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Old 05-12-2011, 04:13 AM   #151
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yolland, it was a bit of a shock for me too when i moved to France from the UK... was chatting to someone once who was quite matter of fact about her partner having had a "mistress", she just brought it up in passing conversation while i tried to stop my eyes popping out of my head lol

i live in quite a small community in rural France, and have seen quite a bit of switching going on around in terms of relationships in certain circles, and also there have been a fair few horror stories of local business men who have had serial affairs supposedly without their wives knowing, followed by horrible public humiliation of the wife in one particular case i know of! the men are literally applauded and cheered on by other men, and the wives are blamed for their infidelities! that to me has been incredibly shocking... it's pretty destructive i think... one lady i know is aware her partner is unfaithful, says she hates it, but just turns a blind eye, and recently two friends have finally split from their serial unfaithful partners after years and years of turning a blind eye... the worst thing here is the horrible gossip surrounding it all - there is zero anonymity and the locals pry so much into people's business it truly is vile!!

also, here it's not just the men, a couple of ladies i know with children (married or in a long-term relationship) have had several flings, and they're really not phased or embarrassed about it at all - it's all totally out in the open, and the kids just have to put up with it apparently, moving in and out of the family home with their mums' new boyfriends, etc... although in those particular cases, the husband/partner are also known to have affairs...

i feel such a prude sometimes lol!!

i am in a monogamous relationship, and couldn't or wouldn't want to be any other way - i would be devastated if either myself or my husband took that step and slept with someone else... to me sex is a big thing, hugely intimate, and it would be a massive thing for me to make that decision to physically be with someone else, i couldn't live with myself really, but that's just me - people just have to be how they're comfortable being...
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Old 05-12-2011, 08:18 AM   #152
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my bigger question is whether or not we are placing too much emphasis on sexual exclusivity, and demanding that we be totally fulfilled (or, at least satiated) by our partners in so many areas of life that it becomes very, very difficult to find that one person who can do all those things, and those things may change over time.
I am not sure whether this is the position that you're taking but I would definitely disagree with it.

Yes, our partners would ideally have to fulfill man areas of our life if we are to have a truly good relationship. But to me, there are VERY important areas of fulfillment and then less important ones - a spectrum if you will. And I just place sexual compatibility or enjoyment or a good sex life or however you want to put it near the top of the list. I think that if my partner couldn't fulfill that need, the answer isn't to go have an affair, it is to evaluate whether that can be fixed and if it can't whether the relationship is salvageable. And those people who "don't want to bring it up" because it would cause conflict - really? I mean, what sort of relationship do you have where you can't talk about this openly with the other person? Maybe it's just so far removed from the type of relationship that I have that I can't even imagine it.

Besides which, I have yet to meet a single person out there who genuinely had an affair (not an open relationship) and was able to say that it didn't affect them negatively - even if only mentally or emotionally - vis a vis their current relationship. Whether it was emotional distancing from their partner or emotional connection made with the person they were sleeping with on the side, whether it was feelings of guilt, whether it was feeling bad about living a lie or worrying about the consequences it may have on their children and so on. Maybe such people exist out there, I just haven't come across one yet.
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Old 05-12-2011, 10:24 AM   #153
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Yes, our partners would ideally have to fulfill man areas of our life if we are to have a truly good relationship.
i assume you mean "main areas," yes?

(also, as an aside, i'm arguing a more philosophical position here, not one that i necessarily agree with, nor that i necessarily disagree with, philosophically ... just trying to do some thinking through real relationship issues, as well as gender issues).


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But to me, there are VERY important areas of fulfillment and then less important ones - a spectrum if you will. And I just place sexual compatibility or enjoyment or a good sex life or however you want to put it near the top of the list.
do you think this will be the same when you are older? or what if it changes for your partner? how well would you react if your partner came to you and asked for an open relationship? would his request tell you that the relationship is subsequently doomed? would he have reason to fear that if he were to even broach the topic he'd do more harm through honesty? can we think, intellectually, "of course i could handle that conversation," but when it actually happens it makes you feel so inadequate that it becomes the beginning of the end of the relationship?

my guess is that what we value in a relationship at 30 is different than what we value at 45 and at 60. of course there are certain building blocks -- trust, communication, etc. -- that really need to be there, but as our lives change, what we value in another partner may change as well.

i'm trying to think of specific examples without getting anecdotal, and since everyone's relationship is a mystery from the outside, i suppose this could only truly be answered on an individual level.


