“THE NEW MONOGAMY” | Wonder What Your Partner Is Thinking? | Also, “The New Wedding Cake!”

Update from the Editor (that’s me!)…

This post has garnered a lot of attention, as one might expect.  It’s quite a digression from what I typically post (well, save for the cuppie-cake aspect).  However, as we plan one of the most exciting and personal days of our lives, we can’t allow ourselves to ignore one very important thing.  How do we – as a couple – define our relationship?  It’s likely the most critical conversation to have with your significant other… whether or not you think you know how s/he feels.

The concept of monogamy is one that affects each and every one of us on a highly personal level, and the very thought that its traditional definition is being threatened can shake us to our cores.  Your comments on the topic have been so deeply thought out and so incredibly serious that I decided to give this post another day of life above the fold.  Let’s keep the conversation going…

* * *

Ok, so yesterday I randomly came upon quite the blog-worthy item.  It has little to do with wedding planning, but it has everything to do with love and relationships, which is of equal importance… some might even say greater importance.  Let’s begin.

Sidenote: I’m also gonna sprinkle in another one of those cuppie-cakes, the first of which I premiered last week… because this topic is HEAVY, and we may need a little dessert to help it go down easy.

Ok, here we go…

It’s a concept I just heard about yesterday.  Well, the name of the concept, at least (and the fact that it even has a name).  It’s innocently titled, “The New Monogamy,” but it’s nothing new and, according to studies, it’s much more prevalent than any of us may be thinking.  You know that thing called “cheating?”  Well, it’s that, except now it’s called “the new monogamy.”  How do we explain this apparent shift in understanding / move towards acceptance?  My immediate reaction is to suspect that this, quite simply, is an extremely effective marketing campaign run by d-bags.  They finally decided to unite, determined a cause, and we’re only now getting to see the fruits of their labors.  Think about it; I’m actually talking about the concept of cheating as today’s freshest form of what constitutes a successful marriage!

Not so fast.

Cuppie-cake break!

Here’s where I stand.  If it works for you and you can honestly say that you’re happy, then fine, good for you.  If you’ve worked out an arrangement with your significant other that redefines business trip flings as fair game, and monthly-one-night-stands-as-long-as-you-don’t-sleep-over are “bringing new life” to your committed relationship, I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong.  Because who am I to know?  All I can do is tell you guys what I feel confident is right for me, and I get this from a personal understanding of what I need and want out of life, coupled with tons of evidence that the plural partner approach isn’t healthy in the long run.  Because it erodes at the very core necessities of a true, emotionally stable connection.  And one of those necessities is trust.  Whether or not those who accept The New Monogamy want to accept that the trust between them (if they ever even had it in the first place) is under attack… well, that’s their prerogative.  But I’d like to stop preaching, and start quoting…

But first… a cuppie-cake break! (:

{Credit: hello_naomi}

There’s a statistic floating around in the ether that you may or may not have heard by now.  According to a study by Joan Atwood and Limor Schwartz in the 2002 Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, “55 percent of married women and 65 percent of married men report being unfaithful at some point in their marriage.”  (At least that’s how many willingly reported their infidelity.)  We hear about affairs all the time, in the news, even in conversation with friends sometimes but, until now, I really didn’t think it was becoming accepted.  However, when I started tweeting about this issue yesterday, I have to admit that I was surprised to see how many tweeted back that this new approach to monogamy (which seems so oxymoronic a concept, really, because I mean can it really be defined as a form of “monogamy?”… but anyway) is something they might be willing to accept in their own relationships.  Granted, the vast majority of you were appalled – the response I expected… but that handful of people who felt more accepting really started me thinking.  And it forced the issue for today’s post.  I am truly DYING TO KNOW WHAT THE REST OF YOU THINK.

It’s hard not to accept that infidelity does exist.  It does and, clearly, it’s rather prevalent.  And yes, there are countless situations in which an affair can be the result of a feeling that something is lacking in one’s current relationship, emotionally or physically.  But it seems that in most of these cases, the infidelity is a tangible manifestation of an as of yet intangible problem, and becomes the catalyst towards/doorway into a deeper conversation between the (hah, I was gonna say infidel) cheater and his/her partner.  I certainly take issue with this newly espoused belief that infidelity is a proper SOLUTION to marital problems.

