Savage Love

Meet the Monogamish

Comments

3
Paul, I think you accidentally left your caps lock key on.

#benefitofthedoubt

Also, there is absolutely no information about a lawsuit on that website. It simply states that a lawsuit was filed, but doesn't provide a source, citation, or proof of any sort. Anyone can write that a lawsuit was filed, but that doesn't automatically make it true.

And since the Santorum website does not break any laws, including defamation or libel laws, and is protected by the First Amendment, I doubt a judge will let it go to trial.
4
Paul's link seems like a simple attempt to reverse Rick's google standing. Jesus, it took somebody long enough to attempt a counter.
5
@1/2: It describes the lawsuit in the future tense. That's because they're going to have a hard time finding a lawyer willing to risk his or her professional credibility by filing that nonsense.

If nothing else, Rick Santorum has (wisely) expressed no interest in filing a suit, and anyone else would lack standing.
6
The second letter writer (with the 4 year long fuck buddy) isn't like the others though, right? He's a cheater, not a monogamous partner.
7
@6, if the topic is "open marriages," then you're right, Mr. Craigslist doesn't fit. But if the topic is "people who look monogamous but aren't" then he fits.
9
This is great. I once opened up to my fairly traditional, southern friend that I don't think I could sustain a long-term relationship with strict monogamy (on both sides, I'd want him to be happy).
She looked a little taken aback but admitted that if everyone has different sexual interests and needs, why wouldn't we all have different relationship needs? I think bringing it up in the hypothetical helped, it is easy to rationally think about it but difficult to look at two friends and not assume one of them is unhappy in the situation.
10
I'm struck by the thread running through these letters of (more or less) "...and then it turned out that..."

People change over time, yes, and even discover unrealized aspects of themselves, but it's such a shame that we can't know ahead of time all the essentials such as willingness to be monogamish. (cue Mr. V's rebuttal in 3, 2, 1...)
11
That second guy is not really an example of a successful open relationship. And while he didn't get caught, she has to know, right? How could she not? And as for the wife; Maybe she was having her own four year affair. It fits. Great communication guys. NOT.
12
@10 I think many in the younger generation perceive themselves as having different options than we did twenty years ago - and they do talk about this when entering long term relationships...
13
I know it's not fair, but I always read these and feel kind of sad for the LWs.
14
How did he not say anything about the "Santorum Surge"??
15
Mr J - I'm not sure what you expect me to rebut, but, if you wanted to sting, you succeeded. And I thought we got on so well.

I don't see a lot of respect floating around throughout most of these examples, but, in the end, these people seem happy enough, as they are entitled to be, and in general I'm quite pleased about that and hope that long may it continue. Ms Cute or Mr Ank might think that it's because I wouldn't wish the participants on anybody else, but I couldn't possibly comment.

X1 and X3 strike me as particularly appalling, but then I have an abnormally strong dislike of smarmily privileged couples. Individual mileage may well vary. I'll admit to hoping T5 all stay together for life, although I do have some fellow feeling for the wife in that regard, as a vast majority of my relationships have been with non-contemporaries, and I have gone both older and younger.

But, rather than close on a negative thought which I won't mention, I'll agree with X7 that maybe a happier day will arrive when none of these arrangements will be anything like a big deal.
16
@8 "I'd hope Dan would include a section on how to do non-monogamy badly, and how it occasionally works out unhappily--an essentially positive examination of any subject need not whitewash the downsides and the risks.'
There are already several books like that. "Open" and "The Ethical Slut" come to mind. Also open blogs. Lots of info out there for the poly-curious!
17
We are a relatively straight/very gay positive couple in our forties with two small children. We just had our polyamorous friends over for dinner. The night before that, they babysat out kids. They are so normal, despite the fact that they are in a permanment live in triad, that their relationship rarely comes up in conversation. When it does, they are open and accepting, as are we. Life's rich pageant offers options outside of monogamy and we see those other options working every day. Our lives are richer for these friends
18
I have several pals in LT poly relationships. A couple of t hem are out about it, a couple of them aren't. One of t he couples that isn't, her & her boyfriend work together. Husband's all good with everything, nobody minds, everyone's cool w/ each other - but gossipy busybodies @ work would make their lives very difficult.

The 2nd & 3rd letters: Hmmm. This is not my understanding of monogamish as it's been previously used in this column. Both LW's has affairs & didn't get caught, although LW #2 seemed respectful of his wife, relatively speaking. But I don't think including the 4-year affair was a good example of someone being happily monogamish. That's someone who was a CPOS & now brags about how they didn't get caught. Why include that?

Do I misunderstand monogamish? Mostly monogamous, with some occasional acknowledgment - from checking out guys/gals together, to occasional guests stars or weekend passes, whatever the couple jointly agrees to? And this is different from being open or poly basically in terms of frequency or degree of extracurricular activity?

The other letters seem to jive w/ the term, though. Yes, I'm a nitpicker.
19
The last letter made me smile so much. I'm so glad she shared!
20
I would like a book with stories of monogamish relationship - I really don't care how little work it might be for Dan, I think the topic is interesting and the fact that this is normal people makes it even more readable.

I, myself, am in an loving open marriage going on succesfully for a few years now.
21
I think this is great, but the Craigslist guy and the four-year affair guy/girl do not fit the monogamish bill, they fit the cheater bill. Maybe the Craigslist guy can get a pass if he specified having his wife's permission and you edited that out for some reason, but "I had a four year affair and didn't get caught" is unambiguous.

Dan, you are one of the most prominent voices you defends the monogamish. One of the things that's hardest to get people to understand is that "monogamish" or "open" is not cheating because of the magical "consent" that you sprinkle on top. It's not cheating if the mutually agreed upon rules say it's not. These two people are nonmonogamous without their partner's consent. That ain't monogamish, that's cheating. Please don't harm the extremely worthy cause of bringing to light the "happy monogamish" by mixing the two.
22
I think this is great, but the Craigslist guy and the four-year affair guy/girl do not fit the monogamish bill, they fit the cheater bill. Maybe the Craigslist guy can get a pass if he specified having his wife's permission and you edited that out for some reason, but "I had a four year affair and didn't get caught" is unambiguous.

