Monogamy and Me…A Love Story

A puppy pile is perhaps the only thing that rivals my love for monogamy…

I have been thinking a lot recently about polyamorous relationships, so bear with me folks, because this is going to be long and ranty. I’m an XoJane.com addict, and in the past week two articles have surfaced—one from Jessica on not understanding open relationships, and one from Kate (Ladycrush alert! Look at her adorable pixie haircut! Swoon.) on how she is dating a couple.

But the site has a plethora of articles about the topic, including a series from one woman whose boyfriend wanted to open the relationship. Readers watched the couple open it (well, read about it) and saw the relationship fail  “epically” as a result.

I enjoyed reading all of the different takes on monogamy, polyamory and open relationships, and sometimes—especially when reading about people who seem so much more emotionally evolved than I—I worry my passion for monogamy is a bit archaic. I think the way Kate can flit in and out of the relationship she has with another couple is really cool. She seems to be adding something to their relationship, she gets to enjoy both of them, and  the part of me that loves attention can’t help but thinking it would be nice to be enjoyed by two people simultaneously. But I don’t think I could ever do this.

I’ve written on here before that I am a serial monogamist…I love being in a committed relationship. While it doesn’t need to be a serious committed relationship, I like knowing it’s just me and my significant other. I used to think (as recently as last June) that I’m always in a relationship because I enjoy having consistent sex, and don’t enjoy casual sex, so it seemed to me that a logical solution would be to wrangle in someone whose company I enjoy at least mildly so that I have a reliable bone bank. But, more recently I am realizing that’s not true. Way to cop out, Z.  I love monogamy because I like the give and take that I have only been able to find in a committed, monogamous relationship.

I like the partnership that I have only ever found in a monogamous relationship. Knowing that you can be yourself completely– share your secrets and joys and fears, and not be judged even when you disagree–is so special, and something I wouldn’t want to mess up by being unfaithful. While people get hurt regardless—sometimes it is unavoidable—knowing that my partner would do nothing to hurt me is comforting, and the unique bond I have formed with my partners can never be recreated, even as I end one relationship and form another. Is that like, completely drippy and naive?

What’s better than cuddling? Cuddling IN A HAMMOCK!

So I suppose what I described above—a trusting, loving, understanding bond—can be formed between people who are not sexually or emotionally monogamous. But I don’t think it could ever work for me, because so much of the way I connect with my partner is sexual, and as a result I find this connection sacred. If that connection is broken, then—for me—trust would be broken too.

I’ve heard the argument over and over that humans aren’t “meant” for monogamy, and I really don’t understand it. Not that I don’t agree, I don’t get it! Like calculus. If we weren’t meant to be solely with one other person, than why are women designed with wonky bonding chemicals in our brains that make us feel connected to the person we are sleeping with—even if when they get out of bed and put their clothes on they are so f*cking irritating you want to have sex again, immediately, just so they stop speaking.

Some of you will say that those bonding hormones—ugh, oxytocin!– are released to make us want to bond with our partners, so we can make babies and carry on our lineage…but if we really weren’t meant to be monogamous, couldn’t we cut out the “bond with our partners” bit and simply have ravenous sex drives and bountiful fertility to ensure babymaking, regardless of who the daddy is?

And I know “they” say men are meant to “spread their seed…” so when people say humans aren’t meant for monogamy, do they really mean men? How unfortunate.

I also want to take a moment to differentiate between those who are interested in polyamory, and those who just claim an inability to stay monogamous. Polyamorists do pursue loving trusting relationships, the kind I savor with my one-on-one partner, except they pursue them with multiple people. Some people who say they don’t believe in monogamy pursue one loving relationship, with many sexual relationships on the outside—with or without their partner’s consent. ALL of that sounds messy, and while it may work for some, I think it has to be a very special person—or combination of people—to get it right.

A while back, I Tweeted this subject, looking for individuals who don’t believe in monogamy. I connected with a guy I will call Johnny, who is in a monogamous relationship yet doesn’t believe in monogamy. Here is a snippet from an email correspondence we had on the topic.

Ok personally in my core I don’t believe in monogamy but I am in a monogamous relationship, for 15 yrs now. Go figure huh? Personal view, for me it has to do with the actual concepts of love and sex. I find the two to be distinctly segregated, unfortunately society does not and therein lies the dilemma. To try and lend perspective it’s like this: I love the woman that I am with, and am committed to her in ways I have never been with anyone before.

But given all things equal I know that I could be with someone sexually and not have any commitment other than the expression of that act. The problem is that she doesn’t buy into that frame of thought.

She respects my view points and I hers, and through adult conversations where we actually listen to one another and what is being said we can have open dialogue about it and walk away with no ill feelings other than better understanding of one another. Societal views on monogamy, ugh total BS to me, I see them and understand them, but do not agree with them but still abide by them.

