If Your Dad's Getting Handjobs From His Masseuse* and Your Mom Doesn't Mind—Or Even Approves—She Probably Isn't Going to Tell You About It

Comments

1
Very sweetly put.
2
If your Dad is fucking your Mom senseless every night, she's not likely to mention that either.
3
just look at the way people freak out and start jumping up and down when anyone suggests that monogamy isn't for everyone.


And when have YOU ever said that? Your thesis each and every time you're not pretending to be fair and balanced is that monogamy is unnatural.

the authors don't actually advocate open-relationships-for-all


No, but you do.
4
Actually, K, I don't. There's a column, pretty recent one, not gonna look up, where I encouraged a guy who was into monogamy to dump a girl who wasn't. And told him he was fine. Go and find it! Gotta run.

I do advocate, however, being realistic about the odds that one or the other or both partners in a truly long long-term relationship will cheat at some point. The stats on infidelity? Shocking, considering that monogamy is so favored, culturally. We fail at it, though, pretty predictably, and so I think we should be realistic—the monogamous wannabes should—because I think a good, strong relationship should be able to survive, and be expected to survive, a routine, non-nuclear-level infidelity.

Because, you see, I'm a conservative, and I don't like to see marriages fall apart over trivial bullshit.
5
Dan- quit trying to further rend the fabric of society by even suggesting these couples EXIST. WTF? Isn't it enough you're trying to get all the GLBTetc's to be out with friends/family/neighbors? Now this?! These couples only exist in your fevered, sex-crazed mind.
Skipping toward Gomorrah with every word you type.
6
@2 True. You don't tend to hear as many unsolicited sex life details from people who are happy and content with their sex lives. I would assume that goes for both the monogamous and non-monogamous.
7
But why this book? I don't get what is so special about this one. Is it the first book on the subject you have read? That isn't something people should judge you for if it is but honestly a lot of this stuff has been written about before in other pop-sci books about evolutionary psychology.
8
i could use a rub and a tug now.
9
Even in the probability sense, I can't conceive that any of my relatives are in an open relationship. Thinking on my friends, they'd do the threesome thing experimentally. I've known a lot of couples on the cusp of a breakup who try threesomes to fix their problems. But an honest-to-god open relationship? I think they're a lot rarer than you'd like, Dan...
10
@3: No, he doesn't. He doesn't, he doesn't, he doesn't. I've been reading SL for fifteen years, and Dan has NEVER - that I have seen - said that everyone should be in an open relationship. Never.

But, neither does he advocate monogamous relationships for everyone.

Because he is an advice columnist, he doesn't typically get or publish letters from people whose sexual relationships are functioning well. So, just as we never hear about the functional non-monogamous, we don't read letters from couples who say "I'm monogamous, and loving it!" What we read are letters from people who struggle with monogamy, or who don't struggle at all - having already decided it is not for them. These people are looking for a way to reconcile their desire for non-monogamy with a partner - or a society - that immediately judges those desires to be wrong.

What Dan gives these people is advice on how to reconcile their desires with their current relationship. He sees their desires as natural and acceptable - something few, if any, other advice columnists would do.
11
More obnoxious is the idea that the failure of particular non-monogamous relationships means that that type of relationship is intrinsically flawed. Monogamy doesn't hold up well under that standard either.
12
Dan, I haven't read Sex at Dawn, and after finally reading last week's Save Love column, I have no intention of doing so. Reading the author's fantasies of prehistoric gang bangs in your column, intermixed with your worship of their book, I was a little embarrassed for you.

Remember that whole Iraq thing? Well, you're doing it again.

I support/applaud your effort to depathologize non-monogamy, but you are undermining yourself with your uncritical acceptance of this stupid book. It's analogous to fighting Christianity by promoting Scientology.
13
The book.... that you haven't read... the book... is stupid. Not you, the book. Noted.
14
I still feel like you're writing this for an audience that isn't going to see it. Ok, I get it. You get to preach at me and broadly judge my choices because other people are stupid; they either suck at thinking critically or choose monogamy when it really isn't for them.

And it's bad to judge non-monogamy as a model based on biased accounts of people who claim it caused their relationships/marriages to fall apart, but it's OK to repeat ad nauseam, "See! Monogamy is unnatural" when people cheat. Got that.

That said, I'm sure we already agree: if monogamy isn't good for you, don't pick it. Then you can't fail at it and you can't make all the monogamous couples -- the ones who are happy and good at it -- look bad.
15
"Because, hey, if non-monogamy ever worked, well, where are all the successful non-monogamous couples then?"

