How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘monogamy’

Paranoia, Projection, Protestations

A man does not look in the closet unless he has stood there himself.
—Leonard Levinson

The English have a saying that it’s reformed rakes who make the best husbands. One wonders at its veracity, but whether or not it’s true, it’s certainly true that it’s reformed rakes who make the most suspicious husbands.

If a man is himself a veteran of many affairs of the heart, with many ladies married and otherwise, he knows what duplicity can lurk in the hearts of women and how unflattering and even ridiculous the imposed role of cuckold can be. One might hope that such a man of the world would be wise enough to turn a blind eye to suspicious circumstances. If he doesn’t choose to do so, then he will be very difficult to deal with. It goes without saying that his own behavior, past and present, does little to increase his tolerance for yours.

The best defense against jealousy in simultaneous affairs is to keep one relationship as far away as possible from the other in terms of time and of space. The point is to avoid confrontations at all costs. In the abstract, the idea of another relationship may be vaguely upsetting. In the flesh, it may be enraging. Whether the man in question is a husband or a boyfriend or something in between, he should be protected as much as possible from having to deal directly with the reality of another affair.

The double standard isn’t just a masculine flaw: it’s part of the human condition. If you are having another affair, even if he “knows” that such might be the case and even if he “permits” it, he should never have to deal with finding the wrong brand of underwear in his underwear drawer or a package of incriminating snapshots or a carelessly displayed love letter or e-mail.

The best advice, and very important advice it is, is simple: at all times, act as your own detective.

Cover of "Same Time, Next Year"

Cover of Same Time, Next Year

In Same Time, Next Year, the hit Broadway comedy by Bernard Slade, George and Doris have an affair for twenty-four years. They meet every year in a hotel in California, he supposedly on an annual business trip, and she supposedly at a retreat. As the play unfolds from one year to the next, we see how they share their lives and how the affair is a meaningful part of them. Apart from illustrating how an affair can be incorporated into a marriage and may actually strengthen it, the play provides an ideal circumstance for a tryst. When they are together, both are away from their respective homes and routines, and they relate only to each other. The more separate one affair from the other is, in time and space, the better.

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Pardon My Plurality

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.
—Jayson VanVerden

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.

Not necessarily just being attracted to one person

Photo credit: theslowlane

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.”

Lovers Are Not For Everyone: Traditional Wives

I’ve only slept with men I’ve been married to. How many women can make that claim?
—Elizabeth Taylor

English: Studio publicity portrait of the Amer...

Elizabeth Taylor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another kind of woman who won’t want a lover is the married woman who is committed to being faithful to her husband. Some fortunate wives would never consider taking a lover because they find, in their own husbands, all the affection and sexuality that they desire. For them, there is no need for more love or a different love. As Sir Charles Sedley points out in “Reasons for Constancy,” “When change itself can give no more, ’tis easy to be true.”

Other wives may think wistfully of men more appealing than their husbands, but they are firmly and irrevocably committed to the principle of marital fidelity. Such a good wife may be inhibited from fully loving any man she isn’t married to or isn’t intending to marry. Elizabeth Taylor-Hilton-Wilding-Todd-Fisher-Burton-Burton-Warner-Fortensky may not be exactly your idea of a traditional wife, but on this issue, at least she had traditional attitudes.

Other wives may be faithful for a lifetime, not because they are particularly infatuated with their husbands, but because they are not particularly tempted by anyone else. Such women may seem to be very virtuous, but in fact, they are merely apathetic. Their energies have been channeled into other things, such as careers or children, which take precedence over love and romance. The absence of a lover is not a sacrifice for them, and the prospect of a lover doesn’t entice them. They are, in effect, faithful by default.

Finally, there are some wives who would love to have a lover, but they cannot find the kind of man that they want. Or they would love to have a lover, but they don’t have the courage. They think of a lover, and they visualize jealous husbands and gossiping aunts and sleazy private eyes. They think of a lover, and they remember the scene of sudden, violent death that was the shocking climax in the movie Looking for Mr. Goodbar. In real life, taking a lover can sometimes be hazardous; and drastic consequences can, in fact, occur.

As Mark Twain observed, “There are several good protections against temptation, but the surest is cowardice.”

The Apathetic Husband

Never mind “Is there life after death?” That is too abstract. What I really want to Know is: “Is there sex after marriage?”
—Jadah Vaughn

One of George Bernard Shaw’s often quoted sayings observes that marriage remains popular because it combines “the maximum of temptation with the maximum of opportunity.” Usually, Shaw’s epigrams are quite pithy; but in this instance, he is mistaken. A honeymoon might well combine temptation with opportunity, but cohabitation does not, especially if the marriage is of long duration. Familiarity need not breed contempt, but it very often does breed sexual apathy.

My Cheating Heart

My Cheating Heart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What was passion in a marriage can become so vitiated, so watered-down, and so dissipated that it is hardly worthy of the name. In some marriages, perhaps in many, the act of love becomes an act of sex and an infrequent one at that. When you have reached the stage where you make love on Saturday nights, and Saturday nights only; when you have reached the stage where you have sex rather than making love, only late on Saturday nights in the dark; and when you have reached the stage when you have sex on Saturday nights only, late at night in the dark and quickly, without words, then you have reached the stage where you owe it to yourself to take a lover. You owe it to yourself, not only for the desolation you experience now, but also for the desolation you will feel when you are old and look back on thirty years of such encounters—one thousand and forty consecutive Saturday nights of minimal fulfillment.