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I think that if my partner couldn't fulfill that need, the answer isn't to go have an affair, it is to evaluate whether that can be fixed and if it can't whether the relationship is salvageable. And those people who "don't want to bring it up" because it would cause conflict - really? I mean, what sort of relationship do you have where you can't talk about this openly with the other person? Maybe it's just so far removed from the type of relationship that I have that I can't even imagine it.

i can only speak from anecdotal experience, but i have seen relationships fall apart where one tries to be honest and express a need for a more open relationship and the relationship is soon over. there are times, maybe, when honesty isn't the best policy? is some level of deception necessary in the maintenance of all long-term relationships? do we really say, "i bought you the exercise bike because you're gaining weight and it's making me not want to have sex with you," because that's the honest thing to say?

obviously there's tact involved, but we certainly temper and pick-and-choose the truths we tell to each other over the course of 40 years or more, right?

in the bigger picture, i do think that it's less about being totally honest all the time and more about not being deceptive. and that might be a fine line. i think it would be great if many couples were able to communicate about sex (or anything) in a way where the point that, "you're great, but no one could ever be enough, i want to explore x, y, and z, and since you have no interest, let me seek something outside the relationship knowing that because i'm able to explore x, y, and z, this makes my commitment to the relationship that much stronger because i haven't felt trapped and haven't let it become all-consuming." or, "i simply want to have sex with someone new. you're great and i love you but you can never be new. i miss that feeling."

but do you think most couples could handle that? and most of would probably say that monogamy comes with it's benefits and it's costs, and we evaluate based on that. but the existence of sites like AshleyMadison let us know that there are millions of men and women who are in such situations -- are these just selfish idiots? maybe. but do i also think a more honest conversation about the role of sex in our lives -- especially now that women are as economically independent as men -- is probably not possible for many. it's such an easy trump card for sanctimony.



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Besides which, I have yet to meet a single person out there who genuinely had an affair (not an open relationship) and was able to say that it didn't affect them negatively - even if only mentally or emotionally - vis a vis their current relationship.

this i'd agree with -- to me, an "affair" connotes something more than sex, whereas an open relationship seems to be about being open sexually to other people, but not necessarily (and perhaps necessarily not) open emotionally.
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Old 05-12-2011, 11:09 AM   #154
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how well would you react if your partner came to you and asked for an open relationship? would his request tell you that the relationship is subsequently doomed? would he have reason to fear that if he were to even broach the topic he'd do more harm through honesty?
But I think we are talking about different things because from your initial post I understood you to say that some people would not bring up their lack of sexual satisfaction because it is something they would fear discussing with their partner. I would certainly be very upset if my partner was sexually unfulfilled but instead of coming to me and seeing how we could deal with that as a couple he immediately jumped to wanting an open relationship.

If you had already attempted to fix the problem and it STILL existed and there seemed to be no practical solution for it, then I think bringing up an open relationship is more sensical.

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my guess is that what we value in a relationship at 30 is different than what we value at 45 and at 60. of course there are certain building blocks -- trust, communication, etc. -- that really need to be there, but as our lives change, what we value in another partner may change as well.
Sure but if you're arguing that sexual fulfillment is so important to a person that they would seek it outside of their marriage then THEY by definition value it enough to go find it where they can get it. Maybe it is less valued by their partner but if it is of such importance to them that they have to satisfy the need however they can, then to me it is one of the main needs that individual has.
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Old 05-12-2011, 11:35 AM   #155
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If you had already attempted to fix the problem and it STILL existed and there seemed to be no practical solution for it, then I think bringing up an open relationship is more sensical.