Maybe you should be using this as a platform to get non-monogamous couples (can we shorten monogamous? how about "mono"? no?) to be more loud and proud. IIRC, you've said the same about the non-asshole Christians -- it's partly their responsibility to speak up and not let the failure/asshole contingent of their group represent them to the wider world.
16
I never really saw the big deal about "infidelity". My parents were never married, but they stayed loyal to each other throughout my life. They both had other partners. My little sister isn't genetically my dad's, but he raised her. He never saw why people made that big a deal about sex. If you love someone, that's such a small part of why you do, why make a big thing about being attracted to someone else?
They don't live together anymore, for reasons that have nothing to do with infidelity, but they stay close to this day, despite a lot of complicated stuff. And I'm really happy I had this exposure to open relationships, even though it was never discussed in these terms.
The way I saw it, if you care about making a relationship work, you'll try to make it work with the people you care about. One person always makes concessions, but it doesn't have to be the same person every time.
17
Alright, member of the non-monogamous and happy crowd checking in. We've been a three set for five years. Non-monogamy doesn't have to be a big damn drama, guys. It can be a quiet, laid back, just "what is" aspect of a relationship. We've been pretty happy, and all three have a very deep commitment to each other and to the relationship as a whole. BTW, both of the other partners are male and not sexually involved with each other- just very good friends.

I don't bother getting on theses threads usually because I have enough stupid crap to worry about in my daily life (like bills) without dealing with a pile of hateful crap from some schmuck on the interwebs who wants to argue with me because I challenged their beliefs by existing.
18
Long time listener, first time caller.... I'm just your average regular guy in an open relationship. It happens, it works (for me/for now). The major difference for me is that my kids know. It is hard not to know when I live with my o.s.o., and we have a child. Dan likes the book, he can relate to it, he is a columnist and has talked about it. I do not understand the vitriol.
19
If the excerpts from the book posted on the author's website are representative samples of the book, then the book could very well be stupid. The author makes amazingly huge jumps from the "evidence" to his conclusions, ignoring many other just as plausible (if not more plausible) conclusions along the way.
Is this typical of this Evo/pop science stuff?
20
I just spent 2.5 months as a juror; part of the evidence was looking at the accused’s computer. We were told we could not entertain the idea that due to no evidence of criminal activity being found on his computer, the absence of evidence is due to the accused erasing the evidence before law enforcement took the computer away. We were told this is a circular argument and could not entertain it.

Isn’t Dan proposing the same type of argument here? There’s little to no evidence of successful non-monogamous relationships due to people not discussing their successful non-monogamous relationships.

And should it come up, I’m a liberal gay Canadian male that doesn’t give a damn what 2,3, 9, or 100 people do behind closed doors so long as it’s legal and consensual. My point is, if Dan is going to use this as a defensive point to d-bags that hound him about the evils of polygamy, then he kind of failed.
21
@13
I did read the author's words, in your column, in which they leap from the claim that women's orgasms take longer than men's, to the theory that humans are naturally inclined to M on F gang-bangs. And there was something about guys' natural desire to have our sperm compete.

That, Dan, is stupid. Not me. Them. Their words. The ones I read. In your column.

But, hey, maybe they're just really, really lousy at sex advice, and the book is awesome.
22
Personally, I think the societal pressure to be monogamous is stronger than the pressure to be straight. Gays have pride parades and forty years of visibility (roughly since Stonewall)...non-monogamy has yet to be normalized at all. Their closet is still deadbolted shut.

I also suspect that it is women who most strongly perpetuate this non-monogamy taboo. I would be interested to know if Sex at Dawn discusses this. Is it not primarily the women who drive it? The male homosexuals I know and read seem much more blase about the whole cheating thing. But when women get involved (including lesbians, though I admit I have less visibility into that culture), sexual daliances get upgraded to dealbreakers.

Looking forward now to hearing from the non-monogamy-loving female commenters!
23
Hey Dan, I am a big fan, and yes, I saw your asterisk, but please please please don't give credibility to the sex workers who bill themselves as massage therapists/masseuse/masseur. Let's just call it what it is. I am even fine with saying that sex work is ok if that's what you want and it's not exploitative. However, as a massage therapist, I am NOT ok with people assuming that I am a sex worker because sex workers call themselves masseuses sometimes. It puts me and my colleagues in awkward and/or dangerous positions frequently, and that is not why we do what we do. We become massage therapists to heal and soothe bodily injuries and stress. If you choose sex worker as a career path, then you are opting in to everything that entails. If you choose massage therapist, then you should not have to opt into some of the things that sex workers do, and when the popular media, including you, make that equation, it perpetuates a stereotype that is incorrect and unfair.

I spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on becoming a massage therapist and continue to study and learn, maintain insurance, national and state certifications to perform my career. I would not have to do any of that do be a sex worker. If you give your husband a back rub, that is very nice, but it doesn't make you a masseur. There are a dozen other examples you could have cited for non-monogamy, or used as your headline, without perpetuating this stereotype. Or you could have just called the person selling a handjob what they are, which is a sex worker, not a masseuse. Thanks for listening...
24
@13
P.S. If some dude's cuckhold fetish is evidence of our species' natural inclination towards gang-bangs, what about a poop-eating fetish? Is that an evolutionary strategy to ward off starvation?
25
@Dan and y'all

Of course, some successful non-monogamous siblings are willingly outed in their brothers' books.

http://www.amazon.com/Commitment-Love-Se…

One reason non-monogamous couples keep their mouths shut is for fear of being perceived as on the prowl. Mention of even the tightly-rules-bound deal I and my sweetheart (of 8+ years now) have creeps out the monogamous, which is still most folks.

