Dear Neil: I would be interested in your opinion of my romantically loving two people at the same time. I am very happily married with two children. I am also in love with a colleague at work. My husband is aware of my attraction to this other man, but because he feels threatened by it, I have not told him of the physical relationship that we have. I do not want to hurt my husband, and I try very hard to reassure him of my love and of my commitment to him and our family.
I am extremely attracted to my colleague, and after six months I still enjoy the amphetamine high of being around him. He is also married with a family. Are we biologically monogamous? Do you have a prognosis for what will happen with my work relationship?
Wanting Both in Christchurch, New Zealand
Dear Wanting Both: The real question isn’t about whether humans are biologically monogamous. Probably most of us lust after others—that’s what some would call evidence that you’re still alive and vital. But we are culturally expected to be monogamous—and the vows you likely took about forsaking all others are part of that expectation. On top of that, most major religions are black and white about this subject. You are expected to choose one, stay with that one and forego all others.
Of course, many people cannot (or do not) live by that set of rules, which brings us back to your story. It is indeed possible to love more than one romantic partner at a time. But you’re going to torture yourself if you do that—because you’re going to have to live a double life in order to pull it off. You’ll always be paranoid about getting caught, and the deception, omissions or outright lies you’ll be forced into making will totally compromise your internal sense of integrity, and therefore your self-esteem will eventually suffer.
A committed relationship usually implies more than passion or sex. It’s about co-mingled families, having and raising children, financial goals, a mortgage, retirement accounts, planning for the future, your standing in the community and being good partners or team mates. Granted, passionate sex is very interesting energy. I’m just saying that it’s not the only factor that goes into being a happy and successful couple.
So ask yourself: Is there anything your husband could do—lose weight, change a hairstyle, update a wardrobe—that would make you more attracted or desirous of him? If so, help, assist or encourage him to do it. Before you look at sabotaging your marriage and totally rupturing trust with your husband, see if you first can’t do some repair work so your marriage can give you something akin to what the affair is giving you. Look to create in your marriage what you’re getting in the other relationship.
But if you keep things the way they are, you’re asking for serious trouble.