I was doing errands today and on the way home, there was a women’s rights group at the rotary. It was very lively, people honking their horns in support, giving thumbs up, waving as they went by. It was such a positive vibe. I was impressed by just how many men were also there holding their own signs in support of a woman’s right to choose what do with her body. Seeing the men was the coolest part.

Every once in awhile, I go through these phases of beating myself up for being single, for never holding down long term relationships or being married. I think back to all the shortcomings I had in my 20s and all the mistakes I may have made. What could I have done differently in some of those relationships to have been “chosen” as wife? Do any of those men ever think back to me and wonder, what if? What if they had made it work with me instead of the wife they did choose?

Most of the time being single doesn’t bother me as I have a very full life. But as I look into my future years and how I want to end those years, marriage comes back up for me as something I wonder may actually not happen…maybe the chance has passed and was supposed to be one of those old boyfriends. I kind of assumed it might eventually happen for me but now I am starting to think it won’t and am trying to figure out what an alternative future will look like from here on out.

That said, a lot has changed with relationships in 20 years. I’m not sure I would have seen men at a women’s march 20 years ago. Yet, that’s absolutely the type of man I want to be with now. I wouldn’t have known that about myself then because the topics didn’t really exist outside female conversations. Additionally, rights weren’t really a topic of conversation amongst women that much either. Women were talking about guys and relationships because that’s what we were conditioned to be thinking about then – the pursuit and landing of a husband. Now, when talking to female friends, all we talk about is rights in some format, never anything about relationships. Our Brains have been allowed to evolve.

In the car, I was also listening to a podcast featuring Dan Savage as a guest. He’s an openly gay columnist, has been writing for years. He’s done various advice columns geared towards sexual content. He talked about how he didn’t just answer “gay” sex questions; he would answer any sex questions. His being gay didn’t mean he needed to cordon himself off to only one population. Straight people have given advice to gay people. What’s the difference? Why do we need to think about sex through the filter of biological design? I’d never really thought of it that way but it makes a lot of sense. Relationships are relationships regardless of who they are with. Sure, some of the specific sex acts and environments might be slightly nuanced towards orientation but the tenets are all the same. We would never be thinking about something like this or talking about it 20 years ago.

He continued to talk about the phrase he coined of “monogamish” in response to the beliefs everyone was expected to marry one person and remain faithful to that one person for the rest of their lives despite it going against our actual “animal” nature. We believe if someone has sex outside the marriage, they can’t possible really love their spouse. We believe if they have sex outside the marriage it’s because they are a bad person, never that the other spouse may have contributed to the problem. People who have been married decades are considered marriage failures for one indiscretion along the way. People get divorced over the one slip up. We are supposed to believe we fall short of something if he sleeps with another woman or that everything in our relationships is a lie. We shame spouses who stay with cheating spouses.

I don’t really know where I fall on the spectrum but even that is an evolution of my thinking from 20 years ago. When I got cheated on then, I was devastated. Physical touch, sex….those are my love languages. As long as I know I’m the only one he is doing those things with, I know I am desired and loved and enough. When he did it with someone else, I had to grapple with the idea everything I believed was wrong, that he was a bad person, a devious person, that he never had real feelings for me. The self esteem issues it caused then have actually followed me across the decades and impact me still. But if I look back at that time with the way I process information now, I have some different perspectives.

For example, one guy married a woman he was dating back then even while he was still sleeping with me while dating her. Does that mean their entire marriage is a lie and he can’t truly love her? I actually don’t believe that. I think there is real love there and a marriage built on many solid traits. Was he just using me? Did he not have real feelings for me? That’s what I thought then but it’s not what I think now. I believe he actually cared about me quite a bit. I don’t think his feelings for me were ever in doubt. She and I just represented different things to him at one moment in time. And, if having children was a really important goal for him, he chose the woman who wanted to also have children. That wasn’t my thing.

We were drunk at a friend’s party one night and went off to talk by ourselves on a field behind their house. We hadn’t talked in awhile because of some fight but he kept “lurking” all night trying to find a way into a conversation with me….managed to finally corner me at a keg and ask about my dog to get me to make eye contact with him and speak. Someone who doesn’t love you doesn’t do that. On the field, he told me he actually could see himself ending up with me in the future; just not right now, the timing was off. He was right about the timing. I moved a few thousand miles away just a couple months later to start a new life. He did the same and got married. Was he lying by what he said to me? No, I don’t think he was. I actually think it was the purest, most honest thing he had ever said to me. Should his wife have been worried about that? Not at all. He still married her. It’s just not simple. Yet, 20 years ago, we wanted to make everything simple so we didn’t have to hurt our hearts or brains to really think. Thinking about the “grey” areas could mean admitting we had no control or that marriage wasn’t really a guarantee against any of the monstrosities we were told it would save us from. A ring and a piece of paper doesn’t mean he won’t fuck someone else or love someone else or sometimes wonder if getting married was a mistake. In our old way of thinking, she was just never supposed to find out about that stuff…it didn’t mean it wouldn’t happen.