You owe it to the old lady you will become to give her something better than those passionless encounters to reminisce about and then either exaggerate or deny, depending on your perspective.

Women on Top: The Decline of the Double Standard

Liberated sex means an end to the double standard about who can enjoy sex and who can’t, and how much, or who can initiate sex, and who can’t . . . It means an end to “nice girls don’t” and “real men must.”
—Charlotte Holt Clinebell, Meet Me in the Middle

In Victorian mentality, although marriage vows were considered sacred, they were considerably more sacred for wives than they were for husbands. Adultery for him was more or less expected as a regrettable but understandable consequence of the male sex drive; adultery for her was an unpardonable sin. The major issue of her adultery was the possibility of pregnancy and the resultant suspicion that any child born might not be the husband’s.

With the emergence of recognition of female sexuality and with the birth control revolution, it has become increasingly acceptable for women as well as men to be sexually involved with someone other than their mates. However, it still falls outside the range of acceptable behavior for many people; and like most sexual behavior, it is less acceptable for women than for men.

Married men often had mistresses while remaining attached to the women who were the mothers of their children. The wife-mother, loved as she may have been, fulfilled other kinds of needs than did the girlfriend, who was perhaps also loved but in a more erotic sense. It now became possible to think the unthinkable: if married men could have lovers, maybe married women could have lovers as well.

The sexual revolution of the sixties introduced the second wave of feminism which raised consciousness concerning the unfairness and chauvinism of the double standard in sex as well as in other things. Well, if men could have sex without marriage, they had to have it with someone. Given the new sexuality, why couldn’t that someone be a good girl as well as a hooker? If men did not have to give up all other women when they married, maybe women did not have to give up all other men. Maybe a married woman could have a lover or lovers without necessarily destroying her marriage or her life.

Many wives thought about such things late into the night, but they kept their opinions to themselves. Their fantasies were furtive. They existed in a kind of pluralistic ignorance: each one looked at herself in her bedroom mirror and believed that she alone felt this way, and that, if anyone else guessed the scandalous nature of her thoughts and fantasies, they would be shocked. The outspokenness of the second wave of feminism that washed through the 1960s swept women into consciousness-raising groups where they began to talk. One thing they talked about was the sexual poverty of many of their lives. For every wife who actually strayed, there were many others who thought about it and many others who were tempted and vulnerable.

Cover of "Sexual Politics"

Cover of Sexual Politics

Men and women still tried to divide the good women from the not-so good ones, but sexuality per se did not seem to be such an absolute standard anymore. Instead, there evolved a standard of judgment whereby the good woman came to be defined as one who had sex selectively and for the “right” reasons whereas the not-so-good one had sex promiscuously and for the wrong reasons. It was a distinction very hard to perceive from the outside. Kate Millett, the feminist-activist who wrote Sexual Politics, summarizes this way of thinking accurately when she observes, “Love is the only circumstance in which the female is ideologically pardoned for sexual activity.”

I hope the method of my madness is becoming clearer with each post.  My previous posts have been setting the stage and background for my future posts that will explore women’s ever evolving pursuit of sexual equality and fulfillment and happiness.  More to  come, so to speak.

Female Sexuality: Vanquishing Virginity

There was a young girl from a mission
Who was seized by a dreadful suspicion,
That “original sin”
Doesn’t matter a pin
In this era of nuclear fission.
—Rev. J. A. Davidson

In the not too distant past, a good girl—the kind fathers and mothers wanted for a daughter—was chaste and pure. If she did not marry, she remained virginal as her status slowly changed from nubile maid to simply old maid. The good girl modeled her virginity on such celebrated celibates as the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I. Whatever Good Queen Bess did or did not do with Leicester or her other courtiers, the official story was that she remained unsullied. To suggest otherwise was treasonous; to suggest the defloration of any good girl was libelous.

If the good girl did marry, then she became a good wife, which meant, most of all, a faithful one. She might be unloving and unlovable, an unpleasant companion and an incompetent helpmate; but if she was sexually monogamous, she was, by definition, good.

Cover of "Sex and the Single Girl"

The counterculture revolution of the sixties and the widespread use of the pill changed such definitions for many people. Helen Gurley Brown dared to talk about Sex and the Single Girl. Instead of being pilloried, she became famous and went on to expound the same ideas in the very successful magazine Cosmopolitan. Premarital sexual involvement became an open secret. It was no longer considered of great consequence as long as there was no pregnancy and as long as the girl in question permitted sexual encounters only with one man with whom she was in love and whom she planned or, at least, hoped to marry.

The Clairol company, which manufactures hair coloring, was immensely successful with an advertising campaign focused around a provocative question with a double entendre: “Does she or doesn’t she?” The world has changed,
and the question has become less provocative. Most of the time, we assume that she does or has or might.

Now, a more relevant question is, “Will she or won’t she?” As it is realized that an affair—or even more than one affair—is not necessarily beyond the pale, the open secret of premarital sexuality has become simply open. California psychologist Irene Kassorla affirmed that “nice girls do” and no one has to ask, “Do what?”

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