Negotiated infidelity. That’s the subject of “Sugarbabe” by Holly Hill, an Australian former mistress turned author. Her premise: keep your guy faithful to your relationship by letting him be unfaithful to you. Hmmmm . . .
Call me old fashioned. Call me narrow-minded. But I’m not one teensy bit interested in giving my sweetheart the nod to break a sweat with other women. Ms. Hill postulates that guys will be guys and, thus, we women might as well stop fighting human nature. That’s a bit like saying it’s a dog’s nature to bite so why train your dog to have good manners.
I was an estate planning attorney for 20+ years before I morphed into a relationship coach. Clients never ceased to surprise me. For example, my client Byron was the quietest, least assuming man I knew. He and his equally unassuming wife Mavis, both in their mid-60’s, were the last—I’m not kidding, the VERY last—people I would have pegged as swingers. Sure ‘nuff, they were. After Mavis died, Byron paid me a visit and I heard the whole story. Seems that he broke one of the cardinal rules of swinging—never get emotionally involved, it's just sex. He and another woman fell for each other. Uh-oh. Complication! Well, he and Mavis worked it out but after Mavis died, Byron confided in and consulted with me because he was worried that the other woman might make some claim to his estate and he was rightfully concerned about his children having a peak at those still waters that had run so deep. I assured him it was unlikely, bade him good-bye, and sat in shocked silence, reminded once again to never judge a book by its cover.
Byron’s “lapse” demonstrates what to me is the issue in an open relationship or in what Ms. Hill describes as “negotiated infidelity.” How do you eliminate the risk of emotional attachment to the person you’re casually schtupping? Ms. Hill says you have to have rules. Her boyfriend is allowed to have sex with other women but he isn’t allowed to spend the night or spoon with anyone but her, and he can’t take any schtuppee on romantic getaways. There are rules for swingers, too. But rules, as they say, are made to be broken—as Byron proved. Okay, if not “made” to be broken, then certainly too easily broken. What would Ms. Hill think if her sweetheart forgot, just for a minute or two, that he’s not supposed to spoon another woman? Would he then be guilty of cheating? I suppose so. Safe physical sex is easily addressed. Safe emotional sex—not so easy.
I’m going to keep an open mind. Having such an arrangement may work for some couples and if so, who am I to say they’re wrong. If Ms. Hill and her sweetheart can make it work, more power to them. But I’m afraid there’s heartache ahead for Ms. Hill.
In my experience, both personally and working with couples over the years, the most fulfilling, satisfying, rewarding, and connected relationships are those in which the two partners reserve themselves—physically and emotionally—for each other.