When I start working with a new couple or individual around relationship concerns I often begin by asking them what their relationship goals are. Most, but not all, will tell me that they are just looking for a nice, loving, monogamous relationship. They say that like I am supposed to know what that means — and I don’t. Not that I am clueless, but rather because I know that there is more than one meaning to the word monogamous.
Monogamy is like the color yellow. I can prove it. Right now, I want you think of the color yellow. What shade is it? Goldenrod? Egg yolk? Sunflower? Maize? I know that when I say the color yellow, everyone reading this is thinking of a different shade. Even if the shades are only slightly different…they are different. So it goes with monogamy.
Early in my work with folks that want a monogamous relationship, I spend a lot of time trying to understand what it means to them. An example of when this becomes an important exercise is when one partner partakes in pornography for personal sexual gratification and the other partner disapproves, is resentful or feels disconnected because of it. The partner will say something along the lines of “It is coming between us…It is ruining our sex life… you have all your sex with your porn!” For this partner, the behavior can often have the same affect as if their partner had an affair. The partaker will often say to me “I haven’t cheated…I didn’t have sex with anyone else! What is the problem?”
Monogamy is based on more aspects than who you can or cannot have sex with. There are elements of trust, intimacy, social engagement, non-sexual physical touch, and more. Creating open communications to discuss all of the important elements of trust/sexuality, physical and not, will allow couples have more meaningful, connected relationships based on accurate expectations and the ability to weather behaviors that are challenging.
If you are dealing with relationship challenges and/or are trying to negotiate the sexual boundaries in your relationship, contact Elliott at [email protected]