In this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, Mark Oppenheimer writes about marriage and infidelity in one of the most compelling and thoughtful ways that I’ve seen. His article is called “Marriage, with Infidelities,” and it’s started quite a conversation in the “comments” area online, with 431 as of this blog post. Oppenheimer writes the Beliefs column for The Times, and in my mind that makes his work this weekend all the more powerful and important to consider. You can read more by and about Mark Oppenheimer here. The title of my blog post refers to a phrase that Dan Savage uses, and you’ll have to read the article to find out what it means. If you don’t know Dan Savage’s work already, you really should, and you will know more after reading Oppenheimer’s article.
The ideas of monogamy and fidelity have been at the center of my creative work for the past five years, most notably through my play III about the 15-year menage between George Platt Lynes, Glenway Wescott, and Monroe Wheeler from 1927-1943, and then my more recent play open heart featuring verbatim interview excepts from 15 gay and bisexual men, some of them coupled, talking about their experiences in open, non-monogamous relationships with other men. Both plays focus on relationships between men, but each time they were produced, the thoughtful comments coming from people of all sexual orientations, drawing parallels to their own experiences in long-term, committed relationships, excited me beyond my expectations and affirmed for me that people want and need to talk about these issues.
Oppenheimer’s article uses Dan Savage’s ideas on monogamy and marriage as a way into the discussion, but then he carries that conversation into deeper territory by repeatedly highlighting the idea that ultimately a loving, committed relationship between two (or more) people requires honesty and communication and an understanding of all parties’ realistic expectations around relationship monogamy. Oppenheimer and The Times are already taking some flack for the article, and that’s understandable. People who have been burned by dishonesty in a relationship (“Raise your hand if you’re Sure”) probably don’t want to read about how infidelity might be “OK” for a relationship to encounter and endure. I’m not opposed to monogamy nor am I advocating for anyone to enter into a relationship that s/he isn’t comfortable with. If monogamy is for you, then go for it. However, Oppenheimer’s article does a great job of examining our historical and current relationship constructs and how these have led us to an assumption of monogamy rather than a choice for monogamy. And for me that’s the key. Assumptions about marriage and commitment have been wreaking havoc for a long time now, and this article effectively points out that it’s time for us to stop making asses out of each other. Have the conversations, people.
I really want to encourage anyone in a relationship or contemplating a relationship to read this article. It’s a thoughtful exploration of a difficult topic written in a very accessible way. It’s not a conversion piece by any means, but rather an intelligent exploration of what it means to commit to another person in the 21st century.