Gay Patriot Header Image

Hypocrisy & Marriage, Andrew Sullivan & Monogamy

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 3:25 pm - June 1, 2006.
Filed under: Gay Marriage

This post began as a comment to a post on Ann Althouse’s blog which really got me thinking (via Instapundit). At first I had hesitated turning it in a post because I’m not entirely sure what to make of Andrew Sullivan’s remarks upon which Ann offers some thoughts. And while I may not have come to a definite conclusion of what Andrew means by his thoughts on monogamy and hypocrisy, they — and Ann’s thoughts — did get me thinking.

Given that I had wanted to blog regularly on gay marriage this week — but other obligations have prevented me from devoting the time that I would like to this topic — I thought I would revise my comment to Ann’s post and include it here as a post of my own. In it, I offer some thoughts on monogamy, a topic which, I believe, is essential to any serious debate on marriage, gay or otherwise.

Reading Andrew’s remarks, I was reminded of comments my rabbi once made in discussing a passage in Genesis on the relationship between Abraham and Sarah. He said that the passage indicated that it’s sometimes okay to lie in order to preserve a marriage. (I wish I could remember the passage.)

So, as I understood it, if one spouse “slips up,” by having an affair, then ending it because he (or she) realizes it could compromise the marriage, he would do well not to mention it to his (or her) significant other.

In commenting to Ann’s post, Michael Farris seems to nail it when he distinguishes between “an unplanned and regretted momentary lapse in judgement” and “conscious, calculated multiple counts of infidelity with intent to deceive.” Emphasis added.

I’m not yet sure what to make of Andrew’s remarks. At first blush, they suggest (to me at least) that Andrew is not serious about marriage because real marriage includes monogamy at its core. If one enters into a marriage, one does so expecting to remain faithful to his beloved. If a lapse occurs later, it doesn’t suggest that the “lapser” was hypocritical at the time of his betrothal, but merely proved imperfect in the execution of his intent.

That said, those of use who believe in marriage should insist that marriage means monogamy. When we enter into such relationships must strive, do everything in our power to live up to the monogamous ideal, but also recognize that we’re human and capable of failure.

I believe that those not striving for monogamy are not serious about marriage. At first reading, Andrew’s remarks suggest he’s not striving for monogamy. But, note I said “suggest.” Perhaps his ideas are not so different from my own. And closer reading and further reflection might lead me to amend my initial evaluation.

I realize this post has a flavor more like a comment than my normal essayistic posts, but put it out there in the hope that it will do what Ann’s post has done — invite a discussion of marriage and monogamy, a conversation particularly important in the week leading up to the Senate debate on the Federal Marriage Amendment (or Marriage Protection Amendment or whatever they’re calling it this week).

-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com

Share

19 Comments

  1. I’ve always said that for many proponents of gay marriage, the goal was not so much attaining marriage rights for gays as it was the redefinition of marriage.

    Comment by Tom — June 1, 2006 @ 3:52 pm - June 1, 2006

  2. I’m a longtime supporter of gay marriage (since the early 1990s when many gays vehemently rejected the very notion as “assimilationist”), and I am afraid you are right.

    I think the recent support for marriage among gays has more to do with a desire to “piss off the right wing” and drag marriage down, than with any desire to raise gays up. All too many gay marriage supporters neither want nor understand monogamy – nor adult responsibilities.

    Comment by Calarato — June 1, 2006 @ 4:01 pm - June 1, 2006

  3. Dan you are right, marriage should be a monogomous relationship between two people. It has taken until the 20th century for Western Civilization to get to this point. Just when we’ve reached the point where polygamy is unacceptible in Western culture, we have forces trying to bring it back.

    As one of Anns’ commentators said: until the 20th century, women were forced to be monogomous, but their husbands had no such obligation.
    So if all Andrew was saying is people should be forgiven for transgressions, it happens all the time. I’m sure there are many marriages out there that have gone through infidelity, and the couple rebuilds the trust.

    If Andrew is saying, we should accept a more open concept of marriage, then Tom (#1) is absolutely right. Redefining marriage will destroy one of the great pillars of Western civilization.
    And then what are we left with? In todays world, Islam. I am not willing to live with the Islamic definition, where a woman is only property, where at man can have 4 wives, and if he desires a 5th, can simply divorce any of the first four. And I won’t even go into how gays are being treated today all over the muslim world, from Iran, Iraq to the Palestinian Authority.