I dig Johnny’s ability to talk openly with his partner about monogamy even though they don’t agree, and I also understand the disconnect between sex and love, whole heartedly. I have slept with people I didn’t love. That being said, when I am IN love, my urge to have sex with people who aren’t my partner seems to dissipate, which I understand doesn’t happen to everyone. And should an urge arise? Well that’s where trust and self control come in.

Ah, self control. Unfortunately, this is a quality that can be tough for many to harness, as we tend to choose instant gratification over a positive long term effect. Need proof? Take a look at our obesity rates, and what we choose to put into our bodies on a daily basis because of convenience and taste.

So do some ( I SAID SOME! Don’t tear me apart in the comments) of those who “don’t believe in monogamous relationships” merely use this as a crutch to deal with the fact that aren’t good at controlling themselves if the opportunity to sleep with someone else arises?

I would be lying if I said this is the last time I will refer a relationship topic back to the movie Closer, but I connect with that ridiculously dramatic film in so many ways I worry about it sometimes. So when Natalie Portman’s character is being confronted by Jude Law’s character about the fact he has been unfaithful, and fallen in love with someone else as a result, he tries to tell her he “couldn’t help it,” and I found her response extremely spot on:

“There is always a moment, ‘I can do this, I can give in to this, or I can resist it’ and I don’t know when your moment was, but I bet you there was one.”

Oh! Spot on! I talked to my friend Andrew, a writer over at iEatGrass, about relationships, and the dedication it takes to put into a monogamous, committed relationship. Here is what he said:

The trust found in a dedicated relationship is like nothing I’ve experienced before. I’ve only had that twice; once with my ex Emily, and once with my old roommate Garrett, who was like a brother to me. With Emily, I’ve told her things no one else knows about, not even Garrett. Emily and I knew that we could trust each other with anything; a secret, a desire, a fear, it was all shared between us. I miss that even more than I miss the physical nature of a relationship. The small physical things (a squeeze of the hand, a hug, kiss on the cheek) really make my heart swim, but knowing that someone has the utmost faith and trust in you is such a liberating and empowering feeling. It’s wonderful, and damn near impossible to replace.

Bah okay so full circle now, I dig Andrew’s use of the term “dedicated relationship,” and how he gives a great example (his room-mate) about how a platonic relationship can take dedication. However, I know that to him, like it is to me, “dedicated” in romance means monogamous. But it isn’t that way with everyone! The fact that people out there can be dedicated to someone while still sexually pursuing others baffles me, and I am the queen of multitasking! Is it because, to me, the difference between the love I feel for my boyfriend and the love I feel for my best friend are centered around my sexuality and the way I express it? Am I totally archaic? Please, tell me how this works. I will never understand it.

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About SexyTofu

Good food. Good sex. Good fun.
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10 Responses to Monogamy and Me…A Love Story

  1. I think that you <3'ing monogamy is a breath of fresh air!

  2. becca3416 says:

    I agree with you. I think your third to last sentence said it perfectly. That is how I try to explain it in my head as well. The whole relationships between friends and partners difference. I enjoyed this post! But, where is a boyfriend to cuddle with when you need one!?

  3. Dick Timber says:

    Keep in mind that non-monogomous relationships aren’t always just about sex. Usually the poly group pursue multiple relationships that connect on many levels and swinger couples are more into the sexual thrill of swapping (hard or soft swap). You say that you are all for monogomy, that is great, non-monogomy is not for everyone; but you did mention that you have urges creep in….that must mean that, even if its only rarely, you too experience the desire to be non-monogomous. Control the urge however you want, but the thought still exists. None of this is “right or wrong” unless you deny and bury these feelings and hide them from your s.o. In any relationship, open and honest communication is key to success.

    • SexyTofu says:

      Agreed, I don’t think any of this is “right” or “wrong.” And I also agree non-monogamous relationships are not all about sex; That’s why I enjoyed the article from XOJane.com written by the woman who is currently dating a couple. It’s all very interesting to me, and I applaud and respect people who can be in romantic relationships with more than one person and not make a huge mess of it. It must take so much open communication, all the time. In Kate’s article (the XOJane writer) she talks about the pros and cons of being a couple’s sexual and emotional third..an excerpt:

      “At the same time, it’s not all sunshine and flowers and interestingly flavored personal lubricants. At the end of the day, Carlos and Alison need to know that they’re each other’s primaries first, even if that means throwing me over. Which I am totally on board with — to a point. I may be allergic to early-morning love-revelations, but as an attention whore by nature, it kind of starts to get under my skin when my couple-date is too busy reassuring each other of their primary affection to, I don’t know, tie me to the mattress and read :The Golden Compass: aloud until I squirm.”

      As far as monogamy and “creeping urges”…It’s the larger picture I focus on. When I am sloppy in love, urges rarely ever creep in at all. I am too focused on my partner, usually. However, if they do–and of course they have or will at some point–they are fleeting and easy to let pass by, because I love the trust and sense of security I get from my monogamous relationship and know, to me, that isn’t worth risking. All so complicated!

