In matters of the heart, there may be two kinds of people: those who know that it is possible to love more than one person, and those who know that it is not.
If a woman can take a lover, we now come to another nitty-gritty question: can she take more than one lover? What happens to a love affair when one or the other partner—or both—are also involved with someone else. There has been a lot of material, written mostly by men, implying that men are naturally polygamous whereas women, god bless them, are naturally monogamous. The man insists that his passion for another woman doesn’t have anything to do with his feeling for his wife, or doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with it. The woman typically takes this assertion with a whole pound of salt.
In reality, however, it’s not so much that all men are polygamous in intent and all women monogamous as much as it’s that there are some people—men and women—who can and do harbor love and passion for more than one person simultaneously.
Some people—men and women—can feel love for only one person at a time. If they fall in love with a new person, they must, by necessity, fall out of love with the first. At the very least, they must love the first one less. If they have more than one love affair, therefore, it must be in sequence with the old love being replaced by the new.
In Marriage and Morals, Bertrand Russell points out that “the psychology of adultery has been falsified by conventional morals, which assume . . . that attraction for one person cannot coexist with a serious attraction for another. Everybody knows that this is untrue.”
Women as well as men may follow a pattern of simultaneous affairs. If you understand in your own heart the possibility of love for more than one person at a time, then when your lover has an affair, you may be hurt and unhappy; but it’s comprehensible to you. When you wail, “How could you?” it’s a rhetorical question, for you know quite well how he could do that and more. You also know, although you may choose to forget it in the heat of the moment, that his having slept with another woman, or even loved another woman, does not necessarily mean that he loves you less. The one love is different from the other: it has a different place in the psyche, and it fulfills different needs.
A woman has a right to a lover. Indeed, she has a right to more than one lover. While it’s quite possible for many women to love more than one man at a time, it’s also important to remember that not everybody believes this or is willing to accept it. You have a right to do it, but you must expect a wide range of consequences, some of which will be unfortunate.
To a committed monogamist, male or female, the reaction to infidelity is often a sense of total betrayal, however inappropriate or over-the-top you may find that reaction. If your male lover thinks this way, then love that’s really love, in his mind, means love that is exclusively with one person. In deciding to embark on an affair, you need to realize that, for him, even one involvement with one other man will be viewed as an absolute end of your relationship with him. Such an arbitrary stand is quite likely to be associated with a lot of pain and ultimately with loneliness, but the decision may be so fundamental and so emotional that it’s non-negotiable.
In most instances, though, the acceptance of the plurality of love and lovers is part of the more sophisticated wisdom that comes with experience. Even with married couples, it may be painful, but it’s not necessarily outrageous.
Many people would tend to agree with Oscar Wilde when he asserts, “People who love once in their lives are really shallow people. What they call their loyalty and fidelity is either lethargy of custom or lack of imagination. Faithfulness is to the emotional life what constancy is to the intellectual life, simply a confession of failure.”
- How Monogamy Soothes Our Existential Angst (queeringthemind.com)
- Different ways of having an open marriage (swinglifestyleblog.wordpress.com)
- More Women Are Allowing Men to Have an Affair Say Maritalaffair.co.uk (prweb.com)
- Can a Marriage Survive Infidelity? (everydayhealth.com)
- Unfaithful Partners: Shocking Statistics About Infidelity (dangerouslee.biz)
- Is One Ever Enough? (sexdownunder.me)
- New Sexual Revolution: Polyamory May Be Good for You (livescience.com)
- 5 Myths About Polyamory Debunked (livescience.com)