I wrote about the problem with polyamory, but I’m not letting monogamy off the hook. There are a lot of things that could be improved, in general. It was my problem with monogamy that lead me to explore polyamory in the first place. The following points may not describe all monogamous relationships and these are my opinions only. I am hardly an expert.
In the monogamous model, it’s a standard mindset that the person you’re with is “yours”, as if you own them. MY girlfriend. Or MY boyfriend. You’re MINE. I try not to get too bent up over the semantics. I’ve definitely felt flattered if someone I have feelings for says “you’re my girl”. I’ve said similar things. I’m sure the person I’d end up wanting to be with for the long-haul won’t think of me as a cow, a la the horrible phrase “why buy a cow when you can get the milk for free”. I have sex before commitment and that doesn’t make me a slut, or a cow. I’m sure the person who chooses me would have the utmost respect for me, and vice versa. But the traditional view that we possess one another is outdated. We have the freedom to be our own person. Within that freedom, monogamy might have the boundary to have sex with only one partner; each other. That doesn’t mean we should close ourselves off and withdraw. That doesn’t mean we should claim each other like we claim our stuff.
Possession can be seen everywhere, especially on social media. You’re not in a relationship until you’re “Facebook official”. This is a truth for most people, but for someone like me, who has been there and done that, I’d rather not claim the person I’m with via Facebook status. I’ve thought about this intentionally and I feel my next relationship will not need such social validation. I will gladly keep my relationship information blank (neither single or in a relationship) and I trust the person I’m with to do the same and not feel bad about it. He’d have to be on board with the lack of “Facebook official” status because our status is something sacred and private that we don’t have to shout to the world. Our relationship is secure enough that that validation and possession is unnecessary.
The more secure a relationship is, the less you need to feel possessive about it. Jealousy may arise and fall, but you know your partner will not do anything to threaten the relationship or connection. People should have the freedom to hang out one-on-one with people of the same sex and not feel jealous, possessive or weird.
I say this, yet I am a single person who feels weird hanging out one-on-one with men because I don’t want to date. I feel like someone in a relationship with her heart elsewhere, or someone so completely single and unavailable that I feel flighty, not wanting to give people the wrong impression, and not feeling the right click with anyone I meet. Wanting a complete break for “me time” and just doing myself, wholeheartedly while pursuing myself and female friendships instead. I’m my own companion and #1. Anyone who wants second place to my ‘one’ when I am already content alone has to add value to my life in ways that I couldn’t do on my own. In other words, I have a high fucking bar.
I get the need for possession and jealousy. I’m not even in a relationship and I feel weird about the implications of one-on-one interaction. I get the standard monogamous structures. They’re in place for a reason, but treat them as general guidelines. Express yourself within or outside of guidelines as you see fit.
One and Only
Finding The One feels like such a myth. Because of its such mythical status, the search feels like putting ‘the one’ on a pedestal. That’s a lot of pressure, for yourself and for the other person. No one can live up to it. Find the perfection in imperfection because no one is perfect, and there is no ONE perfect match.
Finding the one feels like putting too much agenda on the first initial meeting. It’s why online dating doesn’t jive with me. It’s simply not the way I look for love. It has to happen more organically. Meeting online is a medium, a way to meet in person, but I don’t like the implications and expectations of the first meet being a ‘date’. Maybe I’m your typical Gen-Y who just wants to “hang out” (hint: it’s the same fucking thing). But dating and finding The One just feels too loaded.
After writing about my high bar, I’m probably contradicting myself once again.
Monogamy puts us in this track, an “escalator” relationship, of finding your life partner, getting married and maybe having kids. That’s a LOT of pressure when evaluating an initial connection. Instead of the template and timelines, throw it out completely and just have fun. Make connections. Don’t worry about the future and enjoy staying present with your lover, date, special friend, or partner.
There is always going to be evaluation. Whether it’s just a hook-up, or something with more potential, you are constantly evaluating where you think the other person might fit. The initial impression is a time for intuitive hits. I can usually tell, within 15 seconds or less whether or not I might want something with someone. “He’s good enough but not boyfriend material” or “I’m not interested, don’t even talk to me” or “oh shit, this could be real… run away, but play it cool, but run away!” is my usual filter. In all scenarios, I get flighty and weird. The thing is, I try not to match for long-term. I evaluate as things go, to see if I could see a potential future with someone, but it has to start pretty casual and non-committal for me. People who start off “looking to settle down and get married” with agendas just doesn’t work and cramps my style.
