Sexploration of the modern relationship
First Posted: 2/3/2015
There are swingers in Northeastern Pennsylvania — and you would never suspect who they are.
They are doctors. Teachers. Maybe even your parents.
According to Tiffany Griffiths, a clinical psychologist with practices in Clarks Summit, Dunmore and Exeter, there are high-profile, respected members of the community who are swapping partners to fulfill sexual pleasure that is not present in their marriage.
Think about it. Is it realistic to only have one sexual partner, or is society challenging the sexual instincts of human nature?
Shane and Jessica Butler of Jessup are in a strictly monogamous marriage and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Mike Mulaney of Scranton believes commitment is emotional and that sex should be considered a leisurely activity, comparable to getting a massage.
Dominque Kozuch of Jermyn and Sean Mellner of Wilkes-Barre are both single and claim they are unable to be in a committed relationship because of social media and other forms of modern technology.
They shared their points of view as we explored the modern relationship.
Shane Butler considers himself to be an old-fashioned and loyal guy, from his 1940s-style haircut to his profession as a barber at Loyalty Barbershop and Shave Parlor in Jessup to deciding to settle down and get married at the age of 22.
“I’ve always been a loyal guy who believes in commitment. I found a girl who makes me happy, she’s awesome and I wanted to keep her around for as long as I possibly could,” Butler said.
Shane and Jessica were married on Halloween in 2014, after dating for three years.
“Nowadays it seems people wait longer to get married, like when they are in their 30s and 40s. I don’t want to have someone for half of my life. I wanted to be with my wife for as many years as possible,” Butler said.
Butler never second-guessed his decision to marry young, even though his parents were married at his age and eventually divorced.
When it comes to missing out on the experience of other sexual partners, Shane doesn’t feel as if getting married young is causing him to miss out.
“It’s fun to play the field, and most of my friends are doing that at my age so I get it, but that’s just not for me,” Butler said.
When it comes to non-monogamous relationships, Jessica Butler doesn’t judge.
“I don’t think it is unhealthy to be in a monogamous relationship, and I don’t think it’s unhealthy to be in a relationship that isn’t monogamous. Everyone has a different situation, and for me and Shane, marriage was the perfect choice. Being committed to just each other is what works best for us,” she said.
Even if his wife wanted a threesome with another women to spice up their sex life — the sexual fantasy of many men — Butler insists he would pass.
“I want to be with one person. I believe in monogamy. I found someone who meets my needs. I believe that commitment involves working together when those needs aren’t being met. If you have to involve a new sexual partner into a relationship to make that relationship work, then you probably shouldn’t be married to that person. Not every relationship is meant to be,” he said.
‘My affair with a married man helped him be a better husband’
To Mike Mulaney, the ideal relationship is between two people who trust each other, have an open line of communication and love each other enough to know that, even if they seek sexual gratification from someone else, they will ultimately go back to each other.
Mulaney has that ideal open relationship with his boyfriend of six months.
“As people, we all have needs. We all have wants. I don’t think one person can satisfy everything you want. You might want different things for different days. Maybe one person does it for you one day, but another day you want something else,” Mulaney said.
At the beginning of his relationship, Mulaney told his boyfriend he wouldn’t be upset if he had sex with someone else to fulfill his needs because that is what he would be doing. So far during their relationship, Mulaney has had sex with one other person.
“I’m with a person who is more passive when it comes to sex and the other person I had sex with was more dominant. I wanted to be dominated, so I had sex with someone else to fulfill that need I had. Emotion wasn’t involved at all,” Mulaney said.
Mulaney said his boyfriend wasn’t initially as open to the idea as he was, but came to accept it.
His boyfriend declined to comment on their open relationship.
No matter how you see it, open relationships are not socially accepted, but Mulaney said he feels it is the most realistic and natural approach to a successful relationship.
“I feel culture forces moral values that are unnatural to our instinct and that people feel pressured to be with one person and only that person. The number-one cause for marriages to end is infidelity, which I think only proves that people are kidding themselves and trying to be something they’re not,” Mulaney said.
Though infidelity may often end marriages, Mulaney reminisced a sexual relationship he once had with a married man that helped fulfill needs his partner couldn’t get from his wife.
“He had a wife and kids and it would just be like a once a month thing. Then he would go back to his wife and his kids. I think he just needed that little release once in a while to [satisfy] his bisexual tendencies. Granted, the guy never told his wife, but it goes to show that fulfilling your needs outside of your relationship can help a relationship. He always went back to her. The emotional commitment was with her. I think I helped play a role in him fulfilling a need that made him be a better husband to his wife because his needs were fully met,” Mulaney said.
According to Mulaney, sex should be considered a leisure activity.
“Why does sex have to be only between the couple? Sex is just sex. It’s not the main component to a relationship. The emotional connection is. When someone gets a professional massage, the person giving the massage is giving you something you want and need. I think that’s how sex should be looked at,” Mulaney said.
‘Is technology killing monogamy?’
Sean Mellner of Wilkes-Barre had to Google the definition of monogamy when asked about it.
“I seriously never heard of that word before. I definitely don’t hear people around my own age saying that word. Once I looked it up and I found out it means staying true to one person for the rest of your life, I figured I didn’t hear it because it’s an outdated idea,” said the 30-year-old.
Mellner said he doesn’t believe in monogamy, but it’s not because he doesn’t want to.
“I just don’t believe people can stay true to one person. I think technology and social media is to blame for it between apps and Facebook. People know it’s easier to replace someone because of social media and technology in general. When girls have a lot of guys commenting on their pictures saying that they look so beautiful and whatnot, they know they have other people they can give a chance and it’s easily accessed. They know they don’t have to go out and meet new people one-on-one, so they’re not as willing to work through tough times,” Mellner said.
Because he doesn’t trust that monogamous relationships can exist in today’s society, Mellner said all of his relationships are strictly sexual.
Dominique Kozuch of Jermyn also said she believes technology is the root to her relationship problems.
“I’ll meet a guy who seems very interested at first, but then it always turns out that he doesn’t know what he wants. I think guys don’t know what they want today because their is so much out there. There’s too much out there. Guys will be friends with girls on Facebook they don’t even know in real life and they’ll follow girls on Instagram they will never meet. There’s too many options today for someone to want to be with just one person,” Kozuch said.
More options are available when it comes to how you can share life with someone and who you can share it with — and more people are open to exploring them.
That being said, is monogamy dying out? Will the concept of being true to one significant other become a habit of the past?
Between open relationships, swapping partners, a growing acceptance of bisexuality and homosexuality, and people who value traditional social standards of the past, how can the modern relationship be limited to a generalized translation?
According to Griffiths, who has treated people from Northeastern Pennsylvania in relationships for more than 13 years, monogamy isn’t going anywhere; the modern relationship can simply become one where anything goes.
“We can no longer use the template of yesteryear of husband and wife, three kids and a dog, white picket fence. We need to throw that idea out the window and stop comparing now to then. That creates guilt and bad feelings in a relationship,” Griffiths said.
Relationships are evolving with the times, she said.
“Today both men and women, girls and boys, are able to have a more full expression of themselves. They’re not defined by society saying to men, ‘You do this, and shut down your emotions and financially take care of your family,’ and to women, ‘You don’t think about living outside of the house, and you take care of the family’s emotional needs and your husband’s emotional needs but don’t expect the same to happen to you.’” Griffith said.
Having the freedom to express ourselves may be changing the way we choose to fulfill our needs — both emotionally and sexually — which Griffiths said can oftentimes lead to healthier, more honest relationships.