Second Life and My Journey From Monogamy (Monotony) to Bliss

December 3, 2008 at 4:55 pm (Communication, Infidelity, Life, Love, Marriage, Polyamory, Relationships, Second Life, Sex) (, , )

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“I blame Cinderella.”

That is the first line of Jenny Block’s amazing and courageous book titled Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage. Don’t worry, I don’t take her words personally. But that’s because her book has changed my life.

What’s so fab about this book you wonder? For one, it is a refreshingly honest glimpse into the evolution of one woman’s relationship(s) juxtaposed alongside her critical analysis of our entrenched and long-standing societal beliefs on sex, marriage, and monogamy. But I think more importantly this true story is told by Jenny herself, and she is someone you’d consider “normal” by today’s standards–if you were judging. It’s delightfully refreshing to think about the issues of open relationships and non-monogamy outside the previously more prevalent “touchy-feely, lets-get-naked-and-massage-each-others’-auras” tribe. In essence Jenny’s story is my story, sans Second Life.

Let’s first back up to the year I got married and was still in hot pursuit of my own real life Cinderella Story. In preparation for my wedding I wrote a poem that I featured as one of my very first blog posts on this blog: True Love’s Toes. The poem captures the perspective I had on the meaning of my impending nuptials: the confident promise, the burgeoning possibilities, and the starry-eyed fairytale presumptions all in place. I am certain it mirrors the myriad other marital musings, love notes, vows, etc. captured by countless brides and grooms across the globe as they embark on their own journeys.

Now fast forward 12 years. The scenes that zip by are as familiar any others: friendly gatherings, Grateful Dead shows, interstate moves, death of grandparents, birth of child, Montessori school, job changes, financial gains and losses, and Second Life. Now here’s where the plot thickens or as I like to say, where I woke up. And then my husband awoke. And our lives have been forever changed.

For many years my husband and I had led relatively contented lives relentlessly pursuing the proverbial American dream together. Although it was thankfully (and by our design) way less Stepford wife-like than many others’, our life together resembled the typical fantasy of true love and marital bliss. Yet several times over the years I teetered on the edge of not just contemplating but committing sexual indiscretions. Nearly every business trip to Las Vegas seemed to culminate in passionate flirtatious connections I’d make with interesting men. In every case I didn’t go through with them. But I returned to my life and my husband and was honest about my feelings. And we both wondered why these experiences happened and what they meant.

Second Life is like Vegas on pixelated steroids. There are fascinating men and women everywhere–yet this time Barbie and Ken perfect –just aching to meet and virtually connect with willing counterparts. And after awhile I was no longer able to ignore both the sexual desires and emotional connections I had for people other than my husband. And thus was the true beginning of our open marriage, which started in the virtual realm of Second Life and soon spilled over into our real lives.

In my opinion and experience, Second Life has a tremendous capacity to be a catalyst for us as a culture to question the existing constructs of marriage and monogamy, and to explore in a relatively safe environment what it might feel like to engage in open relationships. Many people, like my husband and I, are for the first time discussing honestly and openly what it means to love more than one person. We are all realizing that opening our hearts to include more people actually brings greater benefits to our existing relationships, rather than having negative consequences. That goes against nearly everything we’ve been taught to believe about adultery, monogamy, and the one-size-fits-all approach to partnerships we’ve been fed our entire lives. As Jenny points out repeatedly in her book, open or polyamorous relationships actually expand our capacity to love, rather than diminish it.

Yet Second Life also has an alarming potential to reinforce the fairy tale fantasies of monogamy and sexual and emotional fidelity that have dominated our culture through literature, movies, songs, religious teachings, etc. for decades. Isn’t there something bizarre and contradictory about many folks’ tendency in Second Life to meet “the one,” fall in love, host a virtual wedding, and expect emotional and sexual fidelity in this world that is primarily comprised of our own brain dramas? In a world where anything is possible, I find this near replication of real life a somewhat sad indication that we still have a long way to go to free our minds.

