Saturday, December 12, 2015

Setting the Default

I recently did couples therapy with two gay men who’d gotten married a year or so ago. Since then one of them, let’s call him Adam, decided he was bored with his sex life and went to a club where they did some things I will not describe here. His husband, let’s call him Steve, was upset by what he considered infidelity, and they had a big fight. Both of them wanted to stay together for the sake of the kids (did I mention they adopted some kids?) but this club thing was a pretty big deal, so they decided to seek professional help.

Adam made the following proposal: he knew Steve was not very kinky, so Adam would go do his kinky stuff at the club, with Steve’s knowledge and consent. That way everyone could get what they wanted. Sure, it would involve having sex with other people, but it didn’t mean anything, and it was selfish for a spouse to assert some kind of right to “control” the other spouse anyway.

Steve made the following counterproposal: no. He liked monogamy and fidelity and it would make him really jealous and angry to think of Adam going out and having sex with other people, even in a meaningless way. He argued that if Adam didn’t like monogamy, maybe he shouldn’t have proposed entering into a form of life that has been pretty much defined by its insistence on monogamy for the past several thousand years and then sworn adherence to that form of life in front of everyone they knew. If Adam hadn’t liked monogamy, he had ample opportunity to avoid it before he had bound his life together with Steve’s. Now he was stuck.

Adam gave the following counterargument: yeah, marriage usually implies remaining monogamous, but that was all legal boilerplate. He had wanted to get married to symbolize his committment to Steve – committment that he still had! – and he hadn’t realized he was interested in fetish stuff at the time or else he would have brought it up.

Steve gave the following countercounterargument: okay, this is all very sad, but now we are stuck in this position, and clearly only one of the two people could get their preference satisfied, and given the whole marriage-implies-monogamy thing, it seemed pretty clear that that person should be him.

So then of course they both turned to me for advice.

by Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex |  Read more:
Image:  via: