How to Kick Ass at Monogamy

Before I began my MBA in 1997 I bought one of those motivational books: Awaken the Tony Robbins Within I think it was called.

I made it through the first chapter.

It began with “the power of decision,” like when you decide something that’s it, no going back, it’s gonna happen, because decisions are powerful, and stuff. It’s black and white. You are now motivated.

Tony created an Ultimate Relationship Program some years back; I’m skeptical of his ability to walk the talk. Because math.

He got married to a woman named Becky in 1982, but somehow had a son with a woman named Liz in 1984. And in 2001 he traded wife number one for a 23-years younger wife number two. Perhaps he didn’t decide hard enough about that first marriage. Nothing wrong with getting divorced if you’re miserable, but when your reputation contains multiple allegations of infidelity, perhaps you should avoid giving people marriage advice.

Conversely, here’s my relationship math: 1 woman + > 25 years – anyone else = happiness to ∞.


I wear my glasses to the gym.

I appreciate beauty, from a distance, using the gym mirrors and my 20/15 corrected vision. I don’t want to creep anyone out.

I always hated that saying: “I don’t care where my husband gets his appetite, as long as he eats at home.” Just … blarf. I’m not getting an appetite anywhere else, just admiring beauty. I can see an attractive woman and say to myself, Hot, then go back to whatever it was I was doing.

What goes on in my head when I see my wife is light years beyond simple thoughts of: Hot.

Even though she’s nuclear fission hot.


Do what you want.

I’m a leftie Canadian who believes what happens between consenting adults is none of my business. But it irks me that a certain website that is the liberal version of FOX News seems to be on a mission to expose monogamy as an outdated concept. Like, these indigenous tribes from way back boinked everybody, and they were happy when they weren’t dying from starvation or sepsis. Or, monogamy is this patriarchal concept that’s about the man owning the woman’s private parts. It’s not natural and Republicans only pretend to like it. Be free. Open your ovaries to whomever you please. Shoot your reproductive material all over creation. Unless you’re Mormon: you guys cut that shit out.

Again, do what you want. Religion, morals, society and Dr. Phil can eat a bag of dog farts. Just consider the consequences of your actions, and don’t hurt people.


That’s what cheating is: hurting someone.

Cheating means breaking the rules. And it’s important for a relationship to have rules. Even open relationships have them.

I don’t care what anyone else thinks about what goes on in my relationship. The only person I care about in this regard is my wife. They’re our rules, and no one else gets any input into them. We made them as a team, and we take them seriously.

For us, unfailing monogamy is an important one.

Despite what some research may or may not show about the viability of long-term monogamy, or asserting it’s a social construct based on outdated cultural norms, I’m still a fan. The Ashley Madison spam gets deleted along with the herbal Viagra and herpes cure spam.

I know many who dig monogamy. And embracing it fully, rather than seeing it as some kind of life sentence that needs to be tolerated to avoid divorce, is worthwhile. Extreme loyalty brings you closer together. I would hide a body for my wife (not that I would marry a person who would need me to). She knows I am 100% committed, and vice versa.

That’s damn sexy.

It’s also motivating if you adopt the proper mindset. Instead of thinking “I only get to have sex with this one person,” you should instead be thinking, “I get to be in a relationship where the dedication is unfailing.”

Yes, there is a decision involved, but it’s not a simple Tony Robbins “you made a decision and that’s that” oversimplification. This is anything but simple. The stats prove there are plenty who made that same decision to be monogamous, and then they blew it.


I have my own life. A month after I got married I was on my way to Guatemala for a lengthy trip by myself to study Spanish and do research for a master’s thesis. Unswerving commitment doesn’t mean being clingy. I have my friends; she has hers. We spend time together and apart. Both are good.


There are a few people in this world I’d relish punching in the face. Like the guy in the blue BMW who almost killed me when I was on my bicycle last fall. I wanted to yank him out of his car and say, “Eat fist, asswipe.” Except for consequences.

Infidelity comes with some of the worst consequences I can imagine: the end of my marriage. It’s a deal breaker. One strike and you are out.

Why throw away over 25 years, living in the same house with two kids, completely merged finances, a future together … all for one indiscretion? Answer: because we’ll never have to. The fear of the overwhelming punishment of the relationship ending is one part of what prevents the crime from being committed.