Ok now… what are you guys thinking?  Let’s have a discussion in the comments.

xoxo!  – Alison

Label(s): {Cakes + Desserts}, {News + Gossip}

Love all of this...


  1. hindsightbride on July 21, 2010

    So I had a couple of friends in college who were polyamourous. In other words they dated and had sex with other people within the context of their committed relationship. Looking in from the outside, they seemed to make a distinction between sexual and emotional monogamy. While they were not sexually exclusive, they were emotionally monogamous. While it's not for me, it clearly worked well for them.

  2. Katy Mary on July 21, 2010

    I can't say that I'm really surprised by this concept of “new monogamy” (I do however agree that the name is Oxymoronic) I feel like marriage has seen a huge shift in the last decade or two and things that were appaling “back then” are now part of the norm. For me, I could never accept this in my own marriage, cheating, however you define it, is wrong and a deal breaker for me. If it works for someone great but I definitely do not agree with it. I miss the times when marriage was considered sacred, I feel like so many people get married just to get married and jump into it, never really knowing what it's truly all about. You see celebs getting married and divorced quicker than you can say ” i do” it's quite sad.

  3. Alan Viau on July 21, 2010

    Hi Alison, Firstly – I love the blog interspersed with cupcakes. Secondly, I often think that if something works – most of the world probably already does it. Not often is something NEW especially when it comes to dealing with people in relationships. So given that – the mountain of evidence is that monogamy works. Part of a beautiful monogamous relationship is that sex is wonderful as well. Sex and relationships go hand-in-hand. There is definitely an issue in the relationship if the new monogamy is being sought as a solution. In which case, move on with the relationship. End it. I often mention to couples that marriage is a promise that takes a lifetime to fulfill. There are two elements there. First – the promise and secondly – the lifetime. Stuff happens in today's complicated life. So if the promise is broken (hence the trust) and the lifetime of the relationship has come to its conclusion – then have the courage to end it. We can do that without shame today. In Canada, 45% of marriage end in divorce. However, a lesser known fact is that 43% of those divorced, remarry. So in my mind, the new monogamy is a relationship in trouble. An honest discussion about commitment and continuing the relationship must be held.

  4. Naomi on July 21, 2010

    Personally, I agree it is an oxymoronic term. I also believe that in the long run it tears at the very essence of the marriage. Eventually, someone is going to get hurt. We are humans, we may say to our accepting partner, “Don't worry, I won't fall in love with anyone else.” but why even put your relationship in that jeopardy? What is it that's out there that you cannot find within your partner? Sex ? Sex outside the marriage whether condoned or not, in the end leads to one thing TROUBLE. Why marry in the first place? What other sacred “tradition” are we going to bend and twist to satisfy our own selfish needs?

  5. Kim @BrideGoggles on July 21, 2010

    Call it the “new monogamy” or “polyamorous” or any other trendy term – in the end, if you are in what most people would call a “relationship” then straying from your partner is called CHEATING. I agree with Naomi – if you want to play around with other people, why commit yourself to one person? Be free, have fun… but don't pledge your love to another and spread your legs (or seed) with a variety of others.

  6. Postcards and pretties on July 21, 2010

    how can you have a “relationship” where commitment doesn't exist? why bother getting married if you can't be faithful to your partner…call me old-fashion but having other relations with anyone besides your partner is cheating . PERIOD!

  7. claire gallam on July 21, 2010

    Yay I can comment! Anyway, kind of like what I said on twitter, I think these studies are only reinforcing the idea that “it's okay to cheat because thousands other do it.” As people have said below, if you feel the desire to cheat on your spouse multiple times, why did you even get married? I know the concept and the idea of marriage is ever changing and people are adapting their marriage to fit their way of life, however, I don't believe we should be terming this kind of behavior as “acceptable” or okay. Maybe it's my somewhat old fashioned idea on love and commitment, but if you have to cheat [more than once, we aren't infallible] then you need to look into why you are married and what is driving you to cheat. I may be old-fashioned but if you are looking outside for something you aren't getting inside, you need to handle that without cheating or hurting the person who loves you. Sites like Ashley Madison, which glorifies adultly and cheating, are only giving people this false idea that “everyone is doing it, it's totally fine!” Because not everyone is doing it and although it's fine to you, it's not fine to others.

