto other things, and the better you are at chess the more other things you are likely to have given up so you could spend more time and put more focus on chess. Those who are the most passionate about chess and therefore devote the most time and attention to it are the best chess players and reap the greatest rewards.

        The same goes for starting a business, or spiritual pursuits, or cooking a meal, or anything else: you can approach it artfully and mindfully, i.e. with love, or you can approach it carelessly and then it will feel like a constraint and a burden.

        That anyone would feel this somehow doesn’t apply to personal relationships is, to me, just a huge disconnect.

  45. LOLing Woman says:

    I LOLed hysterically when I read this. So many respondents have already covered the bullshittery in this article that I don’t need to.

  46. I greatly enjoyed Tru’s points. I think they are quite valid. There are a damn lot of reasons for cheating and justifying how to get what one wants rather than mess everything up by being honest is usually top of the list.

    That being said. Let’s look at how we define “love.” If you love someone do you lie? Do you disconnect? Do you dishonor your agreements? Is love an action that takes focus and consistency? Or is it a nice little comfortable zone that one doesn’t want messed up?

    i think that men (and women) want sexual variety. No one wants to figure out how to manifest stable relationships with occasional hot sex on the side (or additional partners). I think lying to a partner (and omitting the truth is a kind of lie) is not love. it’s a disconnect and generally a justification for getting what you want.

    If I did that with say…my husband’s money. LIke if I was squirrelling money away so he couldn’t use it, and I could, would that be a sign of a serious disconnect in the marriage?

    I believe I understand the principle here-men value the relationship they are in but they want extra sex. Well, it’s quite possible that women do as well. We will only get to dealing with that reality if we can be honest with each other instead of lying and blaming the other for our issues when we get caught.

    • Yes, we all at some point want “extra” sex beyond what we get in our marriages or committed partnerships. That doesn’t mean we should have it. An honest appraisal of the situation tells me that the drawbacks of undermining your primary partnership more than cancel out any benefits of “extra sex.”

      • Maybe and maybe not. It may all depend on the circumstance and the people involved. But my point is less about getting the extra and more about looking for the places where people (men and women both) lie, and cheat and separate from each other and justify it.

        We get it. Men want lots and lots and lots of sex with lots and lots of women. I don’t know how to begin to square that desire with the desire to have a partner and kids. The man gets to cheat? Nope, not a good solution. Both get to cheat? A dont ask don’t tell? doesn’t seem sustainable. Polyamory? Well, at least it’s honest and filled with processing.

        Maybe dealing with the reality that NO one gets all the sex, romance and love they want in their lifetime? Yeah, but that’s a total bummer.

        A sexless marriage after a certain amount of time filled with resentment and anger, just burbling under the surface? Ugh.

        I’d go with the ethical polyamory, personally if I had to make a choice.

        • I’ve seen a whole lot of people experiment with polyamory and with one exception, it’s a disaster. And in fact it’s been a disaster for more people than just the participants in the polyamorous relationship, because that seems to spread to others in their social group who are in monogamous relationships that might be going through a rough patch, and all of a sudden one person thinks it’s a great idea to bring up the idea of polyamory to “spice up” the marriage. Disaster of epic proportions.

          I don’t care what kind of relationship any consenting adults want to have amongst themselves if they both agree on the “rules,” but the more “mainstream” this stuff becomes the more pain it seems to cause, because many outliers can’t just accept the fact that they are outliers – they have to become evangelists (“monogamy isn’t natural” etc.)

          As you say, there are no easy answers to the various dilemmas posed by committed relationships, but the reason monogamy endures is because it beats the alternatives. A lot of people have yet to face the reality that you can’t have sex with a bunch of people and still have the level of trust and commitment with your primary partner that most of us (assuming we get into committed relationships in the first place) are trying to achieve.

          It’s not possible to fully engage in anything without sacrificing something else. That point seems to be lost on the last couple of generations. Fucking a bunch of people can be fun for awhile, but eventually most people grow up and realize it’s not ultimately very fulfilling. And once you make a commitment to someone, fucking a bunch of people is going to undermine what you have, just like say, continuing to work a full time job while you’re starting your own business. Unless you’re an amazingly exceptional individual, that isn’t going to work for long.

          • Well, people are hot messes most of us. Experimenting with anything to “keep a marriage hot” or whatever is usually a mistake. Having babies to save the marriage ain’t gonna work any better.

            The only relationship model I’ve seen work consistently? Is serial monogamy. If anything that’s the most “natural” form known to mankind. Tribes, 3-7 years, new partners.