Dan, you are one of the most prominent voices in the defence of the monogamish. One of the things that's hardest to get people to understand is that "monogamish" or "open" is not cheating because of the magical "consent" that you sprinkle on top. It's not cheating if the mutually agreed upon rules say it's not. These two people are nonmonogamous without their partner's consent. That ain't monogamish, that's cheating. Please don't harm the extremely worthy cause of bringing to light the "happy monogamish" by mixing the two.
23
Arg, double post. That's what I get for trying to spellcheck on the fly, sorry :(
24
@22 I completely agree, there is such a difference between cheating and monogamish, and I think lumping the two together is really counterproductive.

@18 I agree with your definitions, it is exactly how I saw these terms and was also surprised that some of the letters were included. If this is about 'looks monogamous but isn't and still married ' then thats fine, but why not be more clear on the definitions?
25
Thought it was about seemingly monogamous relationships that aren't actually, but still are working well. Thus cheaters are included, even if the other party is not aware of the lack of monogamy.
26
Is the 3rd paragraph a separate letter? Or a continuation of the Craigslist guy's story?
27
It's funny, I would have put 'having a threesome' happily into monogamy, not monogamish. Maybe attitudes/expectations are already changing...
28
I'm also (like Ms Hopkins@18 above) curious about you people's (and Dan's) take about the relationship between open marriages / non-monogamy / monogamishness and CPOS-ness. I suppose Dan included letters like #3 above to note that people can have affairs without getting caught (it does happen), and having an affair, even without your partner's consent, does fall within the boundaries of non-monogamy (albeit non-consensual non-monogamy). Maybe that is the reason. Or is Dan suggesting that cheating is OK, if the cheater can make sure there are no consequences (no STDs, the lover disappears without a trace after the end of the affair, the partner never finds out about it and therefore never feels hurt)? From all he said in other situations of CPOS-ness, I suppose he shouldn't be saying that, but the presence of that letter does suggest he might be. Hm!...
29
I don't think it counts unless both partners are OK with third parties, in whatever form. Some of these sound like it's only successful because they're able to hide it 100% from the person they're married to. To me, it doesn't count if one person would be devastated to find out what's been going on.
30
@15 Mr V

"Sting"? Heavens no! Have you not in the past espoused that perhaps less information about one's mate at the beginning is preferable? I believe it's a compliment that my sieve of a brain retains this information. As Elinor said, "I think very highly of him - that I greatly esteem him... I like him." And you might consider the possibility that the unspoken feeling also rings true, although I'm not at liberty to engage in such discussions.
31
Shine a light on all areas of non-monogamy. Take the opposition's ammo away.
32
Maybe the guy who didn't get caught after four years, is married to a withholding witch who's sexual inactivity was very emasculating for him emotionally. You don't know. And by being a preachy wannabe hyper ethical asshole you sound like a right winger, like Sphinctorum! Check yo self fool!
33
To clarify, I took X2 as also including what what appears to be X3 on its own. Assuming they were different people and there were really eight total instead of seven, they ought to have been separated.

I thought I might have a less unfavourable opinion of the group as a whole after a night's rest, but if anything, they're potentially worse. This has nothing to do with their not being monogamous (personally I was always prepared to accept a nonmonogamous partner). It's just that so many of them don't seem to realize that other people aren't toys.

X1: "(And I reap the benefits!)" LMB.

X2: I might like a few questions, but at least X2 apparently treated his outside partner respectfully, which is more than others we've seen have done.

X3: Are we sure this isn't a contiunation of X2? And, no, probably it wouldn't have been all that hot.

X4: I was so close to liking X4, despite the claim to perfection. But that closing line is easily the worst of the bunch. Who died and made X4 Willy Wonka?

X5: Innocuous, though there could be a bit of a time warp somewhere.

X6: They're all happy; good for them, and I just hope they're good at compartmentalizing. If it were not for making a resolution to fight the "You Deserve Better" mentality, I can't be certain I wouldn't be tempted.

X7: I really need a bit of cross-examination on this one. If H7 is basically having Play Dates With Peers, carry on. Yet I'm just getting this vibration that there's a serious Toy User here. He's an obvious choice. But I'm sensing a curious novel in this one...

X8: An excellent choice with which to conclude on account of the closing sentiment (though it could be interesting to know a bit more about what the husbands are or aren't permitted or encouraged to do with whomever). In my youth I saw many married women who were so homosocial that it hardly seemed to make any difference whether a pair of best friends were "more" or not. But, after the letter last year about the discovered affair that resulted in a retaliatory round of emails by the discovering child, it might be better for the families not to be close.
34
Mr J - ah, thank you. I think what threw me is that Charlotte Lucas espoused the philosophy that it is as well to know as little as possible of the *defects* of the person with whom you are to pass your life. One would have to consider a tendency to nonmonogamy to be a defect to make that leap. And, of course, we have the example of Charlotte's own marriage, which made her own philosophy all the wiser.
35
I agree that being a cheater doesn't really match the spirit of what I think of as monogamish.

My husband and I have been together for nearly 20 years. We've had an open relationship for probably...11 years? This includes swapping with close friend couples/a foursomes/threesomes involving these parties, and an occasional business trip hookup or three, which we are both aware of; there is nothing concealed here. Call: "Guess, what? I totally just got laid!"

We're not polygamous or swingers who take out personal ads/hit clubs for this purpose (not to suggest that there's anything wrong with that, we just don't fall into those two categories.) We're your basic urban yuppie couple who appear to be monogamous and the people we've messed around with are, too. We always insist on playing safe. We're not open about it because it's personal and family members would probably be judgmental.

