Recently in my life, I have done a lot of questioning of a lot of different pillars of our society — gender, sexuality, race and attractiveness to name a few. But one pillar that I kind of held sacred was monogamy. On the outside, it sounds really nice and is sold with such a nice sparkle to it. Find your other half, the side that completes you, the one person who you could never live without and the only one who you can call your soulmate. We build stories around it, we write songs about it and we jealously guard the people who we assume to be our “one.” And yet, over and over again, we utterly fail.
Now here’s the thing: I am not suggesting that monogamy is impossible. Certainly you can find examples of people who have made it work out beautifully and healthily. But here is the intrinsic problem: the deifying of monogamy makes it hard to be open to anything else. Even when we find that monogamy is like slamming our head into a door until we feel lost and helpless and confused, so many carry on that way because they have no other option given to them. But I think that that should change. I think that we should all be more open to the thought that healthy and unhealthy relationships exist in all forms and that no relationship is intrinsically better than another.
We often take polyamory to be the only other option and the flip side of monogamy. The truth is that there are many different styles and types of alternatives that involve varying degrees of commitment, partnership and sex. Some people want one main person and a lot of outside sex. Some people want one main relationship and other secondary ones. Some people want a few committed relationships with other partners on the same level. And some people want a combination of all of them. These are not unnatural relationships to want or have and all of them can be done in a healthy or toxic way. Some people live with multiple partners, raise families with them and love everyone. This is not an inherently bad way to do relationships. It just is counter to the narrative that we happen to be fed.
A joke within the poly community is that you will spend more time talking about polyamory than actually having multiple partners. We live busy lives — not everyone has the time for a bunch of different relationships or a bunch of sex. But I think that is something really key to remember. People involved in these kinds of relationships are still just people. Their relationships are complex human relationships just like any monogamous one. When we start stereotyping people who are polyamorous or participate in a poly relationship, we can have a very hard time seeing the human in them. We can also have a hard time seeing the pros and cons of other types of relationships. So here, let me list a few:
Poly Pros: have more relationships, keep things fresh, more people to help with chores or raising kids or just emotional labor, you never have to lose someone based on infidelity because you would only ever have to leave if the relationship stopped working.
Poly Cons: you have to confront your demons, you HAVE to talk about feelings, jealousy, time management, more opportunities for disappointment and heartbreak, you have to break with societal expectations, judgment.
Mono Pros: you have a pre-written relationship path, jealousy is not necessarily as big of an issue, simplicity, less heartbreak if you can only lose one person.
Mono Cons: no exploration with anyone else, effort to keep things new and different, the pressure to be everything for someone, less flexibility, can involve guarding the other person, jealousy.
As you can see from the simple list above, each style has pros and cons. At the end of the day, we should feel open to and accepting of everyone’s style, even if we don’t want to practice it. Everyone should get the chance to explore and feel normal wherever they end up.