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?
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.