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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Relationships » Young couples can’t agree on whether they have agreed to be monogamous

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Author Topic: Young couples can’t agree on whether they have agreed to be monogamous
Heather
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A study just came out on this, and I'd love to hear all of you talk about this topic.

From Young couples can’t agree on whether they have agreed to be monogamous]this article:

quote:
While monogamy is often touted as a way to protect against disease, young couples who say they have discussed monogamy can’t seem to agree on what they decided. And a significant percentage of those couples who at least agreed that they would be monogamous weren’t. A new study of 434 young heterosexual couples ages 18-25 found that, in 40 percent of couples, only one partner says the couple agreed to be sexually exclusive. The other partner said there was no agreement.

Public health researchers Jocelyn Warren and Marie Harvey of Oregon State University looked at data from the PARTNERS Project, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded study conducted by Harvey. The researchers said this study showed that many couples are misjudging their partners’ risk behaviors. The results are in a forthcoming article published online in the Journal of Sex Research.

...

Warren and Harvey’s study shows that some couples may not be communicating effectively on the terms of their relationship. Even among those who agreed they had an explicit agreement to be monogamous, almost 30 percent had broken the agreement, with at least one partner having had sex outside the relationship. Harvey, a leading researcher in the field of sexual and reproductive health, said this study adds to a growing body of research on safer sex communication. “Couples have a hard time talking about these sorts of issues, and I would imagine for young people it’s even more difficult,” she said. “Monogamy comes up quite a bit as a way to protect against sexually transmitted diseases. But you can see that agreement on whether one is monogamous or not is fraught with issues.”

(More to read via the link above.)

I'd say I've very much observed what the study documents, and often, but what do you think about it?

And what have your conversations been like with exclusivity/monogamy agreements when and if you've made them?

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Britster
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I don't have much experience with this, but I do suspect it's an issue of attitude. I don't think having an agreement about monogamy or exclusivity will not have as much of an effect on a couple's behavior (that is not to say it would not have any effect) than if both people were seriously committed to having an exclusive, monogamous relationship.
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Heather
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I may be misunderstanding what you're saying, but why not both?

In other words, it seems to me that IF people earnestly want and commit to monogamy, they still will need to be clear on what they're agreeing TO, right? If they're not, they can be as committed to it as they want, but I'm not sure how they can be sure to honor that commitment.

In other words, let's say someone is committed to being a vegetarian. Can they really be committed if they don't understand what that means they can and cannot eat? Know what I mean?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Jill2000Plus
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quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
In other words, let's say someone is committed to being a vegetarian. Can they really be committed if they don't understand what that means they can and cannot eat? Know what I mean?

That reminds me of Scott Pilgrim, when Todd Ingram is read the list of the 3 strikes that result in his vegan powers being taken away (while I have started reading the comics, I haven't gotten to that point yet, I'm referencing the movie).

I think there are two issues here:

1. That greater understanding is needed of what activities carry STI risks, in other words what definition of monogamy will offer greater protection against STIs in combination with using latex/substitute barriers for various activities, getting tested.

2. That greater understanding A) of what is and is not a reasonable request of a partner with regards to not cheating (unreasonable: don't masturbate alone, don't hang around with your friends of a particular gender anymore. Reasonable: don't have oral/vaginal/anal intercourse or engage in mutual masturbation with other people than me), though obviously not everyone wants a monogamous relationship, and may decide they don't want to be in a relationship where the stuff that isn't per se unreasonable is a requirement. B) that it's important for couples to discuss their definitions of sex and monogamy, and how they can go about this, is needed.

Sorry if that was verbose, I hope I got my point across.

[ 02-11-2011, 01:22 PM: Message edited by: Jill2000Plus ]

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Heather
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(Yay, Scott Pilgrim!)

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Mortality
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I had a semi-open relationship once we're got into great detail of what we agreed on. I've also been in a monogamous relationship (my first ever) where we kinda just assumed monogamy and never really talked about it 'till a year and a half in when I did something I thought was ok and he didn't really agree.

I think that if you're gonna make a deal with someone you gotta know what you're agreeing to. How can you expect to keep a deal if you haven't read the fine print so to say?

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Starfire&Shadows
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This is interesting. I guess just one more good reason to talk/communicate about this stuff. Admittedly I've been in this situation, with one boyfriend of mine. I was like "what, we haven't talked enough to agree on anything" and plus I was assuming he would be cool with (what to me feels like) freedom because he's egalitarian. And he said "I thought we were at the monogamous stage because we do so much together/are so close"
A little bit of Fail there.

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Lilerse
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I agree about the talking & communicating. I never assume a guy & I are exclusive until we've talked about it. My current boyfriend and I had multiple conversations specifically addressing what we wanted when it came to monogamy and lack thereof. We started out in a kind of fuckbuddy/open relationship deal (it kinda alternated between the two lol) - but ALWAYS with open communication, especially since I was worried about STIs; then we switched to no sex with other people but kissing, dates, sleepovers, and cuddling ok; then no sex or kissing (and sleepovers with certain platonic people only) but still cuddling..etc. There were also discussions about "naked parties" and whatnot and if that was ok (we're both fairly immodest people, but at the same time my boyfriend sexualizes a lot of women he finds attractive, so it was an interesting discussion).
Oh, and now that we're long distance we agreed on no exclusivity, but with the understanding that neither of us would be all that happy if the other person did have sex with someone else.

Point is, while we certainly didn't deal with all the arising issues in our relationship perfectly, we did talk about everything and made the exclusivity thing very specific, rather than just saying "Let's be exclusive," "ok sounds good."

In my own relationships, I haven't had the problems described in the article, but I have friends who have been in those situations. A close guy friend of mine just confessed that he "cheated," and explained that it was in the relationship he had mentioned to me earlier that he "thought was just a fling but she considered it a relationship." He feels like utter crap about it, and I get the sense that at the time of the cheating (or whatever it was) he did feel like what he was doing was wrong, but knowing him I feel like if he and the girl he was seeing had actually talked about and agreed, with words, that they would be exclusive, he wouldn't have cheated.

It's interesting how a few words can make such a big difference. How lines/walls can so easily be drawn/built, or disappear enough that it excuses actions. As in, right now I'm trying to decide if I'd be ok sleeping with a guy friend when I visit my college over spring break..because "technically" it wouldn't be cheating. But it could hurt my boyfriend just as much as if we WERE exclusive and I did technically cheat, so is it really any better?

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Midnight Sun
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This is why I feel it's so important to talk, talk, talk. But believe me, it took me some time to learn that lesson. With my first boyfriend, we never communicated about anything. The few times I did attempt to discuss issues on my mind, I sort of just got brushed off by him. At the time, I was to naive to understand this was NOT the way to have a healthy relationship.
Currently, I am with someone new, and we discuss pretty much EVERYTHING. And I can honestly say it feels great. It's comforting to know exactly where we both stand and the expectations we have in our relationship. It took experience, but I Iearned communication is really key.

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