The whys and wherefores.

I once asked my boyfriend why he chose to be nonmonogamous. ‘Because when I’m in a monogamous relationship I want to have sexual adventures with other people’. I wasn’t expecting him to return the question, but he did, and it was then I realised I hadn’t ever put it into words before. I thought for a moment, before actually saying what I’d never said. ‘I never want to know what’s going to happen. Or… what’s definitely not going to happen’.

In brief, I really like options. And excitement. And enthusiasm. I never want to know that something is off-limits to me. Life is short and I’m trying to power through it in a whirlwind fashion, experiencing as many people and places and things as I can, in a way that makes me feel happy and comfortable and fulfilled. If I can power through life like this, without hurting anyone, then I think I’m doing right by myself.

The overriding reason for why I do this is because I can’t bear the idea that I know what my future is supposed to look like. The minute I’m settled into something that’s meant to be indefinite (like a monogamous relationship with someone really nice and good-looking and charming and clever) I start to panic a little bit. I panic because I convince myself I’m going to meet someone just as amazing the next day. I panic because I know I have it in me to cheat. I panic because I’m too responsible for someone else’s feelings. I panic because I’m too invested in them. All these panics feed off each other and perpetuate themselves and tangle up and then, horribly, come true. It’s like they make themselves come true because I become a pressure cooker of fear and anxiety. My mind and my feelings just don’t work with monogamy.

It’s a classic case of ‘it’s not you, it’s me’. Or rather, ‘it’s not you, it’s me and them’. Wanting to go for a drink with a cute someone who I might make out with or I might go to bed with or I might keep seeing is never a rejection of anyone I’m already seeing. The fear that I’m going to ‘meet someone just as amazing the next day’ isn’t because I’m sitting in my current relationship, twiddling my thumbs and waiting for a way out, it’s because I find other people exciting and attractive and I want to see how we can work with each other for a nice experience (as I mentioned in my first post).

I have done monogamy. I did it for 4 years, non-stop, with 3 partners. I can do it. I just don’t want to.

‘I don’t want to make promises I can’t keep’, I said. ‘Or promises you don’t want to keep’, replied my boyfriend. And I realised he was right. Why had I spent so long punishing myself for not being good at something when really all I needed was a different something? It’s not a skill, it’s an inclination. Skill is being able to wallpaper a room or speak another language or play the harp or code a website. There’s no skill in only wanting to have sex with one person. Or only wanting to gaze lovingly into the eyes of one person. It’s just what makes some people’s lives easier and more pleasant. And what makes my life easier and more pleasant is being able to indulge, guilt-free in the stuff that makes other people seem great to me.

I have something of an excess of affection, sexual attraction, capacity for caring, desire for adventure, propensity for daydreaming. None of these get switched off when I’m in a relationship, monogamous or otherwise. I will always feel this stuff, no matter how cute or funny or intelligent my partner is. It’s not about them, ever, at all, and as long as I’m being a good partner to them, I refuse to feel any guilt about having more of that good stuff to distribute among other willing participants.

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My intriguing set-up.

Whenever I tweet about my romantic life I get replies saying ‘I’d love to know more about this… it’s intriguing’. The truth is, it’s not intriguing at all. It’s exactly what it is. This is not cloak-and-dagger stuff, I swear. My life looks a bit like this: I do what I want. All the time. I do what I want whenever I want. There are no rules and no boundaries.

My set-up revolves around assessing the differing and mutual needs and interests of two people. Seeing how we fit together. How we can help each other. How we can make our lives’ landscape that little bit brighter. There have been people in my life that I’ve never wanted to hold hands with, but that doesn’t mean the sex wasn’t great. There have been people who made only very brief appearances, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t make a priceless contribution to my self-perception. I want to figure out, with everyone I meet (romantic/sexual/platonic prospects alike) how we can best fit to create comfort and happiness.

There’s really only one regular fixture in my life, and that’s the man commonly referred to on Twitter as my boyfriend. Or the Swede. He’s great, and more to the point he’s the only person I’ve met this year that’s made the cut. The warm, fuzzy feeling I get when I look at him isn’t diminished when I’ve spent the night with someone else. During the time we’ve been together, he’s had relationships of varying structures, durations and purposes. People think that because he’s kind and thoughtful and intelligent and he makes me laugh and is incredibly handsome that naturally I want to be monogamous with him. Newsflash: I don’t.

Instead of trying to be all things to one person, I can accept that I’m uncomfortable with the idea of my life revolving around one relationship. I don’t want to have to be everything. I don’t have the time or the inclination for that. I don’t want to promise someone I’ll never want to sleep next to/sleep with/declare affection for someone else. That’d be disingenuous. Instead I want to promise to brighten a part of their lives, whatever that part is. I want to be a force for good, for fun, for pleasure, and I want as much of that as possible.

I look for good people of all genders. I look for attractive ones, funny ones, engaging ones, brilliant ones. I want to experience them. I want them to contribute to my life. I go on dates, in the naïve hope that I might find someone new. Most people I meet I never see again because my standards are high and my instinct takes a lot of convincing that someone isn’t a jerk. But I do look for them. And sometimes I go to bed with them and sometimes I see them again.

So there you have it: my intriguing life demystified! Next time I’ll tell you why I do it.