When news broke that actress/comedian Mo’Nique gave her husband a “pass” to sleep with other women, all hell broke loose on the Internet. Well, not really. But folks couldn’t stop criticizing the star’s decision to allow her husband to sleep with other women.
But why? Why are folks so upset at an arrangement that seems to be working for the couple?
Mo’Nique has known her husband, Sidney Hicks, since she was 14. They’ve been married for 10 years, and she describes him as her best friend. After receiving mad backlash about their relationship last week, the star took to Periscope to clarify her statements:
“When I say I’m in an open marriage, it was not my husband’s idea,” Mo’Nique said in the live-streamed clip. “Originally it was my idea because at the time, when Sid and I got together 10 years ago—now keep in mind, this was my best friend since I was 14—but when we first got together, I was still stuck in being famous and a celebrity and being a star, and I felt like I could have whatever I want. So I was still in an insecure place of, ‘I can have that, I can have that, I can have that.’ And because I was dealing with my best friend, my best friend said, ‘If that’s what you think you need, as your best friend, I don’t want to stand in the way of it.’ ”
Let’s focus on Sidney’s response for a second: If that’s what you think you need, as your best friend, I don’t want to stand in the way of it. Commitment should never be forced, and Sidney got the memo and signed off on the agreed terms of his relationship with Mo’Nique.
Most people would say, “Don’t get married then!” But most people are comparing Mo’Nique’s arrangement to their definition of what marriage is.
I think many people are upset with Mo’Nique because her idea of commitment doesn’t align with the majority of America’s. They are basing their feelings, responses and reactions to Mo’Nique and Sidney’s marriage on their individual (as well as society’s) acceptable definition of what marriage is in this country.
Regardless of our upbringing, we were all taught that marriage is a commitment reserved for a man and a woman under God. Anything that falls outside of that is just wrong, according to society.
Full disclosure: I believe in monogamy. I also believe it’s a social construct, and practicing it takes will power and a solid desire to do so. The idea of committing oneself to another person and sleeping with other people is not my personal preference, and I feel like it would take away from me focusing on building a solid, sustainable connection with my mate.
But that’s my idea of a quality relationship. It is what works for me.
Other consenting adults like Mo’Nique have the right to define and create relationships that work best for them, and we shouldn’t judge them. I am not defending open relationships; I am defending the right for consenting adults to be able to define their own relationships.
All successful, long lasting relationships have pure, unadulterated honesty present. There’s a level of trust that exists within the relationship that allows both parties to speak freely about their desires and what they envision for the bond. But many marriages today lack these elements.
Let’s take cheating, for example. Fifty-six percent of men who cheat claim they are happy in their marriages. In fact, many of them believe that cheating is saving their marriage, because it fills voids in their relationship. They just don’t want to hurt their wives.
Am I making an excuse for cheating? Nope. Cheating is never the thing to do, in my opinion. But these statistics do shed light into the thoughts, feelings and attitudes some Americans have when it comes to marriage.
Now, back to Mo’Nique. While I can’t make up my mind on whether or not she was being selfish or not, the star was honest with her mate when she introduced the idea of an open marriage. At that very moment, she gave Sidney a choice in whether or not he wanted to continue to involve himself with her romantically. That level of honesty is not present in marriages where people feel pressured to commit, and the above statistics reflect this, among other things.
Mo’Nique isn’t giving her husband “a pass to cheat.” Cheating involves deceit, pain, hurt and a breach of boundaries. People who cheat know their actions will in fact hurt their partners, so they introduce lies into the equation and live a double life.
So on one hand, you have a group of people subscribing to the traditional form of marriage who are unhappy. And on the other hand, you have some individuals defining their own meanings of marriage who are happy.
Bottom line? It seems like we have many people standing up for monogamy, but not practicing it themselves. Getting married isn’t enough. You have to desire, practice and become content with loving one person, if that is how you wish to define your life and relationship.
By coming down on someone bold enough to define her own relationship, it takes power away from us to do so for ourselves. We allow society to dictate how we relate to our significant others, what steps we take in our relationships, and how we are supposed to act in our marriages.
Criticizing a couple for being honest with who they are and what works for them isn’t the problem. Not questioning what you’ve been taught by society is.
Be brave enough to define your own relationship no matter what, and you will undoubtedly experience a level of joy, peace and understanding with your mate like never before.
Shantell E. Jamison is an editor for EBONY.com and JETmag.com. Not confined to chasing headlines, this Chicago-based writer, radio personality and cultural critic is also the author of Drive Yourself in the Right Direction: Simple Quotes on How to Achieve Your Best Self.