“It is the plight of every monogamous person at one time or another to love X but want to f*ck Z. We all love X but want to f*ck Z. Z is so gleaming, so crystalline, so unlikely to bitch at you to take out the recycling.” ~ Cheryl Strayed
Sex is a splendid but complicated thing.
Depending on how you view it, it’s the thing that brings you undeniable pleasure or the thing that makes you judge yourself for wanting what you think you shouldn’t.
Monogamy, in general, has always been a topic of debate. We identify monogamy as good and philandering as bad. Sex with one person the holy grail of commitment and sleeping around as something people with commitment issues do. We put so much pressure on monogamy it’s no wonder so many of us are hesitant to proclaim exclusivity in relationships after months of dating.
Belgian psychotherapist Esther Perel talks a lot about sex and monogamy and has said that many people she works with will say to her, “I love my partner and I’m having an affair.” I have at least a dozen friends who have said the same thing to me. One recently confided, “I love my husband. We have a great sex life. But I want to explore an open marriage because I just can’t stop thinking about having sex with other people.”
Another close friend of mine who is extremely committed to her partner did start having sex with someone else. Not because she isn’t happy but because this person was opening up a part of her sexuality she didn’t even know existed.
Ester Perel talks about this in her research saying, “Even people in satisfying relationships stray—and they don’t stray because they are rejecting their relationship. They often stray because they want to reconnect with a different version of themselves. It isn’t so much that they want to leave the person that they are with as much as they want to leave the person that they have themselves become.”
Yes, sometimes we don’t like who we’ve become inside a relationship. Maybe we’re bored or not expressing our real needs, fantasies, and desires. We sometimes find ourselves ashamed of wanting something in the bedroom we haven’t wanted before and unable to ask our partner for it for fear of how they’ll react. Or we feel dead sexually inside the relationship. We feel not seen and, all of a sudden, it feels safer to explore intimacy with another person who sees us differently.
I’m not condoning affairs. I’m the product of a marriage that ended because of one and it was devastating. But since that time I’ve realized that wanting to have sex with other people while in a committed relationship doesn’t always equal an uncommitted or bad person. It equals being human. The difference between my situation and others is full transparency.
Transparency means being honest and open with your partner about your feelings, but knowing first whether that person can handle it.
If you’re in a relationship where you know your partner will be hurt or reactive if you admit to having sexual thoughts about another person, go talk about it with a friend. Sometimes we just need to process the feelings with someone we trust and don’t need to unload it onto our partner. If you think they may be open to having a threesome or an open relationship, by all means, crack open a bottle of wine and introduce the idea to your partner!
The point is, you’re not a bad person for having those feelings. You can still be madly in love with someone and find yourself fantasizing about sex with that girl at the gym or the hottie in your office who you work closely with every day. You’re a human being with human desires. Instead of repressing those feelings, find a safe place to talk about them with someone.
Just remember, sometimes the fantasy itself is better than the reality of actually doing it.
Even though “Z” isn’t bitching at you to take out the recycling, they also aren’t the person putting up with you daily and loving you through all of it anyway.