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September 14, 2016

What Happens When Monogamy Means Different Things to Different People?

Hey, Bonita…

Bonita,

My wife and I have had our share of ups and downs. We met in college and have been best friends for the longest time. However, I'm in a band, and I've been cheating on my wife for years when we hit the road, and it all came to light in a very dramatic way last year.

She didn't leave me on the spot—most likely due to the fact that we share a wonderful child—but we did separate briefly. She has since moved back in, and after months of therapy and couples counseling, we've come to the conclusion that, although I've retreated considerably from a dangerous path of sex addiction, I cannot honestly say that I will never cheat again. We have contrasting views on monogamy (for me, sex and a relationship are two completely different things).

We do get along very well, and we are a solid family unit, but she is torn constantly about the whole thing and desperate for me to make her happy like before. How can I do this? I love her very much, but I am also attracted to other women.

That Bastard of a Husband

Husband,

I'm glad you understand that you have absolutely no business violating your monogamous agreement with your wife, no matter how “contrasting” your views on monogamy might be. Any relationship requires informed consent, and you can't be polyamorous or a swinger if your partner isn't on board. And you get that. You're trying hard to apologize for your behavior and make things right, but I think we both can see that maybe the marriage is at the point of no return.

You've already done all the things I'd recommend to mend the relationship. A short separation can work wonders for clearing your head and figuring out what you want, and the unbiased perspective of a therapist can be incredibly valuable. But here you are on the other side of both of those experiences, and you’re still not sure you can commit to monogamy.

First, don't be so hard on yourself. You're not a bastard, dude, because at least you're trying, even if you’re not getting the results you want. I wouldn't fault you for being attracted other women. Women are hot! But it all goes left when you break a promise to the person you love. Monogamy requires the strength of character to work through those urges and value your unique love over the fleeting fun of a roll in the hay. That's not to say that you don't love your wife, or that slutty people can't love, but any monogamous slut knows that bittersweet feeling of passing up some strange for the comfort of your lover.

It seems to me that you have one of two things going on. Either you're simply not a monogamous person, or you're not in love with your wife anymore. I don't doubt your love for your wife in the slightest—your commitment to her and the life you've built together is obvious—but being “in love” doesn't sound like what you've got going on right now. When you're a monogamous person in love, that other person is literally all you need.

Then again, maybe you are still very much attracted to and in love with your wife, yet you can't see yourself only banging one person until you die. Plenty of people realize that they're non-monogamous later in life, and maybe you're there. Google it, and check out The Ethical Slut, a great, quick read about responsible non-monogamy. That said, go slow when starting any conversation about non-monogamy with a longtime partner. It can blow up in your face if you come across as too enthusiastic up front.

Hubby, I don't have the advice that will help get you and Wifey back to newlywed status. You're at a crossroads where you two could either split up for good, or change the nature of your relationship to give you both the freedom to experience intimacy with others. I'll leave that decision to you, but I wanna commend you for all the work you've done already. Continue to keep the lines of communication open and stay true to each other. Stuff like this is tough, but you seem to be handling it beautifully.

Need advice? Email advice@flagpole.com, use our anonymous form, or find Bonita on Twitter: @flagpolebonita.

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