by Chris Bodenner
A reader writes:
I came of age in an era when, as a friend put it, "everyone was supposed to sleep with everyone, and did." (The infamous "sixties," though for me it was offset into the seventies.) In the midst of all that pressure, ignorance, and confusion, I fell into a long-term relationship that we (a young man and I) defined as "open." We also defined me as being immature, ignoble, and unpleasant for being jealous and possessive. There were a couple of decades where I was, a lot of the time, in shredding pain over the openness of the relationship. (Yes, I'm a slow learner.)
Eventually that relationship ended, or at least radically changed. It will never totally end, because before we were done we had had two children together -- now grown, and the light of my life. I had one more major love relationship that started out as "open" (I was by that time the prophetess of non-monogamy, full of "reasons" and justifications) and ended when, among other things like the separation of continents, I was finally able to claim the right to have monogamy or no relationship at all.
It has been fascinating reading all the responses to the "Evolutionary Case Against Monogamy" idea. I could write a book, but in the meantime I have two main comments in reaction:
1. If we are to have a more nuanced understanding of the urge toward non-monogamy, I would like to request the converse as well. I suspect it is just as deeply embedded in human nature -- and like all qualities and characteristics, more deeply embedded in some of us than in others -- to want our partners to be monogamous, and to be in pain when they are not. I could say that I wish I had grown up to be able to claim my own reality much sooner, but then I wouldn't have had my kids.
2. When I finally got out of my second and last major non-monogamous relationship, one of the things that finally gave me the clarity to do it was the realization that if anything was worse than sexual non-monogamy, it was non-monogamy of decision-making. That was the deeper basis of the pain I had been in all those years. I had agreed to non-monogamy, but I did not -- unlike some of your readers -- have the clarity or understanding to ask for an agreement about the primacy of one relationship over all the others in terms of making decisions about the relationship(s). I found myself in a situation where decisions that affected my life profoundly were being made by other people, and that's when I finally got out for good.
As for your readers who wrote about making a success of having one primary, decision-makingly monogamous relationship with some sexual non-monogamy thrown in -- well, more power to them. I hope it keeps working out for them.