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Read Letter

Friends With Benefits

My dear Jil,

You can only eat your cake and have it if you’re a magician. And since you’re no magician it means you’re dedicating yourself to an impossible quest. You may actually be trying hard to fool yourself and that’s not something you should pursue. Self-deception is an act of self-delusion, and facts don’t change because we choose to delude ourselves. I really don’t understand how you can want to have a faithful and committed boyfriend if the scheme is friends with benefits. It’s a contradiction in terms isn’t it? And if you believe you can accomplish it then you must be a magician. 

The marital equivalence of friends with benefits is so-called open marriage. But isn’t open marriage conceptually self-contradictory! Isn’t the very idea a negation of marital vows? Why do the wedding then? Again, someone is being clever by half, trying to eat his or her cake and have it. Tell me, how will your relationship proprietorship desire work with a friends with benefits arrangement? You want a committed relationship with someone who’s free to sleep around? Excusez-moi! Where is the commitment! And these things always sound okay in theory until the factuality hits a camouflaged nerve.

This was the case with the founder of a well-known beauty brand (name withheld) in an open marriage. She didn’t sleep around, her hubby did. But she reckoned she could keep him by allowing him to. Whether she permitted him or not, he was going to cheat on her anyway. He had no intention of being faithful. So why not psychologically accommodate the cheating and call it “open marriage” she reasoned. It’s some form of post-marriage modernism, a proof of sophistication and liberalism, albeit still self-delusion. You kid yourself you gave an unfaithful man license to be unfaithful. But in reality it’s your resignation to his vice. You pretend it’s okay as long as he doesn’t cross certain boundaries, like bringing another woman home.

There are of course the obvious risks involved in this type of schemes; health being one. But the truth is, it’s fooling oneself in order to accommodate what one can’t control. Well, in the case I cited – that of the owner of the beauty brand – everything seemed swell until he slept with her friend. It was emotionally devastating, and till she died she never recovered from it. How many women really want to share their man with any and every?

In the same vein you’re going to run into visceral pain with this “friends with benefits” scheme, even if you’re just using him. It’s nothing but lack of commitment. It’s kinda like two people using each other, trying to eat their cake and have it. It’s either he’s not really the one you want but you want his retainer for sexual services, or you find you can’t control his libidinous compulsions which you decide to accommodate as peccadilloes, or you think you will invariably reel him in by granting him “privileges” and pretending to give him his freedom. Or the man himself is just a gap filler until he that cometh, cometh. You’re looking out for something better. And sometimes we get into those schemes because we don’t want to be hurt from devotion again. It’s proceeding from avoidance of cardiac agony. It’s some sort of pain inoculation mechanism.

Here’s the challenge however if you do decide to marry this gentleman: If all through courtship you sanctioned and licensed unfaithfulness, how will you then demand faithfulness in marriage? You’ve trained him to be unfaithful to you. And trust me you WILL demand faithfulness in marriage. There are things that are not healthy for you no matter how much pop culture and the Kardashians promote it. Perhaps you need to talk to women with cheating husbands to tell you how they truly feel. And you can’t have a relationship without trust. A relationship without trust is again, a contradiction in terms. You don’t want to go to a party and be worried, not even about other women but about your husband. You may not be able to control the desires of other women, but you should at least have some assurance on your husband’s. If you can’t trust your husband around women you’re going to either turn into an Alsatian, or grow hypertensive, or worse. Or perhaps become a depressed and sad individual habouring inexpressible pain of indeterminate depth. I keep telling you, what you license in courtship you can’t legislate against in marriage. There’ll be fights.

The illogicality of trying to keep him by allowing him to behave like a free-range chicken will eventually hit you. And the chicken always comes home to roost anyway, literally and literarily. Why not just date a man you can trust and spare yourself pain! Marriage is not extended bachelorhood. Marriage is two people fiercely committed to one another. Marriage is you trusting him, and him trusting you. An open marriage is not worth the material cost of the paper of the marriage certificate. Trust, commitment, faithfulness – these are very strong relationship words. Go for a wholesome relationship, not a panel-beaten contraption that is all but a true relationship. You can’t marry a misogamist. A misogamist is someone who hates marriage. And taking sleeping pills and crying in the dark is not God’s idea of love. Cannot be. Avoid all these relationships that are full of inherent contradictions. Unless you renounce accommodation of these modern euphemisms of relationship you’re going to cry a long while. All those stories of heartache – that’s not love. Why should love be pain? You’ve trained your mind to seek pain as love. You love the idea of Greek tragedy. You’ve got to unschool yourself and wean yourself off misogynic delight in pain. Save yourself from yourself.

Your mentor, LA

© Leke Alder

Tags : cheating, open relationship, faithfulness

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