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.