The Secret Lives Of Married Men
This week's New York magazine cover story delves into why the Spitzer scandal came as no surprise to a lot of married men. As the author explains,
When the Eliot Spitzer scandal broke in March, I had only sympathy for him: another middle-aged married guy tormented by his sexual needs. I'm 52 and have always struggled with the desire for sexual variety. Everyone gets an issue, and that's mine; it's given me pleasure and pain, and jolted my marriage. I'd only talked about my issue with any honesty over the years with about six or seven people, and when you leave out my wife and a therapist, they are all men.
So the conversation had a conspiratorial male character. When people at dinner parties cried out, "What was Spitzer thinking?" I whispered to a friend that I knew damn well what he was thinking: He wanted some "strange," to quote the old Kris Kristofferson line. Or we passed around JPEGS of Spitzer's date, Ashley Dupre, and commented on her luscious body. The governor's plight had the effect of outing me. When I told one married friend about my torment, he cut me off. "Everyone in our situation has had one or two episodes. Straying, wandering eye, a blowup. If you have a pulse."
Huffington Post blogger/psychologist Dr. Belisa Vranich has also pondered this same conundrum:
I talked about this with Neil Cavuto on Fox TV, who sneered at my answer that "it's better to have a truthful relationship, where both people are happy, and that is not monogamous, than one that is supposedly monogamous but is full of lies and guilt." Or a monogamous relationship that is bored and resentful but, gosh darn it, we are the emblem of a successful marriage even if we haven't had sex with each other since World War I.
While I've sat across from couples that are either "healing from infidelity" or negotiating kooky rules like "no kissing on the lips or hook-ups in the same zip code," fact is, thanks to the Internet, there are a lot of "updates" happening related to "swinging." But let's stick with the term "polyamorous," which sounds more romantic and less like a circus act. I finally interrupted one patient to ask where the polyamory bulletin board was in the library. This young, professional Manhattanite scoffed, "Ever go out with a guy and --sure you know you can relate as far as movies, books, three things you can't live without, you play coy for a date or two, then sleep with him, only to find that he doesn't like oral sex (and you do), and he loves anal sex (and you don't)?" She didn't pause for an answer, thankfully.
The answer? Rather than Match.com or Nerve.com, a more 'adult' site asks those questions and cuts out a lot of time consuming dinners and chit chat that might lead to the fact that he insists on full Brazilians, you won't give up your landing strip. "Lets face it," she adds "Patterson's 'bilateral cheating' was actually an open marriage."
Meanwhile blogger Rachel Kramer Bussel goes ahead and makes the case for open relationships:
I've been in both open and monogamous relationships, and one thing I can safely say is that there are plenty of people in so-called monogamous relationships where there's all kinds of cheating going on. Or, as Betty Dodson told me a few years ago, "America practices serial monogamy with cheating on the side. It's never acknowledged and it's lied about." If you've been cheated on, you know the pain and heartache this can cause, likely fostering distrust that can stay with us in future relationships. Even if there's not cheating, it's likely that one person may be up to something the other wouldn't necessarily approve of (flirting, for instance). Furthermore, when we make monogamy the be-all and end-all in relationships, in some ways we make the letter of the law more important than the spirit. Would you rather your partner make love to you every day, even though their heart's not really in it? Therapist Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic, recently said:
The way I see it is that I meet many couples in my practice who may be sexually faithful and are betraying each other in so many other ways. Neglect, indifference, contempt, lack of respect, stonewalling, disqualifying, devaluing, ridiculing, lying, deceit and so on. There are so many ways that people let each other down, betray each other, tear the trust, demean each other, all the while they are sexually faithful. So why is it that we think sexual betrayal is the mother of them all?
Perel's point, again, emphasizes that sex is not the only important part of a relationship, which should be obvious, but isn't always.
And, finally, this polyamorous guy seems like he's got it all figured it out.
So do most men have an Eliot Spitzer lurking within? Tell us what you think below.