“You are obliged to tell the people you’re sleeping with whether or not you’re sleeping with them exclusively. There are no exceptions to this rule. Ever. For anyone. Under any circumstances.
People have the right to know if the people they are f*cking are also f*cking other people. This is the only way the people fucking people who are fucking other people can make emotionally healthy decisions about their lives.”
~ Cheryl Strayed
Those were the first words that came to my mind when I read Cheryl Strayed’s book, Brave Enough.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
We are all obligated to be honest with the people we are sleeping with about whether we’re sleeping with other people, especially if we have an ongoing sexual relationship with them.
What continues to fascinate me is how rare it is nowadays to find a single person out there willing to be monogamous, even in the beginning stages of a relationship.
Isn’t that kind of the exciting part? We’re literally in the “honeymoon” phase of things—even if we haven’t quite defined what this “thing” is.
It’s new. It’s still hot. It’s full of sensuality, wonder and exploration. We’re just beginning to explore each other’s body and mind, learning what turns the other on, trying new things, and developing some degree of trust and intimacy.
Whether we’re just “hooking up” or considering the possibility that this could turn into something more, is it really asking too much for us to hold off on sleeping with anyone else for a little while while we figure this out?
What do we really feel we’re missing out on?
The experience of rolling around naked with somebody else we barely know because the odds of it being more fulfilling than the person we’re already sleeping with are so much greater?
I don’t consider myself old-fashioned, but I’ve never seen being monogamous to one person—while I’m dating them or even simply “hooking up”—as some huge sacrifice I need to make.
Maybe it’s because I don’t jump into bed with just anyone. I have to have a genuine connection, some intense chemistry and a pretty strong degree of trust with a person before I share my body with them.
And the truth is, those three things together—connection, chemistry and trust—are hard to come by in one person. So if I’m sleeping with you, it means something.
I get that I’m in the minority here.
Sexual monogamy is a hot topic these days, because so many of us find it difficult to do. We live in a time of sexual liberation, social media channels that expose us to hordes of attractive people we wouldn’t meet under ordinary circumstances, and more widespread acceptance that having sex with lots of people is not just okay, but the ultimate goal.
Opinions from men and women vary on whether being monogamous to one person is realistic anymore. These were just a few of the comments I heard when I asked the question:
“I definitely think it’s realistic. Personally, I couldn’t take the stress of having to juggle multiple women when I can just be with one who gets me. I’m not saying I don’t look at other women and sometimes think about what it would be like to be with them. But I’d rather have that sense of security and trust with one person. For me, it wouldn’t be worth it to give that up just to have sex with somebody else.”
“I don’t think you can get everything from one person. I think it’s unrealistic to put all of our sexual satisfaction on one person. Human beings are wired to need variety, and I think even when we choose to be monogamous because we’re taught it’s the right thing to do, most of us would sleep with someone else if we knew we wouldn’t get caught.”
“If I’m perfectly honest, I think we’re all just animals programmed to procreate. As a man, I don’t think it’s something we’re wired for, but I do feel that it’s sustainable if you’re both open about your desires for other men/women. It doesn’t mean you have to act on them, but being able to be honest with each other about those desires is I think the key to staying monogamous to each other, rather than having to repress those feelings.”
“My parents have been together for 45 years, and back in their day, it wasn’t just the norm but something they actually wanted with each other. The level of intimacy, friendship, trust and commitment they have in their marriage set an example for my siblings and I, and we all wanted what they had. I think if you want that type of intimacy, you don’t even think about being with other people.”
I’m probably going to ruffle a few feathers by saying this, but there’s a big difference between people staying monogamous in relationships that are brand new and couples that are married or in long-term relationships.
As I see it, if we can’t stay monogamous to one person in the beginning stages of the relationship (for me that’s the first six months to a year), we have to take a look at ourselves and ask if we have intimacy issues.
At this stage in the game, we’re not yet bored. We hopefully haven’t grown tired of having sex with the other person, because we’re still exploring each other sexually.
And we’re probably not dealing with the level of stress most married couples are wrestling with that causes them to seek escape and sex outside their marriage.
When we refuse to commit to having sex with just one person, it’s never about them at all. It’s about our relationship with ourselves.
Are we alway chasing “something better?”
Do we feel we’ll “miss out” if we don’t have the freedom to do what we want the moment we want to do it?
Do we believe it won’t be there down the line if we still want it?
Are we afraid to allow someone to get too close to us out of fear that they may see the real us?
Do we think we’ll lose control of our own emotions if we spend time with and sleep with just one person?
Are we afraid to fall in love?
Do we have triggers around commitment? Do we believe we can’t do it because we’ve never done it before?
To those who really feel we can’t stay monogamous while dating, I challenge you to ask yourself those questions to see if they resonate. Is there any truth to them?
For anyone who is or has been married before, it’s a whole different ball game. It’s completely natural at some point in the marriage to think about having sex with somebody else.
No matter how much we love each other or how great our sex life might be, all marriages hit a rut.
The stress of finances, raising kids, living with each other day in and day out, unexpected changes in our health or our jobs, relocating to a new home or just the two of us changing and growing over the years into different people can create the desire to escape into the arms and bed of another person.
In these longer term relationships, is monogamy realistic?
Does it come easily for any of us?
Why? Because we’re human. And human beings long to feel seen and heard. Every day of our lives. And when we’re doing life with our partner and our mind is on other things, or we’re stressed out about work or the new baby coming, or we’re just shifting and growing and changing and trying to figure ourselves out—sometimes we stop paying attention the way we should.
And don’t see our partner anymore.
And sometimes they feel they aren’t being heard.
And this is when staying monogamous becomes a challenge. When it’s not so black and white. When it pushes us against what we may believe is our own moral compass. When we realize we have a choice to make.
Because realistic or not, at the end of the day monogamy is nothing more than a choice.
The question is, what will we choose?
Author: Dina Strada
Editor: Toby Israel