A reader writes:
I'm a man in my late-twenties who is (happily) married to the first woman he ever slept with. But she's not the only woman I've ever slept with. During a six-month break in our relationship I "sowed my wild oats," so to speak, precisely to figure out what I wanted and needed in a relationship. Doing so was the primary catalyst for us getting back together.
I got lucky first-time around but I would never have known it had I jumped into marriage immediately. Uncertainty gnaws at you long-term. But I have no need to feel uncertain. Put bluntly, sleeping with other women prior to marrying has positively impacted the long-term health of my marriage. And I suspect I'm not the only one. There's a reason that there is less divorce among couples who marry later.
This discussion reminds me of a woman I knew, who in looking back over her difficult life (early marriage, early divorce, left to be single mother to two kids) explained that once she slept with this guy, "as a good Catholic" she felt she had to marry him. I always privately thought (never shared with her, though) that it was probably a mistake to sleep with the wrong guy, but it was marrying him, not sleeping with him, that wrecked her life.
Ross also really is fixated on monogamy as a core social goal. But we know that this is an ideal, rare in practice, a standard honored most emphatically in its breach and in the mild forms of hypocrisy that help keep a society on its feet. And among couples without children, it's not entirely clear why couples cannot work out their own arrangements, if they so wish, while not publicly attacking the more general paradigm. But this complexity defies a certain worldview.