And then there's the flipside: unwanted attention generated by being seen as available. I've had to tell more than one woman perfectly happy about the arrangement I have that just because I can sleep around doesn't mean I have to. With you.

Cheers

Bill
26
BTW, Did anyone follow the link Dan posted to the "sad story" and see that the story writer had been guilted into non-monogamy?
"We also defined me as being immature, ignoble, and unpleasant for being jealous and possessive."

The letter writer was a bad fit for non-monogamy from the get go.
27
@22: I am female, and the vitriol comes from both genders IME..
28
@25: "I've had to tell more than one woman perfectly happy about the arrangement I have that just because I can sleep around doesn't mean I have to. With you."

That's sort of what people in general deal with. Single women, for instance, often lie about their relationship status (or sexuality) to stave off unwanted advances ... men do too. Regardless of their relationship model preferences.

Anyway, maybe what you had to do is a good thing? Maybe this woman realized that her presumptions were silly. "Oh hey, just because a man is in a open relationship doesn't mean he'll sleep with just anyone! He can have *standards*!"
29
I don't get why such a fuss is made. I think it is our nature to want a level of conformation for our choices and to Intake information through the lens of our own personal bias. We all accept things and reject things according to our own opinions, and our opinions in our mind allow us to feel "correct, right, on target,...". The only thing I think that I gain from following all these threads, is a richer understanding of the beauty of individual differences; that and further conformation that most of my own opinions are rooted in my personal experiences. I have married monogamous family members and married non-monogamous family members and they all seem devoted to their life partners, whatever that is worth.
30
Piggybacking off of @2... One other thing to consider about the successfully non-monogamous, is that essentially, if you're open about the fact that you're non-monogamous, you're disclosing something about your sex life. It's like saying "my husband and I have sex every day" or something like that. Depending on how private a person you are, you might not be inclined to make that statement beyond a close group of friends.

A non-monogamous couple I know talk about their open relationship all the time (on Facebook, IRL, etc.). I had to really think about why this annoyed me. I've got no problem with non-monogamy, so, it wasn't that... but, we're not that good of friends, so I'm really not that interested in hearing about their sex lives. It's really just like any other personal revelation...
31
@30: But considering how much of a person's daily life involves their partner(s), wouldn't it make sense that they would be mentioned from time to time?
Example FB Status: Bouncing with happiness because the guys are taking me out tonight! Any suggestions on what to wear?
I see absolutely nothing wrong with this status, as it would be perfectly acceptable from a monogamous person if you changed "the guys" to . On the other hand, if what they are writing is a lurid account of their latest sexual exploits- that's pretty damn awkward and a different situation altogether.
32
I was once in an open relationship with a guy who was totally neglectful and self centered but it didn't turn me off of polyamory. When I met my current boyfriend we were living in different cities and I told him I thought it would be better if we kept our options open even though we were committed to each other. Neither of us ran out and screwed whoever we could, it just took the pressure off being apart knowing that we could. Now we're living together, both of us has slept with someone else at one point or another and it's no big deal! If anything we're both happier and closer because of it!
33
Polyamorous relationships are kinda like offensive linemen in football; you only ever hear about them if they screw up.
I know, tortured analogy.

...but any real Chicago fan appreciates that Olin Kreutz has been an excellent center.
34
It would be really interesting to see a Kinsey-scale study of contemporary couples and get some (relatively) reliable data on how many (mutually agreed upon) non-monogamous relationships there really are. Perhaps this is covered in Sex at Dawn...?

The notion that we likely underestimate their numbers is interesting. There's an analogy to responsible drug users, I think; there are almost certainly more of those than will admit, both for social and legal reasons (and I don't just mean pot, either, though certainly that.) And the fact that they stay in the closet makes it easier to demonize drugs.
35
@21: The reason it seems like the authors have made a very big and stupid leap "from the claim that women's orgasms take longer than men's, to the theory that humans are naturally inclined to M on F gang-bangs." is because you have not read the book-length defense of the claim. I have read the book and can confirm that there is a lot of detail to fill the gap in that leap. I suspect the author was just trying to use an example that would be entertaining or shocking for Dan's readers. Read the book or don't, but there's no need to be embarrassed for those of us who are fans.
36
@24, no, but shit-eating is a common mammalian behavior, most young animals eat the shit of their parents/herdmates in order to gain the gut organisms they need to maintain health in adulthood. If you didn't stop little kids from doing it, you know they would. So shit eating is a perfectly natural behavior for baby mammals, and you see it in adult animals when they are vitamin/nutrient deprived or gut sick as well - ask any farmer or zookeeper.
37
Please try to keep in mind that non-monogamy doesn't equal polyamory, or cheating, or swinging, or visiting sex workers, or any other particular scenario. It doesn't mean both people are thrilled about the situation, or that they want to talk about it on the webs. (I do, but that's just me.)

Non-monogamy just means
A. the relationship doesn't have to end just because some sex happened outside the marriage. And
B. the extra-marital sex doesn't lead to guilt and shame for the rest of time.
38
"to the masseuse who lightens your mom's load by relieving your dad of his."
...hopefully someone is keeping track of these and publishing a nice little stocking stuffer volume someday.