As I read this post back I realize this is more of a summary of my own journey to this happy place where I now sit. I haven’t included the statistics (like 40 – 60% of married men and women cheat on their spouses). I omitted a discussion of historical and evolutionary data on how fidelitous and emotional love-based marriages have really only taken hold in the last century, whereas prior to that marriage was an economically-based transaction. I’ve failed to include analysis on the riveting topic of the virgin/whore paradox, whereby men and women perpetuate this idea that men want a vixen in the bedroom but a virgin at the altar. And I’ve left out the opinions of countless experts who agree that monogamy is as natural to the human species as eating our young. So in fairness I owe you that next round. In the meantime, if you’re curious on this topic and want to further open your own mind–and perhaps other things–, check out the reading list below:

  1. Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray by Helen Fisher, PhD
  2. Open Marriage: A New Life Style for Couples by Nena O’Neill & George O’Neill
  3. The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People by David P. Barash, PhD, and Judith Eve Lipton, MD
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14 Comments

  1. Jenny Block said,

    Thank you for this. I really appreciate your kind words and insightful writing. It is only through this kind of thinking and sharing that we can move forward. May you find all you are seeking.

    Wishing you all the best,
    Jenny Block
    Author of “Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage”
    http://www.jennyonthepage.com

  2. cindykesey said,

    Hi Jenny,
    Thank YOU for your courage and the terrific example you’ve set for so many of us. You have inspired me to be more open about my open relationship in an attempt to “devillify” and dispel the stigma that surrounds open relationships.

    I can tell you that I’m sending a copy of your book to many of my friends for Christmas. Do you give group discounts? 😉

  3. Zippora Zabelin said,

    *gasp*
    I would love to let my husband read this post, because it expresses perfectly my point of view – if only I had the guts. I’m still gathering courage, but I’m certain that one day I will…
    Thanks a lot, Cindy.

  4. cindykesey said,

    Hi Zippora,
    Thanks for the comment. I don’t think you’re alone in your situation. In fact, I think there are probably millions like you who would like to explore an alternate version of intimacy but their partners are not on board (yet).

    I highly recommend you pick up Jenny’s book as she explores this predicament–which she experienced for years before making changes to her life as a result. Jenny discusses that, at some point, it wasn’t a choice to stay in the relationship the way it was and be true to her own needs. You may or may not find that to be true for you at some point as well. I know my husband and I were at the end of our rope before we discovered our solution.

    I wish you the best of luck.

  5. Elliot Lockhart said,

    Hi, Cindy!

    Wow.

    What an eloquent post. You never cease to amaze with your writing skill.

    I am totally onboard with Polyamory, but my wife is not yet. Your husband is very fortunate, because I think it’s a harder sell for women than men. Ken Kesey (related? :*) ) said “All communes stop in the kitchen.” And I think there may be some genetics involved in women binding the family unit together, and men fanning out their seed far and wide. (although nothing that our frontal lobes couldn’t conquer!)

    I have broached the subject with my wife, and she and I are working through it. It takes a great deal of processing due to the indoctrination most of us had growing up.

    I’ve read the book, and I can highly recommend it to anyone who makes use of their frontal lobes.

    I would say that Jenny’s book is about humanity. The singular idea that as long as we are hurting no one, we should be allowed to pursue our happiness, no matter how we define it.

    And what could be more human than that?

    I look forward to you expanding on the other topics that she touched on (Virgin/Whore, etc.), because they are incredibly important as well.

    As usual, Cindy – you are a valiant soldier in the defense of humanity, and we are all in your debt.

    Thank you for everything.

  6. London Spengler said,

    It is wonderfull to see a new post; I discovered your blog some weeks ago following Zippora’s link, and was afraid I had done it only to see it dissapear.

    I envy how your husband and you reached the point to discuss an open marriage; my case is different, because he is absolutly monogamic and has absolute confidence in me, even knowing I am not faitful at heart.

    For many years his confidence was justified, but God knows what he would think now, if he knew about the life I am living at SL (in fact he has seen some hints, but the smoke screen of using my blog as a publicity stunt still works).

    Anyway, even if I am convinced poly is a more natural way of behaviour that the strangely closed monogamy, it isn’t a easy path to walk; not even virtualy: never having enough time for all your partners, hiding little likes and dislikes to avoid suffering, the absolutely overwelming complexity of relations between your partners and with your partners’ partners…

    Embracing poly at SL was one of the more intense moments of my life and ended with a kind of mental shutdown and going back to a dual monogamy (one for RL and one for a small SL family), that didn’t truly work. A little ago we decided to go slowly back to poly, this time much more carefully; maybe we will find a balance.

    Who knows? The solution may even be at the books you are suggesting, I will wait until my front lobes recover and have a look, but some advice would be welcomed *smiles*.

