I have wanted to write this post for awhile, but I am always afraid of how some things will be perceived, even though what I have been thinking about is a legitimate concept from the perspective of any relationship.
I like to mouth off to others about ‘leaning into the discomfort’ of things, so here I go.
I have these friends who have a more alternative lifestyle. They are hands down some of the coolest people I know. They have very different ideas about what constitutes love and marriage. They are not monogamous, nor do they encourage the other to be. In fact, they encourage each other to explore all sexual interests without prejudice. It is an interesting idea from a theoretical viewpoint. How can people learn to love freely and openly without jealousy or anger? If we take out the part about not being monogamous, this is still a very legitimate question for monogamous couples. As a theory, not as an argument for polyamory and its derivatives, the ability to love unconditionally is something that we should want to seek, regardless of our sexual choices.
I understand that living as a non-monogamous couple does apparently have some boundaries. From what I gather, if any person in the arrangement starts to have feelings, the arrangement is redefined. Feelings always indicate that someone is personally interested in the outcome of something. If any either of my friends become uncomfortable, with any part of the situation, the situation is removed. This conceivably lowers the possibility of deceit between partners. Some will argue that they could end up falling in love with someone else. I would reply that that could happen regardless. It’s a matter of personal choice as to whether or not you enter into a deceptive relationship with another person. I don’t accept the argument that things just happen. Things happen because we ignore growing feelings and allow ourselves to be in vulnerable situations, not because you have sex with people other than your spouse. This happens in marriages all the time, and the blame always falls to the outside relationship. It is more accurate to say that people will sleep with other peoples spouses without permission, far more than they will with permission, so let’s not get too judge-y here.
I imagine the technicalities of a non-monogamous relationship would bring up some interesting conversations. I love that they can honestly and openly negotiate such a difficult arrangement. I have so much respect for the amount of trust and love needed to understand the real nature of unconditional love. The closest most of us come is the way we feel about our children. We love them like an extension of our own body, one that we would die to protect. The love flows freely from one to the other with the perfect understanding of trust and love. That is the ideal, of course, and some days we only get a moment of the ideal, and the remainder a fraction of what we glimpsed. However, we do feel it most for our children. Why is it so unnatural for some of us to be unguarded enough to be able to love and be loved, so freely?
When we have been hurt sufficiently and learn to rebound back with our self esteem intact, and our understanding has improved, we are able to open ourselves raw to another. We commit fully to the experience of loving and being loved, and take the chance of unexpected suffering later on, in order to take fullest advantage of our good fortune now. The emotional and spiritual gains we earn are worth the pain we undergo. When we look at each other with nothing but love and acceptance, we will begin to create the best partner we would ever want, and in turn create a beautiful process of self-fulfillment that will continue every day after.
There are many variables that have to be in place before a relationship like this can occur: complete trust, self-acceptance, emotional maturity, courage, physical attractiveness, mutual respect, agreement on fundamental belief systems and finally a desire for both to WANT something different. If ALL of those variables are not met, the theory falls apart in lots of ways, and an alternative relationship will not be successful. At any point, if one partner wants it more than the other, renegotiation is required.
Non-monogamous relationships are a hard-sell for most couples because of all of the variables that aren’t being addressed in our monogamous relationships.
Perhaps people think it’s more polite to say what someone else wants to hear, rather than risk offending. Ultimately, we can’t possibly know someone who pretends to like the things we like so we don’t get mad at them. If we aren’t being truthful with our partners in every way, then we are denying our mates the opportunity to know us intimately as people. Being honest takes out the guess work in relationships. You have to agree to be kind and fair, of course, but there is no reason anyone should be angry at anyone else for being honest about something they were asked.
One of the first times The Birdman asked me out, he offered to take me ***bowling. I almost said I would go, but I remembered that I didn’t want to go bowling. I would have normally said I would love to go, and just lied about hating bowling. Instead, I said I just didn’t like bowling. I took the chance that he was grown up enough not to be angry that I didn’t like something he liked. Guess what? I WAS RIGHT. The thing is, most of the time, it is okay to be honest. If it’s not okay, that is a great thing to find out early in a relationship, so you can get the hell out when you see the crazy coming at you. We have to have the emotional maturity, personal security and self-acceptance that we are not reduced to shreds every time someone doesn’t agree with us. It’s a small example, but it’s not a small idea. If you are not telling the truth about the things you love, and don’t love, you are only hurting yourself. Also, pretending to love camping might cause you to be spending 3 weeks camping every summer for the next 25 years. See if that makes you change your mind about transparency in relationships.
Some people might be angry that I blew open Pandora’s box, but I don’t really think that’s fair. I am talking about real relationship issues that just happen to deal with friends who like to go to sex clubs. If we remove the sexual deviation from the equation, it is a completely valid argument that you could have at a crowded party. I’m not saying I agree with them. It’s not an endorsement of any lifestyle over any other. However it is a fascinating study of how people relate to each other in a very grown up way. I am not afraid to talk about ideas, even if they make people uncomfortable. I’m not sorry if my ideas sometimes upset people. My ideas are for people who sometimes have ideas of their own. Why don’t you leave YOUR ideas in the comments?
***I have just been informed that I remember the bowling incident as I WISH it had happened, and not as it ACTUALLY happened. Apparently, I DID make a half-assed agreement to bowl at some point in the future. I remember not wanting to bowl, and that we didn’t go bowling, so I assumed I had told him I didn’t want to. Now that I think about it, I wasn’t very much into being truthful when I met him, so I can see the irony of the bowling ‘life lesson’. Well played, Karma. Well played.