If your wife says it’s okay, it’s not cheating?

For all the die-hard Utah Jazz fans out there, Andrei Kirilenko is a star in an otherwise lackluster line up. But lately newscasters and sports announcers have been talking about Kirilenko’s marriage, rather than his basketball skills or his recurrent (fake?) injuries. In the current issue of ESPN The Magazine, Kirilenko mentions that his wife has agreed to allow him to sleep with one woman per basketball season. “If I know about it,” Masha Lopatova (his wife) said, “it’s not cheating.”

Recognizing the temptations faced by a high-flying basketball star surrounded by groupies, perhaps Lopatova is being realistic in acknowledging the propensity to cheat, and has created a relationship with a built-in margin for error. Enforcement could be tricky, though. Kirilenko certainly wouldn’t have a difficult time finding a willing partner, unlike hapless Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm trying to cash in on his anniversary present.

Setting aside the religious obligations involved in marriage, I’m intrigued how this arrangment could work in practice. But Kirilenko and Lopatova have been happily married for six years, since Kirilenko was nineteen years old, so something seems to be working.


  1. Tobias: You know, Lindsay, as a therapist, I have advised a number of couples to explore an open relationship where the couple remains emotionally committed, but free to explore extra-marital encounters.

    Lindsay: Well, did it work for those people?

    Tobias: No, it never does. I mean, these people somehow delude themselves into thinking it might, but…but it might work for us.

  2. I suppose in this case in ain’t technically cheating.

  3. Bill Clinton says:

    Nah, that aint cheatin’.

  4. Utah Jazz – Is they a basketball team or an inaptly named nightclub? (tic)

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    This item was in my sports page today. Two additional points it made:

    1. He has no intention of using this free pass

    2. The arrangment is reciprocal; IE his wife gets the same pass.

    Some people have lists where, if they ever have an opportunity to sleep with such and such a person, they are allowed to, no questions asked. That’s kind of fund if the namees on your respective lists are things like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (since the odds of such an opportunity arising are pretty small). But that might not be such a fun idea if the names on your list include your old high school boyfriend/girlfriend.

  6. Elisabeth says:

    Kevin: “some people” have lists? :)

  7. It’s weird enough if a couple has this kind of arrangement. It’s even weirder if they publish that arrangement to the world.

  8. [Nacle Personality] told me that he and [Nacle Wife] hypothetically pick polygamous spouses for each other.

  9. Fratello Giovanni says:

    For whatever reason, I’m reminded of an elders’ quorum social about a year ago. One (married) sister said that since Brad Pitt had just separated from Jennifer Anniston, he was all the more attractive to her. She was wondering out loud if those feelings were appropriate.

    My thought was “absolutely not”.

  10. Interesting question, E.

    I suppose that if one believes that the only commitment in marriage is to one’s marital partner, then this kind of arrangement (or, indeed, any other arrangement freely contracted) could be acceptable. (Though there are two immediate concerns that come to mind, in any case: First, is the relationship one of sufficiently equal power that the consenting spouse may give valid consent; second, how stable, over the long term, is this likely to be?)

    But even with an assenting spouse, I don’t think this could ever work for church members. We don’t believe that the only limitations on sexual behavior come from the marriage covenant. At the very least, such an arrangement would violate the law of chastity. (And in our church, the two are connected). So even with spousal assent, I don’t see how this could be done without chastity violations.

    Second, I’m not sure that the LDS marriage covenant itself is suspectible to partial waiver of obligations. Is the spouse the only party required to give consent? Or — particularly for temple married couples — is there a continuing obligation to God?

    For those reasons — the constraints of the law of chastity, and uncertainty regarding the constraints of the marriage covenant — I doubt that such an arrangement would work for an average LDS couple. But taking those away — a non-religious couple in a civil marriage — and my sense is that such an arrangement could operate, because in that case, spousal assent would be the major barrier to extramarital activity. (As noted above, even in that case, I would have questions about the validity of consent, and the long-term stability of the arrangement).

  11. Scott Wilkinson says:

    This arrangement seems to share logic with the notion that legalizing drugs/polygamy/etc. would be better for society.

  12. Kevin Barney says:

    Ronan, your comment reminded me of a funny column that appeared in Sunstone once, about a game a couple liked to play in sacrament meeting called something like “the Polygamy Game.” As I recall, the way it works is that each spouse picks three sisters in the room for additional wives. You then compare and contrast your respective choices, and try again. The object is to see whether you would pick the same women. The game ends when the wife bonks the husband over the head with a hymnal.