I think someone already mentioned it, but it seems like the people who are threatened by non-monogamy are akin to conservatives who are threatened by same-sex marriage: One doesn't really affect the other, but the perception seems to be that if I make a choice that is markedly different than yours, it calls into question the basis for your original decision. Also, given how rare it is to actually hear about people who are in successful open relationships, my guess is that far more people try to be monogamous, because they have been raised on that model of behaviour, and "fail" through unintentional infidelity, than those who choose non-monogamy from the beginning.

@21 Personally Seandr, I would love any explanation as to why women's orgasms take so much longer than men's. I'd already dismissed the idea of a benevolent God based on the placement of my clitoris, and then coupled with the larger time frame involved (why couldn't it take 4 minutes? why?) had decided He was downright mean. This other explanation makes perfect sense, if women getting any pleasure out of sex has anything to do with the argument...
39
Realizes that she just paraphrased Dan's original post. Doh!
40
There's a very popular book trilogy right now, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," "The Girl who Played with Fire," and "The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest," and one of the main female characters in there is in an honest non-monogamist marriage. Of course, the guy she regularly sleeps with on the side had his own marriage bust up over their liaisons, but at least it presented both points of view.

Maybe when more mainstream fare presents these options in a non-shocked, non-judgmental tone, people will grow more accustomed to seeing it and not feel like it's such a taboo arrangement.
41
Definitions, definitions. Is a twenty-year marriage, with one incident of infidelity seven years in, fundamentally monogamous or non-monogamous? (I liked the smoker/non-smoker analogy that somebody presented on one of the other comment threads.)
42
Ok, I am officially coming out of the non-monogamy closet. It works for us because we're 100% devoted to each other, but once in a while a little bit of variety is exciting.
43
@41 Fundamentally monogamous, I'd think. Are we talking about you? And does it relate to the intimacy issues you were talking about on that earlier thread?
44
If my marriage were to become open, I would be very careful about letting anyone know - even my close, very liberal friends in my very liberal New England town.

My husband and I have our careers to think of. I wouldn't want it to affect our professional reputations. I know I sound like a closeted gay lawyer in the 1980s, but - guess what? - lawyers who came out in the 80s lost their jobs.

I will always speak up for sex-positivity in conversation, but I will let braver folks lead by example.
45
Philosophically, I don't really have a problem with non-monogamy. It is definitely not for me, but I don't take that to mean it's not for anyone. However, there are some things I don't think I've ever heard advocates of non-monogamy address.

1. How do you/can you ensure your primary relationship remains primary? Yes, you can set boundaries and whatnot, but is that really enough? Any long-term relationship has its ups and downs, and it's difficult for me to imagine that during the downs, it's not tempting to bail, especially if the outside partner is a regular and doesn't require "cheating" to be found. Is it really possible to make sure you don't fall in love with that person? It makes me think, of all things, of an Armistead Maupin (Tales of the City) line about a gay open relationship in which the deal was that neither person could have sex with an outsider more than once. "Once is playing, twice is courting," is the line, if I recall correctly.

2. Is the risk really worth it, particularly for straight, married women? Given that women typically (admittedly not always) make less money and subjugate their careers to that of their husbands, marriage is at least as much a financial investment as an emotional one for many if not most women (and many men). Given the dismally common--the the point of cliched-cheating pattern in which middle-aged men take up with younger women and leave their wives (and often kids) to be "free" and "unburdened" again, does non-monogamy just make it easier for him to find such a new partner? Granted, this kind of break is about more than sex, but does permission to shop around make it easier to leave?

3. Do non-monogamous couples ever feel that they are giving up something by forfeiting exclusivity?

There are relationships risks to monogamy and non, I guess, but I'm more willing to tolerate and address the former.

46
@44 - Forget the 80s, I worked at a company in Seattle in the 00s where the CEO (in his 40s) was SHOCKED that we had out and proud employees and that we offered their partners benefits. He had NEVER been around "out" people in the workplace before and he had lived and worked in Seattle for 20-odd years. I imagine his head would have exploded if he had known that we had several trans employees working under his radar, not to mention the openly poly group that straddled several departments.

After that experience, I don't blame ANYONE for keeping their sex/private lives private.
47
@45: Those are good questions, but they apply equally well to monogamous relationships. Here's a slight rephrasing about monogamous marriages:

1. How do you/can you ensure your monogamous marriage remains primary? Yes, you can set boundaries and whatnot, but is that really enough? Any long-term relationship has its ups and downs, and it's difficult for me to imagine that during the downs, it's not tempting to bail, especially if the outside partner is a coworker and doesn't require "dating" to be found. Is it really possible to make sure you don't fall in love with another person?

2. Is the risk really worth it, particularly for straight women? Given the dismally common--the the point of cliched-cheating pattern in which middle-aged men take up with younger women and leave their wives (and often kids) to be "free" and "unburdened" again, does making such a large financial and emotional investment in one man make sense?

3. Do monogamous couples ever feel that they are giving up something by forfeiting sex with anyone else?
48
Point taken, sort of.