  8. Alicia and Kyle on July 21, 2010

    I don't think you can differentiate between physical and emotional cheating. If it's a bunch of one night stands, I guess I could get how no emotional bonds are formed but that is just gross in its own right. You can't have your cake and eat it too. I honestly don't believe that people who do this are happy, I think they have issues. If you are truly happy in your committed relationship, you wouldn't want to be sleeping with other people, in fact the thought would make you sick. That's how I see it anyway.

  9. Wildly Romantic on July 21, 2010

    I agree, infidelity is not a solution for marriage problems. If you're that unhappy, get out of the relationship, don't do something that is so painful to a partner you plainly cared about at some point. Trust is vital to a relationship. If trust is destroyed, so goes the relationship. There is no 'new monogamy' or 'old monogamy'. The idea is absurd.

    Oh, and love the cake!

  10. Alison on July 21, 2010

    Claire, I couldn't have said it better. I don't think it's old-fashioned at all, I think it speaks to the central issue here – are you truly, truly happy with your lover… and, are you truly, truly happy with yourself. Seeking sex elsewhere and considering it something that has no relevance to the inherent quality of one's relationship is childish and completely ignorant. In my opinion. :) It just seems so apparent that there's something intrinsically wrong with one's current state of affairs (no pun intended), something they're either aware of, or something deeper inside their emotional brain that they can't even pinpoint. Either way, I just don't see how it makes any sense. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

  11. Brit @ Landlocked Bride on July 21, 2010

    I'm not quite surprised, but I def don't agree with it for my relationship. But I do love cupcakes. And lots of them.

  12. Becoming Mrs. Ford on July 21, 2010

    yowsa, i am with you… fairly appalled at this idea. i think people will take any excuse you give them to be irresponsible and make selish decisions wrapped up in “well-marketed” excuses. it is really hard work to be a great partner all the time. letting a third person into the relationship (wether that means cheating or just telling all of your problems to your mom or spending more time with a co-worker than your own spouse) is a recipe for disaster. its called monogomy for a reason, if theres more than ONE relationship you probably have issues.

  13. Chantale Montgomery on July 21, 2010

    i'm distracted by the cupcakes! cheating, bad. cupcakes, good.

  14. Bret on July 21, 2010

    First, interspersing the cupcakes was a great idea. I may even call my debut album “Interspersing Cupcakes” I like it so much.

    Second, I've decided I'm fed up with calling things “The new x.” I feel like it started with “Thursday is the new Friday” and then got out of hand there, and now it's used constantly. It's almost as annoying to me as That's What She Said, which enjoyed a brief period of “mildly amusing” and now has crossed over into “exasperating.”

    Third, this is a fascinating topic. I believe that when couples communicate, set boundaries, are adults, love each other, and are clear about expectations, then there really is no Right or Wrong way to approach love and relationships. I know a few people in a very stable polyamorous situation, which I knew nothing about as little as a few months ago. I know that people can have successful relationships wherein one or both members can sleep with others. Relationships come in all different flavors; and honestly, suggesting that relationships can only work in one way is a little too close to anti-gay-marriage homophobic nonsense to make me feel comfortable with it. (By the way, I'm not suggesting that anyone here is like that, I'm just saying there's an interesting connection there).

    Now, this “new monogamy” is not something I'm interested in. My fiancee and I are committed to each other and only to each other. I can certainly see how New Monogamy and Polyamory and all that can lead to serious problems and misunderstandings. That said, I don't see why every couple shouldn't be able to define their own relationship. Not everyone in the world is going to be satisfied with the “old” monogamy, and they will look for ways to be happy.

    I'm not defending cheating. It's one of the most despicable things you can do. It's terrible, it's hurtful, and it destroys relationships. But I do think that consenting adults function lots of different ways, and the “one man one woman committed for life” is just one of those ways. It happens to be the way that is most prominently portrayed in society.

    Anyway, sorry that was so long. I just wanted to throw a slightly different voice into the mix, and I appreciate everyone's point of view.

  15. Blushprintables on July 21, 2010

    So what you're saying is, if you cheat you'll get pretty cuppie cakes?

    While it's absolutely fab that a bunch of d-bags decided that if they call cheating “the new monogamy” then it won't sound so awful, they're still d-bags. And it's actually not so fab, by the way. I was just kidding about that part.

    The end.

  16. hindsightbride on July 22, 2010

    I had this post on my mind all day. I agree with you ladies that I personally see this as cheating and would not be able to tolerate it in my own marriage. However, I can't help but to respect decisions other people make for themselves.

