Dan Savage's thoughts on monogamy — and the lack thereof — are now well-known. But that hasn't stopped one husband from twisting them into an excuse for cheating.
Letter-writer Lonely at Home tells Savage she's "in a bad place." She's still very interested in having sex with her husband, but he's less so — and she thinks he may be going elsewhere. When she suggests that, however, here's what happens:
[H]e gets angry and accuses me of being insecure and immature. (I would like to know if I'm at risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection.) He says you agree with him that it's OK to lie if the other person has his or her needs met and doesn't find out.
LAH's husband also "is an avid reader of [Savage's] column and loves to bring up the idea that it's perfectly normal to have outside sexual relationships with other people as long as you stay committed to your spouse." Her basic question: "If one partner decides that he needs outside activity, regardless of how much sex he gets at home, is it OK to go ahead and do that without informing the partner he previously made a monogamous commitment to?" Savage's response, in part:
OK, LAH, here's a little something I recently wrote that sums up my position on outside sexual relationships: "Cheating is permissible when it amounts to the least worst option, i.e., it is allowed for someone who has made a monogamous commitment and isn't getting any at home (sick or disabled spouse, or withholding-without-cause spouse) and divorce isn't an option (sick or disabled spouse, or withholding-without-cause-spouse-who-can't-be-divorced-for-some-karma-imperiling-reason-or-other) and the sex on the side makes it possible for the cheater to stay married and stay sane. (An exception can be made for a married person with a kink that his or her spouse can't/won't accommodate, so long as the kink can be taken care of safely and discreetly.)"
As you are not sick, disabled, or withholding without cause, LAH, and as your husband doesn't have a kink that he's outsourcing to spare you, please tell your husband on my behalf that I think he's a cheating piece of shit, a word-stuffing douchebag, and an emotionally abusive asshole. Mr. LAH may read my column avidly, but his behavior and lame rationalizations indicate that he's also reading it selectively. If your husband walked into my office, LAH, I'd be tempted to slap him with my laptop.
Savage's ideas about the specific circumstances under which cheating is acceptable are certainly open to debate, but he's making a larger and very important point here. He's become (not entirely willingly, if I understand correctly) a sort of poster child for non-monogamy, and as such he's also well-placed to explain what responsible non-monogamy isn't. And here's what it's not: fucking around on your wife behind her back, then telling her she has to take it because Dan Savage said so. Savage's "monogamish" marriage — and many other relationships all across the spectrum from mono to poly — work because all parties involved agreed to the terms together. If they want to change those terms, they have to talk about it openly and kindly — one person can't just guilt the other one into accepting a new standard that she clearly doesn't want. It would be wonderful if we could stop assigning moral judgments to open relationships (often derided as deviant) and to monogamous ones (sometimes mocked as prudish or naive). But no matter what your relationship looks like, pushing your partner around and using bullshit appeals to authority to do it will always be wrong.
I'm GGG, But My Husband Seems To Want More [Chicago Reader]
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