Protecting Monogamy

By Beth Flinn, LPC

Beth headshotWhen I counsel engaged couples, I usually ask if they plan to be monogamous. Generally, the first response I get is a startled look that says, “What kind of dumb question is that?” followed by a verbal response such as, “Of course we’re going to be monogamous; we are getting married!” Next I ask them how they know they are going to be monogamous, and I am usually greeted with a blank stare as each person turns to the other and mumbles something like, “Well, we just assume…isn’t it implied?”

Statistics clearly point to the fact that merely saying, “I do” does not guarantee marital fidelity, so why do we assume that it does? Throughout my work with numerous premarital couples, I have yet to meet a duo that has actually had an intentional discussion about monogamy, what it means to each of them, and how they intend to be faithful to each other and their marriage vows.

Most couples agree that, in the purest sense, monogamy means not having sex outside of the marriage. But in today’s world, with the many ways of connecting others, the lines can be hazy. For instance, what kinds of communication with others over social media is okay and what is crossing boundaries? What constitutes flirting? What are the boundaries concerning emotional relationships with others? What is the couple’s agreement for how to operate when someone feels attracted to a third? (News flash: That doesn’t stop happening just because you get married!) Of course, not every circumstance can be predicted or prevented. But I have found that when couples sit down and have the sometimes-difficult conversations about monogamy and individual expectations about relationship boundaries, the path to being true becomes a lot less cloudy.

Whether you are dating, engaged, or already married, it is never too late to have this very important conversation. In fact, it is best to treat this as an ongoing discussion throughout the course of your marriage because different seasons contribute to different vulnerabilities. Though this might be a difficult or uncomfortable subject to address, keep in mind that it is far less uncomfortable than the fallout for not having appropriate boundaries to protect your marriage in the first place.

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