yes, this is more what i'm getting at (and i've written a lot, and probably in circles a bit as i'm working through these thoughts). i think we could all agree that a fairly basic way in which a good couple communicates is about their sex life, and if you can't talk about that, you've got bigger problems than just sex. what's most interesting to me would be if the relationship is at a point where, despite efforts, one partner says, "sorry, i'm just not that interested in what you want" or the other says, "sorry, you just can't offer what i want." and this is the point where i think many people (myself included) would probably think along the lines of, "well, okay, monogamy comes with benefits, but also costs. my relationship is worth more than whatever it is i'm missing sexually, and it's just sex. everything else is good, so let's just leave it alone." but i also wonder how many people don't bring up the subject of an open relationship out of fear about the other partner's reaction and that the suggestion might mean the beginning of the end of a relationship. because once it's out there, you might be plagued by thoughts of, "i'm not enough, why am i not enough, what's wrong with him, what wrong with me, etc."

and it's in this strange area that a website like AshleyMadison comes into being. someone says, "i can have safe, NSA sex with someone who wants exactly that, perhaps while i'm away on a trip, i get to indulge myself a little bit, and i come back home with at least that part of my life satiated, and my partner never knows the difference." i think that's what's driving many people, men and women, to seek out people in exactly the same situation, and i think modern women are interested in sex for the sake of sex (as upsetting as this might be to some) and be totally uninterested in any sort of emotional commitment or attachment (maybe they always were). condoms and birth control can almost totally eliminate the risks of pregnancies and STDs. so, many might reason, why not? why should i demand that my wife hold a full time job, look after 3 kids, run a household, and also be a sexual dynamo? isn't that a lot of pressure for her? yet another demand on her time and energy? is it not more selfish of me to make yet another request? shouldn't i lighten her load? why should she have to do all that, and more?

(sorry to be gendered there, i'm trying very hard to think of the under-40s who's relationships aren't nearly as defined by gender roles as their parents)
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Old 05-12-2011, 12:19 PM   #156
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and this is the point where i think many people (myself included) would probably think along the lines of, "well, okay, monogamy comes with benefits, but also costs. my relationship is worth more than whatever it is i'm missing sexually, and it's just sex. everything else is good, so let's just leave it alone." but i also wonder how many people don't bring up the subject of an open relationship out of fear about the other partner's reaction and that the suggestion might mean the beginning of the end of a relationship. because once it's out there, you might be plagued by thoughts of, "i'm not enough, why am i not enough, what's wrong with him, what wrong with me, etc."
I think that the issue is that there is a selfishness on the part of the person who would then go out and have a one-sided open relationship without bringing it up with their partner.

If a person decides that they like all the other aspects of their monogamous relationship except the sex, then I think they have to give their partner the OPTION of getting out of the relationship rather than being cheated on secretly. If the partners agree, fine. But to carry on with an open relationship that your partner is unaware of is deceitful and you can tell yourself that this is what is saving your relationship but in fact the other party was never asked about their feelings.

Choices and actions have consequences. So no, I would not support one side cheating on the other. If you bring it up with your partner and they freak out and leave you - well to be honest, that is a consequence of the choice that you have made.
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Old 05-12-2011, 01:17 PM   #157
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Choices and actions have consequences. So no, I would not support one side cheating on the other. If you bring it up with your partner and they freak out and leave you - well to be honest, that is a consequence of the choice that you have made.

the consequence of making the choice to bring up the issue of an open relationship?
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Old 05-12-2011, 01:43 PM   #158
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Yes. Because committed relationships are grounded on mutual trust and mutual agreement as to what the nature of the relationship is, which includes what role sexual intimacy plays in it. If you decide midstream you want an open relationship, then you're changing the terms of the agreement.
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Old 05-12-2011, 02:05 PM   #159
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Yes. Because committed relationships are grounded on mutual trust and mutual agreement as to what the nature of the relationship is, which includes what role sexual intimacy plays in it. If you decide midstream you want an open relationship, then you're changing the terms of the agreement.
Agreed with yolland here.
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Old 05-12-2011, 02:26 PM   #160
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Yes. Because committed relationships are grounded on mutual trust and mutual agreement as to what the nature of the relationship is, which includes what role sexual intimacy plays in it. If you decide midstream you want an open relationship, then you're changing the terms of the agreement.

