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Marriage Beyond Monogamy

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Marriage Beyond Monogamy

I just finished reading Christopher Ryan’s Sex at Dawn for the second time, which makes the case that, at our core, we humans are not monogamous creatures. Many people are giving Mr. Ryan credit for making it safe for people to talk about monogamy, polyamory and open marriage in public, and he certainly did deliver the opening salvo.

But I am thinking that it is the disclosure of Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife, and the defensive embarrassment of the conservative Republican Presidential hopeful that has really taken this conversation to the center of the stage.

It is obvious that Newt has had some difficulty with long term monogamy. He has had several wives and affairs. Even if the disclosure from his ex-wife in regard to his request for an “open marriage” was not true,  he certainly was playing outside the confines of a traditional monogamous marriage. Some might even say that he was “cheating” with his now current wife before he was divorced. We can point fingers at Newt if we wish, but we know the truth. Newt has a lot of company out there in the land of sexual infidelity. Shall I mention Kennedy here, or Clinton? Or is it your best friend, your neighbor or you?

Monogamy is a societal concept that many would say has been imposed on us by religion and many other factors. I lived in a completely monogamous marriage for 23 years, and then I needed more. But for me, it was too big a leap from being completely monogamous to having an open marriage or polyamorous lifestyle. My husband and I were never going to be “swingers” either.

So how do I have more and stay married? That is when I embraced a new definition of marital sex, which some of us call being “monogamish.”

My memoir,  Shameless: How I Ditched The Diet, Got Naked, Found True Pleasure and Somehow Got Home in Time to Cook Dinner, is all about the beginning of my journey on that path. And as I have traveled further down the path of the brave new marriage with my husband, there are so many conversations in the sex positive community about what we each mean by all of these labels and terms. We all don’t agree on the definitions of anything.

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Pamela Madsen

Pamela Madsen is an Integrative Life Coach Specializing In Women's Issues: Sexuality, Fertility, Body Image, Wellness and Rejuvenation. Pamela is also author of the best selling memoir Shameless (Rodale, Jan 2011), and founder of The American Fertility Association.Her websites and her daily blog,, are a breakfast essential for reporters, writers and policymakers.


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2:17AM PST on Dec 29, 2013

Im a monogamous person with some guys but also are poly if Im with a poly person, Ive even dated two guys at once (they were best friends and wanted to do that.. I bet people will jump to wrong conclusions on reading that.. note I only ever had sex with one of them at a time thou.. I'd spend time with one and then he'd drop me to his mates house for me to spend time with the other). It was great being able to date two guys at once.

There are all types out there and to myself, it all depends on how my partner is how I will be. Love isnt love unless you are completely considering your partners feelings on things like this.

1:55AM PDT on Mar 25, 2013

You either commit totally or you don't.

12:47AM PST on Nov 19, 2012

Interesting article

3:30AM PST on Nov 12, 2012

I find it very unsettling to think a partner could be having affairs while in a committed relationship. And it becomes more unsettling to me the older I get for physical, emotional and mental health reasons.

5:34AM PST on Nov 11, 2012

Being faithful to one's partner means different things to different couples. There's a whole continuum of possible boundaries that they can set, and each couple should openly and honestly discuss with one another what THEY want.
Just as not everyone would be happy in the same profession, and just like some people like cold and snow and some prefer dry desert to live, likewise it is absurd to think that every couple is going to want to have the same boundaries.

2:20AM PDT on Aug 24, 2012

That's what I what I would call healthy monogamy. Whether we are meant to be monogamous or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is the commitment you make to your SO and that is different for each couple. It isn't cheating if you have your SO's approval.

1:20AM PDT on Jul 28, 2012

After wading through the whole boring article, I finally found out what "monogamish" means - it's monogamy with sex education. The name for that is "monogamy".

7:42PM PDT on Jul 27, 2012

I'll never understand why people think they need to protect children from this. That's the same kind of messed up logic that says kids with gay parents or kids with single parents are somehow not getting the best because their family isn't the mainstream norm.
I know a lot of fantastic parents. My mother is straight and monogamous and one of the best I know. Her neighbor decided at 40 that she wasn't going to find someone and through a fertility clinic had children on her own; she's a fantastic parent. I know plenty of gay couples, male and female, who are raising well-adjusted, happy kids. My kids are happy and well-adjusted too and have grown up with three parents.
When my kids did finally ask about this, it wasn't "Why do we have three parents?" but rather, "Why do they only have one? That's not fair." My kids see themselves as at an advantage because they have more parents to love them and care for them and provide for them. They get a full time, stay at home mom and two working parents. They understand that the number of people in a relationship and the genders of those people do not matter. What matters is that everyone in the family loves each other and takes care of each other.

7:25PM PDT on Jul 27, 2012

No, thank. I'll stick with monogamy. I don't need to complicate my life, and I certainly don't need to complicate my children's. I'm more concerned about how my actions affect others, especially my children, and this isn't the example I want to set for mine.

3:00PM PDT on Jul 26, 2012

It is definitely, albeit slowly, becoming more acceptable to be in a relationship that is not strictly monogamous. Amber B says that if people don't stay faithful, they don't love the other person. I don't think we can make such judgements about others. Some people are happy to spend a lot of time away from their partner (e.g. working abroad), but that doesn't mean they don't love each other. We all need to decide what is right for us without judgement from others.

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