Best-Of Advice

On unexamined monogamy

My girlfriend and I have been together for six months, and it’s a great relationship. She had to travel overseas for three months for work purposes, and I’m stuck at home without enough money to travel. She’s been gone for more than a month already, and it was all fine up until recently.

She was caught out by an overseas friend of mine being kind of flirty in public. Every day for the last week or so, my girlfriend tells me she’s so horny and doesn’t think she can last the length of her stay without cheating; it’s “so hard” and “the distance is getting to me, so hard.” She tells me how guys approach her in clubs and try to sleep with her, but also makes it out that I should be proud of her for saying no to them.

She has a history of sleeping around while over there and not in a relationship, and saying “no” to guys is something new to her. I give her credit for that. I also admit she’s one to usually get what she wants, when he wants, thanks to a rich mother and forgiving father, and now’s a time where she can’t get all of that without hurting me.

However, it still messes with my head. I’ve spoken to two of her friends that have since became my own, and they’re disappointed in her. I’m sorry if this is long, but you seem great with advice. What options are available for me? Is she doing a normal thing? Am I right to be so cut up by it?

This isn’t about you being right or her being wrong, and this certainly isn’t about doing the normal thing. This is about coming to terms with your petty jealousy, addressing her potential lack of integrity and recognizing that you’re in a self-made prison of unexamined monogamy.

Having sex with other people while you’re in a relationship doesn’t always have to be cheating. So many people are in a constant struggle — to cheat or not to cheat — and it never occurs to them that in order to cheat, they have to accept a set of rules before they can break them.

Why accept the rules? Why not make your own? It’s so much healthier to simply reject the underlying assumption that monogamy and fidelity are interchangeable concepts. They’re not.

Yes, that’s right. Monogamy and fidelity are not the same thing.

It’s such a simple statement, but there is so much freedom in it. Being true and faithful in a relationship has no inherent connection to how many sexual partners you have. The connection is self-imposed.

Why do you care if your girlfriend has sex while she’s overseas? Why should she care if you do the same? What are you proving to each other by not having sex for three months? That kind of behavior isn’t strengthening your relationship. All it seems to be doing is building resentment and mistrust.

What am I suggesting here? Well, it’s not all that salacious. Really, it’s about integrity and strength — the integrity to be totally open and honest in a relationship, and the strength to allow yourself and your partner to pursue happiness wherever it may be found.

Obviously, your girlfriend shouldn’t be having any love affairs while she’s away, but physical and emotional intimacy are completely different than getting your rocks off. Come on, dude. You’re not a doe-eyed grade schooler. I shouldn’t have to tell you this.

Take some time to re-examine your romantic fundamentals. Lust isn’t love. Flirting isn’t intimacy. Sex isn’t passion. As long as you two keep the love, intimacy, and passion to yourselves, do you think you can handle letting her have a little lust, flirting and sex when you’re not around?

If not, that’s fine, but understand that the reasons matter. You aren’t talking to me about your girlfriend being undignified, unsafe or disrespectful. All I’m hearing from you is petty jealousy. You are jealous and insecure in the relationship, and that’s not healthy. Jealousy is a symptom of larger trust issues and fears. Throw in the long distance and a girlfriend with a healthy sex drive, and that’s a recipe for things ending badly.

And come to think of it, this advice goes for all couples, gay or straight, in any combination of girl or guy. There is no double standard here. Fear-based monogamy is a terrible foundation for exclusivity in any romantic relationship. Instead, exclusivity should be based on physical and emotional intimacy.

Of course, sex can be a beautiful expression of both physical and emotional intimacy, but that doesn’t mean it always is. Is your girlfriend looking for intimacy while she’s overseas for work, or is she just looking to get laid? Be honest. You know the difference. Are you being jealous out of deep insecurities? Again, be honest. 

Listen, I’m not saying you should give your girlfriend an international hall pass. That kind of thing is entirely up to you. All I’m saying is that you need to take a step back and open up a dialog with you girlfriend about fidelity, and focus on being true to one another where it really matters.


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