seems you're making the jump in consequence that would lead most people to not feel as if they can have the conversation. at such a point as a discussion comes up, all that's happened is the suggestion of the possible renegotiation of the contract and action will only be taken if the two parties are in agreement.

and what i'm saying, as i saw when i re-read the thread, is that sexual jealousy likely won't let too many people think too rationally about such a suggestion, leading me to the bigger point, i guess, is that it seems to me that we're almost placing too much emphasis -- as we did earlier, went back and re-read this interesting thread -- on not just sexual exclusivity, but sex itself.

I'd go back to the incredibly emphasis on sex via Viagra and, say, a book by Suzanne Somers called, "Sexy Forever." honestly, do you really want to be sexy forever? why are you taking Viagra into your 70s?
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Old 05-12-2011, 02:43 PM   #161
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I thought I would just jump in and say that when I was in my twenties and thirties I couldn't imagine being in a relationship without sex. But then, I realized how much things change when you are with someone. Not for everyone, but a lot of the popular ideas about what is needed in a relationship don't take into account how varied our experiences are. Sex is such a fluid thing and the books out there often talk about it as if it were one way for a person all their lives. It truly does change. I think a lot of the viagra ads and pills fit in with our obsession with youth. Everyone thinks you are worth less if you look old or aren't having sex. If people were allowed to look their age and act their age they might find some new expression of sex that they never thought of. This doesn't apply to everyone my friends mom was still enjoying sex in her eighties. It's just to say that the experience is more nuanced than what is being talked about. Also, I like what Dan Savage says about it, if you're not happy talk about it and explore an open relationship. I just don't know very many open relationships that worked that way for long.
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Old 05-12-2011, 02:48 PM   #162
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seems you're making the jump in consequence that would lead most people to not feel as if they can have the conversation. at such a point as a discussion comes up, all that's happened is the suggestion of the possible renegotiation of the contract and action will only be taken if the two parties are in agreement.
Except that this is not a business negotiation, it's a relationship between two people and I am not sure when relationships and feelings have ever been characterized on the grounds of rationality.

The fact that one party has apparently sat down and considered an open relationship seriously enough to propose it to the other party would most probably leave the other party feeling vulnerable and fearful that even if they say no, their partner will then go and do it on the sly anyway.

To me, what you seem to be suggesting is that you (the generic "you" haha) want to be able to suggest to your spouse that you'd like to have an open relationship, and that you would also want them to respond rationally and consider this proposition in such a manner and then respectfully come to a mutual agreement together and if they don't respond the way that you want them to and even suggest bailing on the relationship then that's super unfair because you should be allowed to bring up sleeping with strangers without any negative consequences coming your way. Maybe if we were robots...
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Old 05-12-2011, 03:33 PM   #163
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Sorry if this is a digression at this point, I just wanted to respond to these.
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but i also think that it's American attitudes towards sexual exclusivity -- sort of a feminist reaction to said man's privilege -- is wrapped up in unrealistic expectations of our partners, particularly today. we have pills that keep men erect and ejaculating well into their 70s, we have creams and hormones that keep women sexually active later and later.
Actually I think the *more* significant change (compared to traditional societies) might be increased emotional exclusivity. The shrinking depth (not necessarily size) of the average person's social network, so that the spouse/partner becomes more and more THE blanket all-purpose salve for your every need for companionship, affirmation, attentiveness, support and so on...that's a pretty tall order too.