Our philosophy is that a wedding band shouldn't cut off every other possibility for a the excitement of banging someone new ever again. Life's too short (or maybe too long) to only enjoy one flavor of ice cream for the rest of it.
36
At first my response to the third letter (about the four year affair without getting caught) was the same as many others here: Why the heck was that included? But after rereading, I'm inclined to agree with #33 that the third letter wasn't really a seperate letter, but a second paragraph to the first letter. Perhaps it was an editing oversight that made it start out in bold like the beginning of a new letter, but if you read, both of the letters are about a four year affair, and the second one begins with "So," which COULD be the beginning of a seperate letter, but would make a lot more sense in the context of, "So, because of what I outlined above, I had a four year affair." Dan, clear this up!
37
I agree that the examples of what looks like plain old cheating, though they fit the definition of undetected non-monogamy, probably don't belong in either this column, or a book about the possibilities of successful non-monogamous relationships. However, the contrast between tones in examples/letters 2 and 3 is so great that it almost serves to move #2 into the "happily non-monogamous" camp!

I have to confess that reading these happy stories is making me sad and blue. I was married for 22 years to a man that was wonderful in so many ways--but our sex life wasn't one of them. I tried so hard to improve that sex life, suggesting opening the marriage, or swinging, among other things. He would have none of it. In fact, we could never have a useful discussion about sex, which is a topic he seems to be uncomfortable with. Finally, we divorced. I have been trying to find a real relationship that integrates hot sex with other aspects of life, for the past 4 years, and have been unsuccessful thus far. I just don't seem to "click" with anyone easily.

When I read erotica, the stories that always seem the most fantastical, the most fantasy-like, are the ones that feature hot, wild, kinky sex between a married couple (this includes non-monogamy, btw). The idea of a loving, humdrum (in the sense of the quotidian quality of marriage: "did you get the dog food?" "can you pick the kids up from soccer practice?" "don't forget, we're supposed to go to the Smith's tonight"), supportive relationship including exciting sex is so outside the realm of my experience. That's what I'm looking for, and I suppose my heart should be gladdened that others have found it, are living it.

I should be, but I'm not.
38
"Game on!" Santorum tweeted. ""Thanks to all of you, we pulled off our #iowasurprise! Keep us going to NH, SC & beyond."

What's an Iowa Surprise Dan?
39
@25 That depends on your definition of working well. Cheating without getting caught yet is not working well because the partners don't agree on the basic ground rules of their relationship. Most of the stories I've heard about failed non-monogamous relationships blew up because of a lack of communication. Cheating and lying isn't a successful monogamish couple, it's a time bomb.
40
@38

One comes out of the bathroom with a handful of santorum and throws it in their partner's eyes.
42
It's clear from the way this column is formatted in the Georgia Strait (http://www.straight.com/article-574786/v…) that X3 is a continuation of X2.

I'm not sure why everyone is so down on X2. If you're going to make a contract with another person that they will get their sexual needs met exclusively by you (e.g. a typical marriage contract), you have, I think, an implied obligation to make a sincere effort to meet reasonable desires. If you stop doing this for an indefinite period lasting years, I think it's perfectly reasonable for them to get their desires met elsewhere. Ideally your communication would be better than this couple's seems to have been, but as far as can be told from the letter that's as much the wife's responsibility as the letter writer's. I would have divorced the wife if I'd been in the LW's situation, but I don't think any of the individuals involved would have been made better off by that.

This letter actually seems like a textbook example of strict monogamy, with even the mention of anything else being taboo, not being a good solution to every problem that comes up in real marriages. Which is the point of Dan's column.
43
I wouldn't worry about it. Santorum won't get far. He's a doosh, and people can tell, no matter how many god-hates-everybody people he has or how many tons of purple confetti the righteous bestow upon this travesty of humanity lol.

Obama will win again, it's been a slow news season and no one really gives a poop about any of the Republican candidates, so not to worry: Santorum will be out of the running soon enough. Even dooshbags end up in the trash at some point.
44
What's an Iowa Surprise Dan?

So, um, I'm not Dan, but I'll take a stab: they grow corn in Iowa, so the Iowa Surprise is when you get undigested kernels in your Santorum! Mmm..crunchy!
45
Any such lawsuit would be quickly thrown out on First Amendment grounds. Besides, American courts don't award apologies.
46
@37, :( I'm very sincerely sorry your relationship experience has been so persistently full of unhappiness and incompatibility. I hope 2012 brings you a partner and lover who blows your mind and grounds you and restores you and your faith in the possibility of such earth-shaking compatibility.

@ Everyone else, on first reading, I assumed italicized paragraphs 2 and 3 were separate stories because the initial phrases were in bold print. After my second reading, I'm joining the chorus of commenters left confused and uncertain about whether they're two short anecdotes or one longer. (Dan??)
47
I definitely think this is a book, Dan. Go for it. I'll buy it.

Interestingly enough, today (1/4/12) on "Good Morning America" at about 8:25 a.m. (EST), there was a segment on a triad couple with a toddler. The well-spoken female (to two males) discussed their life very positively. So, non-monogomous seems to being going public. A book from you would keep it moving.
48
@37 nocutename
That you haven't clicked with anyone yet is merely a matter of bad luck and of having standards. And you have perfectly reasonable standards at that. I continue to maintain that you are a catch.

I can't offer advice as to where else to turn in your search. But don't despair. He's out there.
49
On the actual subject of the column, the last three letters really made me smile, and so did the first one. In these cases it seems to me that the secret of this is that the monogamish outside partners don't compete with the primary partners for that primary spot in the relationship. The are adjuncts and that seems to be what makes it work. That seems true for the 'cheating' letters as well, though those are clearly not 'working' (to my thinking) as they involve deception.
50
Mr J @48 - I agree in spirit, but should you reword your conclusion? I don't think you mean to imply that there is One Mr Right out there for Ms Cute. She might require more than others who are less discerning, but the number of possible good matches for her must be considerably higher than one.

