One of the social constraints that monogamy places on a relationship is the notion that once you are married any sort of flirting is suddenly taboo. That you must close off your sexual identity to everyone except your life partner. I can see the beauty and sanctity in the ideology behind this thinking, and more I used to subscribe wholeheartedly to it. You found your soul mate, and all your love should be saved for them. On paper, it’s sweet, endearing and a fantasy that many of us longingly thought about in our youth. But, is this practical, real world behavior? Does this actually make the relationship healthier, and stronger or does it instead plant a seed of jealousy and possessiveness?
Depending on if you are a monogamous or a non-monogamous reader your relationship biases are going to play a major role in answering that question. The beauty and trust in knowing your partner will never flirt with another human could be an integral part of why you got married. That idea that you never have to worry, can be incredibly comforting and allow you to explore many other facets of your relationship. Pair bonding is an incredible experience and not something I want to diminish the importance of as it’s critical in all partnerships. I fondly remember how incredible it was for me, to tell people, that my first boyfriend and I were each others firsts and only sexual partners (well until our first breakup around year 6 anyways). We were fully committed to each other in every single aspect of our lives. And that was a really significant factor in us staying together for 9 years or so. It gave us something extra to stay together for, something meaningful and gave our relationship an almost added importance. Additionally, in the no flirting when married school of thought, I must add that many people hate dating and flirting, so they were all too happy to give that all up with marriage and not think about it again.
Now let’s talk briefly about the other side of the issue, the married people who think it is OK to still flirt. And there are tonnes of us out there, many who would identify as monogamous too. These are the people, who like me, absolutely love to flirt. To push the envelope of friendship just slightly past the normal everyday pleasantries. I for one, see, just how freeing and liberating it is to flirt. How much a part of my sexuality comes alive when I get to talk, and be playful with new people. It not only invigorates me, it also revitalizes my relationship with my partner. Any swinger will tell you that often, they have the hottest sex with their partner when they come home from the club or a date. So, the idea of flirting actually strengthens many relationships in direct conjunction with a solid foundation. Having been in long term relationship on both sides of the spectrum I believe flirting, even when married is a true sign of a relationship that trusts, and ultimately has their shit together.
But the reality is that, what I think doesn’t matter. What really matters is what we as a society publicly do or say. And that is where I think the meat and potatoes really are because as much as you may agree with me in your head, what you support publicly is what gets noticed. Take a fellow blogger, who shared her experiences with “bigger than friendship” feelings for a married man. The public outcry from her followers, on Twitter, was predictably close minded. The shame, finger wagging and instant judgement that she crossed lines by even talking to this guy, because he was… wait for it… married, was quick and very decisive. And further that he was in a moral obligation to never have a female friend outside of his marriage, period. Of course, there were a few open-minded comments speckled in, but until she came out with the piece called Aftermath the critics were outraged. Was she and the married man engaged in some form of flirtation, how scandalous! But was it harmless? Well that depends on your prerogative and what you have negotiated as your own personal marriage terms and boundaries or your base belief system. Wait scratch that… it actually has nothing to do with anyone but him, his wife and Lucy.
See the thing of it is, us non-monogamous folks, we talk about these things like is flirting ok when we get married. There are no assumptions made in a healthy and communicative partnership. We negotiate and re-negotiate our wants, needs and our boundaries. And what’s more, we implicitly understand that all the people we interact with in the community, are doing the same. So, we don’t make assumptions for their relationship boundaries either. We ask, we talk, we respect what works for them. The monogamous world, doesn’t do this. Instead there are harsh guidelines that public opinion dictates as a result of whomever speaks loudest or often who presents an argument that involves the most public shame, and that becomes the standard. Protect the sanctity of marriage even though we don’t talk about what that actually means! Nowhere did anyone ask or suggest, that Lucy, and the married man have a discussion about their friendship boundaries or if that that worked with the wife. Instead, Lucy, developed feelings, understood that having feelings for a married man was wrong, shameful and ended things.
But what if there was another option? What if it was permissible to flirt in the married couple’s relationship? And further what if as a standard for monogamy the conversation about what cheating actually entails occurs? What if public opinion did not dictate relationship norms, and instead we embraced the idea that each partnership is unique, respected and we went on with our merry little lives? What if, it is OK to flirt when you’re married?
Curious about Lucy’s story? I highly recommend you giving this 3 part blog post a read, not only because @LucyGoesDating said I could share! But also because her blog is super fun to read, and so completely opposite from mine that I adore it. So here is part 1 to get you started, Married Man Part 1.
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