NOTE TO READERS: I apologize for the paucity of blog topics lately. I had a long blog written about INSIDE OUT, the movie, and deleted it when I realized that there are better and much more succinct reviews out there by the dozens. Go see it. Twice. It's that good.
Then I had a blog written about work, and it crossed some lines. (No worries, I enjoy my job and I'm doing well there, but there are some things, as there are in any job, which make me want to scream. I vented, then realized publishing my vent might be a colossal mistake, so I deleted that too.)
Now we have Ashley Madison.com being hacked, and it shoved forward a post I was going to make next month. I PROMISE that whatever the next blog is about, it won't be love and relationships, okay?
Thirty-seven million would-be adulterers.
One in five residents of Ottawa.
I wonder if they're clenching just a little right now.
I want to get this right out front where nobody can miss it. I DO NOT SUPPORT CHEATING. Ever. No matter what. Are you not getting enough sex? Are you not getting the right kind of sex? Are you bored and looking for an adventure? Here are your options:
1) SUCK IT UP. Lots of people do this, you can too. Communicate: if that doesn't get you anywhere (and sometimes it doesn't ), consider just dealing with it. You can still have your fantasies, and some fantasies (trust me) shouldn't be realities.
2) BREAK IT UP. Then again, some fantasies should be. But do your spouse a favour before you act on a fantasy: remove him or her from the harm that acting on it WILL do.
3) BRING IT UP. Hey, if your relationship is strong, you're not going to invoke divorce by asking. You never know, your spouse might actually say sure. Even if not, it might jump-start the serious discussion you need to have if you're actually considering cheating. If you can't casually bring up the possibility, my contention is that your relationship isn't as strong as you think it is. More on this in a second.
4) FUCK IT UP and cheat. He/she will find out--all it takes is one little argument with your fling and you're sunk. And if you cheat, I'm not at all sorry to say, you are a jerk who deserves everything that will happen when your partner does find out.
Now, the disclosure that Ashley Madison.com--a site whose whole purpose is infidelity--has thirty seven millions members suggests to me that there are a hell of a lot of people who only pay lip service to monogamy. Again, I am not defending adultery. However, there is no denying it happens. A lot. Given that fact, it might be worth talking about ethical alternatives.
WHY DO PEOPLE CHEAT?
It's a given that people who cheat are unhappy in their relationships. Like most unexamined "givens", this one is not necessarily correct. Up to three quarters of cheating husbands said they did not have "lots of marital problems" prior to their affair in one study; more than half said they were happy with their wives. Here's something similar about cheating women: 67% claim to be happily married, and NOT ONE had any desire to leave her husband.
For both genders (and both genders cheat roughly as often) the primary reasons for infidelity are the same: sexual dissatisfaction, emotional dissatisfaction, or just plain boredom. It's important to note that many people in otherwise happy marriages are sexually dissatisfied. Emotional dissatisfaction is harder to square (to me) with happiness in a marriage, but far from impossible: there are, after all, more than enough people who lack the tools to give their partners emotional validation...which doesn't mean they don't love those partners, or that they aren't loved in return. And boredom is--let's face it--near universal.
These are excuses, not reasons, to cheat. There is no justification for deceiving your partner. (Am I making myself clear, here?) See my four options, above...and let's zero in on #3. If you are one of those cheaters, or would-be cheaters, who is happily partnered, that's the one you want.
I've had a couple of people ask me, in the wake of the polyamory-themed posts I've been putting out, how exactly to get into this. One of them has been cheated on and another is thinking about cheating, and I warned both of them that polyamory is virtually impossible if you're coming into it without complete trust in your partner.
Despite the popular misconception that polyamory is a license to cheat, really, the only thing polyamory and cheating have in common is the presence of an 'extra' partner or partners. Polyamory is fundamentally about trust and communication, and cheating undermines both, often fatally. (Again: many people cheat because it's less scary than talking about their relationship...sad, really, because 'talking about your relationship' should be the default position.) Basically, before you can transition from cheating to polyamory, you must own up to the affair--no shifting the blame, no "if you were more ____, I wouldn't have done this" (that's the mark of an unhappy cheater that should have chosen option 2). No relationship was ever saved by adding people to it.
If you're one of those "happy cheaters"...odds are pretty good you won't be so happy when your mate finds out. And if you claim to be polyamorous in your defence, I will find you and strangle you. If you have already cheated, in other words, it is almost certainly too late.
If you are thinking you might be cut out for ethical non-monogamy. the first thing to do is to figure out what sort best suits you. There are several different kinds. Most of the varieties cited here I'd call variants of polyamory, but there's also swinging and the catch-all 'open relationship' that tend to center primarily on sex. If you're craving sexual variety in an otherwise strong relationship, that might be your best option. If it's (additional) emotional validation you're looking for, that's more the polyamory end of the spectrum. And I would caution you: loving more than one person is easy. Most people can do it. What's harder, for most, is allowing their partners the same. Mono/poly relationships do exist and can work...but it takes a truly extraordinary amount of effort on both parts. The monogamist has to come to terms with a whole different mode of thinking; the polyamorist has to make even more of an effort than usual to bridge what can be a yawning chasm of emotional expectations.
Step 2 is step 3 up there: bring it up with your partner. If you can't do this, I'm sorry to say, but your options are restricted to sucking it up or breaking it up. Ethical non-monogamy and especially polyamory involves lots and lots of honest communication. Much of it, ideally, should take place before additional partners enter the picture. Eva and I discussed this, on and off, for almost fifteen years before we finally jumped. Not saying it takes anything like that long, but you have to build your relationship up good and strong.
Of course, this is assuming your partner is amenable. Many won't be, and than you're back to sucking it up or breaking it up. But if the door is open a crack, you're looking at lots and lots more communication before you do anything. You need to talk out various scenarios to get a handle on what makes you jealous and how you might process your jealousy (because unless you are some sort of superhuman, you will feel it).
The single best resource for open relationships of any kind is a book called Opening Up, by Tristan Taormino. I used to correspond with Taormino through the USENET newsgroup alt.polyamory back in the early nineties. Her book is an excellent primer on the different kids of ethical non-monogamy, what's involved in each, and how to start out.
An alternative is The Ethical Slut, by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt. This leans a little bit more poly, but at the same time it's as if it's written by your earth motherly aunt: highly entertaining. I was personally put off by a rather evangelical tone, but if you can get past that there's a lot of good advice in here.
And of course there's More Than Two by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert. A link to their website is in my sidebar and has been since about thirty seconds after I finished their book. It's truly a goldmine of practical relationship-building and it's the only polyamory-themed book I've read that I believe monogamous people would get a lot out of.
Those two steps will keep you going for quite awhile. I'm at firstname.lastname@example.org...feel free to email me if you have any questions. You will find me sympathetic, wise (I hope) and highly discreet.
I'll tell you this: nobody's going to hack me.