    One other think occurred to me though. In the 1960s, when the concept of “Free Love” became popular in counterculture movements, women tended to be the ones who got screwed (literally and figuratively.) They were sometimes left with unplanned pregnancies. But more often than not, in a time when women's career opportunities were circumscribed and many relied on marriage for financial security, Free Love left women vulnerable.

    I know you all are decidedly against this type of relationship, but a significant minority are not. This left me wondering if changes in women's career choices has leveled the playing field for Free Love/ New Monogamy.

  17. Rachel Peters on July 22, 2010

    i like cupcakes. a lot. that's all.

  18. Amanda on July 22, 2010

    I would like to respectfully contribute what I assume will be the most hated comment of all time.

    I am of the belief that you should not sleep with anyone UNTIL you are married and then ONLY be with that one person for the rest of your life.

    (no hate mail needed, I know I am the minority!)


  19. Naomi on July 22, 2010

    Amand you are not the minority. That is your choice. I don't necessarily agree with you on never having sex until you are married HOWEVER, I do believe that once you are married it is your husband who you should be with, and with him only. Now if you get a divorce because he cheated, abused you or your children and get remarried…chances are you will sleep with someone again. :-)

  20. lunaandchloeweddings on July 22, 2010

    Wow…what a great topic! It's ironic to think that people discuss all sorts of things with their soon to be husbands/wives while planning a wedding…like the beach or the ranch, pink or blue…and forget to discuss the most important things…like commitment, trust, etc…You need to set each others expectations. So PLEASE whatever side of the line you're on (even though I consider it cheating with no ifs, and or buts about it…however I can respect other peoples feelings about the topic…and as Aunt Millie always says “It takes all kinds of people to make up this world.”) you must have this discussion with your partner BEFORE you get married. I'm telling you communitcation is the key to a lasting relationship…and if the topic is never discussed and one of the other wanders or strays…it can come down to…oh, I don't consider that cheating!

  21. Rmantcangl on July 22, 2010

    While I don't believe that you should wait until you are married to have sex with that person, once you are married… that person is the only one you should be having sex with. Being married is making a commitment to that person. Once you decide to get married, hopefully you have explored each other (and yourself!) sexually- so you know what you like, and you'll know that you are both compatible with each other.
    I have seen many examples of couples who get married young and/or quickly and don't know who they are actually marrying. I've seen many couples turn to “open marriages” once they realize their needs aren't being met in the bedroom. While on the surface, this may solve the immediate physical/sexual issues, putting this kind of trust into someone outside of the marriage will only lead to other trust issues. Then what? You start sharing more emotionally with your sexual partner instead of your husband/wife.
    I guess what I believe, and what is working for me, is that I needed to know my partner completely/physically/sexually before making the commitment of marriage.

  22. Gigi on July 22, 2010

    It is probably unrealistic to expect your spouse to fufill every need or share every interest that you have, or will have, as the years go by. In fact it is quite nice to spend time with other people while working or volunteering or persuing anything else that may not pique the same interest in your spouse. However, the long term bond that is most important between people in love is your sexual and emotional exclusivity. If it doesn't exist at the outset, don't marry. If it wains during your marriage, try to restore it. Don't rationalize and diminish its importance.

  23. Mallory on July 22, 2010

    Gigi— I think you did an amazing job summing up exactly how I feel on the subject. This “polyamorous fad” seems to me to lie in a blurring of the distinction between Marriage and Friendship and Not-Ready-To-Commit.

    That's the whole point, right, of Committing? You choose to reserve yourself for the one to whom you commit. Everyone else gets respectfully and even affectionately placed in the Friend category. It's perfectly fine– encouraged, even– to share your interests, hobbies, pass times and dreams with everyone, your friends sometimes especially if you find your spouse can't quite muster the emotional excitement you were hoping for.

    But there are some things that I think the community is echoing should stay sacred to the one you've promised yourself to. Fidelity is one of them. Aside from all the obvious emotional effects here, even if you're safe, sharing your body with someone outside the marriage is making a decision of health on behalf of both parties. And what if something goes wrong?

    To me what it comes down to is trust, respect and focus. How can you show your spouse the love and support and respect you've pledged them when you're spreading these things around to multiple partners?