            25 year monogamy can work? But my guess is that both partners will have cheated in some way shape or form in that time period. Or many will have. I have a pretty pragmatic view of long term. It’s possible, and people also seek variety. Or they want to.

            If you aren’t mature enough to have honest conversations about that, then poly won’t be for you either. No one should do poly on a whim.

            • Yeah, I agree that if you can’t make a long term monogamous thing stick then serial monogamy is the next best thing. I do know plenty of people who have had happy long term marriages though, and I don’t think there has been cheating involved. Many of them talk about times when they were tempted to cheat and didn’t. I think a lot of people simply give up way too easily and think that just because they feel like seeking out variety, they should. Other people just see that as normal (that when you commit to something long term you are going to run into short term temptations) and not something to act on. It is a point of personal pride for them to keep their vows even when it’s difficult, and they believe it strengthens their marriage. I don’t see near enough of that these days.

              • Having been on the side of being the “other” in a relationship with a man in an open marriage, I have to pipe in here on what is rarely discussed – the impact on the “others” or the “outliers.” Taking full responsibility for partaking in the situation – and at that point in my life, it was a beautiful growth experience with a truly wonderful man – he and I actually did fall in love, though neither of us was interested in his marriage ending (and yes, his wife knew we were in love and put her stamp of approval on it – besides the fact that having an open relationship was steeped in political ideology for her, she also fell in love with another person during the same time). The thing I realized toward the end, when we mutually decided we had to end because it was taking too much a toll on both of us, was that ultimately, I had no say in the situation. And so it’s all good and well that a couple can look out for themselves and each other, but it can hardly be said that there is no pain left in its wake for others involved.

                I also love that on one side of the fence, sex is deemed so important as a connection for couples and without it you are essentially friends, but it’s NOT so important that men can go around and have sex without feeling any emotion. I call bullshit on that one – something is created every time we have sex with someone, whether we like to look at it or not.

                This is not to say I’m against polyamory – I saw many of the benefits of honesty and extremely impressive communication. For some people, it can work just as well as a monogamous relationship. But I also don’t see it as the answer for a cheating culture, because in actuality, you have to own up to SO MUCH more to make it work. Many men think it’s all well and good until they have to do it and constantly process through emotions involved. It actually takes a very evolved man to do it well, and unfortunately many of the men who say they want to partake in this form of sexuality aren’t there yet.

                • Thanks for sharing your experience CH.

                • Yep… agree with all of this CH. I wouldn’t be so sure either that his wife thought it was so great that he fell in love with you. In many cases the wife goes along and “gives her blessing” only because she’s afraid of losing her husband if she doesn’t.

                  • LF, you can only go with what CH is saying. In this case it sounds like they both were exploring polyamory. Not all poly is one partner holding the marriage hostage over the other. Both parties can actually, you know, agree to it. It’s within the realm of possibility. I know of several very long term couples who have been quite stable and happy with it. Not swinging, not DADT, but actual relationships, communication and it works for them.
                    Maybe not the norm, but it isn’t always doom and gloom.

                    • Yeah, it’s within the realm of possibility, but I’m just relating what I’ve seen. I have absolutely no problem with anything being “not normal” (I would say that I’m not normal in most respects and I’m fine with that…lol), but I just have yet to see much good come from polyamory (even if all parties claim to agree to it) as opposed to a lot of serious devastation.

                      My main point is to be observant and not necessarily take what people say, or say they agree to, at face value. I used to make that mistake a lot.

          • Also, you often hear about polyamory being a disaster from people for whom it WAS a disaster. The people who are sustaining it effectively and happily might not be telling you.

            I had this problem with a post over at our blog about Threesomes. Someone I respect pointed out how often she’d seen this circumstance turn into a disaster in the marriage. Thing is, as a counselor, she would only see the disasters, right? No one’s going to go consult to talk about how well things are going or how it has helped them.

            • In the case of a counselor, you’re right. Not so among the people I know – in fact when things were going great (seemingly) with polyamorous relationships in my social circle, the people involved made a point of telling everyone how great it was. I’ve always hung out in a pretty liberal crowd of artists, musicians, intellectuals and others not afraid to experiment outside of social norms, or at least tolerate and support others who do. People know me as a tolerant and open minded person so they tend to confide in me about what they’re up to even if it’s off the beaten path. So I heard a lot of crowing from friends and acquaintances about how great their polyamorous relationships were, right up until the “disaster” part.

            • Yep – plus confirmation bias: remembering that one example that supports our emotionally-cherished beliefs and ignoring all the counterevidence.

