The Reluctant Monogamist

This looks nice and all, but is this really the ONLY option?

My last foray into normal, society-approved monogamy ran concurrently with the 2010 baseball playoffs, in which my SF Giants were, at long last, victorious in the World Series.  For those that don’t feel like doing the math, this means that my last traditional, exclusive relationship lasted all of 6 weeks.  It happened in the usual way – girl sees cute boy in bar, goes up to him and tells him he looks like Matt Damon.  Boy tells girl she looks like Christina Ricci and buys her a few drinks.  They end up back at boy’s apartment where, shirtless (because he works out obsessively and wants to show it off), he serenades her with alternative music from the 90’s with his beat-up but gorgeous acoustic guitar while she lounges on a balance ball in just her underwear until the wee hours of the morning.   Sex happens.  Several times.  Boy drops girl off at the front door of her hotel, so she doesn’t have to participate in a pre-dawn walk of shame and promises to call.  Girl is indifferent because while the sex was fairly good, the 9-11 conspiracy theories were not.

A mere 6 months had passed since the end of my decade-long marriage and I had absolutely no intention of getting into a relationship.  Turns out, he was in the same boat.  Just a few months out of a serious relationship in which he had been living with someone.  This thing had rebound written all over it – for both of us.  So why, in the name off all that is holy, did I say yes when he proposed we start seeing each other exclusively?  Looking back I realize the following:

  • He asked the question while were laying in bed, having just completed the pole vaulting portion of that evening’s bedroom Olympics.  I was in a good mood, full of hormones and dopamine and all kinds of nice orgasm-y feelings.
  • We had only been dating a week or two.  I was caught completely off-guard and thought for sure that he wouldn’t bring it up that quickly.  And I had no plans to have the DTR talk.
  • It was so damn nice to have someone in my life again, even if I felt the timing was off and that there were things about him that gave me pause.

So when he asked me if I was seeing anyone else, I lied and said no.  Be honest dear reader – you would have done the same thing!  Who the hell wants to tell the sweet, naked man lying next to them that less than 24 hours ago some other dude had zambonied the ice rink?  You know, the one that is telling you how amazing you are and that he doesn’t have any desire to see anyone else?  We became a couple right then and there.  Yet there was so much reluctance in my acceptance of his offer.

The legitimacy of having a significant other that is conferred upon you by society is a heady thing.  I was wrestling with feelings of guilt, shame and just plain feeling like a failure from my marriage breaking apart and this was an easy way to say “see – I’m not a loser after all!”  This made all those bad feelings go away.  The cute little back-and-forth messages that we posted on each other’s Facebook walls, the good morning email that was always waiting for me when I got to work, the goodnight call if I wasn’t staying at his place, the little shelf that he cleared out for my stuff – all of this felt so familiar and affirming.

Let me out!

Not so nice – the suffocating, frantic feeling that I was trapped.  TRAPPED!  The one weekend during our short relationship that we didn’t spend together (he went out-of-town), I literally had to have a girlfriend cock block me when we went out that night.  She had to confiscate my phone so I didn’t text the French Boy or the Tortured Artist.  If she found me at the bar talking to a man, she would come right up between us and pull me away.  She did all of this at my behest because I just didn’t trust myself not to cheat.  I didn’t even have the balls to tell the others that I was seeing someone, you know, just in case.  I knew there was something terribly wrong.  I knew that he was not a good match for me and I also knew that I didn’t want to be in a relationship.

He dropped the bomb on me right after the World Series ended.  It’s almost as if we were under some kind of spell, and once all the excitement was over, the fog was lifted.  That and his ex-girlfriend had called him to “congratulate” him on the win.  I wasn’t with him that night.  Not that it would have mattered.  The call would have come at some point and it would have made him pause and think about what he was doing.

There were so many reasons that he was wrong for me.  He was an addict that had a few years prior, lost everything due to his addiction.  He had anger issues and would punch and throw things.  He regularly trashed his ex-girlfriend.  He was a lawyer.  All of these things and more were revealed to me in the short time we were together.  But despite all this, I was still devastated when the call came.  I had seen it coming.  Sensed him pulling away.  It didn’t make the blow any easier to take.

Fast-forward a couple of weeks and I was feeling mostly OK about things.  Never gave in to the temptation to send just one little text, or email.  Didn’t check his Facebook page or check if he was on IM.  Just when I started to feel balanced again, he emailed me to invite me out to dinner and a show.  Just as friends.  Stupidly (and I knew it at the time) I agreed.  That’s when the flirty drunk texts started.  Again, stupidly, I played along.  Dinner turned into sex of course.  Only this time, I made it clear that I had the right to date other guys and vice versa.  He agreed.  What he didn’t know is that I already was.

The next month or so I spent chasing the dragon, trying to get back to that high I experienced when we first met.  Trying to get the cute good morning emails started again.  Trying to get my stuff back on that shelf.  All the while I’m banging the French Boy again.  Everything came to a head one night when he, drunk again and alone  (which I think is probably a terrible idea for someone with a past addiction to drugs) he texts me, telling me to come over.  I tried to be discreet, really I did.  But he wouldn’t let up.  I finally had to be blunt with him.  “I am at another man’s apartment right now.  I can’t come over.” He was furious.  I never heard from him again.

I have since come to realize that I had always been in relationships for the wrong reasons, not just this one.  For validation.  For status.  For feeling like I was “worth” something.  I would completely give up myself, ignore what I needed, and accept any and all faults in the other person just to keep that precious thing alive.  No wonder when around the 2 year mark (which seems to be the magic point in time when all of my relationships start to fail) I would start to feel restless, and resentful and unhappy.  You can’t pretend forever. You can’t sit by with your needs un-met and expect a relationship to last.

