Pagans and Monogamy

Are Pagans more or less likely to be monogamous?. Image by Hisham Ibrahim/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

A reader writes in with an interesting dilemma. He says, Recently my girlfriend and I began spending a lot of time with a local coven. She is spending a lot of time (without me) in the presence of one of the group's other male participants. She has hinted that she's very attracted to him, and even said she wouldn't mind sleeping with him. I objected to this because honestly, I'd like our relationship to remain monogamous, but she seems to think that since "all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals," that she has carte blanche to have sex with others. I know lots of Pagans are polyamorous, but I'm not comfortable with it. Can you weigh in on this?"

Love to. Here’s the thing. If your girlfriend wants to have sex with other people, then she wants to have sex with other people. That has nothing to do with religious beliefs or not. She’s simply using Paganism - specifically, one line from the Charge of the Goddess - as justification.

And sure, there are some Pagans that are polyamorous - there are also some non-Pagans that are involved in poly relationships. There are also plenty of people who are okay with open relationships, and don’t at all mind the idea of having consensual recreational sex with someone other than their partner, as long as everyone is open and honest about it.

Likewise, there are many Pagans who are involved in a committed, monogamous relationship with just one person - whether it's a marriage, a domestic partnership, or just two people who have decided they want to be with each other and nobody else.

To complicate matters further, there are people who are involved in committed, mostly monogamous relationships, who may still engage in sex in a religious context, such as the Great Rite or other ritualized sexual activity.

Just like so many other issues within the Pagan community, it’s hard to say that there’s one specific answer to a question, because there are so many different traditions and belief system that fall under the umbrella of Paganism. There are probably plenty of groups that see a committed relationship - whether it’s marriage or something like it -- as something sacred and holy, not to be sullied by shenanigans with fellow coven members.

That said, if you’re not one of those “I’m okay with my partner sleeping with others” people, then you’re just not. And it’s not unreasonable to ask your girlfriend to respect that. It’s entirely possible that the two of you have very different ideas about what your relationship actually is. It’s also possible that she’s someone who doesn’t think that monogamy is that important - and if she is, there’s nothing wrong with that either, but it can certainly make it hard for you, if you’re a person who DOES think monogamy is a big deal.

So, just like many of the other questions that roll into About Paganism/Wicca, I’m going to offer you much the same advice as I give other people in various circumstances: COMMUNICATE.

Talk to your girlfriend, and listen to her. Is she interested in a relationship with this other man, or just a romp in the sack? Or is she just trying to see what kind of reaction she’ll get out of you? See if you can find some compromise - or see if you have to lay some boundaries. The important thing here is going to be communication, and if you work at it, and the two of you can talk through this, you should be just fine.