Making choices

June 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

Just a fair warning, although I have generally avoided topics of sex and sexuality on this bog (realizing that I could potentially have readers of any age or sexual comfort level), I will be tackling a particular issue that has plagued my mind for quite some now. The idea of an open marriage.

This topic does not come without a source. Actually, I blame it entirely on watching Talk Sex with Sue Johanson (before she retired the show) and reading Dan Savage’s column “Savage Love” with regularity. I like to consider myself a sex-positive person in many ways. My philosophy is that what a loving, neurologically mature adult couple chooses to do in their own bedroom is none of my business. Just as what my husband and I choose to do in our bedroom is no one else’s business. And, as I’ve promised you all as well as myself and my husband, I will not be divulging intimate details in this blog. As I said, it’s none of your business. But my point is that I do have a fairly sex-positive attitude. Sometimes, though, that positivity has limitations. And those limitations fall upon open marriages. Now, I would never condemn a loving, neurologically mature adult couple for choosing to live in an open marriage, if that’s what floats their boat. It’s just something I can’t quite wrap my little neurologically mature mind around.

Dan Savage recently devoted an entire column to answering questions from people who are either curious about open relationships or who are themselves in them. This is what he had to say about that. Dan Savage is also a very sex-positive fella, but he seems a great deal more positive than I am. He not only “doesn’t condemn,” but he outright approves open relationships. He even suggests them for some people. That’s where his sex-positive attitude leaves me perplexed. Are there no other ways to spice up a couple’s sex play in the bedroom? I would offer that there’s an entire industry dedicated to it, chockfull of toys, videos, “sex aids” and the like. Surely there are more options before a couple chooses to invite a third or fourth to bed. (Yes, yes, I also know that not all open relationships result in a ménage-à-trois, but Dan Savage does discuss that possibility as well.)

In the column I’ve linked to above, Dan Savage refers to the book Sex at Dawn, which refers to potential biological proof that humans are naturally disinclined toward monogamy. I get that. It makes sense to me in the most fundamental of senses. However, it’s the “struggle with monogamy” that I scratch my head over. When I talked to my own monogamous partner about this, trying to discern what precisely this “struggle” could possibly be, I ultimately decided that I’ve never had this urge for variety. I’ve never felt trapped or scared or doomed in any monogamous relationship, and certainly never in my engagement before Robert and I were married.

And then, I stumbled upon this blog entry called “So this is what 30 looks like” on Peripheral Perceptions. It’s written by a woman who celebrated her thirtieth wedding anniversary a couple of days ago; her blog reminisces on lessons she learned over the first few years they were married. Although the blog is humorous in nature, she does admit to her marriage having its pitfalls in the course of thirty years (as, I’m sure, they all do). She ends her blog with this little gem:

“Finally, marriage isn’t all about the mushy feelings during the ‘honeymoon period.’ Emotions change. People change. Entrepreneur and I aren’t anything like we were 30 years ago. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes not so much. Marriage isn’t a feeling. It’s a decision. A decision to love ‘in spite of’ as well as ‘because of.'”

I think this is why I have the feelings I do in regards to the concept of an open marriage. Because Robert and I always made a choice to have a monogamous relationship and marriage. That’s why we can’t conceive of anything other than that. So, although some people do pursue open relationships because the flame starts to die, it does make me wonder about the choice they made when they entered into that specific relationship. Were they honest with themselves and their partner? Did they enter into a monogamous relationship despite misgivings that suggested they would have preferred some level of sexual freedom? Were their psychological fingers crossed when they chose to stay faithful to a single body?

The point that “[m]arriage isn’t a feeling. It’s a decision” truly resonated with us. We had a long conversation about the choice we made and what that meant for us. Yes, we entered into our relationship based on a feeling. We entered into our marriage, though, because of a specific decision we made. I want to maintain a sex-positive attitude, but I just don’t think I would be able to accept an open option in my marriage.

Anyway, this is the sexual controversy that has recently plagued my mind for the past couple of weeks. Thoughts?

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