Guardian advice column - 5 Jan 2020

fuchka

New member
Advice columnist responds to a writer who is married and had an brief affair with a married man, which brought on intense emotions. Writer wonders if it is possible to continue intimate relationships with both husband and (former) lover.

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/jan/05/i-had-a-night-of-lust-and-now-want-both-him-and-my-husband-mariella-frostrup

What do you think of the advice given? How would you answer differently (if at all)?

I felt the columnist raised a lot of points that were valid enough, but not what I would have focused on. I was surprised that ethical non-monogamy wasn't mentioned at all, even in contrast to the writer's situation. That said, I liked how the columnist highlighted the fact we get different things from different relationships.

I wondered whether the concept of NRE (in the way we discuss it here) makes it easier to illuminate the heady chemical fog of a new connection, and the perils of making big decisions based on this. I felt this was a significant omission. I did like the Life of Brian quote, though!
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
The writer asks, "Is it possible for the heart to love more than one person?" but fails (and Mariella -- the columnist -- fails as well) to ask the pertinent follow-up question, "Is it possible for *me* to have a *relationship* with both my husband and *this* man?" The answer to the asked question is in my opinion a gimme: "Yes it's possible, I could argue that it's already happening." The answer to the unasked question is far more complex: "First of all that depends on whether the man in question *wants* to be in a relationship with you. If he doesn't, it's unlikely you could convince him otherwise. Next, a lot depends on whether you try to carry on a relationship with him in secret. It's highly unlikely you can pull that off for the rest of your life. Sooner or later, you'd have to inform your spouses of what was going on. And at that point, you'd need your spouses' consent."

But, in our highly mononormative world, you are not likely to get anyone (whether writer or columnist) to consider or even conceive of a scenario that was polyamorous. There's always going to be some reason why poly would be impossible, even unthinkable. Maybe you can love more than one person, but you sure as hell can't be in an ethical relationship with them. The second person you love will always be the forbidden fruit. Of course, forbidden fruit is titillating and as such, very popular and likely to get attention in a magazine. People aren't ready to seriously consider polyamory, but they're very ready to fantasize about it. An affair is a poly fantasy, at least it is if it doesn't have an exit strategy. This is the kind of language that I would not expect to see in an advice column. Instead, I would expect to hear all the reasons why an affair is unhealthy, naughty, and wrong. An approach not without merit, but thoroughly, safely grounded in popular tradition.
 

fuchka

New member
Really good pick up on the unasked/unanswered question, Kevin.

You're right about popular tradition and perhaps I was in a bubble expecting that the conversation has progressed from that in any mainstream media.

The same website (Guardian) has featured several polyamorous stories (mostly positive) over the last few years so I wasn't prepared for it to be so utterly missing in this column, when it seemed quite relevant to mention it! I guess I'm somewhat naive/hopeful.

Some other articles from the same source:

https://amp.theguardian.com/lifeand...h-about-polyamory-monogamy-open-relationships (25 Sep 2018)

https://amp.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/apr/25/polyamory-more-than-one-lover-emer-otoole (25 Apr 2015)

https://amp.theguardian.com/lifeand...to-love-men-women-sex-relationships-elf-lyons (23 Jul 2017)

https://amp.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/sep/08/knickers-truth-about-trying-open-relationship (8 Sep 2018)

https://amp.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jan/20/why-i-chose-polyamory-anita-cassidy (20 Jan 2018)

https://amp.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/sep/28/polyamory-in-the-context-of-capitalist-culture (28 Sep 2018) - short letter to editor, critical
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
I guess my approach is to try and keep my expectations low, considering it a bonus when polyamory gets some attention. I think advice columns tend to center around the conservative perspective, articles apparently have more leeway because they're not officially dispensing advice. That's my theory anyway.
 

fuchka

New member
I think advice columns tend to center around the conservative perspective, articles apparently have more leeway because they're not officially dispensing advice
Yeah, that makes sense.
 

icesong

Member
I guess my approach is to try and keep my expectations low, considering it a bonus when polyamory gets some attention. I think advice columns tend to center around the conservative perspective, articles apparently have more leeway because they're not officially dispensing advice. That's my theory anyway.
I’ve noticed this to be true too; even columnists that I otherwise like (Emily Yoffe or Daniel Mallory Ortman (hope I’m remembering his last name right)) fail at the poly option or even the reasonable relationship option in a lot of columns despite otherwise being reasonable.
 

vinsanity0

Active member
I think that was a pat answer for a monocentric society. I thought she was going to get somewhere at the end, but nope. I would have at least broached the subject of ethical nonmonogamy, while pointing out the pitfalls of starting it out the way the letter writer did. In other words, I would point out that ethical nonmonogamy is a viable thing, but cheating is not the way to get there.
 

Tinwen

Active member
I wasn't even able to read all of the "advice", it doesn't say anything.
But in the last paragraph she writes
...as you rightly suspect there is little hope of successfully expanding your family boundaries to include this man and the sexual frisson that he represents, unless you’re prepared to risk all.
I think that's valid even from the polyamorous perspective. Few relationships open up after cheating (although it's not explicitly stated in the original question that her husband knows nothing either). I don't know if the column should mention polyamory or not - grasping to polyamory as the last straw is rather dangerous.

The woman asking is obviously unwell. I would have focused on emotional management, how to wait things out, and a hint to create in her own life whatever drove her to cheat.
NRE can indeed drive people crazy. I remember my first breakup attempt with Idealist (before the relationship was even really established). It literally ended with me deciding I had to either re-establish contact or go get psychiatric medication asap.
 
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