Are you willing to negotiate monogamy?
May 19th, 2011
10:56 AM ET

Are you willing to negotiate monogamy?

Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, blogs about sex on Thursdays on The Chart. Read more from him at his website, GoodInBed.

When you take your marriage vows, you’re pretty much making the commitment to never have sex with anyone else ever again. Wow - just writing that is scary.

With the demise of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver’s 25-year marriage making headlines, it’s hard not to wonder if long-term monogamy is possible or even practical.

As a sex therapist, not a day goes by that I don’t see people who are stuck, feeling as if they have to give up on their marriage, or give up on sex - or cheat. My patients have taught me that sex - or a lack of it - is one of the major contributors to marital strife between longtime couples.

Many people don’t want to throw in the towel, however, which is why the idea of “negotiating monogamy” is becoming more popular. From open relationships, to disclosing affairs before they happen, to giving a partner a “free pass,” negotiated monogamy is a way for some couples to stay committed to each other without having to stay sexually faithful.

Such an approach may seem to fly in the face of the concept of marriage - I don’t blame you for raising your eyebrows or shaking your head at the suggestion. But hear me out.

We live in an age when we’re surrounded by countless arguments (or maybe just excuses) against monogamy: Men have a biological imperative to spread their seed and have always cheated (“boys will be boys”); humans are wired for serial monogamy, not one lifelong relationship; long-term relationships beget boredom; people are living longer and longer but half of all marriages fail… Whew.

When you consider what we’re up against, it may not be such a bad idea to give negotiated monogamy a chance before we dismiss it outright as a violation of the sanctity of marriage.

In my own practice, I often raise the option of negotiated monogamy with couples who have worked their way into permanently sexless marriages, or who feel starved for sex - but not with each other. The very concept of negotiated monogamy is a provocative and useful way for these couples to talk about sex and marriage, even if they choose not to practice it.

As with most issues, it’s better to talk about something and understand each other’s boundaries than to guess or cheat or commit to life of silent desperation. And you know what? It turns out that once couples start talking about what they would or wouldn’t allow - strippers, lap dances, flirty friendships, free passes, oral sex with other people, swinging, open relationships - they often tend to get turned on and end up going home and having sex with each other.

After all, the brain is the biggest of sex organ and, as I discussed in last week’s column about fantasies, even just talking about sex can get people interested in actually having sex.

So remember: Taking a marriage vow does not mean taking a vow of silence. If anything, being married should give you a level of trust where you feel like you can talk about anything. And if you actually want to try negotiated monogamy and your partner doesn’t (or vice versa)? Well, at least you’re having an adult conversation instead of acting like children - or former governors.

soundoff (2,204 Responses)
  1. brisbane search engine optimisation

    Simply wish to say your article is as astounding. The clearness to your publish is just spectacular and i could assume you're a professional in this subject. Fine along with your permission allow me to grasp your RSS feed to stay up to date with drawing close post. Thanks 1,000,000 and please keep up the gratifying work.


    January 4, 2021 at 05:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. 수원출장마사지


    January 4, 2021 at 07:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. purchase windows 10 pro product key

    Does your site have a contact page? I'm having problems locating it but, I'd like to shoot you an e-mail. I've got some creative ideas for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great site and I look forward to seeing it develop over time.


    January 4, 2021 at 07:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Jc Tubb

    very interesting information! .


    January 4, 2021 at 09:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Click Here to Investigate What Is Invertase Enzyme

    Click This Link Invertase Enzyme Source Check This Site out Invertase Enzyme Source


    January 4, 2021 at 09:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. buy windows 10 product key

    Hi would you mind stating which blog platform you're using? I'm planning to start my own blog soon but I'm having a tough time choosing between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I'm looking for something unique. P.S Apologies for being off-topic but I had to ask!


    January 4, 2021 at 17:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. seo brisbane

    We're a group of volunteers and opening a brand new scheme in our community. Your web site provided us with helpful info to paintings on. You've performed a formidable process and our whole group can be grateful to you.


    January 4, 2021 at 18:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Click Here for Info Enzyme of Invertase

    Consultant Buy Invertase Enzyme Click This Link Now Advantages of Invertase Enzyme


    January 4, 2021 at 19:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. affordable seo brisbane

    Hey! I just would like to give a huge thumbs up for the good info you have got right here on this post. I can be coming again to your blog for more soon.


    January 4, 2021 at 19:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. zortilo nrel

    Hi, Neat post. There is a problem with your web site in internet explorer, would check this… IE still is the market leader and a big portion of people will miss your great writing due to this problem.


