MYTH #1: LONG-TERM MONOGAMOUS RELATIONSHIPS ARE THE ONLY REAL RELATIONSHIPS.
People who believe this myth may feel that something is wrong with them if they aren’t in a committed twosome. If they prefer to remain free agents, if they discover themselves loving more than one person at a time, if they have tried one or more traditional relationships that didn’t work out…instead of questioning the myth, they question themselves: Am I incomplete? Where is my other half? The myth teaches them that they are not good enough in and of themselves. Often people develop a very unrealistic view of couplehood—Mr., Ms., or Mx. Right will automatically solve all their problems, fill all the gaps, and make their lives complete.
MYTH #2: ROMANTIC LOVE IS THE ONLY REAL LOVE.
Look at the lyrics of popular songs or read some classical poetry: the phrases we choose to describe romantic love don’t really sound all that pleasant. “Crazy in love,” “love hurts,” “obsession,” “heartbreak”…these are all descriptions of mental or physical illness.
The feeling that gets called romantic love in this culture seems to be a heady cocktail of lust and adrenaline, sparked by uncertainty, insecurity, perhaps even anger or danger. The chills up the spine that we recognize as passion are, in fact, the same physical phenomenon as hair rising up on a cat’s back, caused by the fight-or-flight response.
This kind of love can be thrilling and overwhelming and sometimes a hell of a lot of fun, but it is not the only “real” kind of love, nor is it always a good basis for an ongoing relationship.
MYTH #3: SEXUAL DESIRE IS A DESTRUCTIVE FORCE.
This one goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden and leads to a lot of crazy-making double standards. Some religions preach that women’s sexuality is evil and dangerous and exists only to lure men to their doom. From the Victorian era, we get the idea that men are hopelessly voracious and predatory when it comes to sex, and women are supposed to control and civilize them by being pure, asexual, and withholding—men are the gas pedal and women the brakes, which is, we think, pretty hard on the engine. Neither of these ideas works for us.
Many people also believe that unashamed sexual desire, particularly desire for more than one person, inevitably destroys the family—yet we suspect that far more families have been destroyed by bitter divorces over cheating than have ever been disturbed by ethical consensual nonmonogamy.
We prefer to listen to our desires with an open mind and then make choices about how we act.
MYTH #4: THE ONLY MORAL WAY TO HAVE SEX IS WITHIN A COMMITTED RELATIONSHIP.
It has it that men agree to relationships to have sex, and women agree to sex to have relationships. Believing such nonsense leads to the idea of sex as a currency exchanged for security both financial and physical, social acceptance, and the other perks traditionally granted to people who have achieved the culturally mandated state of lifelong pair-bonding. If you believe this myth, you’re likely to see sex for fun, for pleasure, for exploration—for any purpose except cementing two people together—as immoral and socially destructive.
MYTH #5: LOVING SOMEONE MAKES IT OKAY TO CONTROL THEIR BEHAVIOR.
This kind of territorial reasoning is designed, we guess, to make people feel secure, but we don’t believe that anybody has the right, much less the obligation, to control the behavior of another functioning adult. Being treated according to this myth doesn’t make us feel secure—it makes us feel furious. The old “Awww, she’s jealous—she must really care about me” reasoning is symptomatic of a very disturbed set of personal boundaries that can lead to a great deal of unhappiness.
MYTH #6: JEALOUSY IS INEVITABLE AND IMPOSSIBLE TO OVERCOME
Jealousy is, without a doubt, a very common experience, so much so that a person who doesn’t experience jealousy is looked at as a bit odd or in denial. But often a situation that would cause intense jealousy for one person can be no big deal for another. Some people get jealous when their honey takes a sip out of someone else’s Coke, while others happily watch their beloved wave bye-bye for a month of amorous sporting with a friend at the far end of the country.
Some people also believe that jealousy is such a shattering emotion that they have no choice but to succumb to it. People who believe this often believe that any form of non-monogamy should be non-consensual and completely secret, in order to protect the “betrayed” partner from having to feel such an impossibly difficult emotion.
NBJealousy is an emotion like any other: it feels bad (sometimes very bad), but it is not intolerable.
MYTH #7: OUTSIDE INVOLVEMENTS REDUCE INTIMACY IN THE PRIMARY RELATIONSHIP.
This is occasionally true, but not nearly as often as many “relationship gurus” would like us to believe. The myth tells us that sleeping with someone else is something you do to your partner, not for yourself, and is the worst thing you can possibly do to your partner. This myth leaves no room for the possibility of growthful and constructive open sexual lifestyles.
It is cruel and insensitive to interpret an affair as a symptom of sickness in the relationship, as it leaves “cheated-on” partners—who may already be feeling insecure—wondering what is wrong with them. Meanwhile, “cheating” partners get told that they are only trying to get back at their primary partners and don’t really want, need, or even like their lovers.
An outside involvement does not have to subtract in any way from the intimacy you share with your partner unless you let it. And we sincerely hope you won’t.
MYTH #8: LOVE CONQUERS ALL.
Hollywood tells us that “love means never having to say you’re sorry,” and we, fools that we are, believe it. This myth has it that if you’re really in love with someone, you never have to argue, disagree, communicate, negotiate, or do any other kind of work. It also tells us that love means we automatically get turned on by our beloved and that we never have to lift a finger or make any effort to deliberately kindle passion. Those who believe this myth may find themselves feeling that their love has failed every time they need to schedule a discussion or have a courteous (or not-so-courteous) disagreement. They may also believe that any sexual behavior that doesn’t fit their criteria for “normal” sex—from fantasies to vibrators—is “artificial” and indicates that something is lacking in the quality of their love.