I’m all for being with just one partner if it feels right or if it’s just what seems to be happening for you right now. I am, however, extremely critical of monogamy as an ideology.
Monogamy as an ideology expresses most or all of these ideas to different degrees:
– It’s impossible to have a romantic connection with more than one person at the same time: exclusivity is a fundamental aspect of romance.
– It’s only possible to be in love with one person.
– If you love someone new, you stop loving the first person.
– Jealousy is healthy or at least natural. If you are jealous in response to what your partner does, the jealousy is their fault and not yours. Taking responsibility for your own jealousy, working through it or healing it are unknown concepts.
– If your partner is in love with or has sex with someone else, even while practising safe sex and making sure not to neglect your emotional needs, that hurts you in some way. Beyond just the lying or deception, if there was any.
– You should not be attracted to anyone else if you have a partner. If you are, something is wrong with you.
– It’s normal to want to control your partner in order to prevent them being with other people, by using emotional violence, guilt tripping, and threatening to leave them.
– There is a fundamental difference between your partner and anyone else. There can be no “blurring the lines” between a partner and a non-partner; you are either with someone (and only them) or you aren’t.
– You might have multiple sex partners when you’re not in a “real” relationship. But you can obviously not have romantic feelings for any of them. It’s “just” sex. (And many find even this to be amoral).
– You should consider that your partner is the only person in the world for you. If there is a belief in metaphysics involved, this may mean you were fated to be together. Your feelings for your partner must be unique and much greater compared to your feelings for all your previous partners. Perhaps you “never knew love” till you met them. Having had a more passionate relationship in the past is unacceptable.
– You should want to be with your partner forever. When this more extreme part of the monogamous ideology is expressed, it’s as if limiting to just one person isn’t just in the present moment, but in the past and future too. People who see things this way often erase their past partners, considering them “mistakes”, because continuing to love them would be just wrong. There is only ONE PERSON who you can love throughout your ENTIRE LIFE.
– You should marry, have kids, and grow old together. Hopefully you will die at about the same time; if your partner dies first, ideally you should never have another partner.
Before adopting polyamory, I had a couple of partners who thought this way. I wasn’t allowed to still love my previous partners or even consider the possibility of being with new partners in the future. (I would never cheat, but I still understood things could change and I could possibly end up with someone else in time, which is of course what happened). If I talked about other people being attractive, this would be a problem. And it was all a problem with me, not them.
See, I questioned the ideology of monogamy, while continuing to accept a monogamous relationship (more or less because I thought that’s what I had to deal with if I wanted to experience love with someone). They found this an issue. They wanted someone who not only was monogamous with them, but would believe in it.
I think that becoming polyamorous for me was mostly a case of breaking down those beliefs I mentioned above. When I did, I found that the resulting “empty cup” as the Buddhists say – my new openness, my freedom from conditioned beliefs – no longer gave me any reason to be monogamous. It wasn’t a case of something convincing me to be poly; it was more a case of outside forces no longer convincing me that I needed to be mono.
I am rather adamant that I believe polyamory to be a more intelligent philosophy or a healthier way of being. This annoys a lot of people, who think I should be more “tolerant” or politically correct. However, I think I’m not being intolerant. I think smoking is a pretty unhealthy thing to do; it doesn’t mean I’m intolerant of smokers. (And I really am not. I know some people are intolerant of smokers. But I really don’t try and change them or make them feel shame for their choices. I don’t butt in with my opinion when it’s not welcome).
If I’m accurate though, I won’t say that I believe polyamory is better per se. I think it’s fine to want to be with just one person if that’s what feels right to you, or if that’s just what’s happening with you at the moment.
What I think is healthier is not to have the ideology of monogamy. I think it’s unproven and unprovable, just a set of religious beliefs that is forced on us by our society.
What’s left when you don’t have this ideology? Something like polyamory, I think. But perhaps there needs to be a different word.
I can imagine someone not having a monogamous ideology and still only wanting to be with one person. Perhaps someone (let’s call her person A) only has the energy for one. I think that is valid.
But then, I don’t see why their partner (let’s call her person B) has to be limited to just one person. Perhaps person A needs a certain amount of time with her partner. If she doesn’t have that much time with her, she’s not interested in a relationship. Then, I guess, person B may have to limit her other relationships. But I can see no part of this formula which suggests she CAN’T have other relationships.
Of course you can get rather less logical here and say, “But she just can’t have other relationships!” This is where we get into religious dogma territory.
The other issue is jealousy.
I can understand a couple finding jealousy an issue. It could be enough of an issue that they may choose or be forced to have a monogamous relationship. Indeed, I think there are some people who just can’t be polyamorous, because their jealousy is just too strong.
I still think non-monogamy as I’ve described it is healthier though. I see this sort of arrangement which I’ve just described as a kind of truce, accepting something unhealthy because you have no other choice.
If it’s at all possible, I think a healthy approach to jealousy is to work through it and attempt to heal it. For sure, it’s much easier just to accept your jealousy as proof that the monogamous ideology is right and true. Being honest with yourself and facing up to your insecurities is much harder. But I think facing up to them is the only way you can ever evolve.
I get that some people don’t have the resources to do so. I suggest that they remain monogamous, then, at least for the time being. I’m not saying that this is wrong. But what I am saying is that it is not the epitome of emotional and social health.
So what happens if you challenge your inculcated monogamous ideology? What, from what you were doing, can you find a reason for? What, from what you were doing, just doesn’t make sense anymore?
Of course you can limit yourself in various ways. But do you want to? Does it make sense to? Does this help cultivate the highest, most joyful expression of who you are?
Particularly I want to know, what happens if you stop needing to control your partner? I know in principle monogamy is supposed to just be an agreement you make, with each partner freely choosing not to step out of the stated boundaries of the relationship. But in practice, monogamy seems to rely heavily on each partner controlling the other. “I’ll leave you if you’re with someone else.” Why? Why do you need this control?
I don’t really care about convincing you to be polyamorous. I’d rather help you break down your belief in monogamy as an ideology. I think you’ll almost certainly be some kind of poly after that, or open to being poly, but actually it doesn’t matter. Just make your beliefs congruent with one another, and commit to living congruently with your beliefs, and see what happens.