Ask a Non-Monogamous Couple
What’s the payoff to avoiding monogamy?
A NON-MONOGAMOUS LADY: Why don’t we start by casting our minds far, far back to the world of monogamy?
A NON-MONOGAMOUS DUDE: Time travel!
ANMD: Wavy lines!
ANML: Why didn’t monogamy work for you?
ANMD: I liked monogamy! In retrospect, it’s comforting in that it is possible to not discuss a lot of complicated feelings about your relationship, and you can enjoy a comfortable, loving union whilst minimizing territorialness and jealousy.
ANML: “Comfortable” being the operative word.
ANMD: Yes. It’s comfortable. Unfortunately, in my experience, comfortableness often becomes complacency. And as the relationship persists, it becomes unhappier by barely perceptible degrees, and I find myself becoming discontented — though I’m not sure exactly why — and I get to a point where I feel that my relationship is being held together by inertia alone. I take my partner for granted, I get taken for granted, and we’re doomed. I have a feeling that monogamy may play a substantial role in this degradation.
ANML: It may! Is it my turn now?
ANMD: Lay it on me, co-skipper.
ANML: My experience with long-term monogamy was similar to yours. I didn’t hate being monogamous, and I didn’t have a hard time staying faithful or anything. For me, it wasn’t so much that I hated monogamy — it was that I LOVED being single. It was a complete amazement to me, how much I loved being single.
ANMD: You had been in a relationship for a long time, so singledom must have been quite a revelation.
ANML: It was like night and day. I loved flirting. I loved one-night stands. I loved the feeling that life was full of endless possibility, and that on any given day I might have a threesome, or go home with a stranger from a karaoke bar, or hitch a ride on the back of a Vespa and then kiss the driver.
ANMD: (NB: All these things happened.)
ANML: I’m not a very adventurous person in most ways. I don’t have much of a yen to travel. I get agoraphobia if there aren’t enough buildings around. Extreme sports are anathema to me.
ANMD: But man — X-treme sex?
ANML: That’s my adventure! I didn’t know it until I was single, but that’s what makes me feel alive and curious and engaged with the world. So I was incredibly happy with my life, with no intention of changing it. But then I met you.
ANMD: On the day of our meeting, an eagle dropped a snake on a rock in Washington Square Park. All sorts of portentous.
ANML: I agonized over it. Christ, I didn’t want to be in a relationship again! But on the other hand, I was crazy about you and wanted to be with you every second!
ANMD: This was reciprocated. My situation was a bit different. When I started dating you I was just out of a long monogamous relationship, and I was not at all ready to dive into a similarly monogamous relationship immediately.
ANML: Non-monogamy was the obvious solution.
ANMD: In an open relationship, not only are you not shackled by your partner, but also, excepting occasional emotional roadblocks and Feelings that need to be addressed, you’re on your adventure with them!
ANML: And that makes it even better.
ANMD: It’s so awesome. And the communication is amazing.
ANML: Sorry. Go on.
ANMD: Only in this relationship do I realize how little I communicated, how emotionally closed I was with my previous partners.
ANML: Yes!! I look back on my previous relationships and I can’t believe how uncommunicative I was. It’s like I had taken a Vow of Silence about my feelings. The only thing that mattered was getting along, avoiding conflict, never being high-maintenance or, God forbid, needy.
ANMD: An open relationship is Communication Bootcamp. It can’t survive without free and frequent airing of feelings, so it forces you to talk, talk, talk.
ANML: Which is more fun than it sounds, I promise!
ANMD: Talking becomes easier and easier, and you become happier and happier with the solid emotional foundations you’re building with your partner.
ANML: It’s the most incredible feeling, knowing that you can say anything and still be safe and loved.
ANMD: Tell me something crazy about yourself!
ANML: Okay! Then you tell me something you’ve never told anybody before! And then let’s hold each other and make out!
[SUPER INTENSE CONVERSATION REDACTED]
[SUPER INTENSE MAKEOUTS REDACTED]
ANMD: I’m going to run out of secrets!
ANML: We should all have such problems.
ANMD: Shall we talk about Reclamation Sex?
ANML: Sure! You know the way monogamous couples have sex after one of them returns from a long trip away? That’s how we have sex all the time.
ANMD: Seriously. It’s ridiculous. The first time I ever saw someone outside the relationship, you were worried that Everything Would Be Ruined between us. Instead, it was electric — I just couldn’t resist you. I longed for the familiarity and the closeness we shared, but at the same time I wanted to frenziedly reaffirm my love. And it was awesome. It’s like makeup sex, but there wasn’t a fight.
And it seems like that’s the way it always is. I adore you. Nobody captivates me like you, and nobody can fuck me like you can. I’m with you because I want to be with you, because you are the best for me.
ANML: It’s really just a game, because we know that at the end of the day, no matter what we do with other people, we’re always going to come home to each other.
ANMD: Yes. It’s wonderful.
ANML: We don’t know how long it will last. We’ve talked about the possibility of eventually becoming monogamous, but neither of us feels ready. Maybe one day we’ll decide that our adventure has changed and doesn’t involve sex with other people anymore. But right now this is the adventure we’re on, and I can speak only for myself, but it’s the greatest adventure of my life.
A Non-Monogamous Couple live in New York City. If you have a question for them, send it here. (300 word max, please.)