Honesty and monogamy

This is very scary to write and to admit. But, I’ve now seen news programs and several different blogs discussing Esther Perel. While I’ve hinted at it in previous posts, I felt I needed to talk about this in more detail.

A while ago I read something from Peggy Vaughn essentially stating that she and her husband promised each other honesty, not monogamy. She described how promising monogamy was encouraging secrets, which then laid a path toward infidelity. She described how talking about temptations, opportunities and the like actually helped to defang them. It did make a lot of sense to me.

Then, while MC was away for that year, I became very good friends with a couple who were/are quietly in an open marriage. Their youngest and our youngest were best friends from school. I still don’t exactly know why they told me about the status of their marriage, but after soaking it in for a bit, I shared just a few things about what had happened between MC and me, but none of the nasty details. They introduced me to Esther Perel.

MC and I talked so much about this couple, about Perel about our previous learning through AR and everything in between. Since discoveries, I have had a longing for butterflies. MC told me he did not want an open marriage, he does not want another intimate partner other than me. He tells me about every instance where in the past he may have looked for an opening. We talk openly and honestly about it all.

I was in a very vulnerable place when I was introduced to Perel and I worry about others getting so deep in, while also still being in a vulnerable place. Luckily, I was also in place where honesty between MC and I had really come to be a safer, comforting and supportive place. We talked for hours every day. I told MC that though I’ve been faithful our whole marriage, there were times I longed for a more passionate, free experience, but I didn’t cheat. Even though his self-pity is being addressed, his anger and jealousy are being addressed, I no longer know how to be free. I do want that with MC. I am working on it. We are working on it. But, sometimes, I do wish for an experience where I could be that free person just to see what it is like and maybe even bring that back into our marriage. MC tells me it makes him sad to think of me being in this place, but he understands. Hearing him say that was such a wonderful thing for me because it really did show how far he has come in regard to his jealousy and self-pity.

So, I do get a small bit of what Perel is saying in her less publicized works, but am also a little scared by that fact. Still, talking about it, has defanged it — mostly. It is not out of revenge, nor wanting to cause MC pain, but wanting to experience something new, to feel alive, like Perel describes in her works. I think these thoughts are a natural curiosity to many of us who have been betrayed. And, I think it would be foolhardy to pretend that these thoughts and feelings do not exist. I am going to be open and honest with my husband about such thoughts and feelings. And, with being so honest together, I do feel we defang the temptations for both of us.

ETA: Here were my thoughts on Esther Perel versus Rick Reynolds that I made to Kat’s blog:

Perel has many fundamental points that ring true. Her messages about a) expecting our partner to meet all of our needs being unrealistic and b) looking to someone other than our partner to find something different within ourselves are similar to the message of Rick Reynolds from Affair Recovery. The difference is, if you look into both of them further, is what each prescribes to do about it. Perel in other writings discusses that this is why as a society we should be open to allowing couples to redefine monogamy in their relationship, together, on an on-going basis. We, as a society, should encourage and support couples to redefine their boundaries and definitions several times in their life together, with each instance essentially creating a new marriage, together. This should be done openly, honestly and together (not forced by one party). She supports the idea of allowing other secondary partners to help fulfill needs that no one partner can meet. She supports the idea that we can find something missing within ourselves by opening ourselves up to other intimate relationships, other partners, while maintaining the marriage as the primary relationship.

Rick Reynolds agrees that it is unrealistic of us to expect that one partner could meet every need, want and desire. He also agrees that affairs are about looking to feel better about ourselves through they eyes of someone new. But, he goes in a different direction than Perel on how to handle that. Where as she encourages society supporting non monogamous or “almost monogamous” marriages, he does not believe that adding in new partners is helpful or healthy. Reynolds main premise is that truly loving is after limerence and the fantasy wears off, after you are faced with knowing that your partner cannot meet your every expectation, you faithfully choose to love them anyway. Reynolds also describes that after time with one partner, we see the true reflection of ourselves from our partner. It is often not that we are turning away from our partner, but turning away from that true reflection of ourselves. He goes on to point out that with a new partner, with the limerence and fantasy in place, the reflection we see from our new partner is based on a fantasy version of ourselves and we prefer that reflection to the true reflection seen in our partners eyes. Reynolds wants us to look within ourselves and our marriage to learn to feel good about who we are and would state that adding in other partners simply fuels an unhealthy fantasy.

Though they start with very similar premises, they go in completely different directions on how to resolve these issues. It is certainly up to the individual couple to decide how best to proceed. Maybe she is the wave of the future. I don’t know? I would just encourage those interested in Perel to look into her other work and understand where she intends to lead this conversation.

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3 thoughts on “Honesty and monogamy

  1. I appreciate, now, where you are coming from. I’m just not sure my blog was the place to start this conversation because the talk I posted had absolutely nothing to do with open marriages. And, I was not advocating for anyone to be an Esther Perel follower whether it be her current talks and appearances or earlier ones. I have never had the feelings you have. I have never longed for an extramarital relationship of any kind, I’m just being honest here. I do not feel better than anyone else because of it and I know I am probably the strange one, but I am who I am. I am also not in denial about my own feelings. My husband was not looking for better sex, he was looking to feed an addiction. His sex with the other women was not hot, or the best sex he had ever had… the sex he had was secret and filling a need that should have been filled with healing, not hurting, not a drug. Like I said, men who have the kinds of relationships our husband’s have are going to have secret sex whether they are in an open marriage or not. Open marriages are still about openness and honesty, from what I know. Good relationships, in my opinion, are always about being open and honest. Personally, I would never want an open marriage for myself and I did not want my husband having sex with other women either. This is what I choose for myself and my husband has always agreed, he still agrees. His extramarital sex was not about sex, it was about addiction (which translates to filling an emptiness with a drug). Sorry if something I posted prompted vulnerability. Also, I clearly do not read or watch or listen to a fraction of what you do, but I do that on purpose. I have found that only through good trauma therapy am I even able to deal with staying with my husband at all. That is it. Nothing else. I don’t read books anymore about betrayal or sex addiction or even marriage, I haven’t for over a year. I read uplifting and or humorous novels that take me to a better place. I have also limited the blogs I read. But we all do what we have to do and also, my blog helps me talk my stuff out. I hope this helped you, in some small way.

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    1. I hope you know that my comments about Perel were purely motivated to warn others, who might also be in that vulnerable place, to just be careful. That really was my only intent. It is hard for me to refrain when I keep seeing her mentioned in all these places this last week, but only the one aspect of her. I was/am worried for those who might be looking for a silver bullet, which we both know does NOT exist, who might be vulnerable to delving deeper into her theories without a support network in place to help them process it all. I did not mean to step on any toes. I will stick to discussing this here as your blog is your blog and please know I do respect that fact.

      Also, I certainly did not mean to imply anything about your path in anyway. I do understand how much time and effort you have invested into getting the SA diagnosis and understanding about it from the general public. While your path is not our path, MC and I both find commonalities and differences between all the different paths to be a good source of discussion and delving deeper into our own relationship. We also do get a lot from opening up discussion with others to continue learning and growing together.

      Kat, I hope you know I respect you greatly. Now, go do your 20 minutes. 🙂

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