My parents decided to divorce when I was ten.
Although their tenuous relationship was likely irreconcilable on its own accord, the sudden revelation that my father was boffing his secretary probably did not help. Overnight, bags were packed, papers filed, an apartment rented, and I moved some 800 miles away to start the 5th grade. I’m certain my mother didn’t take this decision lightly: she was freshly pregnant with my brother; she was conspicuously religious; she was a devoted mom.
I’m certain none of this was codified in her life plan.
This particular incident wasn’t my father’s first foray into extramarital transgressions either. In my twenties, I’d come to have several awkward conversations with my mother who took great satisfaction in revealing the frequency, suspects, and principal characters of my father’s adventures. She depicted my father as a coinsurer of women, if you will - a chronic philanderer.
My father would likely suggest that aspects of his relationship were intolerable and his dissatisfaction justified his affairs. Surely he didn’t hate my mother but he wasn’t content, either, and he did what he understood what he was supposed to do: he cheated. Unethical infidelity was the standard model, and when I picked up my dad’s bad habits and cheated in my first marriage, it was only too late that I recalled my mother’s revelations and came to realize how much of an impact that model had on my separation and divorce – just a year after my daughter was born.
I often think of the lasting impact my parent’s divorce had on me, and inevitably, the lasting impact of my divorce on my own kid.
Believe me when I say that I don’t wish to excuse my father for his actions. No woman deserves a serial adulterer as a husband; nobody deserves to be lied to or cheated on. But my father was never exposed to ethical non-monogamy in any of its forms. He didn’t have a working vocabulary, books, websites, support groups, or a community of people. He didn’t have a viable alternative to the standard model.
Being fortunate enough to live in a liberal part of the United States, I’m not openly confronted by bigotry or intolerance concerning my polyamorous lifestyle. Yet, somewhere, there are those who’re convinced that unethical infidelity is a morally-superior approach to conducting relationships and raising a family, and they frequent such websites as AshleyMadison.com, AttachedPeople.com, AffairsClub.com, or Untrue.com. Through creating an account and logging in, these people reaffirm the old model, and go about hurting the world around them.
I’m glad to be polyamorous; I’m glad to belong to Fetlife.com with pictures of naked buxom women suspended from the ceiling; I’m glad to conduct my life in ethical and responsible ways that treats people in my life better than how my father treated my mother. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to be exposed to an alternative model and to consider the world in a different way.
If ever your life’s choices are questioned; if ever your family criticizes and ridicules; if ever your boss demands an explanation; if anyone at all disses you about your alternative lifestyle, challenge them to illustrate how the standard model produces better outcomes.