What’s the payoff to avoiding monogamy?
A NON-MONOGAMOUS LADY: Why don’t we start by casting our minds far, far back to the world of monogamy?
A NON-MONOGAMOUS DUDE: Time travel!
ANMD: Wavy lines!
ANML: Why didn’t monogamy work for you?
ANMD: I liked monogamy! In retrospect, it’s comforting in that it is possible to not discuss a lot of complicated feelings about your relationship, and you can enjoy a comfortable, loving union whilst minimizing territorialness and jealousy.
ANML: “Comfortable” being the operative word.
ANMD: Yes. It’s comfortable. Unfortunately, in my experience, comfortableness often becomes complacency. And as the relationship persists, it becomes unhappier by barely perceptible degrees, and I find myself becoming discontented — though I’m not sure exactly why — and I get to a point where I feel that my relationship is being held together by inertia alone. I take my partner for granted, I get taken for granted, and we’re doomed. I have a feeling that monogamy may play a substantial role in this degradation.
ANML: It may! Is it my turn now?
ANMD: Lay it on me, co-skipper.
ANML: My experience with long-term monogamy was similar to yours. I didn’t hate being monogamous, and I didn’t have a hard time staying faithful or anything. For me, it wasn’t so much that I hated monogamy — it was that I LOVED being single. It was a complete amazement to me, how much I loved being single.
ANMD: You had been in a relationship for a long time, so singledom must have been quite a revelation.
ANML: It was like night and day. I loved flirting. I loved one-night stands. I loved the feeling that life was full of endless possibility, and that on any given day I might have a threesome, or go home with a stranger from a karaoke bar, or hitch a ride on the back of a Vespa and then kiss the driver.
ANMD: (NB: All these things happened.)
ANML: I’m not a very adventurous person in most ways. I don’t have much of a yen to travel. I get agoraphobia if there aren’t enough buildings around. Extreme sports are anathema to me.
ANMD: But man — X-treme sex?
ANML: That’s my adventure! I didn’t know it until I was single, but that’s what makes me feel alive and curious and engaged with the world. So I was incredibly happy with my life, with no intention of changing it. But then I met you.
ANMD: On the day of our meeting, an eagle dropped a snake on a rock in Washington Square Park. All sorts of portentous.
ANML: I agonized over it. Christ, I didn’t want to be in a relationship again! But on the other hand, I was crazy about you and wanted to be with you every second!
ANMD: This was reciprocated. My situation was a bit different. When I started dating you I was just out of a long monogamous relationship, and I was not at all ready to dive into a similarly monogamous relationship immediately.
ANML: Non-monogamy was the obvious solution.