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Infidelity, Commitment, Intimacy, Etc, Etc…

February 1, 2012

It’s no surprise that I would dream about infidelity, since that’s what I wanted to discuss today. I dislike that kind of dream; that lingers and taints your mood for the day. It wasn’t a happy dream considering I was the one being cheated on, which I assume is never a pleasant experience.

Have I ever been cheated on? I don’t know, I don’t think so. Unless, you count that failed attempt at an open relationship; that wasn’t an open relationship at all, but a failure to commit, or a fear of it anyhow. At the very least an attempt, on his part, to distance himself from the intensity of his feelings.

For an open relationship to work, or polyamory if you prefer, you need a strong sense of commitment with your primary partner. A commitment so strong and an ease of communication that defies jealousy or any fear of loss. At least, that’s what I think. I’m sure it’s not always easy in practice, but there has to be a readiness from both partners to face all those things together… not just a willingness to fuck as many people as you want, because you can.

I like the idea of polyamory, in theory. In practice, I don’t think I’ve ever been secure enough in any one relationship to be able to deal with it in a healthy way. People who do constantly amaze me.

There are many forms of relationships and the most common of those is monogamy, but with monogamy, for the unlucky few (or many, I really don’t know), comes infidelity.

My parents were together for 15 years, never married, had two children and eventually separated after my father cheated on my mother. I was six years old at the time, so I don’t really remember what their relationship was like before the break, before we found my Dad in bed (or office floor to be more precise) with his mistress. The funny thing is, that my Dad’s relationship with his mistress turned out to be the most stable example of a long-term relationship in my life.

After 24 years, they’re still together. It’s not a perfect relationship by any means, but there you have it; my primary examples of love, monogamy, and infidelity.

I’ve never cheated on anyone. I couldn’t live with the secret and I could never hurt someone like that. Not that I’ve never felt desire for another person while being in a relationship, but I’ve never acted on it. I learned that lesson from my parents.

What I also learned from them, at the beginning, when I was younger, is that I never wanted to get married. I never wanted what happened to them to happen to me.  I never wanted to hurt like that, but as I grew older I realized that I did in fact want commitment in my life. I wanted (want) someone to love me so much they say “yup, you’re the one for me.” The institution of marriage being what it is, I prefer the idea of being proposed to, that willingness to commit, as opposed to a piece of paper. But, ya, that’s something I would like.

Although, I’ve never cheated on anyone, I have been the other woman… so to speak. I’ve never had an ongoing affair with anyone, but when I was younger I slept with my fair share of guys who were in committed monogamous relationships.

My view was that if I didn’t know the girl who was being cheated on, if she wasn’t my friend, if she was just this non-entity, I wasn’t betraying anyone. I was in the clear, morally speaking. I had no reason to feel guilty, because I hadn’t made any vows or broken any. You’d think that with my parents history, I would abhor the “other woman,” but I didn’t. I didn’t care. Not really, but these were all instances of one night stands or casual sex, except for the first guy I slept with who had a girlfriend at the time and who I thought I was in love with, but that’s another story.

I did learn something from that first time, though. I would never start a relationship with someone I really liked, with someone I want a future with, while they are committed to someone else. At least, I wouldn’t fuck them, or I like to believe I wouldn’t.

I have this clear memory of standing on a street corner with a guy I really liked when I was about nineteen. We were walking home after a night of bar hopping, and this street corner was where we would part ways. He had a girlfriend, but it was clear we didn’t want to leave each other’s company. My apartment was much closer and I told him he could crash at my place instead of walking all the way to his. I also told him that I wouldn’t fuck him, because he was seeing someone.

That particular caveat was agreed upon and we headed to my place. Even though, we didn’t fuck we slept together in my single bed listening to Bob Marley sing Soul Rebel, on repeat, from the tiny speakers I had attached to the Walkman a friend of mine had given me after I had sold him my stereo for rent money and food.

We fell asleep like that in my tiny bed, his arms around me, his lips against my hair where he had kissed me goodnight.

It was nice. The next morning not so much. When we woke up the next day, there was this look of guilt on his face I’ll never forget. We hadn’t fucked, but the night had been intimate nonetheless, that’s when I realized that intimacy can be a form of infidelity, not just sex. Sometimes, even when you’re not “technically” cheating on someone, your feelings can be a bigger betrayal.

At least, that’s how it felt at the time, but you can’t realistically expect that your partner will never share intimacy with another person. It might hurt, but it’s not a fair expectation. Just like relationships, there are different kinds of intimacy; with friends, family, and even strangers. It’s about being open to a shared moment, but just like that it can all disappear in a blink of an eye.

The next day, the boy who had kissed my hair before falling asleep shut down completely. He couldn’t get out of my apartment fast enough, we might as well have fucked, I would have felt just as cheap watching him run out of there like being in my vicinity was robbing him of air.

