I want a monogamous relationship.
After what feels like many years (which is actually a very short amount of years), and what feels like many different relationships (which is actually probably about average, but carries the weight of the accumulation of failed romantic encounters spreading over centuries), I keep coming back to the same old place: I want a monogamous relationship.
I’ve always wanted a monogamous relationship, but it seemed around the time of college that perhaps I should be changing my mind, or at least asking myself exactly why I wanted that kind of relationship. It felt obvious to me that monogamy was a capitalist push, and the ideas of polyamory, swinging, free love, open relationships, etc. seemed to be championing the philosophy that leaving the old thought paradigm of finding one’s lobster to adopt a more inclusive, less exclusive idea of relationship was the more evolved way of thinking.
This was reinforced by my assumptive thought process that went a little something like this: I saw people in monogamous relationships and I saw that they were mostly unhappy. I then concluded that there must be something inherent in the system of monogamy that was failing.
I later was able to broaden my observation and look around to realize that people were unhappy in all kinds of relationships—it wasn’t just the we’ve been together way too long but neither of us is admitting it so we’re just going to show up to the party and stand silently against the wall all night because we have become fragile and empty shells monogamous couples—it was brothers and sisters and parents and children and friends and polyamorous groupings too.
My new belief is that it is just as likely for someone to be unhappy in a monogamous relationship as a polyamorous one (or one of any other rule-set).
Relieving myself of the burden of feeling like one type of relationship was definitely right and one type of relationship was definitely wrong, felt very freeing. It brought me anxiety feeling like I better align myself with the right one because otherwise I’m fucked and I will be spending 40 years undergoing the combined plot lines of season three of all four Sex & the City women on repeat.
Forty years is a long ass time to be slugging through all that.
So instead, I now ask myself what I want.
And there are a host of reasons why I want the things I want in life, but it pretty much all boils down to this: my wants are dictated by what makes me feel free.
I want a monogamous relationship.
This has another side to it, and the other side is: I do not want to ask anyone to have a monogamous relationship with me.
My relationship wants do not dictate the rules of the relationship, and my monogamy is not an imposed system of, No, you are not allowed to have sex with someone else, dammit!
I want a romantic relationship with someone where we do not want to sleep with other people.
I’ve had this relationship before; I have this relationship right now.
What I want is to be in a relationship with one person and not want to sleep with anyone else. I don’t only think this is doable (I’m doing it right now), but I also think this is sustainable (I have no reason to believe that I will want to start sleeping with anybody else in the foreseeable future, even if he does).
Now this gets kind of tricky, because of course there are moments in life where I sometimes think I want to sleep with other people. Something will become visually appealing to me or there will be an interesting elbow rub in a coffee shop, etc.
But the thought of, Hey, this is a sexy moment, is different from the thought, I will hunt that shit down and have it for dinner.
It’s a momentary impulse that fades so quickly, it doesn’t even register as a want inside of me.
When it starts registering as a want, that’s when I know that perhaps I no longer want a monogamous relationship with my partner.
If I’m consistently walking out into the world fighting the impulse to sleep with everyone, then what kind of relationship am I really in and am I really happy? Is it worth it to me to continue a relationship that requires me to say no to my wants on a regular basis? Is my life really about changing who I am for someone else?
When I start asking these questions, this is the beginning of the reconsideration of how my partner fits into my life.
And sure, I could go to that partner and say, dude, you’re great and all, but I kind of want to sleep with other people so maybe we should open this thing up and do this thing on a more casual level.
I could totally do that. And I think that would be maybe kind of alright for a while.
But I also know that I’m not looking for a bunch of casual relationships. I’m not even looking for just a few really intimate, intense relationships.
I am not looking to follow the feeling of I want to have sex with that person. The only thing that follows that feeling is walking up to someone with an agenda hidden somewhere, and that agenda distracts me from even wanting to make a real connection with this person. I don’t want a connection from them, I only want sex, and to fulfill that single want does not make me happy. It creates situations where I have a bunch of one-time hookups and small two-month trysts that are dishonest, distracting and leave me feeling okay…now what?
I am looking for monogamy because I like the feeling that the space I reserve for romantic intimacy is completely occupied, but does not feel heavy. I like the feeling of intertwinement–that I will have someone in my life of my choosing with whom I will talk to and see everyday (let me clarify that this is not a need; when this starts feeling like a need in my relationships, that is when I know we let something funky happen). I like the feeling of integration–it feels like I’m living one life and not several.
I don’t care whether or not you choose monogamy. Your relationship paradigm is absolutely none of my business because it is in no way relevant to me. Even if you and I were to start dating, your relationship paradigm is not relevant to me. It has nothing to do with me.
If your relationship paradigm is wildly different from mine and we started dating, I assume that around date four or five, either you or I would realize that our wants are so wildly different that there is not the foundational alignment needed to proceed down the tunnel of love. We’d make up an awkward secret handshake, decide preliminarily on the idea of friendship and ask the waiter for split checks.
I want to be with my partner when he turns 60. I want to help him snake his drains when my hair clogs his sink. I want to know him with a beard, weird side burns, a buzz cut, long hippie hair, and the shaved head he’ll sport on an ill-advised dare five years from now.
There’s something about the idea of a mirror—a mirror in front of your face for 50 years, reflecting back to you every single moment that you encounter on this earth—every time you’ve fucked up at work, every time you’ve fought with your family, when you lost your parents, during births, home improvements and brainstorming the best way to make grocery lists.
This is what I want.
I think if we can do this monogamy thing well, we will be enlightened.
We’re already there.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise
Photo: elephant archives