Having a ring and a piece of paper shouldn’t be things we wave over his head to remind him of his commitment for all he gave up or as a threat over hormones neither he nor she should be able to minimize and control. We are the only animal that insists on monogamy and any dent in the veneer is supposed to mean something huge. Is that true, though? Does it have to be?

If I had a relationship right now, I can’t say I’d be ok with him fucking around and I hope he wouldn’t be ok with me doing it either. Under current assumptions, I think that would be devastating. But does it have to be? I was thinking about this the other night and how I think I could plan for it in a way that didn’t need to be relationship altering. I’d say that I didn’t want it to be with any one person more than once, no emotional connection. That it had to be something I would never find out about or become suspicious of and he couldn’t get any STDs or anyone pregnant. Also, that if he were doing it because of a problem in our relationship, then he wasn’t allowed to do it and it couldn’t be something that would make him want to end our relationship. My expectation would be to confront me directly about what problem he was having and allow me to be part of that conversation and potential solution. But if it were just a hormonal urge for fun and my above conditions were met, would it be so bad? Maybe not. Not to mention, to be able to do something I wouldn’t find out about or become suspicious of is nearly a Herculean task because I have incredibly strong intuition and the ability to see patterns no one else sees. That alone would probably prevent it from ever happening. It’s just that I don’t like to enter anything in a naive way and I prefer to have a plan for things so that when life’s complications do happen, they don’t rip the foundations out of my life.

I was in a relationship a number of years ago which was highly unconventional and widely criticized. He was married but had been separated. We had also had a relationship once long before that marriage. I wasn’t thrilled with myself for getting into this but it wasn’t a black and white situation. Others certainly tried to make it black and white in order to assign right from wrong but I think that had more to do with their own marital insecurities than anything else. We weren’t talking about a future. We were just following our feelings in that moment, allowing it to play out to either them eventually getting divorced or eventually reconciling. I was ok being there in-between and not knowing that answer. People could not get their heads around it. But they weren’t me or him. They didn’t know what conversations took place between us and what expectations we set with each other. Also, the wife wasn’t exactly home making pies every night. She had her own thing going too as she was aware of me.

What was weird about the situation is that I actually slept with someone else while seeing him. Technically, I was allowed to do it. He was in no position to demand any commitment or piety from me. It did feel a little weird to me when it happened, though. Weird in that I understood I wasn’t in the wrong and there were no rules but weird in that he was the one I cared about, not the random from a bar. Thing is, the random from the bar wasn’t someone I had any feelings for. It was a moment in time off a really fun evening I was having after meeting this guy. I literally had a physical urge to fuck him. He Literally lifted me up and threw me over his shoulder which was absolutely hilarious to me. There was no emotion attached to it. It was just a natural progression of the night and I don’t regret it.

Initially, I thought my “relationship” guy would be upset about it. It didn’t feel like the sort of thing I could hide from him. We were all about brutal honesty and knew we could end at any moment. The one rule we did have was no secrets from each other. We each needed to know what we were up against, especially me because there was a wife who could have come back into the picture at any time. I was always clear that I would exit if she came back committed. Until then, we did our thing. When I met him for dinner the next night I told him about it. He knew immediately something was up. He wasn’t at all upset with me. He said it made him a little jealous and that it hurt to imagine me with someone else but that he had no claims to me and I was free to do whatever made me happy. Then, he told me he loved me.

According to the “rules” that wasn’t supposed to happen. I was either not supposed to tell him or he was supposed to have some angry outburst, even if it made him a hypocrite. Or, if I truly loved him, I wouldn’t have had an urge to fuck someone else. We were supposed to have a screaming match at the table and one of us walk out in disgust; never to speak again. Nope. He doubled down on loving me and we ordered dinner. Had a great night. That wouldn’t have happened 20 years ago. This relationship wouldn’t have happened 20 years ago. Love certainly wouldn’t have been involved 20 years ago.


EI’m really glad that conversations have changed and people are willing to dive into the deep and dark corners. I am someone with anxiety. To expect that a ring and a piece of paper would somehow protect me would probably drive me crazy and require sedatives for most of my marriage. I’m too smart to think “rules” and signatures and swollen fingers keep a dick in a guy’s pants or keep him from lusting over his kid’s teacher or that I’m not lusting after his kid’s teacher. If I am lucky enough to find the right relationship at this stage in my life, I want the signatures and swollen finger and vows in front of our people because I would believe in the truth and sanctity of our relationship above all else. Sex is just one part of it. For me, it’s actually a very important part of my relationships and it’s critical that what it means with me in our relationship can not be challenged by anything outside of our relationship. I think I would prefer to minimize the threat by creating a safe way for “accidents to happen” that actually don’t need to mean anything at all.