I’d like to finish (this really long post) with some sort of inspirational statement, like… relationships have always appeared to me as one of those things that are incredibly complicated and incredibly simple at the same time, and despite all I’ve said so far, or maybe because of all of it, we should strive for genuine moments of openness, of intimacy in all our relationships, because at the end of the day being present, being there is what truly matters… but I’d much rather hear (err read) your thoughts on all of this. Go, discuss! Infidelity, commitment, monogamy, polyamory, intimacy; let’s have at it in the comment section.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. ladyyaga permalink
    February 1, 2012 1:52 pm

    I once went home with a guy (can’t remember what happened…probably sex); I woke up the next morning with a wicked hangover, suddenly aware of his girlfriend’s stuff all over everything. My reaction was 1) yuck 2) I wouldn’t have done this if I’d known and 3) this man is scum. I find this sort of thing more reprehensible than unintentionally falling in love with someone else and having some overlap.

  2. February 1, 2012 1:59 pm

    True, it’s really not cool to NOT tell someone you are in a relationship even if it is just a drunken bar pick-up. I remember going home with a guy, now mind you I had known this guy for ages, but hadn’t kept in touch… Anyhow, while we were having sex, I noticed he was wearing a necklace that spelled out a woman’s name, so I asked who’s so-and-so? To which he responded He, “my girlfriend.” I promptly removed my body from his and went home.

  3. February 1, 2012 2:10 pm

    Oh something else, I wanted to talk about, but forgot to mention… is the idea of forgiving someone who cheats on you. When I was younger and my ideas on relationships were much more black and white, I would think that the second someone would cheat on me, I would be out there door, but I now think that that would be much harder to do. I suppose it all depends on the actual relationship and it’s hard to tell how you’d react to something if it happened for real.

  4. February 1, 2012 4:34 pm

    I’ve been the other person unintentionally, but in those cases I didn’t even find out about the infidelity I’d been an accessory to until long after. However, I have cheated. The only reason I really did it is because I thought it would serve as a final end to an unhealthy relationship. I did it, moved out my things and gave my breakup spiel. Then, when he began to object like he had before I told him what I’d done. He walked away and I was relieved. He came back though, prepared to forgive and I had to explain that I didn’t want or need that forgiveness. It was a desperate means to an end, just a very inefficient means.

    There are a lot of reasons to cheat or not cheat. I feel like the “cheater’s” actions in that respect says more about the relationship between them and their partner than anything about anyone else involved.

  5. February 1, 2012 4:53 pm

    I would say that it really depends on the situation. I’m not comfortable saying sweeping generalizations about why people cheat. Sure, like you said it has a lot to say about the relationship of the couple involved, or at the very least the person who does the cheating, but it’s hard to judge without knowing the context. I understand why my father cheated. He told me about it when I was much older and he explained how he felt at the time, but I think there are probably better ways to deal with the primary relationship or whatever is going on than cheating. I don’t know, we do a lot of different things in our lives and for many different reasons.. I just know that it would hurt to be cheated on or to cheat on someone else. Sometimes things end well and sometimes they don’t. I’m sure it’s also difficult for the third party when emotions are involved…. It’s kind of a tough subject to address in one blog post.

  6. February 1, 2012 7:39 pm

    (in response to Olga’s second comment) I agree….things certainly become less black & white as you get older, and have more experience of your own fallibility. I think Dan Savage’s advocacy of “monogamish” relationships is interesting.

  7. February 1, 2012 7:47 pm

    What’s “monogamish”? I don’t really read Dan Savage all that much…

  8. February 2, 2012 9:45 am

    It’s a mostly monogamous relationship with some understanding that there can be outside sex– usually the partners have to tell each other first.

  9. February 2, 2012 9:58 am

    Margaret Cho is probably the most famous and most open monogamish person I know of. She has a routine where she says, “Let me tell you the secret to a good, long-lasting marriage. You have to fuck a lot of other people. It really does take a village.” (can’t find the clip, sadly, but I think it was from “Beautiful”.

  10. February 2, 2012 11:18 am

    ladyyaga’s last three comments make sense to me! Well, up to a point.
    As you well know Olga, phil and i have been there and got the teeshirt. We tried it after 19 years together and found it to be a rewarding and satisfying experience. Yes, the novelty wore off after five years, more because the couple we swung with had a problem (the wife developed breast cancer, that really dampened everyone’s ardor) than downright boredom. And to be honest, Phil & i rediscovered that missing spark anyway, so there was no point in carrying on, but the fact remains that as long as the protagonists approach things in an spirit of honesty and a desire to give oneanother the gift of pleasure rather that just satisfying their own primal urges, then open swinging can be acceptable. We have certainly never felt the need to “forgive” oneanother for anything. We always did what we did in full view of each other.

  11. February 3, 2012 10:35 pm

    @ladyyaga: I’ve known about Margaret Cho for a while… I remember seeing her comedy dvds at the video store a few years back, but it isn’t until lately that’s I’ve been reading her stuff. Well, at least her blog anyhow. I’m liking her more and more. She’s a pretty kick ass person.

    So, do monogamish people tell their partners about having sex on the side or is some sort of unspoken agreement?

    @naturegirl: Sounds healthy to me. ; )

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