Exception (courtesy of my iPad’s Merriam-Webster dictionary): Someone or something that is different from others; someone or something that is not included; a case where a rule does not apply.
I found myself in a conversation with Ellen yesterday on Twitter about being bisexual, being in a relationship, having that need/desire for sex (or some other form of succor) from the other side of the equation, fidelity, and infidelity. I very much respect that her position on this – and the situation she shares with a lot of married bisexuals (or bisexuals in some other relationship) – which is, simply, as much as she would want the touch of another woman, she couldn’t and wouldn’t cheat on her husband to satisfy that need. I allowed that while this is all well and good, there are exceptions to the rule and even pointed out to her that even if she wouldn’t invoke exception, that doesn’t mean that other people wouldn’t find reason to make an exception to the rules of monogamy.
It was an interesting conversation and contained this question: “How is having sex with someone other than your partner not cheating?” The answer I gave was, “It is unless they and you say it isn’t.” And there it is, folks, the exception to the rule. You can, in fact, have 99 out of 100 people say that it is cheating and that one voice saying that it isn’t if you say it isn’t… and while we tend to take the stance of “the majority rules” in such things, it actually does not eliminate the simple fact that the exception exists. That a person would not make an exception and remain true to the tenets of monogamy and to their vows of marriage isn’t surprising; indeed, this is exactly what is expected and required, to resist temptations with every fiber of your being and with all the willpower you can muster even to the point when you know, beyond any doubt, that remaining true to this is seriously fucking up your life in some way and unless you’ve been living under several rocks for a good part of your life, the exceptions come to mind easily, leading one to make the decision that you could do X, Y, and maybe even Z… but you’re not going to.
So it’s not as if anyone isn’t aware of the exception to the rules; indeed, traditional marriage vows – in a backhanded sort of way – warn you against the exception by invoking “forsaking all others” and “keeping only unto yourself” and “let no man put asunder,” dire warnings that are not only applicable and binding by vow and by law in marriage but a behavior most of us follow even when marriage isn’t in the foreseeable future – or not at all. We know and believe that the rules of monogamy are immutable, unchanging, and not subject to modification for any reason and, honestly, if you believe this to be true, go get some coffee or something that’ll wake you up because the reality a lot of people (a) don’t want to talk about and (b) won’t ever admit to is that there are exceptions to those rules and even in this, it’s not as much about breaking the rules as it is modifying them to fit your relationship situation because, after all, aren’t we all told in some form or another that our relationship – marriage or otherwise – is only going to be as good as we – read this as you and your partner – can make it?
If you believe this to be a truism – and there’s no reason not to believe this (that I know of) – then you are kinda compelled to do this… but within the framework of being monogamous and while it is quite doable, um, sometimes it isn’t… and some kind of exception may be required. All of this begs what I think is an interesting question: Are you supposed to remain true to the “letter of the law” – monogamy – or to the person that you’re with? I would think that a lot of people would say both… but bear with me a little while longer on this one. My chat with Ellen got into respecting one’s spouse/partner and blind obedience, i.e., if you’re partner tells you that you can’t do something, not only is their word “law” but you have no say in this and no recourse at all. Ellen argued that for her, it’s not blind obedience on her part when her husband tells her not to do something that, in his mind, is against the rules – it’s respecting him. Being one of the devil’s favorite advocates, I said a few things about that lack of input and recourse, that obeying without question or objection and she maintained that, no, this is respecting his wishes – it make me think but not ask her, “What about your wishes?” but, instead, I asked her this: “Do you always do what someone tells you to do?”
Okay, it wasn’t a fair question because I already knew the answer and, yes, Ellen said, “Hell, no!”
Here’s some shit about this exception to the rules and going back to a simple truth if you do, in fact, believe that your relationship is only going to be as good as you make it: It’s not cheating when you both say that it isn’t… even though technically it is. The exception exists whether one likes it or not; it has always existed because people find out somewhere along the line that if they don’t make exceptions about stuff, their relationship isn’t going to be as good as it could be and more so when leaving each other really isn’t an option (although it is the option most people take). Monogamy doesn’t allow for “what if” situations that could call for an exception to be put in place; all monogamy cares about is you and your partner obeying the rules as written and without exception and then making it so that your integrity as a person is on the line and could be at risk if you dared to insert an exception into a situation that mandates no exceptions for any reason… and even if the reason makes perfectly good sense and it is seen as a way to preserve the relationship, enhance it, provide more personal growth, things like that.
