How Non-monogamy shapes my belief system.
As I approach 50 years on this earth, I realize how much my relationship philosophies have changed. In theory, the memoir I am writing (in theory- if I ever worked on it more) is about how I became the woman I am today from my traditional evangelical roots. It’s definitely been an amazing journey! I am currently in the midst of significant relationship changes, ending one and starting a new one, so I thought it might be a good time to review some of my relationship philosophies. Over the years, I have been polyamorous (for me, this is more of an orientation than a lifestyle); I have realized many of my current relationship philosophies stem from my deep commitment to polyamory and being a solo person. Some of these ideas and thoughts I believe I also held as a monogamous person but, like many of us, I never examined what I felt about relationships very closely before becoming non-monogamous. Being non-monogamous means doing deeper work within myself and with others to function well in relationships.
Non-monogamy- Polyamory: I cannot imagine being monogamous again. Once I learned about non-monogamy, I immediately knew it was for me. I can never turn back. Learning that this way of relating was actually possible, and it’s something “people do,” turned on a bright light in my head and heart. I knew this was what I had been searching for, without even knowing I needed it. When I met Stefan, and was introduced to this concept, I was blown away, intrigued, and ready to learn more. I have come to learn that, for me, love is so abundant, so amazing, and I have more than enough to go around. It seems to grow with every new connection or person I include in my life.
Non-monogamy is generally understood as an umbrella term for many different types of relationships that are not monogamous: swingers, open-sexual relationships, polyamory, and relationship anarchy are just a few. My personal “style” is primarily Polyamory- with a dash of both swinging and open-sexual relationships. Basically, my romantic & platonic relationships are polyamorous, but I also want to swing with a partner who is also interested and have “random Tinder dates” whenever it suits me.
Polyamory- Noun- The practice of engaging in multiple romantic (and typically sexual) relationships, with the consent of all the people involved.
Solo- Polyamory: Within polyamory, I would further describe my relationship philosophy to include being a “solo” person. I have no interest in living with someone, combining finances, nor making decisions together. I will happily be part of more than one “couple” by having multiple partners, but those relationships do not have to follow a traditional trajectory and most likely will not. I do not need relationships to follow the Relationship Escalator. I enjoy my autonomous identity, and it is one of the most important things.
Relationship Escalator. The default set of societal expectations for intimate relationships. Partners follow a progressive set of steps, each with visible markers, toward a clear goal.
The goal at the top of the Escalator is to achieve a permanently monogamous (sexually and romantically exclusive between two people), cohabitating marriage — legally sanctioned if possible. In many cases, buying a house and having kids is also part of the goal. Partners are expected to remain together at the top of the Escalator until death.
The Escalator is the standard by which most people gauge whether a developing intimate relationship is significant, “serious,” good, healthy, committed or worth pursuing or continuing.
Whole Ass People: One thing that makes me a bit crazy is when one partner expects the other to help direct their life. When I was married, my husband needed me to manage his life. I made sure he had lunch for work, his appointments were made and kept, and I worked on his behalf to strengthen his relationship with his children. It’s too easy to lose myself under the weight of managing everyone’s lives. When a partner is making a general decision or needs to see a doctor, etc., my philosophy is, “He is a whole ass (or grown-ass) person and can take care of this thing himself.” I also expect to be treated in the same way. I am an autonomous adult and, as such, should and can manage my own life. I prefer a bit more independence in relationships and more autonomy than I traditionally found in my monogamous relationships.
Of course, if a lover needs support or help to look at a decision from a different perspective or would like my opinion, I’m not going to turn them away. It’s called a partnership for a reason. I am making a very big medical decision, and I have asked all the important people in my life to weigh in with their opinion and have asked BFF (my life partner) to run all the scenarios with me later today. In the end, though, I am the one who will make the decision, and they will support me.
Relationships Should Find Their Level: This belief is the one I talk about most when I talk about how I see relationships. Maybe it’s because I don’t need relationships to follow-any traditional form. I am open to seeing what develops. I try not to force it into one thing or another. This is not always easy. Sometimes I totally want to jump in and have a “partner” style relationship with someone, but I try my best to be relaxed and see if that is what the relationship wants. What is our chemistry? Is this really what should be happening? How does this feel versus that? Even within a committed partnered relationship, sometimes we need to make adjustments, things that have to happen. I try to let the “relationship” be the guide and not stress or force any one thing to be true.
Because I don’t have expectations around where my relationships are going, I can have wonderful, caring, amazing people in my life who might never have fit before. Someone who “on paper” is not a good match for me, maybe if they were my only person, they just wouldn’t cut it, can be a wonderful addition to my life. I have one man who I see more or less monthly. Occasionally twice a month or sometimes once in two months. I love hanging out with him. We have a lovely connection. But if I needed him to fulfill a traditional “boyfriend” role, I could not have him in my life. He isn’t that for me. I would miss out on the pleasure, conversation, and sexy friendship he brings to my life.
Relationships End, This is not Failure: Relationships change, grow, and sometimes end. If I believe that relationships need to find their level, it follows that sometimes that level might be “over.” Without the pressure of “until death do us part,” being off the relationship escalator allows relationships to take their course. If that means we cannot be in a romantic relationship anymore, we can de-escalate or completely end our connection. Just because a relationship doesn’t work out doesn’t mean I have failed personally. It was hard when I got divorced. There was so much pressure to get married that getting divorced was devastating. More because I had failed at this thing I was supposed to do for the rest of my life than because I wanted to still be in that relationship. From the moment I left, I barely missed him or the relationship. It had so totally collapsed before I had even left. But there was still that “pressure” that said I was wrong. I should have stayed or worked harder in order not to fail. Now, I do not believe I failed. It was an unsafe relationship, and getting out was the best thing. Relationships end.
I am currently de-escalating a long-term romantic relationship. (De-escalating because we would prefer to be able to stay in one another’s life, so we’re working on going from romantic partners to platonic friends.) It totally sucks. We broke up last year and then got back together earlier this year. I thought we were building something a bit different than he did, and when the rubber hit the road, we could not make it work being together. But we ADORE each other, and our connection has always been strong as friends and less as romantic- sexual partners. We are hopeful we can stay friends. We’ll see. I hate it. It makes me sad. But I do not feel like I failed. It just needs to end. And that’s ok.
Friends Are Just as Important as Romance: I hate how our culture encourages people to cling to their romantic relationships above all other types of relationships. The value is placed on the couple rather than on the other types of friendships, situationships, etc., that one can have in life. In the past, I fell victim to this too. You start dating someone, and they take up all of your time and energy, and you no longer make time for your friends. Eventually- you don’t have that circle of good friends anymore because you have neglected those relationships. Because I prefer to be a more autonomous person, because polyamory allows me to focus on more than one relationship at a time, I can focus on my friendships. My friendships are so valuable to me.
When I lived in Berlin, I consciously made plans with my girlfriends first each week. We made our plans to hang out, work together, drink together, etc., and THEN I made plans with my loves. I am fortunate that I don’t need my romantic partners to be everything to me, and I have lots of room for many different kinds of love in my life, including my friendships!
Another thing about friendships… I believe that men and women can be friends. Not everything has to be sexual between us. Being polyamorous allows me more freedom to explore friendships with people than traditionally, I would be able to in monogamy. Conversely, exploring sexual relationships with friends is also on the table. There is so much love to go around!
I am sure there are more philosophies I live by and follow in my relationships, but that is all I can think of right now, and you’ve all read enough!
What are some of the relationship philosophies you hold? What has influenced them?