Tag Archives: cheating

Multiple lovers

More of my friend Sarah: She is also “polyamorous.” We’ll cut to the chase on this one: Per Wikipedia, Sarah has “intimate relationships that are not exclusive with respect to other sexual or intimate relationships.”

“I just don’t believe we were designed to be monogamous,” Sarah says. Her sugar daddy knows. So did her last boyfriend: He also was part of  “The Lifestyle” as it’s also known.

This is brought up by the recent hacking of “Ashley Madison,” an internet site for those seeking to have affairs, a site for adulterers, if you will. The hackers threatened to release information on “clients” unless the site shut down. To those who think adultery is sport, or that you won’t get caught, all I have to say is: “Seriously?”

Sarah is honest and open about her engagement with others. She speaks of dating a “couple,” both very attractive, “he is verity sweet, she’s really beautiful.” She likes them both, and they both like her. She wouldn’t participate with them “if they weren’t both completely good with it.”

“They” were her “date” to an event just this last weekend.

Another point of view: Alice called me this morning. Because it’s Sunday, I asked why she wasn’t in church.

“I’ve not been to church in a while. It’s a conscience thing.”

“You!?” I said. Alice is one of the more devout people I know, and one of the most truly moral, not one who just wears it on her sleeve.

“I struggle with hypocrisy. It’s probably a temporary state, but living a double life doesn’t suit me well,” she said. The “double life” is caused by a new relationship — Alice and her new boyfriend have sleepovers. “I enjoy sex, but the church says I should not until I’m married.”

“I think you are more ‘Christian’ than a third of the people in church who ‘sin’ but don’t think twice,” I said. “You walk your talk.”

Alice wasn’t prepared to judge, but in our discussion of morality when I mentioned Sarah’s point of view, Alice said, “I think you just made my head explode.

“For me, having sex with someone I love is the ultimate intimacy, the ultimate gift we give each other. We give and receive a piece of each other. I don’t know how you share that.”

“We are able to separate sex from love,” said Sarah in a later conversation. “Sex is just sex. Enjoyable, wonderful, erotic, intimate. But it’s not love.”

“No. To connect two lives into one, to commit mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, completely to one’s life mate is immeasurable by any word …” says Alice.

Sarah’s split with her recent boyfriend wasn’t about sex, it was about emotional boundaries, and it appears to me she still loves him. They are just like other couples, except when they run into each other at parties, they may be having sex with mutual friends.

Obviously, I don’t have Sarah and Alice over at the same time for tea. Maybe I should, because each has the same kind of emotional and intellectual honesty I respect. I think they might like each other.

But here’s my point. Many in the “poly” community have said that the openness of their marriage actually made it stronger. Certainly, many of those not of that point of view have had relationships shatter because of infidelity.

Many of us have made love with someone we are not with today, and been in love with someone who did not satisfy us sexually. I don’t know where the gain or loss might be. Do those who favor the poly lifestyle have more or less than others? More sex but less attachment? Or are the monogamous constantly fighting their biology, denying a perfectly natural excitement of multiple couplings?

I don’t know the answers. But I do know that the responses we have go deep to the core of our lives.

~ Jessica

Science of our infidelity

What if promiscuity was the result of brain wiring? What if that wiring was the result of inherited genes that impact us in ways we can not possibly anticipate?

What if what we want in a partner changes over time — not because anything happened but just because time had passed? What if infidelity isn’t “his fault” or “her fault” but caused by an invisible process outside of anyone’s control?

This musing was sparked by an article by Dr. Richard A. Friedman, professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College. Read that article here.

I’ll jump to Dr. Friedman’s conclusion and work backwards: “For some, there is little innate temptation to cheat; for others, sexual monogamy is an uphill battle against their own biology.”

The  “biology” or propensity toward infidelity, appears to be linked to the amount and location of hormones, or receptors for those hormones, in our brains and are the result of genetic “programming.” Oxytocin and vasopressin are especially relevant. These impact behavior. In fact, according to one study, “Forty percent of the variation in promiscuous behavior in women could be attributed to genes.”

Men have their own variants. Evolution has favored men who spread their genes far and wide: i.e., prone to infidelity. But I’d like to rephrase that: Evolution favors genes able to spread far and wide through behavior of the organism in which they are carried, and that they influence to favor that spreading.

Some of you are now thinking I use this to justify any and all sorts of behavior, but that’s not the case. There are other biological forces at work as well, and social forces, etc. In the overlapping circles of self, family and society, there are many competing forces at work. It’s a pretty dynamic system. Understanding the causes of behavior does not change the fact that certain behaviors are destructive and painful.

At the same time, accurate understanding can at least mitigate that pain, and possibly reduce  the destruction. Continuing with mistaken beliefs not only prolongs pain and destruction, but often adds to it.

A partner cheating on us can lead to the belief that we are inadequate, when the real cause has little to do with us and is result of that partner’s wiring. It can be confusing when the cheating partner doesn’t know the real cause of their own behavior and blames us for being “inattentive.”

Dr. Friedman writes of a friend: “… (she had a) propensity for sexual exploration that seemed in some ways independent of the emotional status of her relationships.”

For those prone to exploration, we might believe our partner has become boring, when it is in fact our own wiring that causes us to seek new stimulation. Nothing changed for them. We do not need to judge them as lacking when our wandering is internal to us.

At the same time, belief that a partner is “immoral” or that they simply choose to hurt us, or are indifferent to our pain is probably not true and diminishes the joy that once existed.

All that said, we do not always get what we want. Hard decisions still have to be made. But to make those decisions well, we have to recognize that differences between people exist, and often for historical and/or biological reasons that are nobody’s fault.

But we still have to decide what we are willing to live with, and what we are willing to risk. There are no guarantees.