This confession is a first for me. The thought of being in a relationship scares the living shit out of me. The relationship I’m referring to is the exclusive, long-term, monogamous kind. The kind that people most commonly consider to be a romantic relationship. To me, being in a relationship is synonymous with having to tell someone everything I do and having to repress any sort of romantic spontaneity when I’m not with my partner. It means not being able to act like myself to the fullest extent.
To me, monogamy can be a cockblock with many opportunity costs.
In our society, monogamy is imposed as the only legitimate way to be intimate with our partners. Most plots and storylines in popular media push the idea of finding that one person and being with him or her forever. We are given templates for how to act in relationships. We’re conditioned to think that this is what love looks like and that if we don’t feel like doing certain things for someone, we must not love that person.
Strangely enough, I have been in a surprisingly stable relationship over the course of this semester. One could label it as a friendship, fuck buddy, lover or open relationship — it’s anything but monogamous. This partner of mine is also a longtime ex, and together we’ve been through a saga of initial monogamous dating to hellish breakups to passionate reunions, a very involved open relationship and even more breakups. As monogamous logic goes, I could reason that given the number of times we broke up, we could not make exclusivity work, and this person is just not THE ONE for me. I could reason that I should scrap this relationship and just move on.
But I actually feel the opposite. My partner and I know each other extremely well. We communicate effectively most of the time, and we have similar values about life. We also have fucking intense, mind-blowing sex. This is a person whom I will probably always have romantic inclinations for and for whom I will go to great lengths in order for this person to always remain in my life.
But this semester, I was not interested in being exclusive with anybody or spending large amounts of time with one person. I just wanted to fuck people. So I communicated this to my partner, and we both came to the conclusion that neither of us was interested in being a couple.
The belief that being in love is synonymous with being in an exclusive monogamous relationship isolates many people who don’t feel comfortable with engaging in this lifestyle. This can be seen in the bad boys and bad girls, the players and the commitment-phobes who distance themselves from their emotions. These people stop themselves from forming deep relationships for the sake of retaining their freedom. The ideas of exclusivity and possessiveness hinder many people from loving and being loved for long periods of time. It implies that people who seek sexual freedom can’t and shouldn’t be loved.
My partner and I occasionally go out to places and events together, spend the night together and have sex once or twice a week. We also call each other for comfort and company whenever we need it. But we also see other people. I ask attractive people out to coffee and try to court them while my partner takes various people out to dates and dinner as well.
We do our best to support each other in our other relationships. Whenever my partner informs me about seeing other people, I am initially doubtful and apprehensive about how much my partner still finds me attractive or how much my partner will like the other person. But things get better when we both communicate about our respective partners while validating our continuous feelings for each other. Though it feels counterintuitive to disclose the feelings we have for other people, I feel closer to my partner after recounting my sexcapades or seeing what my partner’s significant others look like.
I’m aware that I can’t fulfill my partners’ every need and desire, and I shouldn’t be expected to. Just because my partner is attracted to other people doesn’t necessarily mean that my partner doesn’t love or care about me. My partner’s sexuality is not mine to oversee and control. I respect the part of my partner that wants to be sexually attractive and validated by other people.
There’s no universal relationship style that is suitable for everybody. Your relationship can be whatever you want it to be. By communicating honestly and coming to a mutual understanding, you can set your own boundaries and structure your relationship exactly how you and your partner(s) want it.
What I didn’t expect to find by pursuing a nonmonogamous relationship was emotional fulfillment. My partner always lets me know that I have someone who will be there for me.
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my partner, who shows me that commitment to love and a relationship is possible, even if it isn’t monogamous.