Re 1: If it's the sole romantic and sexual relationship it is, by default, primary. It is only if someone violates his or her commitment that that is threatened. If both partners are genuinely committed to monogamy, that's one of the perks. If not, that's an inherent risk. But there is no built-in competition.

Re 2: Given the realities of mobility in this country--people move a lot, especially for jobs--and the needs of children, if one has them, it's difficult to avoid a situation in which one person in a committed couple sees his or her career compromised for the benefit of the family unit. The question is more how best to mitigate the risk of being that compromiser and where monogamy or non-monogamy fits in.

Frankly, in our house, my husband is the one who has compromised, moving twice and essentially starting over twice, to advance my career. I am deeply grateful for his willingness to do this--and we likely will have to do it again in a few years. We have openly discussed how this is essentially an investment in my ability to be our primary earner and what that means for both of us and the structure of our family going forward.

Re 3: Yes. But the sacrifice is obvious and overt.
49
I'm one more person in the openly and happily non-monogamous camp. My bf and I have been together for almost 7 years (since we were both 19!). I travel pretty often for my career, sometimes for months at a time, so about 3 or 4 years ago we decided to be open. Oddly enough, I feel LESS inclined to sleep with other guys now. Something about taking away the taboo of it has made it less interesting (isn't human nature fun?). Since we opened the relationship, I've had sex with one other person and fooled around with two, and he's fooled around once (we'd both been faithful before that, btw). Hardly the fuckfest that most people picture when you say you're non-manogamous. All in all, opening our relationship has forced us to communicate better, and, perhaps illogically, brought us closer. I'm not saying that openness works for everyone, but we're one example of it working out just fine!
50
@35 Alright, I'll read the book.
51
I believe I read a study about how men fuck their partners more deeply and more vigorously and such when they suspect infidelity from their partner. That would be because of sperm competition - if you got fucked, then I gotta fuck you too, and try to make sure it's my semen that's impregnating you. This isn't a totally conscious response.

I don't think it's a big leap from that to think that maybe some men enjoy cuckolding because it provokes this response.
52
Dan, the point you make is a solid one: not everyone is born to be in a monogamous relationship. Great, to each his own. But I did read some of Sex at Dawn, because your recommendations are usually awesome and it bore me to tears. Why did you recommend it?? Surely there are better books out there making the same point? Part way through, I didn't even care what the point was anymore, I just wanted the author to shut the f-- up.

*sarcastic voice*
Oh human history is so long and no one respects that, but I'm gonna focus on this one time when people had orgies and then I think everyone should have orgies.
*end of sarcastic voice*

Why didn't he reference the time when man was a fish and then we can all just jerk off into the river and mate the way the fish do?

A better book, not quite as sex centric, is The Selfish Gene, which talks about mating in general. It discusses how evolution doesn't just favour traits, it favours variety. So there are men out there who like to sleep around and there are guys don't, same for the women. The point isn't for any one type to take over and become the standard. The point is that if there are too many sleep-arounders, then no one would care about paternity and the children will suffer (usually eaten if we're talking about lions). And if there are too many non-sleep-arounders, then there won't be enough spreading of genetic variety and we'll all become inbred or die out. So evolution doesn't favour one over the other, it favours a certain balance between the two. Generally, a slight majority of nesters to keep order and a minority of sleep-arounders to spread variety.

Dan, your point in all this (I'm extrapolating, correct me if I'm wrong) is if let's say that balance is 60-40, then you're saying don't pretend that 40% doesn't exist. Which is a great point and relationships would be stronger if people embraced it. That's why I read you religiously. But Sex at Dawn was a dreadful dreadful book, so please stop promoting it.
53
@45, @47:

I think what both of you make clear is that there are risks in both monogamy and non-monogamy. By choosing one of these, you may end up feeling sorry.

As they used to say: know thyself. Know what works for you. But really, be sincere. If you say something works for you just because 'it should', you're bound to be sorry later on.

@45: I sense in your answer the impression that non-monogamous relationships are 'less serious'. In your #1, the answer you give is perfectly compatible with non-monogamy: "It is only if someone violates his or her commitment that the primary relationship is threatened". Indeed. Whenever any of the partners starts doing things that they promised they wouldn't, things that are deal-breakers to other partners, then we have a problem. No matter if the relationship is monogamous or non-monogamous. Now, you shouldn't assume that non-monogamous committed partners are more likely to do that -- why should they? Why should they be more likely to want to break their promises? What in their situations would make it inherently 'easier' for them to do whatever they promised they wouldn't do?

For your #2: whatever the kind of relationship you're in, isn't it always the case that your economic/professional life may be (often is) at odds with your love/relationship life? In what way is this any worse? You suggest that people in non-monogamous relationship might be more likely to find their next partner by 'screwing around'. Sure. But it seems to me just as likely that being allowed sex with other people will take the pressure off from this 'desire to be unburdened' (to the extent that it has a sexual origin: 'I want variety!') and actually make it more likely, rather than less likely, that the partners will stay together. So: which effect is more important: the 'no-pressure-so-we-stay-together' effect, or the 'I-can-try-new-models-so-maybe-I'll-leave-this-one' effect? How can we know without good statistics?

