Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood. This week’s topic is Five Ways To Stay Monogamous.
I think we all know that this hasn’t exactly been the summer of matrimonial bliss. From Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to author/radio personality Sandra Tsing Loh to our about-to-possibly-be-impeached Senator Mark Sanford, marriage has taken a real kick to the groin. In all of these cases, infidelity was the alleged culprit.
Not everyone’s bothered by infidelity, of course. Newsweek recently ran a story about poly-amorous couples and how people make it work when there’s more than one partner involved.
And some people are more bothered by it than they arguably should be. In this month’s in Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan rants against the cultural trends leading to the likes of John Edwards’ mistress Rielle Hunter. (See also Amy Benfer’s deliciously scathing review in Salon.)
But assuming you count among those who are interested in sticking it out with one person, here are some tips for keeping it real – as opposed to Rielle (sorry, couldn’t resist):
1. Acknowledge That Monogamy is Totally Unnatural. Face it, it is. Which is probably why so many people have affairs. Polls show that although 90% of married people disapprove of extramarital relationships, 15% of wives and 25% of husbands have experienced extramarital intercourse. This doesn’t mean monogamy isn’t noble, enviable, worthwhile, efficient, healthy, and any other adjectival “good” you wish to throw at it. But it is not a natural state of affairs. So begin by acknowledging that with your partner and you’ll be way ahead of the game.
2. Choose a Partner With Whom You Share Many Interests. In my humble opinion, one of the main reasons people wander is that they don’t have enough in common with their partners/spouses to begin with. While you don’t need to have completely overlapping interests (see below), with so many things clamoring for your attention – work, children, aging parents – you do need to enjoy doing the same things in your free time.
3. Keep a Private Space. At the same time, don’t suffocate one another. It’s healthy to have your own space and to enjoy the freedom to pursue interests that your partner doesn’t share. My husband likes watching concert videos. He also enjoys eating sushi. I like pop-tarts and going to musical theatre (though not at the same time). We don’t try to do those things together. Thank God.
4. Develop an Adult Crush. This is perhaps the best recipe for staying faithful. Just as you had crushes in junior high, it’s OK to have them in adulthood as well. It’s a safe way to feel like you’re still alive outside of your main relationship. I used to have a crush on my son’s first pediatrician. These days, it’s a staffer at one of the local book stores. I only see him once every other month or so, but there’s always a small frisson when we exchange pleasantries (most recently, over his hatred – and my love – for The Sound Of Music.) And because I only see him every so often, and don’t even know his name, it’s no big deal. Plus, my husband knows all about him.
5. Avoid Situations That Allow for Infidelity. If you really don’t want to have an affair, don’t put yourself in a situation that allows one to occur. I have a good friend who developed a crush on a bartender. She found (per #4) that she was frequenting his bar more and more on her own to chat with him. Then one day she actually brought her laptop to the bar and started working there. And at that point she realized “What am I doing? I’m working in a bar!” She fled the scene never to return. Good for her.
Image: Rings/Yüzük by Caucus via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.