Ms Cute, I'm sure your odds are better than mine were. And when I was more or less where you are now, though after a death rather than a divorce, it took rather a while, but I was eventually vouchsafed the ideal relationship that ran its course and has since let me Retire from Romance in what has surprised me by being blissful peace. It would be lovely, I suppose, if I could tell you I'd have made it here anyway, but at least I can attest that there is a here and it can be blissful. Take from that what you will.
51
I'd like to hear from the Other in paragraph #3 ("So I had ...) and paragraph #6 (My husband, almost exactly ...) Especially #3 because she's female. I'm trying to keep an open mind. I have no doubt that the monogamish relationship works for the married couples who wrote in. Their reasons work for them, and their solutions work for them. The missing element seems to be the point of view of the Other.

She wanted exactly what he wanted. She had a husband at home she didn't want to leave but who didn't want sex with her so she wanted a committed sex buddy? She was fine when the affair was over and had no problem? She didn't consider herself dumped? I suppose it's possible, but I can't help wondering if she really wanted a relationship with someone who was committed to her, someone who would help her when she was in a tight spot, someone who she could rely on emotionally and financially. I wonder is she settled for the sex with the married guy because it was better than nothing, and I wonder if she wonders if she might have been better off looking for a relationship where she's the primary object of affection.

The same goes for #5. He's a grad student who's completely happy fucking his married older friend? He wants nothing else? He's not dating someone his own age? This arrangement works because he gets an older mentor in the form of her husband? He's not interested in being the primary focus of an emotional/ sexual relationship?

I guess it's possible, but I sure would like to hear it from Special Thirds themselves.
52
@49 poly ethicists will tell you that the problem with having "primary" partners vs. adjuncts is that one is essentially using the adjuncts as sex toys, as means not as ends in themselves. I think this is more often true of adjunct-women, some of whom would like to have a real emotional relationship to go with the sex, and are hurt to find that they get pushed away when no longer convenient. The cuckold group and the girlfriends (and to some extent the gay couple) represent the other option -- all parties care for each other and treat each other as people, not disposable toys.
53
Gee, I would have thought the reason why we don't hear about that many happy nonmonogamous couples is that their personal lives are none of anyone's business.
54
Thank you for your kind words, Mr. J, and your good wishes, MarleyBarley.
Didn't mean to subject you all to my self-pity.
55
Thank you for your perspective, Mr. Ven. I know that you are Retired from Romance, but this is the first time I think you've described that retired state as being blissful, which is nice to hear.

I'm also sorry for your loss, however long ago it may have occurred.

Crinoline (@50), I too, wondered how the "other" woman in example #2 felt when the man's wife regained her libido and he subsequently broke things off to resume a sexual marriage. The lw suggests that years of honest talk left the "other woman" in perfect understanding and they agreed to go their separate ways; I am pretty sure that even if she "understood," she wasn't happy. I might be projecting here, but it is likely she felt used and discarded, after a four year affair, and it probably didn't help much that I'm sure her erstwhile boyfriend told her, "hey, I've always been honest with you."
56
@42, it's not so much about being down on the guy, as not wanting "cheating" mixed up with monogamish. You can have legitimate differences of optinion on how douchebaggy or not cheating is under what conditions. That isn't the issue here. The issue is that non-consensual going outside the primary relationship isn't a "monogamish" relationship, it's cheating.

Supposedly this is about celebrating nonmonogamy; couples who decide to open their relationship and it went well for them. Key is that it's couples who opened their relationships, not people who went outside the relationship without permission from their partners, who assume they are in a monogamous pairing.
57
I don't think it is appropriate to project so heavily onto the Thirds. Yeah, maybe they are all getting a really raw deal and are settling for something they don't want because they have been manipulated into it. Or maybe that is just how YOU would feel in that situation because that's not what you are into.
Women are just as capable as men of wanting a safe but basically NSA sex relationship, and don't need to be seen as sad, deprived victims who must REALLY want love and companionship instead of the discreet hot sex they claim to want. And grad school is a difficult time to seek a monogamous lifepartner but a great time to be in a temporary relationship that provides fun hot sex and bonus mentorship - sooner or later he'll finish and move on to a place and situation where he can look for a different kind of relationship if he wants that.

Some of you guys remind me of my mom telling me that I should put on a coat because she would be cold if she went outside without one. People actually do have different wants and experiences, and it is okay for people to say they like things that you wouldn't like. They're not lying and not wrong.
58
I live in the Bible Belt, been married 20 very happy years, and for the last 5 we have done a little soft swing play and gone to clubs. We already had great sex averaging 5 times a week but this has made it even better. Because it is not talked about much my wife use to worry how bad or wrong we were but now she sees how happy we are and how eveyone else has realtionship problems and we dont, so it is easier. But I really wish it would get more out in the public eye to show people swingers are not only normal, but very happy and solid. I hope my 3 daughters when they find a husband can have as good of commuication and happy relationship as we have, and if that means they try it too, then good for them, but we will never tell them about us. Also it funny the people we know who we have found out or ran into at the club, its everywhere just no one is talking. Thanks for bringing it out more.
59
@ 37: Hi. I was moved by your letter. I get where you're coming from. Bless your heart for sticking it out in a physically-loveless marriage. I don't know how anyone does it.. I applaud your trying to salvage what you had.

I suppose at the end of the day it's not that big of a deal, if marriages physically open up here and there every so often, to keep things alive and the participants, happy.

I'm in love with someone I've loved very greatly and deeply for over sixteen years. I tend to laugh off the idea of wanting anyone else, because I still am into him. We have our moments of duress like anyone else, but I've never encountered another soul like him before..

It's still an ongoing, beautiful thing. I'm not yet ready to wanna share him with others within the confines of our physical relationship. I'm in love, I'm happy being just with him and just happy, period. Maybe one day, long since secure in the dynamics and realities of our mutual bond, I may dabble more actively with the idea of a lil' treat of strange from some good, clean friend, etc..