This decision wasn’t a strictly rational one, but based more on emotion. It’s founded on how each of us would feel if the other strayed. I think about it and my guts twist in so many knots I know I’d never get over it. She feels the same way, and so it became part of the deal. We decided what we have is special and unique, and can’t be shared.

It’s in the background. It’s a small impetus for the positive, which is me + her = awesome.


No STD worries. I know they’re my kids (I support the important role played by adoptive and step parents – that’s not what I mean here). No concerns about me impregnating someone else. No wrenching feelings of guilt.

I could cheat, and hide it, but then I’d live in fear. Again, the consequences are so dire that if I were found out it would ruin my life. Even if I were never found out, the gnawing guilt and fear would eat at me like stomach cancer.

Fear is such a small part. Beyond it, there is that damn sexy thing I spoke of.

This is where “life is more than just making a decision” comes into play. You don’t stop working on your relationship the day you get married. That’s when the hard work starts. It also helps if you don’t view it as work. More like an investment in happiness.

I go out of my way to not just do nice things for my wife, but to treat her with kindness and respect, and to show both my love and my passion to the point where our kids roll their eyes like an old-fashioned slot machine. She returns it.

I’m not limited by not sleeping with others; I have unobtanium card access to an ultra-exclusive club with only two members.


Membership has its privileges, but you also must pay your dues. It’s not just like, “Well, I’m faithful. What more do you want?”

The answer is: everything. She wants everything.

And my response is: Yes. Gladly.

My life isn’t an endless love story. There are ups and downs, occasional screaming fights, and anger and snotty remarks. A.K.A. typical married life. There is also much saccharin adoration that makes others want to blow chunks.

Monogamy is something you make the best of. I mean that in a positive way, not begrudgingly.

Myriad articles and books have been written about how to spice up your love life. I think it has less to do with Catholic schoolgirl outfits, shaving certain bits, new positions and date nights, and more to do with mindset. If you think how fortunate you are to be the only one your partner chooses to be with, that spicy stuff happens organically rather than having to force it.

Tony Robbins was somewhat correct. It starts with a decision, but it becomes a way of life through continual focus and vigorous dedication. It requires positive thought about the benefits received in exchange for small sacrifice.

Perhaps I’m missing out on a little, but in return I’m gaining a lot. Actually, I’m not missing out on so much as a little.

There is a stanza in “Check It Out” by John Mellencamp, and you should.

Forgot to say hello to my neighbors

Sometimes I question my own behavior

Talkin’ about the girls that we’ve seen on the sly

Just to tell our souls we’re still the young lions

Seeing on the sly is breaking my word. There is no honor in this. There is no one to brag to about this. Those young lions sound like douche bags.

I have learned better ways of feeling young and proud. My accomplishments I can crow, and my wife will along with me. These are not things to hide or feel ashamed of. I’m wearing my 2014 Boston Marathon shirt as I write this.


I have flaws. Some of those flaws smell bad and are done in a shared sleeping environment. But I do endeavor to improve. I like to think I was a better husband this year than the one before that.

How do you kick ass at monogamy? You embrace it fully for the wonderfulness that it has to offer rather than see it as a set of restrictions. It’s not a simple decision to forsake the beds of others, but a solemn promise that you mean down to your toenails. You dig deep for this one, and you expect the same.

And how do you become a better significant other to keep monogamy awesome? Consider his reputation, I am skeptical if Tony’s program is any good. Ten years ago it was mandatory I attend one of his presentations as part of a “team building exercise” with a company I worked at. Vomit. Whatever drink Tony was pouring, I wasn’t thirsty.

And I wouldn’t believe the stereotypical hokum spewed by some Oprah-endorsed diploma mill “PhD” about which planet men came from vs. the one women originated on either.

When it comes to kicking ass at monogamy, it helps if you choose well in a partner, like I did. Beyond that, if you’re looking for assistance on how to do that relationship improvement stuff, this book comes highly recommended: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert. I read it; the advice is solid.

Sharing a life with someone shouldn’t be just about going through the motions. You should continually strive to make those motions amazing.

In and out of the bedroom.

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James S. Fell is an internationally syndicated fitness columnist for the Chicago Tribune and author of Lose it Right: A Brutally Honest 3-Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind, published by Random House Canada. He also interviews celebrities about their fitness stories for the Los Angeles Times, and is head fitness columnist for AskMen.com.

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