As for #3... The sacrifice is obvious and overt in monogamous relationship. But it is also obvious and overt in non-monogamous relationships -- you are articulating it in your own post, so it looks quite likely to me that people in non-monogamous relationships will also have thought of it. Indeed, I don't see why the risks of non-monogamous relationships are any less obvious than those of monogamous relationships.
54
Sexuality, to most people, is something that must be bound and hindered and punished and prosecuted; why else would so many people so vaingloriously attempt to defend themselves in such a manner, betraying perhaps a few niggling doubts; why do so many religious dogmas utterly postulate against sexuality outside of really anything that prevents a man from owning a woman (or women).

People have assumed for the longest time, for some reason, that humans are utterly biologically monogamous, in spite of evidence to the contrary in other apes, as well as in mammals in general. Most of the other species that form the mammal group can be described as serially monogamous at best, and even then--only for a short time. Only certain avians possess the instincts for long-term nesting, and even then it is not necessarily a permanent thing. Our form of monogamy is utterly alien to mammals; it is entirely about the possession of women, and has not a thing to do with the evolution of our species. It is as clear as that.

That said, do not stop being in monogamous relationships should they work for you; there is certainly no harm in that; this book is in some ways about dispelling stigmas surrounding what we describe as sexually reprehensible behavior, and the elucidating the evolutionary motivations for said reprehensible behavior. This is a reevaluation of morals, that is all. But it seems that many cannot conceive a universe in which their own biology does not affirm their sexuality (as if it could not be motivated primarily by social matters).

In that vein, I imagine it must be difficult to be outed as a monogamist, but I'm sure that you will learn, as much as the gays and lesbians and kink-fetishists have already.

/Fuck off Telsa
//I'm Spartacus!
55
@50: Sperm competition isn't such a crazy idea - it's been demonstrated in studies of animals and humans. There is a good, technical discussion of the topic in The Myth of Monogamy.
56
@ Fan of Dan,

I've just read the book. OK, I also agree that the authors (plural!) are pushing evolutionary psychology a bit too far... and I don't accept all the arguments put forth in the book. But, all in all, it was an interesting and stimulating read.

Maybe the problem is not so much with this book, but with Ev Psych in general. As a discipline, it has been criticized, and it is usually not defended in its 'pure form' anymore ('gene-culture co-evolution' seems to be a more interesting direction for speculation about our origins). I'd be glad to discuss the pros and cons of evolutionary psychology -- but please note that there's also a certain trend (that I like to call 'pop ev psych') which makes the broadest claims based on the thinnest kind of evidence, but which comes from the media (especially bloggers) rather than from professional scientists defending their theories in academic settings. These are two different things.
57
Also, the discussion on the podcast was interesting, but I'm still not really buying the author's idea that the switch from a sort of "free love" accumulated-sperm babies society to the cloistered women-as-chattel society happened with the advent of agriculture. First of all, how do you know what type of society there was in the time before written records? Or even oral histories that were later written down? That's a major weakness of the argument. Second, it's not like mate-guarding or sperm competition originated with humans at all, let alone originating 10,000 years ago.
58
I know someone has already said this, but...

I have a hard enough time finding ONE emotionally stable, non-repulsive person who's interested in fucking me.
59
SPERM WARS! Google it. A dick's head is shaped like that to other men's spunk out of a vag-j-j. Sperm of one man fight other men's sperm inside the vagina! SO....
I said, 'we didn't evolve monogamously'. SHE said, 'well it's not like you higher self isn't in some control here'. Higher indeed!
The book is packed with great facts to back up the Sex at Dawn 'theroy'. I'm suprised Dan isn't oogling that one too!
60
I like Dan's gray attitude about it. It kind of scares that me so many people need a definative one size fits all guide to monogamy. Dan wants an open dialogue and discussion about everyone's expectations BEFORE they have marriage and kids. It's up to the individual to be the best they could possibly be. In some sick sort of way, I kind of think cheating on your spouse is a lot like cheating on your diet, at least psychologically. For the 100 or so days when you DIDN'T have the ice cream, there might be that one day where you are mentally tired and just want to have the fucking ice cream already, you walk by the freezer section practically EVERY DAY.

In a long term committed relationship, this might be trivial around year two or three or four ... but at around ten years .... I think that type of stress might wear you down, regardless of everyone's best intentions. I think non-consensual serial cheating is the real culprit that perhaps everyone fears.

I think the figure of merit is blasted WAY out of proportion. For the 50 fucking years we are expected to live with each other, for one day or a few hours, maybe most of aren't going to be loyal. Maybe we are supposed to feel like shit about it, but I think maybe we are a little spoiled in that ... well we do have luxury to get worked up about it and make life changing drastic choices, that affect the quality of our lives and our childrens' lives. It kind of makes me think about how spoiled Americans have become, another reason why Americans consume so much is that the average divorced family maintains multiple households. The fact that this logistically feasible astounds me.

I also think that its kind of wild that people who haven't experienced ultra long term monogamy are quick to herald it.
61
@45: You seem to be stuck on a model of nonmonogamy that involves a primary dyad and "outside partners." This is one model, but not the only one, and in other models your questions simply don't apply.