    January 4, 2021 at 19:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. revbiew sleep dream pillow

    Heya i抦 for the first time here. I came across this board and I find It really useful & it helped me out much. I hope to give something back and help others like you aided me.


    January 4, 2021 at 22:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. 제주출장


    January 5, 2021 at 03:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. search engine optimisation brisbane

    Your house is valueble for me. Thanks!…


    January 5, 2021 at 03:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. brisbane seo

    There are definitely plenty of details like that to take into consideration. That may be a great level to carry up. I supply the ideas above as basic inspiration but clearly there are questions just like the one you bring up where an important thing will be working in sincere good faith. I don?t know if best practices have emerged round issues like that, but I'm sure that your job is clearly identified as a good game. Both boys and girls really feel the influence of just a moment’s pleasure, for the remainder of their lives.


    January 5, 2021 at 06:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. frolep rotrem

    My partner and I stumbled over here different website and thought I should check things out. I like what I see so now i'm following you. Look forward to looking into your web page for a second time.


    January 5, 2021 at 07:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Click This Link Now What Is Invertase Enzyme

    Hey! Would you mind if I share your blog with my myspace group? There's a lot of folks that I think would really enjoy your content. Please let me know. Thank you


    January 5, 2021 at 09:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. 제주출장


    January 5, 2021 at 13:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Visit Website

    whoah this blog is fantastic i love reading your articles. Keep up the great work! You know, lots of people are searching around for this info, you could aid them greatly.


    January 6, 2021 at 08:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. to sleep perchance to dream pillow

    Hiya, I'm really glad I have found this info. Nowadays bloggers publish only about gossips and web and this is really frustrating. A good site with interesting content, this is what I need. Thank you for keeping this site, I'll be visiting it. Do you do newsletters? Can't find it.


    January 6, 2021 at 09:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. sleep apnea dream pillow mask

    When I initially commented I clicked the "Notify me when new comments are added" checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get three emails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove people from that service? Thanks!


    January 6, 2021 at 10:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. affordable seo brisbane

    Hi, i think that i noticed you visited my website thus i got here to “go back the desire”.I am attempting to in finding issues to enhance my website!I assume its ok to use a few of your ideas!!


    January 6, 2021 at 17:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. 제주출장안마

    You've made some really good points there. I looked on the internet to find out more about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this website.


    January 6, 2021 at 17:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. brisbane search engine optimisation

    Virtually all of what you assert happens to be astonishingly accurate and it makes me wonder why I hadn't looked at this in this light previously. This article really did turn the light on for me personally as far as this particular topic goes. But at this time there is actually one position I am not necessarily too comfortable with and whilst I try to reconcile that with the actual main idea of the position, permit me observe what the rest of the subscribers have to point out.Very well done.


    January 6, 2021 at 18:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. 제주출장마사지


    January 6, 2021 at 20:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Link

    We absolutely love your blog and find the majority of your post's to be what precisely I'm looking for. Do you offer guest writers to write content for you personally? I wouldn't mind creating a post or elaborating on a number of the subjects you write concerning here. Again, awesome blog!


    January 7, 2021 at 01:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Davina Lathern

    Thanks for the helpful post. It is also my opinion that mesothelioma cancer has an particularly long latency time period, which means that symptoms of the disease might not emerge until finally 30 to 50 years after the original exposure to asbestos. Pleural mesothelioma, and that is the most common form and affects the area round the lungs, might result in shortness of breath, breasts pains, and a persistent cough, which may lead to coughing up maintain.


    January 7, 2021 at 03:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. hydro jet hose

    whoah this weblog is fantastic i really like reading your posts. Stay up the great work! You already know, a lot of people are looking around for this information, you can help them greatly.


    January 7, 2021 at 10:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. power jet pressure washer

    Do you have a spam problem on this website; I also am a blogger, and I was curious about your situation; we have created some nice procedures and we are looking to trade solutions with other folks, be sure to shoot me an email if interested.


    January 7, 2021 at 11:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. how to start a montessori school

    Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point. You clearly know what youre talking about, why waste your intelligence on just posting videos to your site when you could be giving us something enlightening to read?

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08PV1LTLV?customId=B07HPWXTNN&th=1&k=Maria Montessori

    January 8, 2021 at 02:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. so angry shiba

    I do agree with all of the ideas you have presented in your post. They're very convincing and will definitely work. Still, the posts are too short for beginners. Could you please extend them a little from next time? Thanks for the post.


