Jenny Block on Tiger Woods and unchosen monogamy
"First they wrote about me. Now I've written for them," e-mails Jenny Block. The author of Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage got an opinion piece accepted at Newsweek online (with a headline on the magazine's homepage), on the elevated subject of Tiger Woods.
In case you've been living under a rock, the champion golfer got caught cheating on his wife; she apparently chased him with a golf club, he took off from home and crashed his SUV into a fire hydrant and a tree just outside, and she used the golf club to smash out its windows.
Utterly stereotypical unevolved mono/cheater drama, yeah; a New Yorker cartoon from the 1930s. The whole world is gossiping — but do people even imagine there might be another way? This begs for a poly perspective, and Jenny provides it:
The Case Against Monogamy
Why is everyone so surprised about Tiger Woods? When it comes down to it, monogamy doesn't always work.
By Jenny Block | Newsweek Web Exclusive
...I'm not saying cheating is OK. I'm saying it shouldn't be a surprise. I was a cheater myself once. Three years into my marriage, I had an affair. She was blonde and freckled and made me blush. Yes, she was a girl — but that was beside the point; I'd been open about my bisexuality for years. My husband, meanwhile, was crushed when I told him — and I hated myself for not being strong enough to say no. I figured surely this must have meant I'd married Mr. Wrong: why else would I have the desire to step out?
As it turns out, desire is exactly what's at issue here. Human beings desire variety. We desire multiple partners. It's a simple fact that's built into our biology. And while some choose monogamy simply because it feels right, I think many more of us choose it because we think it's what we're supposed to do. You don't want to end up an old maid or a lonely bachelor, do you?
Monogamy just isn't always realistic. There's nothing wrong with admitting that. It simply doesn't work for some. And just as people choose different religions, eating habits, and places to call home, I believe we should be able to choose different ways to live out our relationships.
Several years after my affair, my husband and I jointly decided that monogamy just wasn't for us. We love each other and want to be together, but monogamy is not the cornerstone of our partnership — trust is. So we decided to open up our relationship to other people.
First we both dated the same woman. Then my husband dated her and I saw other people. And then they broke up and I dabbled until I met a woman who, like my husband, I cannot imagine being without. And so now it's her and me and him and me, and we are all fabulous friends. Everyone gets their needs met. No one feels left out or guilty, and the only time any of us questions our lifestyle is when we let those Disney movies come creeping back into our heads.
Let me be very clear here: I have no problem with monogamy. I think conscious, honest, true monogamy can be a wonderful thing. What should not be tolerated is hypocrisy — and that's where Tiger’s vow of marriage got him into trouble. If you want to be monogamous, great — but don't think you can claim it while you sleep around. It's not fair and, quite frankly, it's exhausting.
Monogamy is a choice. But until it's treated like one, cheating scandals will continue to pop up and the public will continue to eat them up. Because misery loves company. And in the end, that's the only thing cheating will bring you.
Here's the whole article (Dec. 10, 2009). Near the beginning Newsweek has put in a big video insert of its film of Terisa Greenan's poly family in Seattle — great stuff, watch it if you haven't already. And there are links to Newsweek's online feature article about polyamory as "America's next romantic revolution" that appeared last July 29.
Also: see Anita Wagner's take on the Tiger affair on her Practical Polyamory blog (two posts):
Whatever way people arrange their intimate lives, committing to monogamy by rote because it's what we are "supposed" to do is clearly a bigger risk than most people realize....
Though we polyamorists are often vilified for our choices, I am proud to say that I will never cheat on a partner, and neither are any partners likely to cheat on me, because none of us has to. We make relationship agreements we can stick to, and if we find we no longer can, then we talk with our partners and renegotiate the rules of the relationship. In this way trust is maintained.
Also see Jay Michaelson's commentary at the Huffington Post: "It's Not Just Tiger: Monogamous Marriage Is An Anomaly".
And here's a cute post at an adult sexuality education website on honest poly as the way to do non-mononogamy.
This requires a very high level of relationship skills, as it takes an ongoing commitment to clear communication and the ability to negotiate to discover win-win solutions, often including compromises. Conscious relationships are not for cowards. To do it well takes balls! (And great skill if you’re going to use your putter properly and safely.)
The argument always goes that a sports star with lucrative corporate sponsorships, or a politician who has to appeal to voters, can't afford to be openly poly. I think the day is coming (or could be here already?) when being forthrightly poly would be less detrimental to careers and public images than getting caught cheating.
1 The reported statistics for cheating in marriage are actually all over the map, so I don't believe any of them. Except I suspect that the higher numbers are more likely true — because I bet more people will lie to a pollster and say they're faithful when they aren't, than will lie to a pollster and say they're cheating when they aren't.