A few week’s ago, I was catching up with an old friend, who had recently met a new partner. I was listening to my friend talk about his new lady and he ended with “And the best part about it is that I’m happy with just her. I don’t feel the need to be with anyone else.”
I was taken aback. He’d long been a supporter of non-monogamy. But it wasn’t merely his switch to monogamy that was surprising. It was his attitude that somehow this relationship, this monogamous relationship, was better or more whole than a non-monogamous one that upset me.
The fairy tale notion that another person could be perfect for you doesn’t hold up to any level of scrutiny. I think most of us know this intellectually. Relationships take work and compromise. Good relationships take a lot of effort both on the part of the people in them, working together, but also on the individuals, working on themselves. Prince Charming, in the Disney sense, doesn’t exist. There is no one who can drop into your life, be ideal for you in every way and maintain that level of infatuation for the rest of your lives. Human interaction just does not match up with this absurd fairy tale.
That’s not to say that people can’t be in very deep and meaningful love, love which goes beyond logical explanation. Only that to say that even those relationships will have hiccups and difficulties and require work and effort.
That love that I feel for my partner (or for some of you, partners) isn’t diminished by the feelings I have for anyone else, however. Nor is anyone who is not experiencing those feelings an unfulfilled or incomplete person. Choose how to live your best damn life, single, monogamous, or in a hippie commune with more partners than you can count.
Like many of us, it has taken me a long time to come to terms with that. I am not a broken person because I choose not to be monogamous. My relationship isn’t lacking because of that. Our relationship isn’t less valid. I don’t need to be searching for something that’s more filling.
The societal norm of having a single person who meets all of your needs puts a lot of weird pressure on non-monogamous people. Non-monogamy is nearly always shown as a flaw in on television, in movies and in books. The trope of meeting the right person who will cure someone of their philandering ways is nearly as old and as worn out as the idea that people with entry level jobs can somehow afford huge apartments in Manhattan.
When I asked my friend what he meant, he became defensive. “No no whatever works for you is fine for me. But this is what I want.” I hope it is what he wants. But I wonder how much of what he wants is impacted by how much pressure towards monogamy he’s internalized along the way.
I wonder how he will feel in 18 months or so when NRE wears off.
That’s exactly what I was thinking. NRE is a heady drug and many people think they’ve found THE person while under its influence.