If there is one truth about marriage, it’s probably that at some point in your life (or every day, depending on your hormones), you’re going to be attracted to other people. That’s being human, after all. We all go into marriage knowing this—the question is how we choose to deal with it.
For a long time, I assumed most couples (except for the ones in open marriages) dealt with potential attraction more or less like we did. In short: we acknowledged it as fact, trusted that the other person wouldn’t act on it, had the realistic knowledge that people make mistakes, and if that happened we’d work to deal with it. Lemonade out of lemons, and all that.
Writing APW for eight years has taught me a lot of things, and one of the things it’s educated me on is the fact that many people don’t take this approach… at all. And increasingly I’m seeing a specific way of handling potential attraction come up in the comments, and it worries me.
In short, it’s this: You and your partner don’t spend time with members of the opposite sex, particularly one on one. (How this approach would work when applied to same-sex couples is a bit of a mystery to me.) This tactic seems to be employed in a variety of different ways, from no one-on-one conversations with otherly gendered people (my husband, who works with lots of women: “Do these people have jobs?”), to no serious friendships with the opposite sex (me: cries for days).
I find this alarming.
First, the idea of cutting yourself off from half the human race just makes me profoundly sad. That’s the Orthodox Jewish/fundamentalist religion (and not at all egalitarian) way of dividing up the world. Second, the idea that I (or my partner) can’t be trusted to keep it in our pants seems profoundly problematic to me. Marriage has to be based on trust, after all.
While our particular rules of the road are more liberal than some people might be comfortable with (harmless flirting? Have at it. Life is so boring without it, anyway) the idea of not trusting my husband to be friends with a woman strikes me as frankly… bonkers.
So I’m tossing it to you. How do you manage extramarital attraction? Do you think it’s okay to block yourself and your partner off from any humans you might be attracted to? Do you find this idea troubling, or do you embrace it? Personally, I’m all… out.