Thursday, December 3, 2009
Is Monogamy Too Much To Ask For in a Marriage? by Todd Creager
Tiger Woods had a squeaky clean image. He is tremendously talented and tremendously rich. He is married to a beautiful woman and has a great family. What would make him sabotage all that for one or more extramarital affairs? Some people say that it is just human nature to cheat; isn’t variety the spice of life? As a marriage and sex therapist practicing for quite a long time, I could tell you that I do believe that variety is the spice of life and that it probably is a natural human instinct to want to have sexual relationships with people other than one’s spouse. When you have a celebrity such as Tiger Woods, who is probably a constant object of desire for beautiful women, how could he resist this temptation? And look at the statistics; the latest one I read was that 60 % of men and 40% of women have some kind of extramarital affair in their lifetime. (Probably a rough estimate) So-back to the question that is the title of this blog- Is monogamy too much to ask for in a marriage?
NO!!! It is not too much to ask for in a marriage. However, there is a catch!
As I write about in my book, "The Long, Hot Marriage" we need to evolve beyond our ancestors (parents. grandparents, etc.) and learn the principles of creative monogamy. Creative monogamy involves:
1) Creating a strong emotional connection with our mate.
2) Being honest about our inevitable and natural ambivalence about being totally faithful.
The ideal is to treat our partner as our confidante even about matters that may push his or her insecurity buttons such as attraction to other members of the opposite sex.
3) Continually taking risks in and out of the bedroom with our partner and making sure that we don't slip into "deadening" roles and stuck patterns.
Creating a strong emotional connection involves taking the time to slow down and communicate with your partner. You need to develop the emotional muscle necessary to listen without being defensive as well as learn to express your feelings, thoughts and desires in a non-accusatory style that encourages your partner to listen. This takes practice and since we have had little or no role models for this skill, it is sometimes helpful to get a relationship therapist or coach to assist. An attitude of interest and curiosity towards your partner has to be cultivated.
Most if not all married people have ambivalence about being faithful. There is that part of us that wants to be loyal and make the marriage work. But it is totally natural to be attracted to members of the opposite sex . It is ridiculous to think that we could make ourselves not feel these feelings just like it would be just as ridiculous to not feel hungry after a full night’s sleep. Most partners try to hide these parts of themselves for fear of angering or hurting the spouse. This “hiding” actually increases the chance of infidelity since it starts to disrupt the emotional connection between the couple. When these more challenging conversations take place, it paves the way for increased acceptance of ALL of who you and your partner are.
If you are honest with yourself, any area of life that has been successful for you has been at least in part due to you risking in some way. Your marital life is no different. If you stay too long in your comfort zone, your relationship dries up. Dare to be different. Share another side of yourself. Try something new in the bedroom. Be playful and adventurous. Be willing to look silly. Don’t play it too safe. Be willing to get rejected by your spouse. Don’t protect yourself too much. Open your heart.
Marriage is not for the feint of heart. The couple needs to develop the emotional muscle to create a strong emotional bond. They need to courageously share all of who they are, not just the wonderful, loyal side but the sides that may evoke insecurity. Lastly, it takes courage to consistently risk in and out of the bedroom. Doing the three steps I outlined, makes marriage and faithfulness an exciting adventure. Of course, there are no guarantees when it comes to interpersonal relationships. However, if you build the kind of relationship that you could by doing what I am writing about, it will be far easier to say “No!” to an exciting impulse that could lead to infidelity. The kind of relationship you would be building as well as how you would feel about yourself and your mate, just wouldn’t be worth the risk.