In this society, our view of relationships is antiquated and rigid. I don't think that's a newsflash. I grew up in the same society, being taught that all relationships consist of one man and one woman, who eventually have their relationship legally sanctioned as marriage, have 2.3 children and stay together until one of them dies. I get all that, but it bothers me that we still see things that way.
What also bothers me is that there's been such lurid interest in my own relationship since I mentioned on TV that my fiancé and I are "monogamish." Frankly, it strikes me as a little creepy. It's almost like having people clamor outside my bedroom window with a bowl of popcorn cradled in one arm, anticipating (and hoping) that something untoward will happen. (Of course, I recognize the irony of someone from a reality show complaining about people peering into his personal life.)
Why are people so interested in what other people do in their bedrooms? Now, that's a silly question! It's because of the same voyeuristic impulse that fuels the consumption of porn, strip clubs and gossip rags. We love to know how other people love.
Maybe it helps us feel a bit better about our own sex lives (or the lack thereof). Maybe we're drawn to the fantasy of something we want but are afraid to ask for. Or maybe it's just another manifestation of that prurient interest in the dirty, the awful, the forbidden -- like when we slow down and crane our heads as we pass a car accident, thinking we might see blood.
In any case, my use of the "monogamish" label for my relationship has lit a fire, and the spotlight is on me as I hold the smoldering match.
I didn't invent the term, though. A rather excellent, nationally syndicated sex columnist by the name of Dan Savage coined it to describe his relationship and others that do not exactly conform to the rigid construct of monogamy. Savage and his husband allow occasional sex outside the marriage.
As someone who believes that rigidity is at the heart of most, if not all, psychopathology, I was intrigued by the term "monogamish." It spoke to me. What better term for people who are in relationships that are primarily monogamous but won't crumble and fall if one of them checks Grindr during a hockey game, or even if one of them has an out-of-towner over while the other is out of town?
But isn't this just an "open relationship," you say?
I don't know about you, but the term "open relationship" sounds so... open. As in doors (and other things) swinging wide open! When I hear single people talk about open relationships, they always seem to do so with an air of disgust, as though they thought everyone in an open relationship were swinging from the chandeliers at sex clubs. Then they proudly declare that they would never do such a thing... and thus they proudly remain single.
No, I am not advocating aerial acrobatics while wearing only a pair of stilettos. That would keep anyone single. I am just saying that when we hold rigid rules for our partners and our relationships, those rules usually end up breaking when the winds of difficulty blow.
Many people, both gay and straight, think that being gay means playing wild sex games with multiple partners, but the truth is that even if they are lucky enough to play Twister with five of their most muscular friends, every gay man (and woman) I know still dreams of that one special relationship.
But what happens when you've reached the brass ring and then, after a decade or two of wearing it, you realize that your finger has turned green? No relationship ends with "happily ever after." Rather, they continue with "here we go again."
Rigid rules usually lead to rowdy conflicts and icy stares. The rules that we thought would protect our coveted relationship can be the very thing that breaks it apart. So, for some couples, the flexibility they need most is in the communication department.
I'm so surprised that couples don't talk more in this day and age. It's war out there, and couples need to band together. But the best way to do that is by being honest with each other about who they are, and by creating rules for their relationship that work for them. They don't need to follow the rules of the Questionably Moral Majority, nor those of their Aunt Matilda, nor those of the high-minded hotties nursing vodka seltzers at the hottest club in town. A couple's relationship rules are their own.
And if those rules allow for the occasional "ish" or two, then so be it. If that doesn't work for you or your relationship, then don't do it. It all seems so simple to me. But nothing is simple when an outside person is dictating the rules for someone else's sex life, so let's all stick to our own.
L.A. Shrinks airs Monday nights at 10 p.m. on Bravo.