Hang in there, nocutename. Love found me, scared me shitless in awe for the first five or ten years, began to grasp the magnitude of what we share at years 11-16 and now, sixteen+ years into it, I'm genuinely in love with him more than ever.

A very-intense-1st-impression/love-at-1st-sight thing that wound up being a lot more true and enduring than I ever imagined happening to me, let alone anyone else...

When love finds you, and it improves you as a person...that's how you know :-) .

Top Of The Afternoon, Everyone.

Cheers.
60
I think letters 2 & 3 (I agree, they read most logically as a single letter) are an example of Dan's concept of "least worst option." While this is not the same as being successfully monogamish, it is still arguably more successful than destroying a relationship that is great in all ways except sex.

I can't help suspecting that the reason his wife could not articulate the reasons for her problem is the same reason that he could not articulate his solution. On the other hand, as much as I wouldn't recommend it due to the possibility of it blowing up in their faces, don't-ask-don't-tell seems to have worked out okay in their case.
61
@50 Mr. V
No, I didn't mean to imply that there is a single Mr. Right. There are many possibilities for each of us. As the boy in "Super 8" says, "Go! You can live!"
62
@ 60: I read something somewhere yesterday that struck me as applying to what you were saying:

It was this thing about communication within therapy situations.

The moderator/author of the article basically said the aggrieved couples actually articulate and communicate with one another well: it's just that they aren't happy with what they have. Voicing dissatisfaction without any headway towards resolution = bad communication.

It's a shame when anyone's relationship with someone else slips through some cracks on account of somehow being misunderstood, no matter how you may or may not try to be understood.

Articulate within yourself first, verbalize and actualize it thereafter. I love who I'm with, and I enjoy their company probably more than anyone else I've ever known. I'm blessed. May each of you all one day find, or have, great love find you too. Peace.
63
@53: "Gee, I would have thought the reason why we don't hear about that many happy nonmonogamous couples is that their personal lives are none of anyone's business."

Well, that's true enough, as far as it goes. However, a happy monagamish couple often can be subjected to societal repercussions (losing jobs, losing friends, being expelled from church or other societies, being voted out of office) that a happy monogamous couple would not suffer. Thus the intensified desire for privacy.
64
@37: Hang in there. You'll find him. Love kind of sneaks up on you.
It did for me.

My definition of Iowa Surprise is a combination of @40's and @44's views:
it's a handful of santorum with undigested kernels thrown in the partner's face.

Dan, let me know when your book is out!
65
It's awfully hard to give a crap about monogamy issues when I can't even find a boyfriend!
66
It's nice to read this, and coincidentally, I was thinking along similar lines recently and thought a great next step for the It Gets Better Project would be a "Let's Get Real" one. So many people (myself included) are living alternative lifestyles and not talking about it. A book would be great!
67
@64.

Deal. But only if they yell "surpriiiiiiiiise!"
68
@57 - I was a 3rd to two different older women in my early 20s. One was a woman married to a guy with a cuck fetish who knew about me. The other told me she was DADT, but I think she was really a CPOS. I was abosuletly thrilled for the hot No-Strings sex with older married women. But both women were jealous of me dating others. Go figure.
69
The inclusion of the letter from the cheater fits well with the theme of sticking it to smug monogamists. Even if you think you are in a monogamous relationship, you probably aren't. I would venture to guess the number of couples who say "I do" in their 20s and remain strictly monogamous - till death do they part - is statistically close to zero (divorce, cheating, ethical non-monogamy). But then again, I am very jaded on the topic. See @68.
70
FYI, I am the person who wrote letter 1. I know that editing is necessary and undoubtedly my letter was not clear, as I dashed it off quickly after reading Dan's request in the column, but I would not call my husband's experiences 'sex without emotion and affection.' He is friends with his FWBs - often, we both are. I think I made that point in my original letter, but it was so much longer originally that cutting was certainly necessary. We are going to the wedding of one next month, have had many visit us and one even lived with us for awhile when she ran into financial trouble. In fact, when we first talked about this, I told him that it was important to me that he treat these women with respect and affection. Just FYI....
71
@69

What a douchey thing find joy in.
72
Dan Savage must like having sex with dogs, a lot!
73
@ 13: Why feel sad for them? Do they seem sad? Seems like you may have some lingering romantic expectations that are in conflict with the reality of these people's lives.

More generally, I don't understand the apparent strong desire some people have to see nonmonogamous relationships fail. Surely enough relationships (from all across the monogamy spectrum) fail every day to supply us with more than enough such cases. If you're not directly suffering because of someone else's relationship, why would you wish them ill? It doesn't reflect well on you. Are you that insecure in your own choices?
74
@ 57: Very well put. SLLOTD comments are FULL of projection, though. It's pretty revealing at times.

@70: Thank you for clarifying!
75
#33 - I am happy to reap the benefits, because after we married 9 years ago (and after five years together with great sex) his libido basically died. I think he is probably not cut out to be monogamous with anyone. Something about knowing that I don't have to be the last woman he ever sleeps with seems to make a difference to him sexually, and while I like sex, I especially like sex with him and knowing he is happy.
76
Married man here, been happily married for about a decade now. Before we married, we lived in a poly situation with one other, whose details are not important. Unlike a lot of poly folks, long-term poly was not really our goal. Our situation allowed all of us to treat each other with respect, and love, and to allow a transition from one person to another to happen without anger or recriminations or deception. We are all very happy with the results; two people who had been in a LTR and both wanted to dissolve it, did so, without any of the horrid fallout that often comes with break-ups. And she and I started an LTR that continues to this day, again without "fighting over a woman." To this day, we're all friends. Not FB lurkers, but for-real, actual friends. That means a lot to us all.

I know, that doesn't seem very exciting -- it's not a big, long-term polyfest with lots of partners and drama. But it's what we did. We treated each other with respect, we talked openly, and we were all better for it.

