We were having dinner at my parents house when my husband asked my grandma how she felt about grandpa's thirst for adventure and constant road trips. Nobody expected what came after. Grandma said "I know he loved going on those trips and sometimes I came along, but other times I know his mistresses were there so he didn't invite me."
This wasn't shocking to me, but the rest of the family members' jaws dropped and they stared at grandma blankly.
"Of course he dated other women, I also fell in love with other men while being married to my husband- so what? It's normal and sometimes good for the relationship. It's very healthy to get away every once in a while", she continued. She told us about grandpa's affairs, and how she wasn't too bothered by them. She said that the most important thing she realized early on in their marriage was the value of complete freedom she could give her husband. She said, "Why would you suffocate anyone you love with unnecessary restrictions? If he wants to spend time with someone else asking him not to would only make him resent you."
Oh, my wise amazing grandma! You don't even understand how validated you made me feel in that very moment!
I looked at my mom. She had a mix of jealousy and awe on her face. I remembered her words when I told her that I had a crush on a coworker a few years earlier. She said, "That's great - you'll have a reason to work out more. Just don't let it get too far." I wondered then what "too far" meant and why it would be bad to let it get there, but at the time I haven't allowed myself to even think in this direction yet.
I looked at my dad. He was definitely shocked and tried to laugh it off dismissively. He mumbled something along the lines of "that's crazy talk" and switched topics.
My husband looked at me and raised an eyebrow. He didn't say anything at the dinner table, but on the way home he said, "Well that came out of nowhere! Good for her!"
Besides watching my parents' reactions to my grandma's confessions, I really enjoyed the newly found knowledge of how similar we actually are. I also believe, just like grandma, that putting restrictions on others and telling them what they can and cannot do with anyone else has more potential to damage relationships rather than to save them - monogamous or not. If you don't want to date other people - great! - it should be your own choice that you stick to because that's how you feel. If you are staying faithful, because somebody else asked you to and not because that's what you want - there is a higher risk of somebody's trust being broken or of you developing resentment towards your less secure significant other.
Anything outside of "the norm" was very much looked down upon, if not punished in the culture where my grandma spent most of her adult life. I command her for owning her views and living her life in a way that worked for her and grandpa. Being okay with being outside the norm is something that took me a really long time to accept, but grandma has adopted a different mindset from the society she grew up in and managed to have her own authentic version of the "happily-ever-after".
My grandma had no regrets about the life she shared with grandpa. She was happy with him and wouldn't have changed anything. Not his road trips, not her crushes. They stayed married for over fifty years until he passed away. I'm very glad she shared those details about their relationship with us.