11/15/2012 11:15 am ET Updated Jan 15, 2013

Does The General Petraeus Affair Signal That It's Time For A New Strategy In Our Monogamy Battles?

First, General David Petraeus gets caught in an affair because his jealous soccer-mom-mistress thinks he has cheated on her with another woman.

Then, it turns out he was only cheating on his wife and not on his lover, too.

Well, that was a relief.

But through the process, woman #2, a Florida housewife with a very big rock on her finger, becomes linked to General John Allen, with whom she has allegedly exchanged some 30,000 pages of flirtatious messages, which leads to speculation that there could have been an affair between these other two married people. General Allen says there was no improper relationship and for his sake, let's hope that's the case, since adultery is a crime in the U.S military (this seems a little unreasonable, but that's beside the point).

Just to add to the lunacy, the woman with the big rock also received a shirtless photo from the FBI agent who has been investigating this whole mess. Do we know whether he is also married? I'm not sure, I just can't keep up.

And are all the other spouses being faithful? Let's hope so because otherwise we are going to have to worry about a genuine security breach -- one that reveals a team of comedy writers who have taken over the FBI.

Where does the madness end, or rather -- shouldn't the madness end?

Clearly all it takes is a little FBI surface scratching to find that infidelity is rampant. And that the more powerful you are, the more likely you are to get caught and have to face public shame.

Let's just be honest here -- General Petraeus, his former mistress, Paula Broadwell, and even his jovial wife, Holly, along with the rest of us, are forcing ourselves into a box we don't naturally fit into.

As discussed in great detail by husband and wife team David Barash and Judith Lipton in their 2002 book, "The Myth of Monogamy", we are not monogamous by nature, so fidelity is a very challenging trick to pull off.

As Barash and Lipton also point out in their book, there are many obvious benefits to monogamy, including the reality that courtship and mating are risky and leave humans (as well as other non-monogamous animals) "vulnerable to rejection, injury, bad choices, or just plain wasting of time and energy," not to mention sexually-transmitted diseases.

There is no doubt that there are many benefits to monogamy, but maybe it's time to be a little more realistic about the whole thing. Maybe we have to accept the sad reality -- we've tried and failed the Total Monogamy Test. It isn't working, even if we (myself included) wish it were. And if it isn't working, what about tweaking the system, even just slightly, in order to allow loving, committed relationships to stand a better chance of survival, and more importantly...happiness?

Just for starters, maybe some of these approaches are worth considering:

The French Approach: Some people might say we should just be more like the French and ignore the occasional indiscretion, knowing that extramarital sex is just human nature in its purest form. I do wonder if it's more like a step back in time (to about 1950) than a step forward, but I'm certain it could work well for some.

Open Relationships or Polyamory: Hats off to those evolved people who can pull this off without jealousy. I'm not sure how people have time for multiple relationships when just one takes a lot of time and energy, but clearly some people find a way. (And on that note, how on earth did General Petraeus find any time for an affair?)

Get-Out-Of-Bed-Free Cards: Turn in your card and your partner turns a blind eye to a night with someone else. Each partner could get a certain number of cards at the start of the relationship to use at any time or maybe they could be doled out annually. They could even be handed out in barter system fashion, either with an expiration date or not. The possibilities are endless.

Relationship Hiatus: An annual no-questions-asked (or tell-all, if you prefer) hiatus from the relationship -- a designated week, or month, or day, each year when both partners agree to take a break and live the single life for that time. They could run off to Vegas, or reconnect with an old flame, or simply realize they don't actually want anyone other than their partners after all. Yes, this could get tricky if you have children to care for.

I admit, each of these few ideas has its own flaws, and none leaves us immune from the potential for jealousy or hurt. But they are choices that would be made between two partners, knowing that it is for the greater good of the relationship. And most importantly, they are choices that would be made jointly, with respect, realism, and above all, honesty. This path would certainly work a lot better than the "Fingers Crossed it Doesn't Happen to My Relationship" approach. For David and Holly Petraeus and the rest of us, too.

Kate Schermerhorn is the director of "After Happily Ever After," a documentary film about modern marriage. It is out now on DVD and On Demand. Visit for more information and to receive a free list of ten secrets to marital bliss.

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