I think these medical aids can have their uses in situations where one partner's libido declines with age years before the other's does (and in some ways that may(?) actually be a tougher situation when it's the man whose libido declines first, since men can't really pull off the "well, I'm not horny right now, but closeness is always nice and if you want it to turn into intercourse that's fine too" thing--at least not with women). But yeah, if you're talking a couple in their mid-70s both with fairly low sex drives, I don't really see why that's a "problem." Most everyone enjoys affectionate touching and physical closeness their whole lives through, that much requires no pills though.
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really? seems to me that women are now more than capable of having affairs of their own, and women become more empowered to seek ownership and responsibility for their own sexuality -- no longer "did he give you an orgasm" but more "did you get an orgasm" -- so too will the demand for sexual satisfaction be shared by the couple. so too will women feel entitled to more from their sexual relationships.
I was generalizing about French culture specifically, since you initially seemed to be citing that as one possible example of a perhaps more 'practical' or 'unselfish' approach to marriage (Mitterand-ish extremes aside), and I pounced on that because what I've seen suggests to me that that's too rosily egalitarian-sounding a reading of how that ethos, if that's the word, is actually transmitted and played out.

But even on an individual level, I'm not sure I really buy this "itch that needs to be scratched," orgasm-centric model of the urge to stray. If the dissatisfaction truly were solely physical, why not just masturbate more? It'd be a hell of a lot less complicated. Women who become *sexually* dissatisfied with their partners, and that's certainly a common female complaint and precedent for pursuing infidelity or divorce, are much more likely to phrase it as "not feeling desired" or "not feeling wanted enough" rather than "I just don't have enough orgasms." To me that signals a relationship dynamic problem, not a hydraulics problem, even though it's absolutely pertinent to the ability to get aroused with your partner and so on.

I've been married for 15 years, we have three kids, and I'd still say if I had the above problem and no improvements seemed to be in the offing, I'd rather get a divorce and seek a whole new relationship than cheat. Even if I were to conclude that monogamy, period, is somehow infeasible for me (and granted, for at least partly religious reasons I assume otherwise), I'd still rather be a 'serial monogamist' with a personal rule against getting attached to anyone than to have an open relationship--that just sounds way too complicated, for me. No matter how we arrange our intimate lives, there's no surefire way to avoid jealousy, heartbreak, humiliation, guilt, dissatisfaction or loneliness (lucky bonobos, eh?), so it's choose your poison, I guess.
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Old 05-12-2011, 03:40 PM   #164
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I thought I would just jump in and say that when I was in my twenties and thirties I couldn't imagine being in a relationship without sex. But then, I realized how much things change when you are with someone. Not for everyone, but a lot of the popular ideas about what is needed in a relationship don't take into account how varied our experiences are. Sex is such a fluid thing and the books out there often talk about it as if it were one way for a person all their lives. It truly does change. I think a lot of the viagra ads and pills fit in with our obsession with youth. Everyone thinks you are worth less if you look old or aren't having sex. If people were allowed to look their age and act their age they might find some new expression of sex that they never thought of. This doesn't apply to everyone my friends mom was still enjoying sex in her eighties. It's just to say that the experience is more nuanced than what is being talked about. Also, I like what Dan Savage says about it, if you're not happy talk about it and explore an open relationship. I just don't know very many open relationships that worked that way for long.

you said what i've been trying to say very eloquently and succinctly. thank you.

i guess to use an anecdotal example, these are friends of friends, and actually friends of Memphis's friend (though now she's of course my friend). anyway, we were all having some wine and this friend-of-friend said something to the effect of, "i love my husband, but if i never have sex with him again, that would be just fine with me." and my first thought was, "poor guy." and then my next thought was, "but why should she grin and bear it just so he can have sex?" maybe this is a relationship that should be opened up, but it seems to me, and i could be wrong, that requests for sexual activity outside of the marriage would not be acceptable. so it seems like, "i don't really want to have sex with you, but i'll do it once a month or so out of duty, but you can't have sex with anyone else ever, and if you do, i'll divorce you and take the kids."

and it's kind of like ... really? is it all such a big deal? why might we take our partner's desire for extracurricular sexual activity as a commentary on our own inadequacies? or do we?
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Old 05-12-2011, 03:42 PM   #165
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Maybe if we were robots...

exactly ... which comes back to the original premise of the thread, which is, "why are we sexually jealous? and should we be?"
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