    Comment by Leah — June 1, 2006 @ 4:11 pm - June 1, 2006

  4. I’m not yet sure what to make of Andrew’s remarks. At first blush, they suggest (to me at least) that Andrew is not serious about marriage because real marriage includes monogamy at its core.

    I don’t get that take (surprise!) at all. I think Sullivan is acknowledging something that gets overlooked a lot in discussing infidelity in a marriage, namely that even though one partner has cheated, it does not automatically make the marriage null and void.

    It may be grounds for an eventual dissolution of the marriage, but the fact that one person or even both persons have cheated does not automatically void the marriage.

    When you get married, you enter into a permanent agreement until both parties agree to end it. And in the case of a church marriage, there is an additional promise made to God that must be taken into consideration.

    So if I’m married, and my husband cheats, that doesn’t give me a “get out of jail” free card, so to speak. If I just leave, I also break a promise, to that other person, and to God. And maybe breaking those promises is the correct thing to do, but its still breaking a promise.

    If you go into a marriage expecting that your husband or yourself is going to be a perfect spouse you are creating a planned disappointment.

    I don’t think Andrew is saying that one should overlook or ignore your husbands cheating, just that in any situation where human beings are involved, mistakes and imperfection exist. Thats what must be accepted, not necessarily the cheating itself.

    The other thing that I think Andrew is acknowledging is that gay marriage does have different qualities than a heterosexual marriage. Its different even from a lesbian marriage. The gender of the participants does have an impact.

    Comment by Patrick (Gryph) — June 1, 2006 @ 4:45 pm - June 1, 2006

  5. #4 The other thing that I think Andrew is acknowledging is that gay marriage does have different qualities than a heterosexual marriage. Its different even from a lesbian marriage. The gender of the participants does have an impact.

    Which is exactly the problem with gay marriage. Up until now marriage has been between a monogomous man and a woman. (cheating did not automatically void the marriage). So from the onset you are not only asking to make a fundamental change regarding the sex of both partners, you are asking for different standards. So since it is already a very different arrangement, why call it marriage? Either because you want to fundimentaly change the definition of marriage, or maybe because you want rights, or think this will negate all homophobia.

    So why not go for a legal definition of Civil Union, As Bruce Bawer mentioned, that is what they have in Norway, and most people are now considering such couples as married.

    Comment by Leah — June 1, 2006 @ 5:29 pm - June 1, 2006

  6. Dan,

    On the biblical front, I think the bit about being OK to lie in order to save a marriage may be from Genesis 12:11-13. Abram tells Sarai that is they say they are husband and wife as they enter Egypt, they will kill Abram. So they say they are brother and sister. This is also repeated in the early part of chapter 20.

    Comment by Wendy — June 1, 2006 @ 6:02 pm - June 1, 2006

  7. I don’t understand how one “slips up” in a monogamous relationship of any kind, much less a marriage. If you don’t realize you’re flirting with somebody that’s one thing, many people are bad at realizing that (me among them)–but once the other person gets close enough for a kiss that’s when you say stop, I’m with somebody already. To continue after that is to give your relationship the finger. You can’t come back from that and say “oh, I didn’t mean for it to happen”–bull! Every human being rational enough to commit to monogamy with someone is rational enough to know what’s going on once there is sexual contact with someone else, and if you don’t stop it right then, you are making a conscious decision to let it continue. If my boyfriend’s defense was “I didn’t mean it” then my response would be “then you refuse to take responsibility for your actions and I don’t want to be with someone who does that for something so important as our relationship.”

    Comment by Lynn — June 1, 2006 @ 7:48 pm - June 1, 2006

  8. Which is exactly the problem with gay marriage. Up until now marriage has been between a monogamous man and a woman. (cheating did not automatically void the marriage).

    I knew someone would use what I said wrongly.

    A gay marriage in terms of its promise and commitment, and in terms of what it brings to society, stability and a home life for children, is equivalent to straight marriage. It is the same.