  47. Yet another man defending men who can’t keep it in their pants. The funny part is that most of the time it doesn’t work the other way. I’ve dealt with men who thought I was cheating and them jokers will be near TEARS even though they were cheating for sure. I had a man near cry cuz I sent sexy pics to another man. Not to mention men tend to be very unforgiving when a woman cheats.

    Men cheat b/c they can. Men cheat whether or not they are happy or in love or whatever. I have known very few men who were faithful or even seemed like they would be faithful.

    Excuses, excuses, men always have them. I had one man tell me he cheated on me so he could better please me in bed…If he wanted to know what made me happy he only had to ask…

  48. Yeah, I smell bullshit. Did the author of this book not actually talk to anyone who actually cheats or those who have been cheated on? Or human beings in sexual relationships at all? Because my first and second-hand experiences would like to have a word with him.

    Monogamy is more realistic than this evo-psych spew.

    • Yeah, exactly. All these “theories” seem to hinge on humans changing their emotional responses to things in a way they are never going to, a few outlying individuals notwithstanding. For most people, being cheated on is an unbelievably painful experience. Being faithful can be very difficult, but anyone with an ounce of love and empathy realizes that it’s still better than cheating. Sure, being “open” about your dalliances removes one factor that undermines the relationship (the lying/deception), but leaves in place so many others.

  49. I wonder if the author examined the effects of cheating (because men love their partners too much) on children (those little things that are often a result of sex).

    “the reasons to stick with just one sexual partner fall away” Really? There are a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with sex=love. What about pregnancy, STDs, honesty, money, trust, energy, time, and all of the other complications that can go along with sex. Call me unromantic but I am near my “peak”, and I would still rather have sex with my only partner of the past 9 years (who I love dearly most of the time), that mess with that crap.

    Was the study on college-aged men published in a peer-reviewed journal? We all know studies on college educated young men are not often that generalizable. Are there other studies that support these findings?

    Also, the rationale for using young unmarried men without children seems too simplistic. If they have sex with someone else and do not leave, they must love them. No other complications?

  50. Anderson’s assumption that men cheat on partners (marital or not) without breaking up with them “because they love them” misses a few other more likely explanations. Such as:

    –Men cheat on their partners without breaking up with them because, frankly, for as long as they can have sex with women other than just their partner and still have sex with their partners, too, why mess things up, right? That would reduce the sexual “variety” from their end, and Anderson seems to be arguing that sexual variety is the spice of life.

    –Men cheat on their partners without breaking up with them because breakups are emotionally ugly and messy and inclined to make the person seeking them feel like a bad human being. Why should a man put himself through that if he can still get sex from his partner and get it from other women, too? Especially when so many men are “not good at emotions”?

    –Men cheat on their partners without breaking up with them because, frankly, the relationship is so comfortable and offers them so many other non-sexual advantages that they don’t want to lose it so long as they can get some on the side. Perhaps, whether or not a wedding ring is involved, she has fallen into the habit of picking up after him, doing his laundry, doing the cooking, doing the cleaning, doing all the other little “traditionally wifely” things he would really rather not do for himself. If the man breaks up with such a partner, he’s losing a free maid. Why would he want to do that?

    I know it sounds cold, but these are just a few examples of reasons men might cheat on their partners without breaking up with them that have zippo to do with “I love her too much to break up with her.” No, it’s more like they enjoy having one woman who appears to have devoted herself sexually and perhaps in other ways exclusively to them, while they can still enjoy the sexual company of others.

    Anderson’s book sounds to me like the same old evo-psych “Men did not evolve to be monogamous” bullshit packaged in a new wrapper–this one adding: “But that doesn’t mean men can’t truly deeply love one woman while still fucking every other woman they get the chance to.” Sorry, not buying it.

    • Great points.

    • Spot on.

    • And yeah, I’ve heard this a LOT btw – “I love my wife and I don’t want to leave her, so I’ll just cheat instead. Aren’t I a great guy?” Give me a break. There’s so much denial in that statement, it ain’t even funny. Much of it is just conflict avoidance, along with good ol’ narcissism.

    • Exactly, who doesn’t want to have their cake and eat it too? The idea that men stay with a woman while cheating on her, because they just love her too much to break up, is just ridiculous as a general proposition. Sure it could be true in some cases, but I think it’s more likely that men enjoy the regular sex and other perks of a steady relationship while being able to fool around on the side.

    • I agree. There are lots of reasons why people start to cheat, and mutiple reasons why they keep affairs going.

