Monogamy is not “natural,” I argued in a recent post.
It’s a perfectly legitimate and sometimes admirable choice, but a huge challenge for most of us, as it goes against our animal urges and instincts.
After reading the book Sex at Dawn three years ago, the most “natural” solution to the “problem of monogamy” seemed to be polyamory — loving and making love to more than one person.
But, to my dismay, I’ve discovered “becoming” polyamorous isn’t as easy as I’d hoped. To the same degree monogamy is not natural, polyamory is not normal.
As tough as it is, many of us choose to fight, deny and suppress our nature rather than go against the grain of our culture… because the fear of being labeled “weird” or “not normal” or made a social outcast is stronger than the fear of not being true to one’s self.
It’s not normal
I for one have been feeling this fear lately and I know my partner Brad has too.
We opened up our now 7-year relationship almost 3 years ago. For every amazing, erotic adventure we’ve had, we’ve had a period of monogamish recoiling afterward, and haven’t been able to hang onto any of our new romances for very long.
The truth is we don’t know what the hell we’re doing. We’re making it up as we go along.
No poly parents or teachers, no poly neighbors or friends growing up. No poly Disney movies, sitcoms or music. Nothing.
All the information we’d subconsciously downloaded about relationships from the time we were babies indicated that the most important things about them were that they be monogamous and that they last forever… or at least until you absolutely couldn’t stand the other person anymore.
When I decided to open our relationship three years ago, I had no idea how much trouble that subconscious programming would cause until it came bubbling to the surface.
Not only did I have to struggle with my own false beliefs about Brad’s attraction to and desire to have sex with other women — “I must not be attractive or sexually desirable” — I had to deal with unsolicited sympathy and pity from others — “this girl is deluding herself … he doesn’t love her … he’s cheating on her and calling it polyamory … she’s going to regret letting him do this when he leaves he for someone younger and more attractive woman … you deserve better…”
Brad has had a similar experience. He’s admitted that in addition to his own fears of inadequacy over my desire to date and have sex with other men, he’s often felt embarrassment and shame over what he imagines other people think about him — “he’s a cuckhold … can’t keep his woman satisfied … she’s just using him for economic security…”
Countless family members and friends have advised us to split up “if you just don’t want to be together”… because desiring to connect with more than one person sexually and romantically obviously means “we just don’t want to be together.”
Part of why we moved to Asheville (aside from loving it and wanting to start a food truck here) was to get a fresh start away from old friends in the more socially conservative Raleigh, where we met. We knew Asheville was more progressive and appeared to have a large poly community.
But even here, people who openly identify as poly are among a tiny minority.
One of my biggest fears since going public about poly is that my kid wouldn’t have any friends. For a long time, it kept me from reaching out to other parents (even though many of them have since confided their secret interest in polyamory).
If I’d had to rely on the public school system for friends, I might’ve had a harder time, but as luck would have it, my poly friends started a private school right down the road from my house, and my daughter’s best friend’s mom is the author of a famous poly web comic, who also lives right down the road.
Our culture is too busy for multiple relationships
More recently, Brad and I have identified another obstacle to modern polyamory (as opposed to the kind that occurred when we lived in gatherer-hunter tribes) — long work hours keep us too busy for maintaining multiple relationships.
Brad complains he simply doesn’t have enough time to process all of the tough emotions that come up when I connect with another man. In addition to the normal fears of abandonment and replacement, he experienced resentment every time I had sex with our roommate Ben while he was out working. From his perspective, he was hard at work to pay the bills while I was literally “screwing” around.
So, to keep things simple, I quit. It’s been 3 months since I last had sex with Ben. The previous time was 3 months before that, and the time before that was 3 months before that. (Looks like I’m due for another quarterly fall to temptation).
In conclusion, I feel trapped — trapped in the monogamous paradigm we’ve co-created. I want out, but I’m still not sure how to get out without making a big mess and hurting the ones I love. (To clarify, I want out of the monogamy trap, not out of my primary relationship.)
I know there are many, many more people out there like me — people who are unsatisfied with the one option society’s given us for romantic relationship — one at a time. I sense that we are on verge of awakening and realizing we are free to relate to and connect with as many people as we want/need to.
I believe as more and more of us learn to be honest with ourselves and others and follow our hearts, it will encourage others to do the same, one by one, until there’s a tipping point… until we arrive at a day when we look back and think how silly it was that we trapped ourselves in the monogamy box for millennia.