There are those who certainly believe in monogamy above all else – physical and emotional – and then there are those who believe a relationship is stronger when partners are encouraged to engage in “open relationships”. I have no right to judge one or the other. If your relationship is strong and boundaries are communicated well, I suppose it can work. However, in my office, I tend to work with the fallout when the “open relationship” philosophy falls apart.
I believe that the two strongest contributing factors to anyone’s behavioural choices (positive or negative) come from these motivational drivers:
- A desire to belong (to be loved)
- A need for significance (power and position)
These drivers are not mutually exclusive but rather work in tandem with one another.
In a healthy committed relationship, each partner needs to feel some level of importance to the other, as well as a feeling of love and belonging, and which of these is a higher priority is a somewhat moot point.
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Our brains adapt and are moulded by the experiences they have weathered — like it or not. The perspective of those experiences is what literally alters our expectations. For example, if your partner grew up in a family full of miserable relationships and/or had a long history of being in argumentative and conflictual relationships then the absence of conflict might cause them to believe that everything is alright on the home front. No chatter, no problems. They have no context for a partner experiencing a level of loneliness or unhappiness that is not discussed and so they don’t pick up the less obvious clues.
Let’s contrast that with the partner who has had such toxic past relationships that they have developed a trait of being insanely possessive, jealous and insecure. If you were dating somebody who regularly looked through your phone without permission, demanded to know where you were at all times, got angry or sobbed every time you went out with your friends, or screamed at you until blood vessels popped in their face when you go a single day without calling or texting — would this cause you conflict? Would you consider infidelity? This person is essentially acting as if you already cheated, so why not cheat? It can’t possibly get any worse, can it?
It’s not rocket science to say that the likelihood of infidelity in a relationship is directly proportional to how miserable the relationship feels to each individual within it.
A client of mine recently mentioned (after two divorces) that “the quickest way to kill a relationship is to take one another for granted.”
A relationship is not an obligation. It is a choice. And how partners conduct themselves within that relationship is a choice as well, one made every day — regardless of website and the dark web controversy.
Intimacy requires constant nurturing and that happens with deep connection and attention to what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour between the partners themselves. When conflicts are creating added pressure, focus on opportunities that promote a sense of belonging and a sense of significance within your relationship. This can ease some of the strain and help to keep you committed on what brought you two together in the first place. Then you can define what monogamy means to both of you.
Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications.
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