      I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this yet, but men sometimes have affairs that are more emotional in nature than physical in nature. A man can “keep it in his pants” and still have an affair. In fact, a man can be sexually exclusive with his wife and still cheat on her with someone else. It’s not necessarily a simple case of having a mistress for sex and having a wife for everything non-sexual.

      An emotional affair can be even more devastating to a spouse than a physical affair. Emotional infidelity is not somehow better than just a physical affair. I’m just saying that not every affair is simply a little sex on the side.

  51. Jamie Parsons says:

    This is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. Monogamy isn’t a failed social institution, only after all this hook-up culture shit became the mainstream did relationships start failing more often than not and divorces became more popular. Love and monogamy have worked for thousands of years, it’s all about supporting each other and building a strong family. If men were off having sex with other women all the time, what kind of husband and father would they be? Life isn’t all about sex for Christ’s sake.

  52. I love this article–thank you. I believe we are at the cusp of a major change in the way we relate to one another–one that puts “romantic” relationship (based primarily on projection, expectation, fantasy, and emotional highs/lows) as a side dish to deeper, more intimate friendship with our primary partners. The first thing that has to move out of the way for this to be possible is the idea that fidelity–having romantic feelings for others, and/or acting on them, depending on how you define it–is required for depth and intimacy.

    I believe depth and intimacy are not only possible, but far more likely, when our relationship is dynamic enough to allow for any possibility to occur. For me to fall in love with someone else, or for my partner to follow his desire to be physically close to another woman. Such experiences give us the chance to meet one another in the most intimate places, the ones we don’t usually reveal: anger, jealousy, fear, and sorrow. This is in addition to all the joy, love, laughter and delight that we share on the other half of the emotional spectrum.

    Can’t wait to buy this book! Thanks so much for the review.

  53. Cheating as an expression of love? Sure. That sounds eerily like a parent abusing a child and saying “I must toughen you up for a very hard world. Better that it come from me, this is an expression of love.”
    And the child wonders: “Really? Well, dad, I am going to die also, are you going to kill me also?”
    If cheating and lying is love, I’d rather be merely liked. Or better yet, ignored completely from such toxic, self-important love.

    • OMG you said it perfectly!!!!!!!!! loved the parent/child analogy..

    • Its only cheating if its not agreed upon to be acceptable, otherwise they are just being open to multiple sexual partners. I think this article is more about the proliferation of ‘open relationships’, and not necessarily supporting cheating. Actually, I dont think it promoted cheating at all. I would say that monogamy is not for everyone, just like ballet or boxing are not for everyone.

  54. I don’t think that monogamy is impossible, unnatural, mythical, or anachronistic. But, people should enter into it with eyes wide open. It does not work very well as a “default” sexual relationship, i.e., never discussed and just assumed. A monogamous sexual relationship requires a collaborative strategy to make it fulfilling enough for both people in the long term. It requires more than just following a simple negative: “monogamy means no cheating” is not very instructive, but it’s about all the instruction that most people get.

    You shouldn’t do it just because you’re not sure what else to do, or because it just seems like what you’re supposed to do somehow. People should also be prepared for the real possibility that a monogamous relationship will have periods in which it is basically celibacy, or will at least feel like it to one or both partners. Monogamous partners should be aware that people change, and monogamy may have to adjust.

    This is no excuse for lying or cheating. There is something to the idea that cheating is not necessarily because of a lack of love for one’s partner. Lack of consideration, respect, tenderness, and decency, certainly, but not necessarily a lack of love. By the same token, not every affair is just a meaningless sexual fling. Cheating men do sometimes feel divided between/among their partners. Men in affairs may feel like they are unfairly being forced to give up love of one person for the love of someone else. (I said *feels* unfair, not that it *is* unfair.)

    Monogamy, honest polyamory, and celibacy are all strategies for getting what you want out of life. Each one has benefits and drawbacks, and each one may be optimal for some people and not others. Each one calls for some degree of sacrifice in order to reap rewards, and each one can be so aggravating that you wonder why you’re doing it. Each of them is compatible with “human nature” or human biology on some level. There are many happy people in each category who make them work, many who find each one challenging, and a whole lot of people who fail at each of them.

Trackbacks

  1. […] this technique available. Taking it obvious about why you’re going to win in any game let alone nowadays are given some very conflicts within our subconscious level where that yours […]

  2. […] you about the nature of men, what goes through their minds and why do they deceive you and take an interest in other women. Then, there are a few interviews and community feed backs. In the end, the author presents the raw […]

  3. […] sharing Mark’s article with my friends on Facebook, I got into a lengthy ‘discussion’ with a female friend of mine. […]

Speak Your Mind

*