    January 8, 2021 at 03:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. buy microsoft office home and business 2019

    My spouse and I stumbled over here by a different website and thought I may as well check things out. I like what I see so now i'm following you. Look forward to looking into your web page yet again.


    January 8, 2021 at 05:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. muvRF

    769245 797634Hello there! Do you know if they make any plugins to protect against hackers? Im kinda paranoid about losing everything Ive worked hard on. Any suggestions? 287402

    January 8, 2021 at 08:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Website

    It's a shame you don't have a donate button! I'd definitely donate to this fantastic blog! I guess for now i'll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to new updates and will talk about this website with my Facebook group. Talk soon!


    January 8, 2021 at 16:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Damian Witz

    What is healthy for your hair is good for your skin all the same.


    January 8, 2021 at 22:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. 대전출장안마

    I'm more than happy to uncover this website. I need to to thank you for ones time for this wonderful read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it and i also have you saved to fav to see new things in your web site.


    January 8, 2021 at 23:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Click Site

    It's a pity you don't have a donate button! I'd without a doubt donate to this excellent blog! I guess for now i'll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to brand new updates and will talk about this site with my Facebook group. Chat soon!


    January 8, 2021 at 23:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. 대전출장

    Greetings! Very helpful advice within this post! It's the little changes that will make the biggest changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!


    January 8, 2021 at 23:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. google seo brisbane

    Appreciating the time and energy you put into your website and detailed information you offer. It's great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn't the same outdated rehashed information. Great read! I've saved your site and I'm including your RSS feeds to my Google account.


    January 9, 2021 at 00:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. affordable seo brisbane

    I as well as my pals were digesting the excellent guidelines located on your website and the sudden got a terrible feeling I never expressed respect to the site owner for those tips. My women happened to be joyful to study all of them and have now seriously been having fun with those things. We appreciate you actually being so thoughtful and for opting for this kind of ideal useful guides millions of individuals are really wanting to be aware of. My sincere apologies for not saying thanks to sooner.


    January 9, 2021 at 03:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Taneka

    Have you ever thought about including a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is important and all. But think of if you added some great photos or videos to give your posts more, "pop"! Your content is excellent but with pics and clips, this site could certainly be one of the very best in its niche. Excellent blog!


    January 9, 2021 at 06:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Tamiko

    Have you ever thought about including a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is valuable and all. However imagine if you added some great visuals or videos to give your posts more, "pop"! Your content is excellent but with images and clips, this website could definitely be one of the very best in its niche. Wonderful blog!


    January 9, 2021 at 06:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. buy windows 10 home 32 bit

    I think other site proprietors should take this website as an model, very clean and magnificent user genial style and design, as well as the content. You're an expert in this topic!


    January 9, 2021 at 15:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. froleprotrem

    My spouse and i ended up being absolutely ecstatic Albert could finish up his web research with the ideas he gained out of your web site. It is now and again perplexing to simply be making a gift of key points that many people might have been making money from. Therefore we fully grasp we've got the website owner to thank for that. The most important explanations you've made, the straightforward web site menu, the relationships your site help to foster – it is most overwhelming, and it is aiding our son and us reason why the issue is thrilling, and that's quite indispensable. Thank you for all the pieces!


    January 9, 2021 at 15:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. 천안출장


    January 9, 2021 at 19:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Lesley Meeroff

    An intriguing discussion is worth comment. There's no doubt that that you need to write more on this topic, it might not be a taboo matter but generally people don't talk about these topics To the next! Many thanks!!


    January 9, 2021 at 21:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. brisbane

    Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the pictures on this blog loading? I'm trying to figure out if its a problem on my end or if it's the blog. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.


    January 10, 2021 at 00:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. brisbane

    I appreciate, cause I found exactly what I was looking for. You've ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye


    January 10, 2021 at 00:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. 천안출장


    January 10, 2021 at 01:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. office home and student 2019 key

    Thank you for sharing superb informations. Your web-site is so cool. I'm impressed by the details that you have on this blog. It reveals how nicely you perceive this subject. Bookmarked this web page, will come back for extra articles. You, my pal, ROCK! I found just the info I already searched everywhere and simply couldn't come across. What a great website.


    January 10, 2021 at 14:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. naturopath

    This is very interesting, You're a very skilled blogger. I have joined your rss feed and look forward to seeking more of your magnificent post. Also, I've shared your site in my social networks!


    January 10, 2021 at 17:31 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35

Leave a Reply to Dana Cereo


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.