Part of our personal, informal-but-serious wedding vows to each other also included the possibility of other partners, later in life, once our marriage was clearly solid. So far that has not happened, but both of us are confident that, if one of us takes a shine to someone else, that all we have to do is ask.
77
@73

Woah woah woah. I don't wish them ill at all. Nor do I wish for nonmongamous relationships to fail.

It's just hard for me to understand, that's all. I've seen a lot of people (especially women, especially young ones) talk themselves into "liking" relationships that they don't. I'm not saying that's the case with the LWs - it's just how it tends to read for me. I said upfront it's not fair or rational, it's just how they come off when I read them.

Am I overly romantic about relationships? Perhaps. Especially if someone thinks the expectation of monogamy is overly romantic.
78
I think that marriage (or LTRs) can mean different things for different people and insisting on a narrow definition for it is stupid and really nobody's business.I agree with @18 that there needs to be a distinction between a couple that's monogamous maybe 90% of the time and occasionally engages in one-offs with other people versus couples that do so frequently and/or with long-term thirds or fourths or whatever. Regardless, speaking as a woman whose experience fell into the latter category, let me tell you it can lead to bucketloads of pain. Notice that I said 'can'. While Dan has always advocated for clarity and caution when entering into these types of arrangements, I think that there are probably many who don't heed that advice or are naive and don't appreciate how things can change or how fucking complicated feelings can get. Are there more couples for whom this is a disaster (as many therapists would no doubt tell you) or more couples for whom it works great and enhances their relationship so they don't go to therapists? Who knows? This seems to be about removing any stigma attached to non-traditional relationships and I'm all for that, but it's not good/bad or right/wrong. And here's a theory that's probably going to get me into trouble with this crowd: my suspicion is that, at least as far as straight couples go, when things go south with these types of arrangements it is more often the woman who gets hurt. And should it become more of an acceptable lifestyle and society-sanctioned option, that would continue to be the case.
79
I think that marriage (or LTRs) can mean different things for different people and insisting on a narrow definition for it is stupid and really nobody's business.I agree with @18 that there needs to be a distinction between a couple that's monogamous maybe 90% of the time and occasionally engages in one-offs with other people versus couples that do so frequently and/or with long-term thirds or fourths or whatever. Regardless, speaking as a woman whose experience fell into the latter category, let me tell you it can lead to bucketloads of pain. Notice that I said 'can'. While Dan has always advocated for clarity and caution when entering into these types of arrangements, I think that there are probably many who don't heed that advice or are naive and don't appreciate how things can change or how fucking complicated feelings can get. Are there more couples for whom this is a disaster (as many therapists would no doubt tell you) or more couples for whom it works great and enhances their relationship so they don't go to therapists? Who knows? This seems to be about removing any stigma attached to non-traditional relationships and I'm all for that, but it's not good/bad or right/wrong. And here's a theory that's probably going to get me into trouble with this crowd: my suspicion is that, at least as far as straight couples go, when things go south with these types of arrangements it is more often the woman who gets hurt. And should it become more of an acceptable lifestyle and society-sanctioned option, that would continue to be the case.
80
sorry for double post :-(
81
Whatever works, but protect the kids in the family while you're at it. My parents are still married after my mom had a years-long affair. They go to church and not to the therapy they probably need. I don't know what the problems were and I don't want to know. The issue I had with the whole situation was that my mom invited her boyfriend over for a meal when I was about 12. Kids aren't stupid and I was no exception- I figured it out from the way they were acting. I think that your kids deserve not to know about your sex life. Bringing partners around, even though they don't stay the night or you never have sex at the house just isn't a good idea. The main clue I had was that my mom was really excited and in a big hurry to go see this guy who was supposed to be "just a friend". You might think you're being slick, but from someone who's been there I can tell you for certain you're not fooling anyone but yourself. Your kids probably are smarter than you think they are. If you don't keep it strictly to hotels and outside of the house, your kids will probably figure it out on their own. Don't bring your freaky friends by the house because you want for them to see how cute your kids are. Just keep it casual and outside the house, ok? That goes double if your marriage is a mess. Not judging anyone, b/c life is complicated. I don't even hold a grudge towards my parents anymore now that I've had some of my own relationships and I know how hard it can be to make things work. However- you can't keep something like that hidden for long if you bring people by the house. Be discreet!!!
82
@57 I agree that women sometimes want "a safe but basically NSA sex relationship" -- but I also believe that more female-adjuncts get emotionally hurt than male-adjuncts do. (Compare Tim@68 with wiser @78/79)

I'll disagree with wiser, however, about whether women generally get hurt more than men when relationships end -- my experience tells me that it's not so clear-cut.

@81 Great advice. Sorry you had to go through that.
83
Sex at Dawn is a great book on this I think, and I agree Monogamy is possible, and we did it for our first 15 years and were happy, but it is not natural, and I think were closer and more happy now. When the majority of relationships have cheating how can we say monogamy is the norm, apparently not. Funny thing is I have never cheated yet people would think we were strange if they knew we were soft swingers, even thought we have 20 very happy years together, but have a friend cheating and they think that is OK?
84
Dan's promotion of Sex at Dawn made me lose a lot of respect for him.

Evo psych is mostly garbage to begin with but the premise of the book is pretty deeply flawed it's hard to imagine anything other than a personal/political/social bias directing their conclusions.

I won't get started though.
85
Is not getting busted the same thing as having a committed nonmonogomous relationship ?
86
@ 77: Thanks for the clarification (and the self-awareness). Perhaps it's not so much that the expectation of monogamy is overly romantic, as it is that overly romantic expectations nearly always involve monogamy. People for whom monogamy is a conscious personal choice generally don't have much reason to expect others (aside from their partners) to follow suit. People who feel bad about non-monogamous choices made by others may have something more going on. Might be worth exploring why these feelings come up for you. Just a suggestion - I'm trying to be conscious of my reactions to other people's relationships and the reasons for them, too.

