A few years ago, I found myself in one of those “Why do smart girls do dumb things” kind of relationships. Enthralled and totally in love with a seemingly great guy. He spent numerous nights in my home and I in his. We shared house keys, spent countless hours on the phone, shared every important moment together, and eventually met each other’s parents but ‘mutually’ weren’t into titles. One sunday afternoon, on the verge of his upcoming departure out of state, we made our way to the local super-store. As we strolled through the aisles of  the store we briefly parted ways to find a few items. After a few moments our eyes met in the pharmaceuticals section where he had just completed an individual purchase. I casually asked, “What did you get?” Upon receiving quite a bit of resistance, I then insisted on knowing what was in the bag. He defeatingly showed me a box of condoms. We were no longer using them at that time.

Needles to say, several words were exchanged and it ultimately lead to the dissolution of whatever it is we could have called our previous engagement. Beyond the throws of our last days, one thing resonates with me still. I vividly recall some of his calm and self-convinced arguments. He spoke with such assurance, as if pleading with my ignorance. So convinced of his notions, he would say, “I have never cheated on you but I’m only human;”at least I’m being upfront with you;” “at least I’d be wearing a condom;” I didn’t have to be honest with you.” I wrote him off as being an asshole whose success and ego were too large to comprehend concepts of monogamy, sacrifice, and compromise. I knew I deserved better and after a few weeks too long, decided I couldn’t allow myself to get wrapped up in his foolishness.

A few weeks ago, I had lunch with an old friend of mine. Having spoken so highly of her marriage on numerous occasions, I warmly asked how things were at home. She confessed that she had a few indiscretions with a mutual friend of ours earlier in her marriage but that she got her act together really quickly and hasn’t been unfaithful since. She then shared an argument that ensued between her husband a few days prior to our meeting. Apparently, he had barely beat the sun home one Friday night. The following morning she went through his phone to find an explicit message sent just a few moments before he got home. Upon confrontation and in recount to me, she scolded him saying, “If you bring anything home to me in here, things will get so real you won’t know what hit you!”

As I listened to her share this news, it vividly stood out to me how she was angered by the disrespect of him coming home late and the possibility that he may have not used protection. No where in the rant was there some devastation that he was being unfaithful. That was almost the least of the issue. 

When you’re much younger, it seems like everyone is having babies at the drop of a hat. As you get older, you realize it’s not that easy to procreate. It often feels that way with marriages too. When you’re younger, all anyone ever says is “they’ve been together for 25 years now,” or “Aren’t Jonathan and Katey the cutest. He’s such a great guy.” No one says, “Girl you know of those 25 years, she kicked him out for getting some girl pregnanthypocrisy earlier on in the marriage,” or “Jonathan and Katey have an open relationship.” As you get older, the so called “bad” stories become so common that it seems we’ve become desensitized to what the morally correct thing is to do. Its so common to hear a man has cheated at some point in a long-term relationship that so many of my female peers have succumb to this “At least he….” kind of nonchalance. That is, the “at least he comes home to me at night” kind of mentality; or the “at least the kids and I want for nothing” kind of mentality. What’s worst is the conversations you have with older women who warn that this ‘leaving your cheating husband’ business is something this generation has come with. As though it’s a trend to expect faithfulness. It’s damn near saddening.

Polygamy and those who engage in mutually polyamorous relationships are shunned in society. Their lifestyles remain taboo and are considered by so many to be grotesquely vile. Yet, there are an abundance of women who know they are sharing their husbands with someone else. The hypocrisy of it all. The pitiful conditioning that says a marriage can uphold it’s integrity because your partner doesn’t throw his exploits in your face. It’s different from polygamy isn’t it? “I mean, if no one knows that I know, then I don’t appear accepting.” “It’s not like we’re all sleeping under the same roof, saying I’ll take Tuesdays and Fridays.” It’s different?

Polygamy is considered to be the state of marriage to many spouses. Though there is no distinct descriptor that delineates a man is to take unto him many wives. Polygamy is often practiced with the man being the dominant lover in the relationship. Women so often lash out at the lifestyle, bringing forth arguments to the tune of “If it was a woman with 3 husbands, no one would go for that.” In this hypocritical, 50% chance of surviving, monogamous world so many arguments are made for the integrity of marriage. “It’s one man to a  woman,” they’d proclaim, but thats not altogether true in the monogamous world, is it? 

In discussions about infidelity I have so many male friends that proclaim “it’s different for a man.” What’s worse is that I have several female counterparts that concur. It continues to baffle me that it’s such common place to subscribe to the idea that men have less self-control than women or that males are more sexual than females. One is truly left to ponder, am I rationally convicted or unblissfully naive. 

The idea of settling remains so unsettling to so many of us but the truth is we all do. No one person can be everything we want. So we spend years sifting through bad relationships, concurrently deciphering the things we can’t live with it and the things we absolutely can’t live without. As years pass by that list becomes more refined. We call it maturity and further disguise our needs with claims of compromise. I wonder, what would I have settled for if/when I meet this man. Is this concept of “at least he..” truly the reality of so many marriages? Will it become the reality of mine.