The new monogamy is a new way of looking at marriage and committed relationships. Most of us have followed a path to commitment that was provided for us by our culture and upbringing. We were taught what a committed relationship should look like, and we assumed that this was the only way to have a real partnership.
You may have had a vision since you were young of getting married. You fantasized about being with a certain type of person, committing to that person in a certain way, and having all of the trappings and ceremony of that explicit monogamy commitment. You may have dreamed of the perfect wedding dress or the most romantic vows. Perhaps you wanted to marry in the church or synagogue you grew up in
because it had meaning for you, your family, or your community. You took vows that were based on promises that you were told were your religious beliefs and globally shared values.
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The Fairy Tale
But you may have engaged in these culturally defined rituals without truly looking at your own personal beliefs, your needs in the relationship, and what you wanted out of it. You may have only briefly discussed each other’s needs and expectations. After a lifetime of reading fairy tales, watching romantic movies, and seeing your family members practicing these rituals, you moved blindly and happily into monogamy. You may have assumed, wrongly, that all it would take to be blissful was to find a person who would commit to you, one you could trust. You thought you could then move on happily with your life, without giving much thought to your real relationship needs. Riding off into the sunset, you thought you were set for life.
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Often, affairs happen because one or both partners are operating on autopilot. One or both partners have needs that may initially be seen as unimportant. If those needs go unmet, they may get met elsewhere. Often this happens when one or both partners expect that the institution of marriage—or the explicit monogamy agreement in which each partner verbally or ritually commits to one another— is enough to guarantee fidelity. Saying “I do” does not guarantee fidelity. It is not enough. It’s only the beginning.
When you committed to your partner, you both came to the relationship with certain expectations about what it would be like. You may have discussed some of these agreements with your partner, for example, where you would live, your work and financial arrangements, or when you might have children. These were your explicit monogamy agreements.
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