"1. How do you/can you ensure your primary relationship remains primary? "

Not all poly relationships are based on a primary/secondary model or "outside" partners. Many of the longest-term poly situations among my friends are stable MFM triads. By long-term I mean 20-30 years, which is rather longer than my parents' monogamous marriage lasted. Some of them are close to paying off joint mortgages!

"Is it really possible to make sure you don't fall in love with that person?"

In many poly arrangements this is not an issue. Why would falling in love with another person be a problem? Love does not have to be limited in quantity; if you want to make that argument, the logical extension would be that it is impossible for parents to love more than one child.

"2. Is the risk really worth it, particularly for straight, married women?"

As was pointed out above, the divorce rate does not suggest that monogamous marriage is a sensible risk for women either. If you want to reduce risk, don't ever get involved with someone at all and live a monastic and completely risk-free life. Having more than one loving, supportive person in your life seems a lot less risky to me than depending entirely on a single person to meet all your needs for a lifetime.

I'll add my voice to the other contented poly folks testifying:

My preferred relationship format is to be the secondary partner of someone in a primary relationship, because I have career commitments which prevent me from devoting the time and energy needed for a primary relationship. I also don't like people enough to tolerate living with someone or even having a partner around for longer than a weekend. I don't want to fulfill that life-partner need for someone, and I don't like to be in relationships with people who want me in a full-time/primary relationship role, because I will make them unhappy and it will not work out. I am happy to be with someone who has already fulfilled that need elsewhere and simply wants to enjoy my company. This does not prevent me from loving someone, or being loved back, and that love does not interfere with either the other person's relationship(s) or my "primary relationship" with my career. No one leaves anyone for anyone else; I would not and have never been party to that sort of situation. I am delighted to be friends with my partner(s) other partners and become part of a web of poly-family affection. It's like having lots of really likable in-laws.

I think you need to do some research to expand your concept of nonmonogamy beyond the primary/secondary model.
62
@57 The book explains methodology. Maybe you should look into it before asking inane questions.
63
I'm in a happily non-monogamous marriage. My husband and I read the book Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino, and then had many discussions about the type of open relationship we both want, went over lots of different scenarios and came up with rules we could both agree to. The idea to open our marriage was mine, but when I explained to him why I wanted to try it, he agreed and said he felt the same way. After we went through all that reading and discussing and agreeing, our relationship became even better than it was before. We communicate more (and more effectively) now, and my husband says just reading that book and contemplating openness has made him a more "open" person in other ways. He enjoys other people more, and we enjoy social situations together more (he's an introvert by nature). We're both happier people. Whether or not we ever act on it or have acted on it is irrelevant. We feel closer because we both know where we stand. And improving our communication with each other means the sex we have together is amazing and gets better all the time.

If you have no idea what an open relationship would entail, and even if you have no intention of being non-monogamous but are just intensely curious about what it's like (and I have read comments in this thread suggesting there are several of you out there), I highly recommend reading Tristan Taormino's book Opening Up.
64
@45 Your 1&2 are addressed by seeing sex workers rather than "civilians." Finding escorts through TER (The Erotic Review, Yelp for escorts) leads to satisfying experiences with warm, intelligent women who are not interested in breaking up the client's marriage. And it helps avoid the temptation to use the workplace as a dating scene, which can have disastrous results. As for #3, I gain a happy, adventurous husband (more fun in bed), and lose my fear that he's cheating behind my back. I love this guy, and he wants (a little) variety. I can't change him, and I won't leave him over it, so I suck it up. (Figuratively and literally.)

@58 - maybe your standards are too high. I'm not sure I know anyone who's emotionally stable, but many of us are still fun in bed :-)
65
OK, so my husband and I are not normal then because we keep getting hotter for each other after many years? The sex just improves the closer we get as a couple and the more mature we get as people. I truly do not have any desire, and the idea sort of nauseates me, to be with anyone else. I know he feels the same way (no, I am not being naive, we have discussed this). We are nuts about each other in and outside the bedroom. We go on dates, we are best friends, intellectually challenge each other, and fewer than 4 x a week for sex is very unusual and we get mighty pent up. We are not young. So are we not biologically normal?

One IMPORTANT thing to note: no kids. I think this is a key, key factor that is being missed. I think when you add children in, your attention to your partner necessarily diminishes, your intimacy (not just physical) flags, and what else is out there starts to be a question you ask. Your partner often represents stress and tiredness and all the things that come with parenthood, and someone else becomes an escape from that.
66
I'm a gay man in a monogamous long term (10+ years) relationship. Living in the San Francisco. In the Castro. I have no desire to have sex outside of my marriage (yup, we're one of those), yet I feel I'm sexually open and progressive insofar as I see nothing wrong with open, swinging relationships and enjoy reading sexpert advice like Dan or Violet Blue.

However, I can't help feel attacked for being in a monogamous LTR insofar that my "monogamous wannabe" relationship is somehow unnatural or doomed to failure. When I hear that I should be "realistic about the odds" that my relationship is going to fail, I can't help but think, "Well, screw you!"