It's true that many people talk themselves into liking relationships that aren't really a good fit for them (I'm cynical enough to think that's most people, in fact). Do you ever feel that way when you hear someone talking about how happy they are with their monogamous relationship?
87
Sex at Dawn has its flaws, but there's a lot more to their argument than evo psych.
88
Yeah... There's a lot of lying in these relationships, and most seem like waspy self involved douchebags...
89
@82: just to be clear, I'm not talking about when relationships end in general; I'm talking about who gets hurt when a relationship ends as a direct result of the non-monogamy.
And I could be wrong when it comes to couples in their 20s and 30s, but the reality of western (and perhaps especially American) culture being what it is vis a vis what makes a woman sexually desirable, I find it easier to imagine middle-aged men being very enthusiastic and reaping considerable benefit if it is more the norm to accept (and perhaps expect) extra-marital sex than I can middle-aged women. To quote the classical sage D. Bowie: "Ooohh look out...pretty soon now you're gonna get older".
90
One the one hand, I'm happy for couples that have respectful open relationships, in which good feelings and communicate abound.

On the other, I feel selfishly sad that non-monogamy is starting to become more acceptable. It's hard enough to get a guy to commit to a relationship already. If you are naturally monogamous, and an average woman, I imagine in a few years it's going to be nigh impossible.
91
So I suppose "from the outside" took the opportunity to explain to her friends that their judgement is misplaced ? Lol... No of course she didn't, thus providing a huge part of why there is so much misunderstanding, and the suspicion that they may feel deep down that they are actually doing something wrong, as a compensation for making the wrong choice of a spouse and taking the easy way out.
92
@57 (tau): No doubt you're right; all of us here on Slog tend to assign our own motivations and reactions to the letter writers or those they write about. But I want to clarify my thinking, because I think you're making assumptions I didn't intend. It's not that I think women can't want or be capable of NSA sex, or that they have to be considered "sad, deprived victims who must REALLY want love and companionship instead of the discreet hot sex they claim to want." There are many shades of gray between those two extremes.

I am only thinking that the lw says the affair lasted for 4 years. It ended when *he* wanted it to end, because his wife regained her libido. He said that he looked for a partner who was in a similar situation when he started the affair. Presumably, the "other woman's" husband didn't start to satisfy her at the exact moment that the lw's wife's sexual interest resumed. The lw no longer was doing without at home and so had no more need for the other woman. Perhaps that was fine with her; perhaps not. She would hardly be in a position to object; she could hardly forbid his breaking up with her to return to his wife. As in most breakups, there is a dumper and a dumpee, and all the dumpee can ever do is graciously (or not so graciously) accept the dumper's decision.

Yes, women can want hot, NSA sex as much as men. But the fact that this affair went on for 4 years suggests a level of intimacy that is slightly deeper than a series of one-night-stands.

Before I decided to live openly and with integrity, when the years of sexual dissatisfaction had worn me to desperation, to "save my sanity," as Dan often puts it, I had an affair. I sought out a man who was in the same situation as me: in a marriage to a spouse he loved, with whom he got along very well, and had no intention of leaving, but with whom there was infrequent, passionless sex. And passionate, hot, kinky sex was all either of us wanted from the other.

Initially.

We also lasted 4 years. We ended when his guilt began keeping him awake through 75 mg. of Ambien nightly. We ended when 4 years of lying and sneaking got to us, to him especially (I turned out to be surprisingly guilt-free). Neither of us wanted to hurt our spouses, neither of whom ever found out (so I guess I could count my story in amongst those under-the-radar-non-monogamists, unknown even to the spouse). He broke things off and he broke my heart--even though I understood completely why the break was necessary. Four years is a long time to share passion with someone. Maybe other people can do it without forming emotional attachments, but I have to say, I cannot. Four years of hot sex twice a week also included four years of shared conversations, jokes, stories, and feelings. In fact, I wouldn't want to be a person who could share four years of my life with someone and *not* love him.

It wasn't that I felt used and discarded, or like a sex toy, as EricaP has suggested. Believe me, I got why he wanted, needed to end things. But it was his choice, not mine, and I mourned the end of a relationship I wasn't supposed to have been having. So, yes, I projected a bit of my own experience, as we all do, but I didn't do it in the way you seem to think I did.
93
"Perhaps it's not so much that the expectation of monogamy is overly romantic, as it is that overly romantic expectations nearly always involve monogamy."

I'd agree with you there.

In terms of my reaction to the LWs... I think the main reason I have is that first hand the only times I've seen nonmongamy done it was for the benefit of the less invested partner and at the expense of the more invested partner. I've yet to see a happy nonmonogamous couple - and I have always had sexually diverse friends from straight and vanilla to genderqueer, to kinky, to etc.

I'm not implying that happy nonmonogamous couples don't exist. I see no reason they shouldn't - nonmonogamy is the norm in many human cultures, as anyone with a cursory understanding of anthropology knows. But personal experience is always going to paint the way people see things. I believe that's why I react the way I do.

"It's true that many people talk themselves into liking relationships that aren't really a good fit for them (I'm cynical enough to think that's most people, in fact). Do you ever feel that way when you hear someone talking about how happy they are with their monogamous relationship?"

Yes, but I believe that's for other reasons. I know people who are unhappy in monogamous relationships and pretend to be happy because they're in the business of settling and afraid to be alone. It is not the monogamy that is the heart of their problem, IMHO, it's their partner. (still referring to my friends, not all unhappy monogamous people)

re: Sex at Dawn.

There does appear to be more to it than Evo Psych but since it's a "science" book written for the layperson they strip out all the nuance and uncertainty inherent in the kind of work they're doing. A scientist says "this is the kind of inferences we're making from the research we've done on non-human primates, archeology, etc". A pop-science-writer says "this is natural human behaviour and we know this because x, x and x."

