Often people get married because they feel that it’s natural for them to be together. But is it natural for them to lose all sexual interest in other people, too?
A couple of decades ago, if you had encountered somebody who described themselves as ‘married and looking’, you would probably have been shocked; but today it’s becoming increasingly common for married people to acknowledge their desire for sexual partners other than their spouses. This is manifesting in a wide range of ways, from magazine articles about flirtation techniques to television soap operas in which everybody seems to be having an affair. Traditionally the last person to find out has been the spouse, but increasingly we’re told that talking to our spouses about our attraction to other people can actually liven up our marital sex lives, bringing us closer together.
Does this sound too good to be true? And if it can work as a fantasy – when the objects of desire are safely distant, like celebrities – can it also work when it’s closer to home? What about when couples discuss their attraction to mutual friends? What happens when they want to act on those attractions?
The reason we may find it hard to imagine what life is like for people who refer to themselves as ‘married and looking’ is that we’re used to seeing relationships from within the restricted perspective of our own cultural heritage. If we look at other cultures around the world we find that being married and looking for other partners isn’t always considered unusual at all. It’s just an ordinary part of life. Why is this? And given this, how can we decide what’s normal?
One way to approach this is to look at what we know about how human societies have developed. Most have some form of marriage early on – it’s a practical way to share the daily workload and provide security for children, besides which people naturally want to be together. But relatively few expect sexuality to be completely contained by marriage. If instinct tells us to develop strong relationships, it also tells us not to put all our dna in one basket. Simply put, we have a better chance of having healthy children who grow up to have children of their own if we have them with more than one person.
In the modern world, thanks to contraception, we can make more careful choices about parenthood, but we still have those same drives and we can easily find ourselves married and looking at other people. The important thing to realise is that this doesn’t necessarily mean commitment to that central relationship is weaker than it used to be. In fact, being married but looking could be a sign that you instinctively feel your marriage is strong enough to cope with it. Considered this way, if you partner has started to started to develop a wandering eye without paying any less attention to you, you could take it as a compliment.
As our own society developed, it placed a lot of restrictions on sexuality, partly for the sake of social cohesion and perhaps also as a form of social control – sexual passions can be disruptive but that energy is useful if harnessed and redirected. To be married and looking could potentially be a problem for both these things. However, we have latterly reached a point where society is become ore liberal and the focus is on individual freedoms. It’s no longer so socially inappropriate to be married and looking. Does that mean that it’s time to cast aside related moral baggage, too?
The thing about morality is that it forms a sort of contract between ourselves and society. You may well be married and looking and proud of it, but you can’t expect that nobody else will disapprove. Whilst it’s easy to argue that being married and looking is the natural human state, people will soon point out to you that we have a number of other natural functions which we wouldn’t perform in public, and which we’d expect to horrify people if we did.
Rather than expecting all of society to be ready for people who are married and looking, it’s better to concentrate on those sections that have liberalised more quickly, where people are better prepared to acknowledge the primary importance of natural individual behaviours (or, as some people put it, of being true to yourself). Websites like http://www.marriedandlooking.co.uk make it easy to meet people like this. In fact, you might find this sort of site as helpful for your general social life as it is in finding you potential sexual partners. It’s always nice to meet like-minded people whom you can chat to without having to hide anything.
When it comes to talking to your spouse, it’s important to make sure that you both feel the same way about what you’re doing. Remember that, if you’re concerned with doing what comes naturally to each of you, that doesn’t mean you should assume that your spouse’s desires will be equivalent to yours. Not everybody feels ready to be married and looking even if they’re comfortable with it happening around them.
Just because being married and looking for other partners is something strongly rooted in our natural instincts doesn’t mean that we don’t also have other instincts, designed to help us hold on to our partners, which can create negative feelings about it. If it’s natural to be married and looking, it’s also natural to be jealous, at least to an extent. However, many people find that once they have established that the central relationship is not under threat, that jealousy – essentially rooted in insecurity – goes away.
Being married and looking for sex elsewhere might seem like a modern phenomenon, but in fact it’s only our honesty about it which is recent, and then only in our society. This sort of behaviour dates right back to our primitive ancestry, and everybody likes to get primitive in the bedroom sometimes.