When I first started dating my partner Monk, we'd say to each other: "Nothing I say while I'm naked can be held against me later." By which we meant: People sometimes say things in the heat of a sexual moment that they find hot to fantasize about, but that they don't necessarily want to make real. It was our way of reminding each other, "Enjoy whatever happens, but don't smack me with a rolled-up newspaper today just because I barked while we were having sex last night."
Lately, we've coined another phrase about relationships: "Twitter is not sworn testimony." Meaning: We do not interpret each other's blog posts, Facebook updates, and, yes, Twitter remarks, as the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when it comes to us talking to—or about—other people. Since we're polyamorous, many things are possible. But if we don't hear about it straight from each other, we assume anything we read online is mere playful banter.
Does that sound like a lack of intimacy? I think it's just the opposite. We have become a world of exhibitionists, and when you write about your life, no matter how casually you do it, or how small your audience, it's all but impossible not to spin the story line even a little. And if the opportunity to toss off a good line of dialogue comes along, who can resist taking it?
But whether you're monogamous or polyamorous, it does provide a whole new theater for insecurity. The women's magazines are full of articles about how to "check up on your man" to see if he's "being unfaithful online." (If he can really be unfaithful online, then he obviously has a port or a drive that I don't see anywhere on my machine.) I find that sort of mind-set baffling. But if you enjoy suffering, go ahead and cyberstalk your sweetie. Obsess about every casually flirtatious remark and winky emoticon, and respond as if it were all carved on stone tablets instead of something tapped out while riding the bus. Persist in the delusion that you can elicit love and avoid pain by keeping your partner leashed and muzzled like a bad dog. Because that's always worked out perfectly for everyone who's ever tried it, right?
Let me propose an alternative to that system that I truly think works better: trust. Don't take your partner's online banter seriously. Don't even read his or her public writings if it bugs you and you can't simply shrug it off. Choose instead to trust what he says to you in person and how he treats you when you two are together. If your three-dimensional life together is good, don't discount what's real because of something that's just a bunch of ones and zeros. Because in some ways, the things people say when they're naked are the only words that really do count.