This is a reaction to this post.
I don’t hate monogamy.
I hate that people don’t make conscious choices.
In today’s society, the default is monogamy. A lot of people don’t know that there are other options you can select from the pull-down menu of relationship styles. And a lot more people don’t consider anything but monogamy not because they don’t know that there are more options, but because we’ve been taught (through religion, media, other societal conditioning) that every other option fails in the end. Friends, parents, professors, professionals have explicitly stated that if you are in love with one person, then there’s no way you can fall in love with someone else. Amatonormativity (a word coined by Elizabeth Brake) – the assumption that everyone needs an exclusive, romantic, long-term relationship to be healthy and it should be the most important relationship in your life – reigns supreme.
However, humans are highly nuanced, social creatures. We need social connections, much more than one “main” one, of different types to feel fulfilled. I’m not saying that everyone should be polyamorous; I truly do NOT believe that. Some folks only have the capacity and/or desire for one romantic relationship. I’m not saying that everyone should be non-monogamous; some folks only have the capacity and/or desire for one sexual relationship. I AM saying that people need varied emotional connections. I AM saying that people should take a look at what they really need & truly want in relationships and make a conscious decision on what types of connections they want to cultivate and how they would like to do that.
I want people to explore their choices.
“So when I looked at it, the amount of people that I know that are in healthy, functional polyamorous relationships is at least directly proportional to the amount of people I know that are in healthy, functional monogamous relationships—it’s just that there are more people practicing the latter.”
The prevailing thought that more non-monogamous relationships fail than monogamous ones isn’t true. It may seem that way because there are 1) less folk practicing non-monogamy and 2) they generally have more relationships than monogamous people (notwithstanding serial monogamists – folks who go from one relationship into the next without spending much time alone in between). But just as many folks in monogamous relationships are in failed relationships, even if the relationship hasn’t ended.
Failed relationships, in my opinion, are ones where toxicity, abuse, and discontent lie. I can break up with someone and have had (or still have!) a successful relationship with them – one where we respect each other and our boundaries, where we decided the current format wasn’t good for either of us and made changes. A couple can be together for 40 years, celebrating their anniversary with a big party, and have a failed relationship full of resentment.
So my dream is for us to move away from toxic monogamy, and even default monogamy, to conscious monogamy. It’s be pretty cool to see someone monogamous write a Care & Feeding Manual for potential partners, outlining their needs and boundaries in detail, and sharing and discussing it with others to create their desired dynamic. I don’t think that non-monogamous people are “more elevated” than monogamous people; people are people. But I would love to see folks take the “trademark” things that non-monogamous relationships have had to develop and practice, and apply it to their own relationships to create intentional, designer relationships.
What are some of these tenets? Well, as in all things, they may not exist in all non-monogamous relationships, but the nonmonogamy community does have some things it likes to wax on and on about. Things like:
- Enthusiastically supporting autonomy and actively unlearning possessiveness – working past this feeling that you own and are entitled to your partner’s time and attention, that it’s all automatically yours and not their own to schedule, that they must be available to you whenever you want them to be, that you must mete out how much and what kind of affection they give to others. (Spending time with and showing affection to others is not inherently romantic or sexual, and jealousy is not an indication that you love someone more.)
- Talking about jealousy instead of ignoring it. ENM folx know that jealousy is bound to happen – it’s an emotion that is telling you to stop and examine your fears. And contrary to popular belief, non-monogamy doesn’t automatically mean you will experience more jealousy: according to a a 2017 study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, that’s not necessarily the case. The study, surveying 1,507 people in monogamous relationships and 617 in non-monogamous relationships (polyamory, swinging, etc.) scored lower on jealousy and higher on trust. This was because monogamous individuals were more likely to hide jealousy or do sneaky jealous acts (i.e. go through phones); while non-monog individuals tend to face it head on, discuss it, and figure out how to work through the emotions to foster a deeper sense of trust.
- Not being afraid to break up if you are too incompatible. The non-monog people I know are of the mindset that “we’ll be in this relationship as long as it is healthy” vs “true love comes through hard times and is hard work; we have to stick through everything together or else it reflects badly on us as people.” Sometimes, you realize that a relationship is no longer serving you; it’s okay to transition that to something that feels better and respects both people’s boundaries.
- Most polyam folk encourage having deep, authentic conversations about your boundaries (they should *not* disappear after you’re in a relationship!), how you relate to others, how you receive love, and your attachment style. For instance, talk, openly, honestly, candidly, in depth from the beginning, about:
- Your need for space, alone time, and recharge time: how much, how little, what that looks like in terms of reaching out, communication, and quality time.
- Co-habitation needs: if you live with someone, do you need separate bedrooms? What kind of organization and cleaning do you like? Can you live with clutter? Are you even compatible to co-hab with a specific person or would neighboring apartments/condos/houses be a better, healthier fit to your relationship?
- Family stuff: if children are on the table, and if so – birthing needs, adoption consideration, parenting styles. In-law dynamics. Holiday traditions.
- Emotional needs: what you need to feel safe, secure, validated, connected, trusting, autonomous, and accepted. Past hurts and traumas, what you’re doing to heal from them, what you expect to need as support in this healing process. If certain relationship milestones are important to you and why.
- Sexy shit: your feelings on porn. Your feelings on flirting with other people. Your libido, how you like to be seduced, your STARRS (STI status, Turn ons, things to Avoid, Relationship intentions – specifically sexually, for instance, kinks, Risk factors – what you may be exposed to vs your personal STI status, Safe sex plan).
- Your feelings and need for time spent with others (family, friends, etc) as well as affection given to others.
(this list is a start to necessary conversations, not an exhaustive list that captures everything)
Regardless of if you choose to be monogamous, monogamish, or non-monogamous in its many forms, make it a choice. Not the default.