Recently I was talking to a friend about whether she wanted a monogamous or non-monogamous relationship, and she told me that, for her, non-monogamy is the default norm, with monogamy being one possible “customization,” as opposed to the way. This made so much sense to me when I thought about it that I decided to dedicate this post about it.
Most modern societies think of monogamous couplings as the norm when it comes to romantic relationships. However, there have always been other kinds of relationships coexisting with monogamous ones throughout history – and while monogamy may be considered the “norm,” I openly challenge the thinking that monogamy is in any way more “normal” than any other relationship style.
The generally prevailing idea is that monogamy is the majority relationship style, and that though there may be people who are non-monogamous, they are a small minority:The problem I have with this is that it presents monogamy as being the “standard” – as though, when you enter into a romantic relationship, the starting point is always monogamy. As though it is some kind of big deal if one wants a nonmonogamous relationship. Given how common cheating is, this shouldn’t be thought of as such a huge leap. Many people who might benefit from opening up their relationship to some degree are understandably having trouble with the monogamous norm.
Moreover, things are much more complicated than just “monogamy” and “nonmonogamy.” Different ideas prevail about what is what – and when people assume that “monogamy is the way” and don’t talk about what they really want, this can lead to a lot of trouble further on. Where are the lines drawn? Looking? Casual touching of hands, shoulders, etc? Kissing? On the cheek? The lips?
Here’s a very rough sketch of how I see relationships:
These are only a few basic conceptions; millions of other ways to have a romantic relationship exist and are constantly being created. But the point remains the same: rather than monogamy being the starting point, openness is the starting point; making no assumptions about the relationship until the partners have agreed on their rules and limits.
Open relationships done wrong can be very destructive, too. Just because one is non-monogamous doesn’t mean that cheating doesn’t exist. It’s all about the framework and boundaries the partners in the relationship agree on – rather than a preset line of thinking that has been laid out for them.
Another key thing to remember is that relationships can and often do change, without crashing and burning. Monogamous relationships open up, and open relationships become monogamous. Friends become lovers, and lovers become “just” friends. Monogamous union for a lifetime is only one of many outcomes, and it is too often dogmatized into THE thing to do. This can damage your path to intimacy if that path leads in another direction – which it very often will.
When you and another person truly have a strong connection, often such big changes do not completely break the bond – don’t assume they will 🙂 And sometimes, yes, the bond may break – but even then, it’s not the end of the world.
If you’re in a relationship that needs to change, it’s true that you can’t take for granted that it will change the way you want it to right away. But you can give it a try. Remember that all these desires that we have inside and too often don’t communicate to the people that need to hear them – these desires won’t just go away if you ignore them. They will often stick around and continue scratching at you, telling you that something must change. And these desires are your truth. And, as it is said, the truth can set you free.
Don’t ignore your truth in romance. If you desire something different from what you “should,” you owe it to yourself to at least try your best to explore it. After all, you only get one life, and most likely, your creator(s) would like to see you make the most of it. 🙂
Follow-up to this post: Desire, attraction, and the sacred middle ground.