  4. Andrew says:

    Well said! It’s apparent that people have vastly different viewpoints on this subject, especially with all of the articles about it recently. I like your take on it.

  5. asianbadass says:

    Guys who claim that they are meant to SPREAD their seed, to me it sounds too much like an excuse. If that were honestly the case, then the body would have made sperm a lot stronger to the environment. And a penis is an injector, not a sprinkler, so “spreading” is probably an incorrect term.

    In terms of monogamy, I think it’s all in the mindset. Just because you only love one person at a time, doesn’t mean you don’t have a surplus of love to give. It’s more practical than that, even thouh we don’t often view it that way. It’s really just a matter of how much attention we have. With everything in our lives: our jobs, our hobbies, our family, our lives…I personally, don’t have time to give my love to more than one person. If other people do, good for them! I don’t fault them for it, and I think it works for them. But me? I like focussing on one person because that’s what I have the inclination for. That might change later in life, but that’s me right now. Nothing wrong with it.

    And like you said, a guy or girl who has a lot of casual sex isn’t a polygamist. Maybe a polyamorist, or maybe there doesn’t have to be a term for it. Maybe they just flat out like sex and variety. But that’s not what we mean when we mean a relationship, right? So I feel like that’s comparing apples and oranges.

  6. Serendipity says:

    About your confusion, or your admittance to ‘not getting it’, try thinking of it this way: Do you have only one close friendship? I know plenty of people who have more than one ‘best friend’. We keep lots of friends because each one gives us some unique perspective and experience to share. And because you love one friend, doesn’t mean you love another friend any less. Yes, your time is split between them, but good friends who are secure with your friendship don’t get mad about that sort of thing.

    Now think about just how much deeper we tend to take romantic relationships. How wonderful and comforting it is to have that security and all that stuff you mentioned about trust. People who practice polyamory generally feel that we can have more than one relationship that gives us those sorts of benefits. We can have more than one person supply that trust and comfort and depth. And having one doesn’t make the other less important or valuable, because each partner gives us unique perspectives and experiences. You don’t have to love one more than another. You just love. It’s just like having more than one best friend, but with a lot of extra emotional depth that requires tending to.

    I’ve even heard some people say, that it’s kind of like wanting more than one child. More love to give, less time to split among them. But no one seems to be ‘confused’ when talking to someone who wants more than one child, no one thinks of it as selfish or giving in to some archaic nature (because multiple children are socially acceptable, multiple lovers are not).

    You mentioned that “…to me, “dedicated” in romance means monogamous”. Well, if you really want to ‘get’ where poly people come from, try suspending that belief for a minute just to think about it. What if ‘dedicated’ instead meant ‘always do what they promise, and always do what’s best for us’? And there you go, poly can suddenly fit in the ‘dedicated’ spectrum. Because the point of polyamory IS to be dedicated. It is the opposite of sleeping around. It requires complete trust and constant conversation, and LOTS of love and reassuring. Someone who is insecure in their relationship, can’t successfully be poly. And so I would go out on a limb and say that feeling completely secure with your love life is a prerequisite to successful polyamory.

    I get the feeling that you question whether or not your love of monogamy is outdated, because you can see the appeal of poly and can see how and why it works on paper. But you feel guilty about holding on to something so ‘old fashioned’ as monogamy because you’re otherwise really understanding and open minded, so why can’t you ‘get’ this poly thing? My guess, is a few reasons. 1: Monogamy is DEEPLY engrained in us, socially. To let go of it completely is terrifying and takes lots of emotional work (not to mention, it makes you question a billion other things in life you’ve embraced out of hand). And if you can’t see it as being beneficial to you, then you subconsciously protect your emotional time/energy by not bothering. 2: Polyamory is way way WAY more work than monogamy. And if you weigh the benefits with the risk, to most people it’s just not worth it. Your ‘love’ for monogamy might just be your underlying or subconscious acknowledgement that you, as a person, would not get enough emotional benefit from polyamory to put in the risk/work it requires to be successful. So your brain clings to monogamy as an appropriate model for you. All pretty common and reasonable reactions, I think.

    • SexyTofu says:

      AH I love this!Yes I completely agree a successful polyamorous relationship would take WAY more work than a monogamous one. Thanks for your perspective, it’s really helpful. And I like your comparison to friendships, and to children…I do like the IDEA of polyamory–spread the love! But commitment to me means one on one.

      • Serendipity says:

        Just be careful when saying things like “commitment to me means one on one.” By putting it like that, you’re implying that a poly person is NOT committed to her two boyfriends of 4 and 6 years, for example. It comes off as insulting to people who spend massive amounts of energy and effort to be committed to more than one person at a time. (They might even argue they’re a more committed lover than you, because they know how to be so to more than one person at a time). Maybe it’s a matter of phrasing though. If that’s the case, try “I feel happier in a relationship when I don’t have to define our commitment outside of just the two of us”.

      • SexyTofu says:

        No i agree it is different for everyone, which is why I said “to me” meaning FOR me. Phrasing mix-up!

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