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Sunday, 20 February 2011

Relationships and Polygamy, or 'Why People Need to Open Their Minds to Alternate Lifestyles'

One of the things that I've become aware of in the past few months of being "single" is the perception other people have of any lifestyle or relationship that is different from the normal, conformist one. Since breaking up with a man I spent four years of my life with, I have been embracing my freedom and almost making a point of seeing more than one guy at a time. My realisation when I broke up with my ex back in July was that, despite how much I loved him (and, honestly, still do), the fact that my life revolved around him was not a good thing. I had no real friends of my own* and my social life involved him and his friends. From then on, I made a conscious choice to not let that happen again. My life would no longer be about my partner, but about me, my choices, and what I wanted for myself. Never again would I stop myself from doing something just because that was what was expected of me, because I knew that that's what other people would want from me.

I made an account on OkCupid, where, for the first few months, I spent my time largely just chatting and flirting to a bunch of people. In October, I met up with a lovely boy, who we shall call J. We agreed to have an 'open relationship', in which I could continue to see other people, sleep with them, even form relationships with them if I wanted. That particular relationship didn't last long (til just after Christmas), because essentially we were just too similar (we are still friends and I'm glad I met him etcetc). While I was with him, I met another boy, who I shall call C. We became very close pretty quickly, and right now we are basically at the point of exclusivity since J and I broke up.

I never made a secret of my relationship status with any of the boys with whom I was having flirtations, whether they were likely to go the whole way or otherwise, and when my family asked about things, I never lied. But this led to some very interesting conversations with my sisters in particular. They usually went like this:

Sister: Fran, do you have two boyfriends?
Me: Sort of, yeah, I'm seeing two people.
Sister: Isn't that kind of mean?
Me: Wha? Why? They know about each other.
Sister: Oh, that's alright then. As long as you aren't sleeping with both of them.
Me: Wait...what?

I found this concept particularly amusing. It's ok to be in emotional relationship with two people as long as I'm not sleeping with both of them? Surely, if we're going by what people see as moral, it should be the other way around? The way I see it (or rather, the way I would see it if I was not in support of non-monogamous relationships in general), it's massively more unfair to be romantically involved with a person other than your partner than to be having a purely sexual relationship with a person outside of your relationship. I want to clarify, here. I am not talking about cheating on your significant other. By 'non-monogamous relationship', I mean one that is entirely consensual and where all parties know what is involved.

Since breaking up with J and being in a semi-serious, if not exclusive or 'official', relationship with C, I have planned several meetings with other guys. Only one of which has come to pass, but I never slept with him because of the guy's misgivings, as I would have been coming straight from C's house. I almost get it. Almost. We are still good friends and I am happy to stay that way. But then this weekend I was supposed to be seeing a different guy, for whom it was purely physical and I had no emotional connection to (which is odd, for me, I have to say), said something similar - that it would be weird if I came straight from C's house to go and see him, given the plans we had. Now, I had made no secret of the fact that this was what I would be doing. He knew that I would be spending the day at C's house then leaving to see him in the evening.

The way I see it, I can see how it would be a bit odd if I was coming straight from having sex with C, but I am not gross enough not to at least shower in between. I don’t see how there is a difference between it being the same day or the night before. Sleeping? What difference does sleeping make to such things? I just can’t work it out. Can someone explain it to me?

The other thing that I am seeing on an increasingly regular basis is the 'you cannot love two people equally' argument. Perhaps YOU can't, but you don't speak for all people. Now, while I am at the point where I don't want anybody else in my life except for C, I know that he's not quite there yet and that there are people who don't want monogamy at all. I don't think it is fair of people - people who are generally open-minded and liberal - to judge any other person on their consensual relationships. It is not the place of others to decide what people do with their lives, to judge them on actions which, in essence, aren't morally reprehensible in any way. My mother insisted that what I was doing while seeing both J and C was "immoral". I fail to see how. I was honest, I was open, and had either of them ever developed an issue with what was happening, I would have stopped it. I never saw the guy I was supposed to see this weekend for various reasons. Firstly I realised I wasn't comfortable doing it (sorry love, if you ever read this). I have had some issues recently with my mental health which mean that, while I am desperate to feel wanted, if I had gone ahead with it I would have ended up feeling like shit. Secondly, C didn't want me to go. Part of me wanted to be defiant for reasons I'm not going to go into, but at the end of the day the entire premise, to me, of an open or non-monogamous relationship is based on trust and respect. Doing something which goes against what the other person is comfortable with breaks both of those things.

I think I've rambled enough, now. I just needed to have a small vent about people's interpretations of my life choices and those of others. What is right for you may not be right for others and vice versa. Tolerance and at least a vague attempt at understanding something you find it difficult to wrap your head around are, to me, the most important personality traits a person can have. Judging people for doing something which harms no-one** is, imo, the worst thing you can do.

*NB: by 'friends', I mean people with whom I spent time with socially on a regular basis. I have a lot of wonderful, beautiful, amazing friends who mean everything to me.

**NB: I want to point out, here, that I am aware that often people go into polygamous relationships for the wrong reasons and often wind up hurt. For the purposes of this post, however, those people are irrelevant because they are doing something which they know will be harmful to them and are deceiving the other parties involved, and therefore it is not the responsibility of said other parties, imo.

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