  13. Cheating denotes a betray of trust. If you have a deal worked out, no matter how sordid, it is still a deal and it isn’t cheating.

    You can’t, however, get around the fact that it is adultery.

  14. Stapley,
    Marriage is a relationship sponsored by the state, so hypothetically couldn’t you put some provision in your original marriage document that allows this sort of arrangement and then it wouldn’t be adultery?

  15. Scott, legalizing drugs would be better for society. Even Walter Cronkite agrees.

  16. Elisabeth says:

    Rusty – interesting question. I’m no specialist in family law, but part of the official, state sponsored marriage contract is that married people are not allowed to sleep with anyone but their spouses, at least in Massachusetts.

    So no matter what private arrangement you have with your spouse, you may still be prosecuted for adultery if you sleep with someone besides your spouse. 

    Massachusetts General Laws, chapter 272, section 14

    Adultery. A married person who has sexual intercourse with a person not his spouse or an unmarried person who has sexual intercourse with a married person shall be guilty of adultery and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than three years or in jail for not more than two years or by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars.

    Commonwealth v. Stowell, 389 Mass. 171, 449 NE2d 357 (1983). The court held that the Massachusetts adultery statute was not unconstitutional and that it was proper to have applied it to consensual acts between adults in private.

  17. Elisabeth,

    Yes, but is that law ever enforced?

    From what I’ve read about enforcement of adultery laws, fornication laws, and (pre-Lawrence) homosexuality laws, they are almost universally unenforced. The main instance in which these laws are enforced — this is from a law review piece I read a few years back, I can try to track down the source — is when prosecutors use them as cumulative charges when busting people for prostitution or occasionally, other offenses (such as sex in public). There are very occasional instances of independent enforcement, but those are almost always newsworthy incidents in themselves.

  18. CS Eric says:

    Okay, so we temple-sealed Mormons can’t have such an arrangement, because it would still violate the law of chastity. I guess the LDS version would be whether you would want your spouse to remarry after you die.

    I don’t have to worry about my wife remarrying, since we have already agreed that she would go first. And we have also agreed that neither of us is going until we are at least in our late 70s, we don’t even have to worry about that for a while.

  19. I would think that the LDS version would be allowing your spouse to make out with another person.

  20. Ghost of John Lennon says:

    Unfortunately the rule is not to commit adultery. Now if it said, thou shalt not cheat….

  21. “The game ends when the wife bonks the husband over the head with a hymnal. ”

    That is the funniest thing I’ve read in weeks.

    Yes, an “open marriage” can work (on a purely human level, aside from temple covenants), but it takes a huge amount of communication between spouses, not to mention intense individual and interpersonal honesty. You have to admit when you are jealous, and go ahead and speak up when something makes you uncomfortable. You have to ask for reassurance when you need it, and you have to give it when asked.

    That said, if covenants have been made, then it is no longer in the hands of either spouse to say with whom the other can well, you know, as there is a promise to the Lord involved.

    Rusty, making out *so* counts. Nuh-huh. The LDS version is *complete* fidelity–funny that. be in the word, but be not of it, y’know? ;)

  22. Um, that should read : Be in the world, but be not of it, y’know?

  23. I have a similar such arrangement with my wife. It has a few minor differences, namely

    1. I am never allowed to look at an attractive woman.

    2. My wife is allowed to go on and on about how attractive (insert male name here) is.

    So far, 3 years of peaceful matrimony,

    This marriage is sponsored by Oakley mirrored sunglasses.
    “Oakley, as long as you don’t turn your head, she won’t know you’re looking.”

  24. The way it works in my relationship:

    Wife (to husband): “See that pretty girl over there?”

    Husband: “Where?”

    Wife: “Over there!”

    Husband: “Oh!, she is kinda pretty”

    Wife: Smack to the side of husbands head.

    Wife: “That’s what you get for staring at pretty girls!”


  25. For me the mormon version of this is the old BYU students going to Vegas, get married, do what comes natural, then get the marriage annulled. Technically you haven’t fornicated. I suspect this story is an urban legend, but the moral of the story when I heard it was almost always the same. That the couple got excomunicated.

  26. The crime of adultery is prosecuted in courts martial as it is thought to be particularly injurious to good military discipline.


  1. […] Over at BCC, Elisabeth, the one I thought was single, who isn’t, is clearly obsessing over marriage, Kevin Barney is solving mysteries that no-one knew about, and Ronan is, once again, pushing R-rated movies on us. So, the usual. […]