    Perhaps I'm a bit too traditional, or else a bit too naive, and I certainly don't want to disrespect the merits of Friendships, or offend anyone who does practice polyamorous marital relationships. To me it just seems that, looking at it from the context of my very stable, monogomous relationship, that were we to come to the conclusion that this setup would “work for us”… our motivations would have been at the root, selfish for ourselves and not In The Best Interest of The Team.

    At the end of the day, addressing things from the perspective of The Us as opposed to Me Myself and I, is what makes us such a strong, loving and enduring unit.

  24. Bianca Ortega on July 22, 2010

    Thanks for the topic (and the sweet treats) and here's my two cents: First, like Amanda, I've chosen to save myself for marriage (and by the way I'm getting married in 3 months!). I'm 29 years old and see how this is NOT the majority, but then I've never been one to follow the crowd anyway. I digress. I think if “cheating is the new monogamy” then what is the point of getting married at all? Don't commit to be faithful to someone in mind, spirit & physically if you're gonna be with others. Just save the empty promises and keep on doing what you as a single if that's what you want. Otherwise, grow up, gain some self control and respect for yourself and your mate and stay true to your word.
    I'm tired of people getting bored with their commitments and dropping them for the “next best thing.” Main case for this is the early termination fee cell phone companies have – they knew people would keep jumping from company to company (according to what met their current needs) so they wised up and figured they may as well make a profit off people's inability to commit. These kinds of people will NEVER be totally satisfied and will most likely instead only cause lots of hurt and emotional scars. This goes not only for those in marriage, but those in serious relationships.
    Never having had sex I can't speak to the bond it creates, but I've heard it's the most intimate act/bond you can have with someone and I believe that. Why would you not protect the sanctity of that with your ONE partner? D-bags or not, this is a LAME excuse to have your cake and eat it too. I feel sad for those people who are on the receiving end of this, because like the successful marriages show, sex outside of marriage on a regular basis does NOT work. They may be blinded by the temporary feelings of satisfaction, but in the end I think this will prove to be detrimental to our definition of marriage, commitment and, mostly, LOVE.

  25. Megan on July 22, 2010

    My now fiance and I have been together since freshman year of college, and during a rough time in my life (after the death of my father), I ended up cheating, and then, feeling ultimately betrayed, so did he. It was an enormous awakening to both of us. It was an opportunity to either end our relationship or make it a hell of a lot stronger, and we chose to stay together. Every day since then, I am aware of how lucky I am and how our relationship is a choice we each make, every day. We don't take each other for granted.

    We got through that rough time by following a mantra my mom taught me – If you each put the other person first, you're both first without being selfish. Following that involves a lot of trust and sometimes work, but it's worth it.

    What we've learned is that being in a stable, monogamous relationship doesn't happen automatically because you love someone. People can stray easily, even if you truly love your spouse, if don't continually remind yourself of the commitment you've made and that you are choosing NOT to be with anyone else.

    Open marriages and all their iterations might work – for awhile. But then one person falls in love, or one person sleeps around too much, or one person bottles their jealousy until it destroys them, etc. A marriage is a promise, a covenant, a partnership that is supposed to hold through the toughest storms of life. If you set out to compromise that from the outset with caveats about cheating, you're already eroding a promise you've made, and it will be harder to withstand other trials in life together.

    Of course, some people might prove me wrong. But I think that if you can't get what you need from one person, maybe marriage isn't the right path.

  26. ashleyep on July 22, 2010

    I agree with Bret. “Relationships come in all different flavors” and every couple should be able to define their own relationship. In addition, I also like the correlation that Bret found with anti-gay marriage. When did we start defining love and sex in such narrow and confining ways?

  27. hindsightbride on July 23, 2010

    Mallory, from a completely personal standpoint, I have to agree. After being with D for 4 and a half years, I had never felt such love, confidence, and emotional safety as I have in my first year f marriage to him. Deep commitment has changed everything for me. Still, my moral compass points me in the direction of respecting others’ rights to make their own decisions–whether I thing they work or not.

  28. hindsightbride on July 23, 2010

    Mallory, from a completely personal standpoint, I have to agree. After being with D for 4 and a half years, I had never felt such love, confidence, and emotional safety as I have in my first year f marriage to him. Deep commitment has changed everything for me. Still, my moral compass points me in the direction of respecting others' rights to make their own decisions–whether I thing they work or not.

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