Tag Archives: amy benfer

Tips For Adulthood: Five Ways To Stay Monogamous

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.

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Friday Pix: Recommended Reading for the Weekend

This Friday I point you to some engaging reading around  the blogosphere:

1. Before I moved to the UK three years ago, I’d never read The London Review of Books. Like its cousin on the other side of the Atlantic – The New York Review of Books – it just seemed too daunting a task to squish into my overly-crowded week. But then a friend gave me a gift subscription and I started to read it. Sure, it has its share of slightly-too-long reviews of books you’ve never heard of. But it also has some real gems that are well worth the effort. In last week’s issue, I was especially taken with Andrew O’Hagan’s analysis of car culture in America, as well as Jonathan Raban’s expat take on the expenses scandal roiling British parliament.

2. I am a HUGE fan of writer/performance artist/radio commentator Sandra Tsing Loh. (Never read Mother On Fire? Get thee to a bookstore!) So I was saddened to read her account of her divorce in this month’s Atlantic, which is at times funny, moving and just plain sad. Read Salon’s Amy Benfer’s thoughtful piece on why Loh’s fans will really take this split to heart.

3. Lest Loh’s article inclines you to give up entirely on marriage or long-term partnership, have a look at Emily Yoffe’s brutally honest but uplifting essay about her husband’s first wife in Double X.

4. Finally, I was delighted to happen upon this blog – The Frugal Chariot – which highlights the author’s favorite books, music, films and plays. Just eyeballing the selections, I know he’ll have some good pix for me.

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Over-Parenting: We're All Getting It Wrong

There’s been lots of chatter this week in response to Lisa Belkin’s Sunday Times article announcing the end of “over-parenting.”

Her basic point is that after more than a decade of fetishizing, second-guessing and micro-managing our parenting, we seem to have hit a new phase marked by slow parenting, bad parenting and free-range parenting. Even the once sacrosanct area of breastfeeding is now open to question.

And at least some people are cheering this news.

For some, like Salon’s Amy Benfer, the so-called helicopter parenting trend fostered competition between kids of affluent parents while ignoring the basic needs of the rest.

For others, like Free Range Blogger Lenore Skenazy, over-parenting  infantalized adults while at the same time rendering them nervous wrecks.

I know that at least one friend of mine will be jumping up and down with joy. This mother of three recently wrote me a note saying that while she objects to book burning in principle, she’d make an exception for What To Expect When You’re Expecting…in fact she’d host the barbecue in her own back yard.

I myself will own up to having read the odd parenting manual over the past eight and a half years. I’ve also indulged in the occasional bad parent essay.

But the single best piece of parenting advice I ever got came from my first pediatrician. I went into his office one day stressing out for the 695th time about something I was sure I was doing wrong with my (then) newborn son.  He looked me in the eye and said, “Of course you’re doing it wrong! We all are. We just won’t know it for another 50 years.”

I liked this advice so much that I asked my husband if, God forbid, something horrible should ever befall him, he’d be OK with me marrying this guy. He said yes. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of telling this to the good Doctor, who wisely responded: “OK, but we better not tell my wife.”

*****

Love the Life section at Salon.com. I’m a regular.

Image: Mommy Sandwich – Week 2 my kids and me by Photogra Tree via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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