Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

The recent news about Tiger Woods caused my wife and me to recall a pact we made early on in our marriage regarding possible infidelity: Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

We decided that if either of us should have sex outside of marriage, the other didn't want to know about it. We weren't putting a value judgment on it, or even saying we felt OK if the other had an affair. As a matter of fact, the reason for this agreement was the assumption that it wouldn't feel OK to the other partner. But unlike proponents of abstinence-only education, we are realistic enough to believe that knowing something is wrong doesn't prevent you from doing it.

Frankly, I don't believe that having sex outside of marriage is necessarily wrong. If it's a one-time thing, pleasurable, and done with a measure of safety, it's like having a nice dinner. But I don't want to have a picture in my mind of my wife doing it with someone else. I'd rather just not know.

So there are some requirements that go with this policy:

  1. Practice safer sex. That is an absolute requirement which, if violated, would require disclosure to the spouse.
  2. If you feel guilty, you must not let it show. It is your problem, and not one to be relieved by "confessing."
  3. Be smart about concealing this activity as regards your voice and electronic communications.
  4. Be smart about doing it in a way that won't raise suspicions or cause an innocent question that has a guilty reaction. Best solution is not to do it in your home town.
  5. Realize that a one-nighter is one thing, an ongoing affair is another. The latter will likely be harmful to your marriage in one or more ways: An affair is a relationship that competes with your marriage for your emotional attention as well as time. It can affect your performance at work. And a lover spurned is likely to let your wife know, or broadcast the news via social media or by just telling a lot of people. (And it only gets worse if you're well-known!)

Even if you don't have an agreement with your spouse or partner, if you do have sex outside of your committed relationship and wish not to harm that relationship, these requirements still apply.


Lisa said...

All good advice. Monogamy can be a very tricky thing for some of us.

Al Sensu said...

Of course, open marriage is another thing, with its own set of issues, risks and pleasures. When I was single, I was once the outsider welcomed in, but after a while, the husband became uncomfortable with the relationship.