That bothers me, because this science is murky at best. Sexuality is a deeply complex behaviour affected by everything from genes, culture, neurobiology, childhood experience, hormones, media exposure, mental illness, cognition, emotion, and a bathroom sink or two. To compare it to something like whether an animal is nocturnal or diurnal? That's just... well that's just whack.

I haven't read the book (don't have the time) but I have read their website. They don't even touch the possibility of sexual polymorphism which seems like an obvious theory. Look at other human behaviours. Look at the difference between Paris Hilton and Marie Curie. The difference between Anne Coulter and Martin Luther King Jr. And yet they want to tell me that sexuality is a rigidly defined set of behaviours that excludes monogamy for every single person? Get five women in a room they can't even agree what the best position is let alone the best relationship format. I think the idea that there is a "natural" sexuality is a simplistic and naive premise. And it's the basis of the whole book.

Oops. I got started.

I think they make some valid points. But they overreach with their interpretations that follow. That's just my thought though.
94
"One the one hand, I'm happy for couples that have respectful open relationships, in which good feelings and communicate abound.

On the other, I feel selfishly sad that non-monogamy is starting to become more acceptable. It's hard enough to get a guy to commit to a relationship already. If you are naturally monogamous, and an average woman, I imagine in a few years it's going to be nigh impossible."

As another naturally monogamous woman, I'm going to level with you: it already is near-impossible. I'm an excellent judge of character and I can tell the rare guys who are monogamous too... but they are rare.

If you weren't also blessed with the rainman ability to tell nonmonagmous from monogamous, you should be happy if it become "more common" which is to say "more admitted".

It's similar to being gay. Would you rather live in a world where you can marry a "straight" man who's a closted gay man, or in a world where being gay is more accepted and more "common" and you have to wait a bit longer for the real deal.
95
The bullshit detector has gone off on this week's column. Dan loves to justify non-monogamy within marriage so he makes every attempt to claim the numbers trump monogamy.

The person who claimed the "4 year affair" and didn't get caught is the worst example. If you don't want to be monogamous, discuss it with your partner. If they agree fine, if not then you have to consider ending it.

To the "legally married gays", I'm sorry but you do give all gays and lesbians a bad reputation (especially men).

I object to gays and straights making a big fuss over getting married: the gowns and tuxes never worn again, the solemn service and great big party with gifts expected; then to just jettison marriage vows for your "playtime" is just obnoxious. And if you're bringing kids into the equation it's even worse.

Spare us all the effort and just be good friends/companions/housemates who play together without slapping the marriage/life partner label on it and stuffing it in our faces for affirmation.

You can give as many other narcissistic examples you like. The fact remains that opening up your "marriage" to outside or group sex diminishes your commitment and risks losing it.

You may think that your marriage is "priority #1" but dating/having sex with others is bound to present a more attractive partner option.

Now can we please get back to REAL sex and relationship advice? Isn't that the purpose of this column?
96
@33 vennominion,

Given a collision between X8 and the "child discovery" situation, it seems like having the "cheated on" partner talk to the wounded child might alleviate the sting.

@37 nocute,

I am in a monogamous marriage, started when we were both in our (late) 20s, and we do have hot sex (...sometimes) along with the pedestrian matters of a couple raising children. It definitely hasn't always been that way; in our 40s there were real (non vacation) droughts stemming primarily from external pressures squeezing the sex out of our brains. Starting off I was the one with experience, but she is as GGG as a straight arrow can be. When she finally allowed herself to completely let go (with a monumental jet onto the hotel room floor), I felt she was (and is) magnificent. We have sex frequently now, but work hard to make chances for "special events". Like most human constructs, our LTR works because of a lot of effort and a lot of luck in overcoming the disasters in life.

Peace.
97
@95 "dating/having sex with others is bound to present a more attractive partner option." Why so? Anyone not walled off in a basement dungeon will meet other people, and may fall in love with someone else. I see no evidence that marriages are more likely to end if they open up than if they force both partners to repress the strong urges they may have. There isn't always a "more attractive partner" out there, if the two of you find you can tolerate each other's faults and still have hot sex together.
98
@89 sorry for misunderstanding your point. I agree that men are more likely to want sexual liberty, but I disagree that those men will be happier than their ex-wives if the couple gets divorced. Better off financially, yes. But not as well-off as both would have been if they stayed together. And as to which will be happier, in my experience, that's a toss-up. Men often miss their original wives, and don't like the hassles of co-parenting. So if Dan can persuade more women to stick around for a good (if monogamish) marriage, I think that's a good thing.
99
Ms Cute - Of course, your experience could differ, and you may end up somewhere quite different, but, should you end up where I am, it does not have to be dreary.
100
Following up myself @98 (sorry to go on at length), and reiterating what I said @82, I do think that women who were treated as adjuncts to a primary relationship are the ones who usually end up getting hurt most.

Which may explain why it's hard for guys in open marriages to find women to date. If everyone is treated as an integral part of the core relationship, or if each relationship is allowed to find its own path without artificial constraints from the primary relationship, that will lead to better outcomes, at least for the people who would otherwise have been seen as adjuncts. Or at least that's what I hear from poly ethicists...
101
Mr Married - Do you recall the letter from last year when an affair with a close family friend was discovered and the LW was primarily desperate to punish his daughter for her overreaction and hurting innocent people? That's what I had in mind; while finding out that Mummy is having an affair might be bad enough, it would likely be worse if it were with an honourary Auntie.
102
Ms Tamar - Thank you much for your clarification. The cuts really do your letter injustice. Shorn of the backup you provided later, it did appear to be gloating, but I am happy to accept that your letter provided context which would have made the objectionable phrase not vile.
103
32.) maybe he's just a cheater, Aaaaand maybe two wrongs don't make a right, sounds like a mysoginist coward.
104
Yeah... There's a lot of lying in these relationships, and most seem like waspy self involved douchebags...