The related topics of monogamy, affairs, and infidelity account for a large percentage of every sex therapist’s caseload.
One common assumption—of both therapists and media alike—is that people are either behaving monogamously or not, and if they’re not, they’re being “unfaithful,” and the details aren’t especially relevant. That’s terribly disrespectful to sex; when people discuss other kinds of behavior, they gladly use lots of categories. Think, for example, of situations in which a person or couple:
• Doesn’t have children;
• Doesn’t have a job;
• travels abroad;
• loses weight;
• manages joint finances
In all of these situations, we accept that different people get there in different ways, experience it differently, and understand or explain it differently.
To help remedy this incomplete vision of non-monogamy, there’s a wonderful full-page diagram that illustrates its many, many different varieties. With credit to Franklin Veaux at www.xeromag.com, it’s here.
While we’re on the subject, here’s an article on what Dr. Ken Haslam calls American society’s “compulsory monogamy.” It’s good reading for therapists, sex educators, and for civilians trying to understand their own choices, and society’s resistance to what non-monogamy’s practitioners consider private behavior—but that society doesn’t.
Ken, by the way, (who calls himself a “polyamorous geezer”) is one of the country’s experts on non-monogamy; his papers have just been collected and archived by the Kinsey Institute. Ken’s the one who says “Nature loves diversity, society hates it.”
Finally, a reminder about the Big Picture. Most Americans are not strictly monogamous:
* Almost everyone has at least one partner before marriage;
* Most people do not marry the first person they have sex with;
* Most married people masturbate, often without their partner’s knowledge;
* Depending on your statistics, in up to half of all couples, one or both partners has some sexual experience outside the couple;
* There are apparently at least a million couples who “swing” or participate in a non-monogamous lifestyle;
* Of course, half of married couples divorce, and three-quarters of divorced people remarry.
* And people in long-term, cohabiting non-married couples behave similarly to their married cousins regarding the above behaviors.
Let’s remember that “monogamy”—life-long sexual exclusivity, with the expectation of continued, enjoyable sexual intimacy through middle- and old-age—is a relatively recent, very radical social experiment. The data on how it’s going? Mmm, not so well. Oddly enough, it’s still the gold standard of sexual relating for most people and clinical professionals, even though it’s actually pretty unusual—and no one seems to have a dependable formula for how to create and enjoy it.