It’s not easy to navigate in a world that values and supports a lifestyle that hasn’t ever worked for you.  So I have two

You can get with this...or you can get with that

choices – 1) Figure out how to operate within the existing system of monogamy in a way that  doesn’t completely crush my spirit and make me feel trapped or 2) Define my own way of being –  of loving and living that allows me to be myself.  And no, I don’t mean allows me to fuck whoever I want at the expense of someone else’s feelings.  The past 2 years has been my attempt at following the 2nd path, the one where there is no guidebook, no support from society at large, no “rules”.  As you have read, I’ve stumbled along this path.  I’ve gotten hurt.  I’m sure I have hurt others, although it was never my intention.  But I just don’t know if I can see myself taking that time-worn and well-traveled route.  Can’t see myself stepping in line again and giving up all that makes me unique just so that I don’t make people uncomfortable.

For now, as I encounter situations that Emily Post certainly can’t help me with, I stumble along, always trying to behave ethically and always trying to be up-front with the men that share my time and space with me.  And maybe – just maybe, I can find someone who understands me and shares my worldview.  I know it won’t be easy.  But I’ll continue to search.  And have amazing, awesome sexy experiences while I do.

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13 responses to “The Reluctant Monogamist

  • nathan

    Part of the challenge, I think, is that most of are still trying to fit into the old narratives about monogamy and commitment, which were built around fixed gender roles and having/raising children amongst other things. I’ve always been pretty focused on being with one partner at a time, but I don’t tend to view monogamy and relationships from that patriarchal, nuclear family approach, which has made things a bit challenging in the dating department. Some of the women I have dated have wanted me to act like a “traditional man,” either by being more a breadwinner and/or by leading the relationship most of the time. Neither of which I am interested in doing. I’m also not interested in having my world collapse in around being with a partner and possibly children. I want to maintain my good friendships, and connections with family, among other things. I could mention more, but overall, a lot of it has to do with not quite fitting into the expected form.

    To me, this is why the whole messing around with multiple casual partners is so attractive these days. A fair amount of folks don’t know what they want, and instead of taking the time and effort to figure out some of that, and risk making some mistakes perhaps – they opt to just keep everything casual and “fun.” Except after awhile, it’s really not that fun.

    This isn’t to say that healthy arrangements outside of monogamy aren’t possible. I know people who have successful open relationships, or multiple long term partners, but it’s taken a lot of soul searching for those relationships to be good ones. Personally, I think it’s harder to do non-monogamy well, harder than a lot of people tend to believe.

    • The Reluctant Monogamist

      I agree – open relationships (I was in one for a little while and do have friends that consider themselves poly) are much harder to maintain. It takes an awful lot of communication and stowing away of ego and jealousy. It’s definitely not for everyone. I’ve also done the casual thing. And it worked great – until it didn’t. But those casual relationships or situations were valuable. They were terribly fun for one thing, but they helped me create my boundaries and figure out what worked and didn’t work for me. I never would have been able to see those things so clearly if I had stuck to the old model exclusively.

      Whenever you try to step outside of what is expected of you people tend to get very agitated by that. Men face this issue just as much as women do. I have a great sense of self, but I get shaken from time-to-time when confronted for how I live my life. It’s unfathomable to some people that I am not actively trying to find another husband. I don’t want one! What do I want? Well, I’m still figuring that all out.

  • lifewithblondie

    The older I get, the more I wonder, who wrote the rule book anyway? And where do they live exactly, cuz I would like to wrap his house with some good old fashioned Toilet Paper as a token of my thanks for making it nearly impossible to navigate the world of love!

  • Nikki B

    There is so much in this post – and while they affect non-monogamy here, they are things that would affect any relationship, in my opinion.

    You need to be ready for the commitments and relationships you enter, whether that is monogamy or even casual dating. Period. That means being honest with yourself and others.

    The end of things can fucking hurt – even if you wanted it. The way things go down can be really difficult, no matter how much the relationship needed to be over. No matter how careful each person is.

    Pretending to be “friends” with people before you’re really really ready to (this goes for ya both) is just silly. It rarely works – and often the only way it does is if one person hides their feelings and just deals with their heartache instead of just giving themselves time. And, PS? Getting to that place usually takes much longer than you think it will or should.

  • True Confessions from a Stalker

    If so many people believe that monogamy is the only way, then why do so many people cheat? I’m kind of thinking monogamy was never the only way… even Noah had two wives! LOL

  • Cadence Harper

    This was a fantasic post & I might just hijack the idea and write one about the last time I was in a relationship. I freaked out on a regular basis and tried to run… So did he. I’m damn tired of things being so complicated. Maybe I’ll just stay home & write.

    • lifewithblondie

      It’s much easier to stay home and write Cadence, but I read your blog, and I think you’re on the verge of a happy ending, so don’t give up yet!

      • Cadence Harper

        I am surprised to hear someone say that. It doesn’t feel like I’m on the verge… In fact most of my readers and friends are telling me to bail.

        • lifewithblondie

          Did I miss a post somewhere? Hmmm I will have to go look!! My husband took nearly a year to cement himself into our relationship. Actually, that’s not true. He jumped in head first, then bailed, then spent month teetering back in forth and I nearly moved on a thousand times but this nagging feeling that drew me to him kept opening that door as fast as I could close it, and 16 yrs later, here we are on this completely imperfect topsy turvy journey, but I’m glad he rode this roller coaster with me. Who know what the next 20 years will bring, but it was worth the ride! I see him as a similar kind of man, one who is taking it super slow to protect himself from hurts you didn’t inflict upon him…. but that’s just my take on it!

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