We’ve all probably heard this one: If a woman has sex with a man who isn’t hers, it’s cheating… but if she were to have sex with another woman, nah, that ain’t cheating. The staunch supporters of monogamy will rise up and scream at the top of their collective lungs, “Cheating is cheating!” And they’d be right… but not if the couple in question says that, for them, it’s not cheating. We often get pissy over something that’s seen as a double standard… but it really isn’t – it’s more of an exception and one that’s made out of some necessities that monogamy, as an institution, cannot provide for. It doesn’t give you any recourse; if “Darla” needed to get with “April” to satisfy a need that Darla’s husband can’t take care of, monogamy say, “You’re fucked, Darla, because that ain’t gonna happen.” Monogamy doesn’t really give a fuck about whether or not Darla would be not only a better person but a better partner because this need was taken care of via an exception; she’s expected and required to not have any other desires or needs that would involve someone outside of the relationship.
We hold true that no exceptions are allowed… which doesn’t ever change the fact that some couples have a very real need to make an exception even if it’s under controlled situations, like, our hypothetical Darla could be allowed to have April as a girlfriend and lover and with Darla’s hubby’s blessing… as long as it’s Darla and April and there are no men involved in any of this… except maybe him and then only if Darla and April agrees to the exception should this be a condition set by him so that Darla can do her thing with April. A lot of people will say that this should never be done but, again, it begs the question is which thing is more important: Blind obedience to the rules of monogamy or the quality of your relationship? Of course, this is a debate that could go on forever and a dark day, with one side emphatically stating that the rules of monogamy must be obeyed at all costs and the other side saying just as emphatically that this is their relationship and, as such, they can do whatever they feel is best for that relationship.
Just because you might not like the exception or agree that it exists just does not ever mean that it doesn’t exist or that people do find reason to invoke the exception to the rule. It gets all into the debate of whether or not such a thing is right or wrong… but that’s why they call this exception “negotiated infidelity” and the more ‘modern’ position is that if it hasn’t been negotiated, then it’s just outright cheating. The exception isn’t automatic – it doesn’t just happen – it has to be invoked by someone and then for the exception to take effect, there has to be acceptance to the proposition of change, whatever that happens to be. These exceptions aren’t always sexual in nature; they could encompass any need that someone may have that, if granted, would make their lives better as an individual and maybe even enhance the quality of the relationship. Like, some relationships for some reason don’t allow either person to have a close friend – doesn’t make much sense to me but it happens – and an exception could be made to allow having a close friend although I’d say that if one partner or the other was pitching a bitch about having friends, that’s like a forced exception being put into the game or “Do as I say or else!” or “It’s my way or the highway!”
I find it odd that if it’s okay for people to put such conditions on their relationship and by invoking some “twisted” version of the rules for them to do this, why is this okay, right, and just… but someone having the need to invoke an exception is wrong? Again, this is a never-ending debate where folks would eventually agree to disagree on and, still, it does not invalidate the fact that exceptions can be made. It goes without saying a whole lot that if someone’s going to invoke an exception, they’d better be ready and able to execute it and, of course, a lot of exceptions fail horribly because no one knows how to go about doing such a thing that provides recourse but also protects and maintains the relationship as a whole… but that’s probably another blog for some other time.
The rule is that you cannot and should not ever make exceptions to the rules of monogamy… but life and reality and maybe even common sense says that if you need to make an exception and everyone can buy into it via negotiation, then exceptions are allowed – they can be made and done even when the rules don’t allow it. How you do it or even why you do it is varied – but that’s not really the point; what is the point with exceptions is which is the thing you should be devoted to: The rules of monogamy or your partner’s happiness? Which is more important?