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“This is not normal.”
My lover turns to look at me with his piercing blue eyes, “Huh?”
“This.” We are laying in his bedroom, my doggo Honda at our feet, after f*cking six times in the last two days. We are both on our phones on dating apps, consulting each other about potential mates. I’m on Bumble, he’s on Tinder.
I am not in a conventional relationship. We are not exclusive. In fact, we are not exclusive on purpose. We love each other, that has been established.
However, we are redefining what love and relationship looks like on the day-to-day.
We both seek out new experiences with other potential mates. Jealousy isn’t really in our vocabulary anymore. Why? Well…
Long story short, we both agree that the idea that there is only one person to love—and who you stick with through thick, thin, and struggle—is a romantic ideal, and also not realistic for our lives.
And so we work together to avoid falling into what we term “the one ideal“—we date other people while we date each other.
For all those out there who have either never shared a mate or never entertained the idea of anything other than monogamy, this is why we choose to date non-exclusively:
1. It keeps us rational. By looking at and meeting other mates, we are forced to keep in mind what love truly comes down to and how much of that is biochemistry, neurobiology, shared experiences, and sex.
2. We do not have to be everything for each other. I find this comforting. When I spend time with him, I don’t need to be everything he needs for him to keep me around or to find value in my time. I don’t have the best rack or a model-like physique, and I don’t have to. I can be me, the driven, goofy, scarred, bright-eyed Greek who is still ambiguous about watching Power Rangers. He can go get a big rack or a model at a different time.
He doesn’t have to be everything for me, either. He can be the big, pragmatic, abrasive jock who loves Power Rangers. If I need texting or emotional support, I can go to some other guy or a friend, and if he needs a good blow job, he can go elsewhere until I up my skill level in that department.
3. When we spend time with each other, we know that we are choosing to because we enjoy and find value in each other, instead of because we don’t have any other options or we need each other. Our choice is truly made from desire, and from what we want. This also ties into knowing that we can have many good relationships throughout our lives and that ours is just one good among many.
This keeps us from clinging to each other. This also releases jealousy, as there is no reason to cling to something when there are other just as good, if not better, relationships out there for the finding. It allows us to maintain a healthy space and freedom to choose. This freedom to choose is what brings us back to each other again and again.
4. It allows us to practice our skills when it comes to interpersonal relationships and dating. Having a good pickup game helps in interviews, job applications, getting tips at my smoothie job, you name it.
5. It pushes us to work on ourselves. If he’s out there pushing himself to be a better athlete and improve his charisma, I feel pushed to do the same. I don’t want him to “beat” me—it’s a fun rivalry. If he’s stepping up his game, I must as well.
We avoid that relationship weight gain that has been so talked about, and we do not grow complacent. We try new things, separately and together, and bring them to each other as ideas—like goat yoga and wine tasting, as ridiculous as that sounds—all of which continue to push us, separately and together.
6. It allows us to be partners with well-defined boundaries. We work together to solve issues in each of our separate lives. We maintain our own friend groups and training places, and compare notes, share information, and seek advice without having to worry about it leaching from one side to the other. We also won’t feel forced to stay in a relationship because of awkwardness around separation if our love explodes in our faces.
7. It allows us to keep ourselves as our mental point of origin. What this means is: I care about myself first, I am in control of my life, my choices directly impact my life, and no individual drives my life for me. The same is true for him.
We choose to coexist because we pull each other up. If the time arises when we no longer do, we can separate and still have our lives. He is not mine, and I am not his. I do what’s best for me and he does what’s best for him. At the time, these things align, and so we work together. If they divulge, we can grow distant naturally and not resent each other.
8. It prevents guilt. I can look at some random guy’s ass while out buying donuts, enjoy it, and get his number in the checkout line. He can go to a bar, play “catch and release” and tell me about it the next night. When we are together, we can admire the figures of individuals without any hesitation. We can compare notes on how to have a better game or consult each other on what the other sex finds attractive—without worry that we are hurting our partner or breaking some invisible rule.
9. We treat each other well and don’t argue. We know that if we treat each other poorly, we can just up and leave, find something better, and be happier. We avoid the pitfalls of arguments and drama that befall relationships, in that we expect each other to treat the other fairly. If that doesn’t occur, we either choose to address it or move on.
The expectation, or base understanding, in our relationship makes us more effective in instances where one or the other crosses a boundary. The time I forgot to let him know he ran out of toilet paper, well, he told me later in an effective manner, and I haven’t forgotten again (I felt so bad about that one…apology pineapple to the rescue).
10. It ups our self-esteem. Knowing I am with a man who could choose among a plethora of mates and is being pursued by others, yet chooses me, makes me feel like I climbed a mountain and finally summited the last hill. I’m also sure my lover enjoys knowing I’ve got men at my disposal, yet I choose to only f*ck him.
We date other people, and for our lives, it works.
This doesn’t mean I spend a day every weekend with some other guy, but I look into potential mates on a regular basis, and go on a couple of dates every month. For him, it looks a bit different, and that depends more on our individual needs than some comparison or demand.
Even more funnily, we had a conversation about exclusivity just yesterday, again lying in bed after sex. It left me smiling internally, ear to ear.
I asked, “What would change in our relationship if we started dating exclusively?”
And simultaneously we both said, “Nothing.”
We keep the practice because it brings us benefit. We find the draw to exclusivity is more about feeling secure in a relationship than truly only wanting one person. Security is accessible in other ways, as can be seen by the fact that our relationship would not change even with a change in how we date others.
Again, like most things, it’s a practice—one I’m exploring. It’s a challenge to view the world differently.