I've been thinking about this a lot lately. My husband and I will celebrate our 22 wedding anniversary in a few weeks and we are already making plans for dinner and probably an art fair. (I love art fairs). Plus it's been the topic in various of forums, blogs, and books I've been reading this summer. So I've been thinking a lot about monogamy. What does it mean to commit oneself to one other person? Is it important?
Let me just say, before I begin my story, that I do believe in monogamy, I took vows to that end, and I have lived them faithfully. So, my simple answer is yes, it's important. But I arrive at that simple answer from a life lived in more complex circumstances.
I hesitate to write this, it will make me vulnerable. And remind me of myself in days I prefer to forget. I did not like Anne Lamott's book, "Hard Laughter" because her main character reminds me of myself and my friends when we were in our early twenties. Not exactly, but there is enough of a resemblance to make me uncomfortable in the memories.
This story begins long before I went back to church. Before I knew the man who is now my husband. and, way before I had an thought about being ordained.
I'm thinking back to 1979 - 1983. I was in a relationship, even thought I was in love. We met in college in 1976. After college we moved to Chicago and got an apartment. Turns our we had very different ideas of what this would mean. He seemed to think that living together still allowed him to explore other relationships. I was clearly his "main" relationship - but, well, others were to be allowed. I put up with this for years. It made me wonder if I too "ought" to have other relationships? It was a very painful, confusing time. We were living in an artistic world, a counter-cultural world, a free world. For awhile I got my own apartment, but eventually we moved back in together, in another apartment. There were many parts of our relationship that were wonderful. He was funny, and active, we played tennis and went cross country skiing. He was kind and gave me sweet handpainted cards on my birthday and Valentine's Day. So, I loved him, and his family. Compared to my family they were rock solid (they really were a wonderful family, but I suspect infidelity was an inherited male trademark). But things deteriorated. He wanted to have a menage a tois with my (then) best friend. She wanted to too. I DID NOT.
Eventually he decided to go to graduate school, in another state. I decided not to go. I had a job and a life where I was. He left. I went into therapy for the first time. And really began to understand myself a lot better.
We broke up. For awhile I dated three men at the same time, none of them seriously. Until one became serious. And we decided to get married. I took vows, and never really doubted my ability to be faithful.
Over the years I have on rare occasion contemplated another relationship. Not with an actual person, which seems kind of funny. I would think, "well if the right person came along I'd have an affair. Maybe it would help me get out of this miserable marriage." Because at times this marriage has been miserable. Probably for both of us.
But always I would think and know that such behavior would not help. It would not solve my marital issues and it would not make me happier and it not be good for me or anyone involved. Deep down inside (Ok, it was all that therapy, and some Buddhism spirituality), but deep down inside I knew that I had to fix my problems with the person I was with, or I would just keep repeating them. Of course it helped that my husband was willing to do the same - he has never been unfaithful either. Which makes a difference. Two people who realize that we have to work out together, with one another, and sometimes on our own, but still with the other. Admitedly I sometimes thought about divorce, free myself, and then a new relationship. But, well, same principle for me - I'd just keep repeating the same issues until I worked them out with the person I was involved with.
So. I've hung in there. We've hung in there. Twenty-two years is a long time. We've been through a lot. I can't say we've worked out all our issues. We are still raising kids (19 and 15).