  7. eros said,

    Cinderella:

    It took me three times reading this post before I felt ready to reply, not because it wasn’t exquisitely well written and as always so timely, but because as some of the other comments reflect, it evokes the huge distance between that place where you have reached in your RL marriage and where the vast majority of humanity in the western world seem to have gotten stuck.

    The main question that I have at the moment is whether you think monogamy per se is fatally flawed over time and thereby ought to be replaced by an open polyamorous marriage which allows multiple partners to play multiple roles, or… and here I do suspect I am setting myself up, if the failure with monogamy isn’t really a failure with imagination…that two people properly suited can’t find numerous ways to grow a love without bringing in third, forth and fifth parties.

    My concern and reservation about polyamor is based on ignorance, I will admit that outright. But in my experience, it is hard to imagine someone’s gain not becoming someone else’s loss eventually. The real possibility that one partner will find that second love and the other wont. The need to demonstrate that the love for one’s spouse has survived the threshold crossing with others.

    Thanks for this post, for this forum, for everything you do.

    Eros

  8. Elliot Lockhart said,

    Just wanted to chime in for a quick bit to Eros post (forgive me, Cindy): It has been my experience (in my short time exploring Polyamory) that the love for a second, paradoxically increases the love for the first. In other words, it is not a zero-sum game. I think this is probably one of the most difficult concepts for people without experience in Polyamory to “get”. I have to admit, it sounds like magic – like it defies the “physics” of social interaction. But I swear that it does work as I’ve described.

    I am close friends with a Poly couple here in RL. Two men and one woman. And they tell me that is their experience as well.

    Anyway, turning the mic back over to our host.

  9. Scott Magojiro said,

    You don’t know it yet, but you’re on your way to a divorce.

  10. FIR said,

    Hmmm…. As humans I agree we aren’t designed for monogamy. The need to diversify our own gene pool is the pre-historical embedded tendency here. Two things to consider though: The first, there is birth control which mitigates this pre-historical behavior and two, as humans we are also jealous by nature. How do you react when the new relationship becomes the one that is more interesting then the current one? Suddenly one of the parties in this finds that they are second fiddle. The idea of poly relationships, while a noble aspiration does sound a little bit like having your cake and eating it too. Sometimes the practical application of a theory is skewed by irrational unaccounted for human behavior. Just ask any project manager. I say if this is the preferred approach perhaps the consideration should be given to staying single.

    That being said I DO agree that one cannot get their entire emotional fulfillment from only one person, namely their spouse. Anyone who puts that kind of pressure on their marriage is setting himself or herself up for disappointment. People who are party to a successful marriage know the wedding is not happily ever after, it’s just the beginning. That is why we need friends, family, and hobbies outside the home. Sexually I think its a lot more grey…. the promises we make to our spouses need to be considered which is where the jealousy piece plays a HUGE role. I have mixed feelings about this topic. I think it would be fantastic to sow that wild oat with the cute guy in IT I have known for 5 years and who flirts with me. I also know that when my husband agreed it would change our relationship permanently and I am not sure either of us wants that to change. I have enough change in my life; one reliable constant might be nice. 😉

  11. Mike said,

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  12. Jorge said,

    Re: Elliot
    Couldn’t agree more. My wife & I had an open relationship with a male friend. I could see they were truly in love with each other. I covertly pried an admission from her & gave my blessing. Her feelings for me, and considerations for me, have increased considerably.
    I occasionally have feelings of jealousy, but they are not related to sex. They are related to time. If It could be said that I have lost anything, it would be time with my wife. But I have also gained freedom, in that I don’t have to be constantly concerned with her shedule, because our partner happily fulfills those needs. And in him, I have gained a friend, closer than any other friend, or even brother.

    Sorry for the ramble.
    Looking forward to reading the book.

  13. Tata said,

    Hi.. I really like the book because that’s what i really experience in real life. I have a husband, and also a girlfriend. The problem is, even He knows and gave blessing for our relationship, this ‘guilty’ feelings wont leave my mind. Whenever Im with her, I felt like I cheated to my husband. I don’t know why, eventhough it seems like a perfect way to us, but I can’t take the burden in my feelings. So I gave up open married last year.

  14. househo said,

    I am in the midst of reading Jenny’s book and I am floored how similar her and her husband’s thinking is so similar to my husband and myself.

    I notice you are no longer posting, I hope your relationship is going strong. Our Open Marriage is going very well. 5 years and thriving!

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