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Heavy Meddle: Love In The Time Of Cheating

Happily monogamous, but waiting for the other shoe -- and a man's biological imperative -- to drop.  (ovi90/Flickr)MoreCloseclosemore
Happily monogamous, but waiting for the other shoe -- and a man's biological imperative -- to drop. (ovi90/Flickr)

Welcome Meddleheads, to the column where your crazy meets my crazy! Please send your questions to email. Right now. Not only will you immediately feel much better, you’ll also get some advice.

Hugs,

Steve

Dear Steve,

I’m in my fifties and happy in finally finding a partner I truly enjoy being with, even in challenging times. We're doing great as a couple, so my question is more about...something that’s hard to talk about.

I really enjoy being monogamous at a time when every other think piece and book seems to be throwing dirt on the made-just-for-two coffin. Monogamy is our agreement now and seems to be working. Am I fooling myself here? Am I unenlightened? Is my partner going to secretly be unhappy because his primal nature pushes him to have a plethora of sexual partners?

Signed,

Life Built for Two

PHOTO

Dear LBFT,

I’m certainly no expert on monogamy, but the idea that all men are destined to have sex with multiple partners because of their bio-evolutionary imperative to implant genetic material in anything wearing a skirt is nonsense. Plenty of men live rich and fulfilling lives with a single partner. Plenty of men, after a period of playing the field, commit to a single partner and stick by that commitment.

Do temptations exist? Sure. This happens to be true for both genders. Do some men cheat on their wives and girlfriends? Sure. But these indiscretions are not simply a function of insatiable loins. Much more often, people cheat because of defective egos or unfulfilling emotional relations. They feel unloved. They get bored. They self-destruct.

My own guess — and it’s just a guess — is that you’re asking this question because, in some fundamental way, you mistrust your current romantic harmony. I can’t understand, otherwise, why you’d allow a bunch of books and articles to undermine your faith in a partner you “truly enjoy being with, even in challenging times.” Your use of the word “finally” (as in “finally finding a partner I truly enjoy being with”) suggests that your previous relationships were unhappy. I suspect your anxieties about fidelity represent the ghost of this unhappiness.

The chief determinant of fidelity is not the male libido or how long two people have been married or how many orgasms they have a month. It’s how much and how well they communicate.

So before you do anything else, ask yourself these questions: Why am I fixated on this doubt? Do I honestly feel my partner is capable of being unfaithful? Has he given me any reason to question his fidelity? Does his romantic history? Or is this anxiety something I’ve manufactured?

You should work to get a clear sense of this. And regardless of your answer, if these worries persist, you need to talk to your partner about them. Why? Because, if you’re freaked out about something — whether or not it’s rational — your partner should know about it. Obviously, you need to be sensitive in how you bring this up. “Sweetie, I need to talk about something awkward that I can’t get off my mind,” is probably going to yield a more fruitful discussion than, say, “You’re going to cheat on me, dammit! I know it! Because it’s your destiny to spread your man seed!”

Here’s one thing I do know: The chief determinant of fidelity is not the male libido or how long two people have been married or how many orgasms they have a month. It’s how much and how well they communicate. That’s what brings most couples together and what keeps them together: the desire to be seen and understood and listened to. The couples that are the happiest and most devoted are the ones that find intimacy in all the spheres of their lives. A great erotic life, in fact, is almost always the outgrowth of creative, intellectual and emotional connections.

I wish you all of these.

Steve

Okay folks, now it's your turn. Did I get it right, or muck it up? Let me know in the comments section. And please do send your own question along, the more detailed the better. Even if I don't have a helpful response, chances are someone in the comments section will. Send your dilemmas via email.

Steve Almond is the author of the book "Against Football."

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