Wanna ‘Monagamish’ Relationship? Women’s Health Magazine Thinks so!



In the March issue of Women’s Health is yet another story on for lack of a better word: swinging. I’ve noticed this topic has run in a couple of other women’s mags recently too, one in the January Redbook called “Happily Married…Swingers?”

This one’s titled “Monagamish” and purports that to an increasing number of couples, being committed doesn’t mean being sexually faithful. Women’s Health delves into the provocative new movement of ‘negotiated fidelity.’

Ok, so first of all, provocative new movement? Uh, not so much since swinging and some version of married couples swapping partners got its name in the sixties with the advent of the sexual revolution and reliable birth control (the pill). Not to mention, it’s been practiced without a name long before then. European intellectuals were said to have practiced wife trading in the 18th century and there is some mention of swapping going back to the 16th century where formal written agreements were drawn up between participants.

In any case, what goads me about these modern day articles on the topic is that every couple they profile pretty much lays out the emotional landmines involved: jealousy, hurt feelings, anger and resentment abound, and that’s on both ends between couples who agree to mutual unfaithfulness.

This negotiated fidelity can involve everything from allowing one night stands, having continuous hookups, a don’t-ask -don’t -tell policy, a share-every- detail philosophy, or those that allow flings on biz trips or vacations, or only online.

The couple profiled in this piece, Chris and Elizabeth, are married six months, together nine monogamous years before broaching the subject. The wife jumps in first but chooses a man who she says breaks her heart leaving her a weepy wreck after the whole betrayal was over. Um, isn’t the point of this sex, so why is the married woman getting her heart broken from a sexual hookup?

Yeah, that’s the problem. Then the husband has a make out session on a biz trip and the wife has to deal with that. She says things like she was jealous but it wasn’t as bad as she thought it would be, and that it would have been worse if he had slept with her or if she knew her. You think? Yet isn’t that what you’ve signed up to do in the first place?

The point is this shit doesn’t really work out well for most of those involved. Even the articles on it can’t come up with couples who say this works  for them. Seems everyone has jealous or angry feelings about the situation, and hell, the woman in this piece apparently alluded to having deeper feelings about her tryst–perhaps even falling in love– since she got her heart broken.

By the end of the article, the therapists weigh in and tell us how if you’re really going to do this, you have to have open communication and discuss your fears and worries honestly, and blah, blah, blah. The problem is the people don’t even know what their fears and worries are until their husband boffs the neighbor or their wife beds the cute guy at the party and suddenly, oops, they were more bothered by their feelings than they’d thought they’d be.

But the worse part of this one is the requisite survey at the end in which Women’s Health and Men’s Health readers were polled to see just what they would allow their partner to do in such a nonmonagomous union:

30 percent of women are ok with their spouse having intercourse (that’s a fairly low number but I suspect it’s actually much lower in reality)

27 percent are ok with their guy having oral sex with someone else (you’d think these two numbers would be switched)

And the numbers only go down from there.

22 percent would allow their man a romantic dinner with another woman (ugh, again, isn’t this about sex?)

21 percent would allow gift exchanges (dang, we gotta spend money on this bitch’s gifts, too?)

And only 8 percent would allow hooking up on home turf (in other words, no, you can’t boink her in our bed, dear).


Honestly, Women’s Health, I don’t know who you think is going to introduce negotiated infidelity into their relationships based on the advice here, which doesn’t even really work for those you profiled. I suspect it’s around 1 percent—or less!


About stilettonation

Jennifer Nelson is a writer working on Stiletto Nation: Inside the Perfumed Pages of the Women's Magazine Industry to be published Fall of 2012 by Seal Press. Stop in and read about the great, the awful and the insane in the fragrant pages of the women's glossies.

2 responses »

  1. Jennifer,

    Love your blog in that I love to be horrified periodically. Thanks for calling these mags out on the messages they send.

    I also wanted to point you to a blog post of a friend of mine, calling womens mags out on journalism no-nos.


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