When Mo’Nique discussed the need communicate openly with her husband, her words were publicly twisted. Consent, compassion and communication are traits the media are unable to grasp.
TheGrio.com recently ran a story titled “Mo’Nique defends giving husband ‘free passes’ to cheat” and WOW, did they miss the point! Consent, compassion and communication didn’t seem to register with them.
Comedian and actress Mo’Nique was recently interviewed by TrueExclusives.com and that interview was reported by TheGrio.com. She discussed a wide range of meaningful topics including having authentic, honest communication with her husband about sometimes challenging topics. That’s good stuff!
So what did the folks at The Grio take from the interview? “Mo’Nique defends giving husband ‘free passes’ to cheat.” How very dramatic! I’m sure it garnered lots of clicks. Unfortunately the folks at The Grio didn’t really seem to be paying attention.
What she actually talked about was the importance of being able to have the trust and connection to be completely honest with your partner. To be able to admit when you have an attraction for another person.
She not only talked about being able to acknowledge those feelings, but also, as the person hearing them, being compassionate enough to treat them gently and to learn from them. To find out what it is that makes your partner attracted to someone else. Is there something they aren’t getting out of your relationship that is important to them?
Instead of being about fear, anxiety and insecurity she describes a relationship that is based in love, trust, commitment, honesty, compassion and consent. As part of that she acknowledges that if she loves her partner and there is something important to her partner that they aren’t getting from her, then she wouldn’t want to deny her partner.
That was in response to the interviewer’s use of the term “free pass to cheat.” While Mo’Nique referenced the phrase, she never described what she was saying in such a way. Because frankly, she isn’t talking about cheating. Cheating is about breaking rules, breaking vows, breaking trust. Notice that I included the word consent in the list above.
I don’t want there to be any confusion about my stance on cheating. It is wrong. It is bad. It is hurtful. It is damaging. There are people who try to talk about “ethical cheating.” I believe that term is nonsensical, dismissive and an excuse to do what you want without concern for others.
At the same time, apparently The Grio isn’t paying much attention to the world around them. Because more and more people are exploring and embracing the concept of ethical non-monogamy. That is a term that encompasses other terms you may have heard of like open relationships, polyamory, swinging and relationship anarchy.
Ethical non-monogamy is the idea that we can have sexual and/or emotional relationships with more than one person at a time AND everyone knows and agrees. It is a choice to build relationships in a different way.
There are some key characteristics of ethical non-monogamy, including:
Consent – This is a choice made by everyone, without coercion. People choose it for many reasons. Primarily it is about allowing each of us to form the relationships that are important to us and to give that same permission to our partners.
Honesty – Ethical non-monogamy is about telling the truth, not hiding things, not breaking rules. It isn’t about going behind others’ backs. It means openly making choices and accepting the consequences of those choices.
Communication – Ethical non-monogamy requires conversation. Honest, authentic, often difficult conversation. It means being willing to authentically state what you want. It means compassionately listening to your partners.
Self-worth – In order to handle the inevitable emotions that come along, like jealousy, fear, and anxiety, we have to have enough self-worth to believe partners will want to be with us even if they have other relationships. Self-worth can’t be created by controlling others. It has to come from within.
Wait a minute. Look at that list. Notice anything unusual? Those characteristics would appear on a list describing any healthy relationship: monogamous, friendship, work…they are the same. The biggest difference I see is that individuals practicing ethical non-monogamy are more likely to actively talk about and try to embrace these characteristics.
There are some myths that often surround ethical non-monogamy. These are just a few.
It is about men wanting more women. That’s just simply not shown by reality. Go to any non-monogamy website or event and you’ll see many women involved. In my practice, I help couples navigate opening up their relationship. It is just as likely to be a female that has brought the idea to the table. And this isn’t about just men and women. It is about everyone on the sexuality spectrum. Assuming it is just about men and women is an extremely hetero-normative perspective that is based on judgmental stereotypes.
It is just about sex. No…and yes…maybe. For many people it is about emotionally connected relationships with or without sex. And for others it is about sex. Wanting more of it or different types. It is a reflection of our sex-negative culture that wanting sex, something natural and enjoyable, is framed as being a bad thing.
It is a desperate attempt to fix a flawed relationship. It might be. People certainly take this action for that reason. But for many, many people it is something they enjoy as an addition to a happy, healthy, successful relationship. It is the fact that their relationship is strong that allows them to be successful with non-monogamy.
If my partner wants to be non-monogamous it means I’m not enough. In reality no partner can provide all things. That’s why we have other relationships that we enjoy in different ways–different activities, different conversations, different emotions. At the same time, we each get to choose which parts of our lives we want to share with whom. Non-monogamy may or may not be right for you. Objections are often from a place of fear of scarcity–scarcity of attention, affection, desire. Sometimes it’s more that we fear there isn’t enough, not that we aren’t enough.
I’m not going to suggest that everyone that practices ethical non-monogamy does it perfectly. Everyone still has fears and flaws and imperfections. It is equally not true that people who do practice ethical non-monogamy are doing it for bad reasons or because they are somehow damaged or incapable of “real” relationships. They are like most people, trying to create relationships that work for themselves, sometimes doing it well and sometimes not so well.
I’m also not going to suggest that ethical non-monogamy is for everyone or is somehow “more evolved.” It is a choice for each of us to make. What is important is that we enter relationships with honesty, integrity, authenticity, compassion, and vulnerability. You get to decide how to implement those and with whom.
I do suggest that it is up to each of us to create the relationships that work for us individually. It doesn’t matter if other people do it in different ways. Embrace your choices and allow others to embrace theirs.
I started by talking about the interview with Mo’Nique. Let me close with a quote from her. “And what I will say to the people who are thinking about getting married or being married, do what works for you. What worked for your momma and daddy might not work you and your man.”
Ah, the times they are a changin’.
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