When did you realize that monogamy was optional?

Or do you still believe that a married or committed couple should be monogamous?

Now, I’m older, went through my teens in the sixties, this colors my perception. When I was young, the world was still a place where most people were religious, and the country was socially conservative. The prevailing belief was that when a couple got married (a man and a woman, of course, because homosexuality was still a sin against God and America!) they were expected to be faithful to each other as long as they lived. 

I got married when I was nineteen, she was twenty, I was in the Navy. Yes, when I took my vows I intended to be faithful, and I think my wife did too. We were based in a suburb of San Francisco, just after the Summer of Love, but still we kept our beliefs. For five years, even though there were opportunities to stray, neither of us did. 

I was assigned to an aircraft carrier, we spent nine months out of the year on deployment to the waters off VietNam. I saw my shipmates - some of them married - head off to the brothels when we hit port, I heard that some of the wives had boyfriends when we were out to sea. I won’t say I considered them bad people, but I thought they weren’t honoring their spouses.

Then, before my last cruise, my wife told me she got very lonely and horny when I was out at sea, she brought up the possibility that she might take a lover. I wasn’t shocked, but I did have to reorient myself. It probably took me three weeks or so before I understood that if my wife had an affair, it wouldn’t mean the end of our marriage. In short, at that time when I was twenty-five, I realized that people didn’t really have to be monogamous for life.

Do you have a story about when you first realized that monogamy was optional for a married couple? I’d love to hear it, particularly from people younger than myself who grew up in a different social environment.

And, if you believe that monogamy is important for a married couple, I’d like to hear your viewpoint as well.