    I will point out that a man and woman can get married and still “swing”, and have an open marriage, or an S/M relationship, live in polygamy, etc. – And many do. But they still are considered “married”. And that marriage would be legally and morally recognized anywhere in the US. So I don’t see how you can deny gays the authentic label of “married” while still honoring those other kinds of relationships as marriage.

    So when I say that gay marriage is “different”, that does not mean less than.

    And civil unions are a far greater threat to the institution of marriage than gay marriage could ever hope to be.

    Comment by Patrick (Gryph) — June 1, 2006 @ 8:01 pm - June 1, 2006

  9. I happen to believe that marriage implies monogamy. I have never cheated on my spouse and as far as I know have never been cheated on. Of course I have never been technically married but I do consider my relationship to be a marriage in every way. I have no problem with others having “open” relationships or menages a trois but these to me don’t satisfy the requirements of marriage.

    I also don’t accept the notion that gay people are trying to “drag marriage down” without some evidence to back it up. Nothing could be further from the truth for the gay couples I know.

    Comment by Ian S — June 1, 2006 @ 8:11 pm - June 1, 2006

  10. First of all, people who believe that one mistake means the end of a relationship are unlikely to be very successful at maintaining a long-term relationship. People are fallible and imperfect and they screw up (and I saw that as someone in a monogamous relationship who’d be horrified if his partner cheated).

    Second, talking about monogamy as part of the definition of “traditional” marriage requires ignoring history; for most of history, marriage has been an economic arrangement that tolerated a lot of side sexual activity, as long as it was the man doing it and it was discreet enough not to threaten the central point of marriage, which was economic alliances between families.

    Unless traditional means “since the 20th century,” I guess.

    The myth of “traditional marriage” is a powerful tool for the anti-gay-marriage folks and should be challenged. Heterosexual marriage has been constantly changing throughout human history, and has mostly had little to do with what we think of as central to marriage today.

    Comment by John — June 2, 2006 @ 1:53 am - June 2, 2006

  11. Um, John, ever heard of a thing called the Ten Commandments? They predate the 20th century by a few centuries millennia and proscribe adultery.

    Comment by GayPatriotWest — June 2, 2006 @ 2:15 am - June 2, 2006

  12. Well, I cheated on TGCPartner once. I was in the dog house for about 3 months. Long story short, I discovered that I loved him more than ever and we’ve been together an additional 8 years.

    Not to say that it’s the same for everybody.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — June 2, 2006 @ 5:19 am - June 2, 2006

  13. “I think the recent support for marriage among gays has more to do with a desire to “piss off the right wing” and DRAG MARRIAGE DOWN… ”

    “Drag it down?” That sadly says alot more about you than it says about marriage.

    Comment by hank — June 2, 2006 @ 10:51 am - June 2, 2006

  14. [P]eople who believe that one mistake means the end of a relationship are unlikely to be very successful at maintaining a long-term relationship. People are fallible and imperfect and they screw up…

    If that was directed at me, there are many mistakes that don’t mean the end of a relationship to me. Cheating is not one of those mistakes. It’s not just a little “oops”; the act of sexual activity with someone not one’s partner is deliberate–you can’t not know what you’re doing once there’s been any kind of sexual contact with someone else, and to not stop it right there is to deliberately allow it to continue. If I’m wrong in this, though, I’d like to know. I just don’t see it.

    Comment by Lynn — June 2, 2006 @ 12:38 pm - June 2, 2006

  15. Caralato says:

    I think the recent support for marriage among gays has more to do with a desire to “piss off the right wing” and drag marriage down, than with any desire to raise gays up.

    Straight people don’t need any help from us to “drag marriage down”, they are doing that on their own. We are not responsible for the vast increase in divorce rates this century after all.

    Actually by pushing for marriage, we are saying it is a valuable thing. That raises up the institution, rather than tear it down. I often think that some of the animosity from some heterosexuals on the issue is sheer embarrassment and shame at the way they have treated the institution of marriage. They have been throwing their diamond wedding rings into the garbage cans willy-nilly. Now us poor beggars have come along picking through their cast-offs and have the gall to say marriage is worth something after all.