Isn't there a way to embrace both monogamous and non-monogamous choices without having to infer that one is better, superior or more natural than the other? Just asking!
67
@66 thanks, that helps me see why mono folks feel attacked...

But: Dan doesn't say "be realistic about the odds that your relationship will fail." He says (see @4 above), "be realistic about the odds that one or the other or both partners in a truly long long-term relationship will cheat at some point." He wants your relationship, your monogamous relationship, to succeed. He wants it to survive a brief fling by one of you. He is not pressuring you guys to open up your marriage to lots of outside sex if that's not what you want. He is pressuring people to consider that a couple of brief affairs are as likely to happen to a "monogamous" relationship as a couple of car accidents in a lifetime of driving. Doesn't make the person a "bad driver," or a "bad spouse."

Does that help you feel less attacked?
68
@66, I'm with you, I have no problem with monogamous people, and I totally believe it works for some people and doesn't work for some people. I don't get why we need to argue about it at all. I'd rather we just share our experiences and learn from each other with open minds. I don't like seeing "attacking" kind of comments; it's an intensely personal thing that we each need to decide for ourselves, and it makes no sense for any of us to be judging each other's choices.

Whether it's "natural" or not for human beings to be monogamous doesn't even interest me, and I don't plan to read the book. I'm more interested in knowing, acknowledging, and being honest about what feels natural to me.
69
@67 I get what you're saying but that isn't how the advice comes across. In any event, why should I need to prepare myself for a theoretical day when me or my spouse will one day have a "brief fling"? Isn't that setting yourself up for infidelity? Or providing an excuse: well, of course, everyone knows that one of us will cheat one day so why not just let it happen. What type of advice is that to give a couple in a monogamous relationship? If it happens, we'll cross that bridge then. It's like telling a healthy person who works out and has a good diet to "beware" of the day when he'll succumb to binge eating and become morbidly obese because, you know, that happens to lots of people.
70
@69, well, because it's a more likely thing to happen than a healthy person succumbing to binge eating. It's more like preparing for a car accident. You don't want one, but you learn ahead of time how to deal with it (get off the road, exchange insurance info...)
71
@70 Metaphors work until they don't so I don't see how dwelling on whether or not a partner may one day sleep with someone else is "like preparing for a car accident". Really? Can I get insurance for that?

My main point is simply that language and arguments used to defend the non-monogamous POV can be just as condescending and offensive as puritanical screeds for monogamous relationships. So some studies and polls say one way may be hard for some people and vice versa. So what? Relationships are hard work to begin with and there's no magic formula so let's stop pretending there is.
72
"@13
And there was something about guys' natural desire to have our sperm compete.

That, Dan, is stupid. Not me. Them. Their words. The ones I read. In your column."

Sorry, but this is true. Not only has Desmond Morris mentioned this but a bunch of other people have observed that sperm will seek out and DESTROY or cripple foreign sperm.

73
@13, I though the excerpts on the book's website sounded pretty smart. I think they come off the way you describe because they're opening sections of chapters. Thus they put the book's conclusions in the strongest terms possible, without providing all the detailed evidence that would ultimately persuade people they're right. I mean naturally, if you're picking sections of your book to put online, you're not gonna go with dense paragraphs filled with facts and analysis. I assume such paragraphs do exist in the book itself; still interested in reading it at some point.

& yes, I am in an open relationship, but as Dan's analysis suggests, barely anyone knows about it. Monogamy is people's default assumption, and telling people we're not monogamous would be all weird & TMI.
74
To those masseuses irritated about sex workers calling themselves masseuses, you should write your lawmakers to ask them to create a legal category for those sex workers to legally ply their trade. They only pretend to be in your line of work to stay out of jail.
75
I am in a long-term (20+ years) "mostly" monogamous relationship. We just don't take sex all that seriously....much more concerned about intimacy, living drama-free, and supporting each other in our life goals. Just the other day my sister was snarking about some other couples we know, and I just kept saying, every marriage is different, don't judge based on what you see in public.

I may be in minority as I can honestly say I really don't care what other people need to do to make it work. I also don't need to know about it, LOL!
76
Dan was just trying to make all his non-mono readers to come out in this thread. Okay, will do (another poly, relationship of 8 years, very happy), but what's the point? People need to come out where it matters, not just in Slog threads...

@45: answers from my perspective (I'm polyamorous, and I don't speak for other relationship models, and even for any other relationships -- I speak only for myself):
1. You don't. Why would you want to?
(How do you ensure that your relationship with your best friend stays primary, if you're allowed to have other friends? How do you ensure that your relationship with your child stays primary, if you're allowed to have other children? etc.)
2. I think that my relationship model lessens the risk of my partner leaving me for someone else. Suppose we have the cliched situation where he falls for someone younger. In a mono relationship, he can't have it. His ONLY OPTION to have her is to leave me. But in our relationship, he can have his cake and eat it, too! Why leave me when I have no problem with him loving her (I'm even happy for him)? It makes no sense, right?
3. No. Never had this feeling (so far, at least).

Again, I speak only for myself here!