The New Monogamy
As we’re into the 21st Century all the diversified groups of relationships have surfaced and I believe are here to stay. Heterosexual relationships, Homosexual relationships, Traditional Monogamous relationships (Closed); Open Marriages; Semi-Open Marriages; Polyamorous Marriages/Relationships; and Polysexual Relationships. People are no longer living in the past or “dark ages” where one way of living was the only or right way of living. With the new Defense of Marriage Act, (DOMA) Laws being passed throughout the Country Same-sex marriage has been legalized in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, The District of Columbia and five Native American tribes. These populations will continue to fight for rights to normalize and equalize their standards of cohabitation. I would hope there are open minded Counselors such as myself to help guide these Couples to develop and negotiate Agreements that help their relationships sustain the diversity of their non-traditional choices.
Developing New Monogamy Agreements (discussed below) offer realistic solutions for moving past infidelity and the immobilization it tends to create within the old relationship. That’s right, the “Old Relationship.” What is needed now is a “New Relationship.” One filled with practical guidance, checklists of wants and don’t wants, and candid questionnaires that promote validation and honesty.
New Monogamy Agreements help you communicate your needs effectively so that both you and your partner can start the work of building a new relationship based on what is Ideal for the two of you. It is an agreement that is unique to your relationship’s needs. After an affair, it’s normal to feel confusion, betrayal, and hurt, but if you are both committed to working together, then you can emerge from this experience with a renewed and even more rewarding relationship.
Has Marriage Become Obsolete?
We are in the 21st Century. We don’t have the marriage our parents’ or our grandparents’ had. There are less people married now since 1985. Most people marry later in life and 40% of Americans think marriage is obsolete. People married much younger 60 years ago, in their early teens and had a shorter life expectancy. Longevity of marriages in the 20th Century averaged 10 – 15 years at the most. The average lifespan for men in 1940 was 60 and for women 65. Today everyone is living longer. According to the National Center for Health Statistics’ 2011 study, the average lifespan for men is now 76 and for women 81. The divorce rate is at 50% for first marriages, 67% for second marriages, and 73% for third marriages. About 45 – 60% of partners will cheat – women 45% and men 60% (Atwood and Schwartz 2002). These percentages aren’t accurate as people tend to lie to researchers. According to Janis Spring, author of After The Affair, affairs affect 1 out of 2.7 couples, which is almost 1/3 of us all.
But yet, people are still wired to pair and bond. Something has shifted and continues to shift. What is needed and wanted at this time is to make marriage more appealing. The “Romeo” period has come to an end. There is no precedent for maintaining desire.
Is Monogamy Even Possible For The Average Person?
According to Dr. Tammy Nelson, author of The New Monogamy, most material on affair recovery assumes infidelity is a symptom of some fundamental problem in the marriage or committed relationship. What if monogamy isn’t even possible for the average person? Ten percent of affairs last only one day. Another ten percent last less than a month. The rest typically last a year or two. Few last longer than four years. So, the question is if affairs last an average of three years at the most, do they even work?
Infidelity doesn’t have to be the end of the road. It may feel that way, but couples can and do find their way to an ultimately deeper and more intimate bond. After infidelity, individuals feel a range of emotions and have difficulty regaining trust and intimacy with their partners. Their pain is understandable, but there are ways that can heal and create a better, stronger, and more honest connection.
Some Reasons Why Affairs Happen
People try to get out of relationships before they even know they want to get out.
It’s a passive-aggressive way for the other person to take action in ending the relationship.
Another reason people have affairs is because of the “Person” they become within that affair. They create a part of themselves that they feel they cannot integrate into the marriage/relationship. Those people say they can be more themselves: alive, charming, sexy. They can’t be that part of “Me” with “You.” So, the dilemma is how the person in the affair can integrate that part of themselves into the relationship.
People typically come into counseling with me after about 10-12 years of marriage, and again after about 16 – 20 years. Most people get divorced after the children are about 7 years old as the children are able to take care of themselves by this age. Becoming parents and the companionship of raising a family can create distance between a couple that causes the Erotic Energy to be lost. They become roommates. Some couples tell me, “frankly they can find better roommates”.
On a cultural level, society is challenging monogamy more than ever because of the high infidelity rate. Infidelity is created by opportunity. These days the opportunity has increased 100 fold. This is the first time in history that you can cheat on your partner while lying in bed next to them as we utilize the Internet and other computerized gadgets.
How we all think about monogamy is completely different from one another. There are implicit and explicit assumptions we all possess. It’s the implicit assumptions that we don’t talk about that are the ones usually betrayed. An example would be a husband who watches pornography on the Internet and masturbates from time to time. He doesn’t think he is being unfaithful. This is an implicit assumption that this behavior is acceptable. The wife, on the other hand, thinks differently and believes he has committed a betrayal. These implicit betrayals don’t come up until there is some kind of crisis.
In Affair Recovery it’s important to assess where the Couple is in the process:
1. Crisis or “freaking out” phase. Couple hasn’t made a decision about their relationship right now. They’re in crisis management. Be calm, and don’t make any major decisions right now.
2. Insight phase. The Couple starts to say this was “Our Affair,” and has honest, empathetic, and kind conversations with each other.
3. Vision phase. The decision has been made to stay together. What is our New Monogamy Agreement and how do we create it?
Remember, after an affair the thought of changing rules to allow for more fluidity may seem as if it could only create more instability. It may feel like you are creating a slippery slope that could lead to another betrayal or even the end of your relationship. This is why the idea of evolving agreements is very important to the concept of the New Monogamy. Your lives are dynamic and constantly changing. So are your expectations and needs for your relationship. Your agreement needs to be developed to work for you, and revisited and tweaked every 6 months or yearly.
The Monogamy Agreement
So what is a Monogamy Agreement? They are explicit agreements that you and your partner discuss and choose based on each of your individual needs within the relationship. The agreement is an obligation that you willingly support your relationship and want to meet both your partner’s and your own needs.
This can mean agreeing on a Traditional Monogamous relationship (Closed); Open Marriage; Semi-Open Marriage; Polyamorous Marriage; or Polysexual Marriage. Each to be discussed with an open-minded Counselor whose goal is to guide the Couple to develop and negotiate an agreement that works for both of them.
In this Agreement, it is essential to include discussions about thoughts, feelings, desires, arousals, fantasies, flirtation, emotion, connection, sex, wants, don’t wants, love, and detachment. Like any agreement, it is good to formalize it. Problems may arise at the beginning. Having open and honest communication about the snags in moving forward will continue to reconnect and bond the two of you in becoming closer with one another and building more intimacy. It doesn’t matter what your monogamy becomes. Rather, the emphasis is on how you feel and talk about it. That’s what creates the bond that binds. And in Affair Recovery trust isn’t the only thing that is needed to repair that bond. Developing a new agreement that works for the two of you for moving forward will ensure greater success.
I look forward to any comments. Thank you.