Being “the One” and only also puts a lot of pressure on being everything for your partner. Not only do you have to have physical attraction and compatibility, but most people are looking for emotional connection, spiritual connection and intellectual/mental connection. That’s a lot of demand on one person! I’m guilty of wanting it all, but I see the ridiculousness in this high standard. Rather than look to ONE person to fulfill ALL those needs, why not have a full social circle, healthy friendships, and interaction with lots of people who can fulfill these other areas of your life? This fuller experience can also benefit your relationship, by bringing things to the partnership and being able to share a network of connections and activities (together or separate) that will help strengthen your connection as a couple.
You might miss out on someone great just because they don’t fit your high standards, you’re emotionally unavailable, or you don’t see long-term potential. If you’re constantly ‘nexting’ a potential match because you don’t see them on a future ‘escalator’ track, you may be denying great connections in the present. Not all relationships have to be on the life partner track. Escalator relationships risk the tendency to grasp and hold on to the future, even when it may be apparent that the connection no longer serves you and you’re just delaying the break-up. What’s ideal is focusing on the present moment, and establishing a stable connection that may or may not last.
One thing that I’ve learned to enjoy when meeting new people is the conversations that help me to learn more about myself and what I want. By hashing out dating and relationships with someone sitting in front of you, instead of ruminating in my head, I get a better sense of what I’m looking for and what I want. I also get a sense for other people’s ideas and philosophies, and where I may be too rigid or where I might let loose. For example, when I talked with someone who also expressed the inability to lead with agendas but evaluates whether or not he could see someone “long-term”, his definition is in two-year increments. Rather than jump to conclusions of “forever” that my mind seems to go when evaluating a long-term potential, it might be best to ease out on the future grasping or future tripping that I might loop on. Instead of asking “can I see myself with this person… FOREVER?” it might be best to ease up and ask “can I see myself with this person in two years?” The former may induce responses of panic and fright and cause me to run, which is my normal flighty response. The latter feels much spacier, and gives me more room to breathe, play, and sit with the connection. It also makes it easier for my mind to say yes, or at least not to say no and run away. If two years is still a relationship then the next question might be “can I see this person for the long-haul?” Truth be told, I can usually answer that question within the first three months and if it’s not a match, I’d rather move on than spend two years with someone I know I’d eventually want to break up with. To avoid break-ups, I avoid relationships unless I’m absolutely sure I want to be with them for the long-haul. In the meantime, I explore connections in ways that feel safe for me. Non-committal and casual. Sometimes, the connections might feel like ‘more’ than a fling or casual connection but we still don’t get into a relationship for whatever logistical reason. That’s okay. It doesn’t diminish the connection, and helps me to be grateful for the moments and the connection without expectation, agendas, or outcomes, and living life with each present moment as it comes. Presence and gratitude is all there ever is and should be.
Another aspect of missed connection is during break-ups. Typically, having only had monogamous relationships myself, I end contact with my exes completely. I unfriend them on Facebook (sometimes even if they might be “just a fling”), I distance myself and do not talk to them again. This is how I prefer things. A “clean” break-up. I’m of the belief that if I broke up with them, there’s already enough history and knowledge about who they are as a person and who I am as a person that lets me know there was enough incompatibility to let it go and divert our paths. It’s not something I’d ever want to revisit again, unlike some people who try to win their ex back. I don’t believe in going back. If it was a full blown relationship and break-up there’s nothing there for me to go back on that I would be interested in ever rekindling. That’s my preference and other people might have a different opinion. That’s okay. There is no right or wrong way.
I do see how my way might be limiting, however. I’ve learned a lot from my exes and each have made me become a better person. To cut ties completely means letting go of a friendship and genuine interesting person. With a more fluid view that open or polyamorous philosophy might have, you may flow in and out of friendship and sexual connection and that’s ok. You may never flow back into sexual connection, and that’s ok too. But that doesn’t mean you have to let go of the friendship or connection completely. No need to cut ties. Some of my relationships were probably better off as friendships, and I knew that the sexual components would be short-lived. But I sacrificed the relationship as a whole by breaking up, and maybe there’s room to relax that. After all, what’s a harmless long-distance Facebook friendship going to do?
I don’t pretend to have it all figured out. For all I know, I’m weird and preventing meaningful connection by my overly paranoid way of not engaging the majority of men… Or maybe it means I know exactly what I want when I see it and am getting better at protecting my energy towards connections that don’t light me up or feel heart expansive.
While I appreciate the polyamory philosophy, that there is enough love to go around and it should be collaborative and not competitive, I know that I ultimately only want to be with one partner. I couldn’t have known that without first exploring what it means to be polyamorous and where I fit in the sexual picture. Conscious coupling, whether monogamous, polyamorous, or open is key. Being open, honest and communicative in any stage is paramount to success and less misunderstandings or mixed messages.