I blame Disney movies and rom-coms for my high expectations when it comes to dating. I’m still yet to find a guy outside my window holding up a boombox and not a single woodland creature has ever helped me with my housework—disappointing. But according to Professor of Psychology Lucia O’Sullivan, it’s high time to ditch our fairytale expectations and even the concept of monogamy if we want to have long-lasting relationships. Has it really come to this?
Monogamy is difficult to maintain long-term. O’Sullivan suggests it might be time to admit that our partners might not meet all of our needs at all times and vice versa. Unless you’re leading the life of a mountain goat away from civilization and devoid of temptation, it’s likely that at some point your head will be turned by someone who isn’t your partner. And yet, extramarital activity is still widely unacceptable in most relationships.
Cheating is usually a solid dealbreaker. While other issues like being a workaholic, drinking too much, and sexual incompatibility vary in consequences from relationship to relationship, being unfaithful is usually a hard no across the board. O’Sullivan suggests that if we customize our expectations of monogamy to suit our individual relationship, the consequences of extramarital activities don’t have to be as devastating. In other words, if we’re proactive and embrace the likelihood of a connection with another person at some point, it doesn’t have to come as such a blow.
The definition of monogamy varies for each person. How do you define cheating? While for some cheating is simply sex with someone who isn’t your partner, others believe betrayal isn’t limited to the exchange of bodily fluids (I know, gross). Infidelity can be defined as anything from lunch with an ex to flirty banter with a co-worker to a visit to a strip club, depending on the person it impacts. This is often where couples get into hot water because they’ve never discussed what’s OK and what’s not and usually, the damage is already done.
We often hold double standards for ourselves and our partners. Studies by psychologist Ashley Thompson reveal that we’re much more lenient explaining our own behavior when it comes to monogamy standards than we are tolerating our partner’s behavior. This seems pretty terrible but it makes sense. We can more easily justify our own indiscretions if we know the intent was innocent, but when you’re relying on trust, suspicious behavior is more difficult to accept. It seems most of us need a little leeway at times, so is it time to loosen the reigns?
It’s important to be on the same page. With monogamy being so universally undefined, it’s suggested that couples take the time to discuss boundaries and expectations. Advocates for consensual non-monogamy claim that their relationships are more stable because they’re not watching over their partner’s shoulders, getting jealous, or constantly feeling suspicious. Understandably, these alternative approaches to relationships aren’t for a lot of people. What’s imperative is that both parties are in agreement on where the lines are.
Can we re-write the fairytale? Despite strong disapproval the world over for cheating, it still remains the main cause for relationship breakups and divorce. So what gives? Is it time to create a new fairytale, one that’s more realistic? While opening the relationship to third parties is a little too “free love” for most, O’Sullivan stresses the need for openness, honesty, and transparency for the longevity of any relationship. And while your negotiations may not resemble the happily ever after of Cinderella, they’ll be tailor-made to suit your own perfect relationship.
Do monogamous guys still exist? Of course they do. We can accept that attraction and temptation are things most of us will encounter while in a relationship at some point in our lives. But monogamy in the strictest sense is still an ideal many people have, including guys. Although some may enjoy the idea of sexual or romantic freedom within a relationship, it’s not often an easy concept to agree to, knowing the same opportunities apply to the partner. However, it might be time to acknowledge most guys don’t have the dedication of Noah and his 365 unanswered letters, and certain conversations are needed before riding off into the sunset together.