    Comment by Patrick (Gryph) — June 2, 2006 @ 12:58 pm - June 2, 2006

  16. Lynn, I’m inclined to agree with you, though not perhaps quite so strictly. When I first moved in with my ex, I told him that if I ever learned of any infidelity through any means other than his own honesty with me, it was over. If he ever tried to claim that “it didn’t mean anything”, then it was over.

    I am willing to forgive even a knowing indiscretion, if my spouse is candid about it, acknowledges the severity of it, and demonstrates sincere contrition and a willingness to work to re-earn my trust.

    I am not willing to forgive deliberate dishonesty or the trivialization of important violations of that trust.

    My seven-year relationship ended when I inadvertently discovered that my spouse had been cheating on me multiple times over the years. His failure to own up to it, and his insistence that his infidelities “didn’t matter” to him, were more of a dealbreaker for me than the infidelities themselves.

    The most alarming thing is that other gay men have told me things along the lines of “Well, men are always horndogs” or “You’ll always have that in gay relationships.” One former friend responded with a chiding “Didn’t you ever cheat?” — as if to say “Come on now, we all do it” — as though not to do so were a thing unheard of.

    Comment by Doug — June 2, 2006 @ 1:27 pm - June 2, 2006

  17. Gramps offers: “And civil unions are a far greater threat to the institution of marriage than gay marriage could ever hope to be.”

    Bzzzzzt. Wrong.

    The people pushing for gay marriage are doing it for political advantage and, just like the FMA, using our nature–our identity– as a wedge for short term political gain. Kettle and the blackened pot.

    Civil unions will never accomplish the goal sought by the GayLeft in our community to hazard years of social progress by gays in order to allow their perferred Party to achieve some short term political gain. They need it to be “Gay Marriage”.

    Most Americans are NOT threatened by civil union parity of legal privileges; it’s only when the brick-throwing flamers begin the Gay Marriage Now nonsense that we lose our base of good will and tentative support. Or when they show up on the Pride float in drag, or parade down Main Street while wearing buttless chaps, or when looking for minors at the truck stop.

    Gramps, you couldn’t be more wrong… unless it’s on an upcoming topic.

    Comment by Michigan-Matt — June 2, 2006 @ 1:44 pm - June 2, 2006

  18. Yes, I’ve heard on the ten commandments, though their application to marriages of the many non-Christians in the US is questionable…

    but so what? Their may be a commandment about adultery, but “traditionally” it’s often not applied. For much of human history marriage was only available to the wealthy; if you had no money, there was no reason for it, and “marriages” took place without any state or often church sanction.

    I’m sorry if you don’t like it, but that’s history. The idea that marriage has been unchanged over history just doesn’t hold up.
    [Maybe you'd better start reading our posts before your comment; I never said that marriage has not been unchanged over history. (Indeed, my belief if the evolving notion of marriage is one reason I opposed the FMA (or MPA or whatever they're calling it nowadays. But, you'd know that if you read my posts. And if you don't think the commandment against adultery hasn't often been applied, you haven't paid much attention to history, including (until recently) that of divorce law. --GPW]

    Comment by John — June 3, 2006 @ 3:14 am - June 3, 2006

  19. Michigan-Matt — June 2, 2006 @ 1:44 pm – June 2, 2006

    >>>Gramps offers: “And civil unions are a far greater threat to the institution of marriage than gay marriage could ever hope to be.”

    Bzzzzzt. Wrong.

    Less wrong than you may wish to believe.

    Shortly after the Ontario court handed down its Halprin 2002 decision on same-sex marriage, the Canadian Globe and Mail newspaper (G&M) had several articles about the history of the issue in Canada. A decade or so before the Halprin decision, under pressure from the Canadian courts, the Canadian government enacted what was basically “marriage lite,” that same-sex couples could have access to–as opposed to “marriage real.” Under their equivalent of “equal protection,” “marriage lite” also was available to opposite sex couples. And who were the primary takers of “marriage lite”? Opposite sex couples.

    Yes, indeed, “marriage lite”–a/k/a “civil unions”–is a greater threat to the institution of marriage than “gay marriage” could ever hope to be.

    Comment by raj — June 4, 2006 @ 1:28 am - June 4, 2006

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.