I keep crunching the numbers of everyone I know who does this non-committal, polyamorous type of relationship but I don’t see them any happier than monogamous folk.
But before I get too ahead of myself, let’s break down why people are taking this route in the first place.
If you’ve been in a few relationships you may have noticed a hilarious but annoying fact: the very things you like about someone will eventually become the very things that annoy you the most.
For example, you may like someone who is naïve because it is cute and innocent but the flipside to that is they can be easily taken advantage of by anyone.
Another example is that you love how sexually liberated someone is but it is that liberation that leads them to have difficulty with maintaining commitments.
Yet another example is when you fall for someone who is deeply sensitive but your actions, which you thought were benign, are actually causing them major discomfort.
This is the reality of getting close to someone. You realize that there are pros and cons to literally every personality trait. Some won’t bother you, but some will.
You can try and hack it so that you get with someone who cannot upset you, but you will fail just like everyone else who has tried this same thing.
Not to mention that by trying to get with someone who cannot upset you, you’re missing the point of relationships entirely.
Nevertheless, people are people and they will find the technology to make their lives easier. So instead of learning how to be with someone who is different, we have tried to outsource our needs to a few people.
There is no need to commit when you have someone for sex, someone to talk to about emotional stuff, someone for memes, someone from book club and someone that reminds you of your brother’s friend from back in the day with the dimples; and all these relationships are explicitly or implicitly sexual.
At a glance, it seems to make sense. The community is no longer just the neighborhood or our hometown. The community is global and we are exposed to so many cultures that we naturally assimilate what we are learning.
So if I like the sweet and savory taste of a hamburger, I can have that. But would I want that every day? Would I want to marry hamburger? Maybe not. Sometimes I could go for the crunchy and salty kale chips.
As a result, we learn to diversify where we get our desires met. Again, this seems to make sense but this doesn’t last, does it?
Eventually, someone wants more and they will express it. Someone is not as satisfied and they will express that. Whether it is done overtly or covertly, it is done. And it leads us back to the very issue that we were trying to escape in the first place:
People are not you. People are different. If we try to escape the contrasts of who other people are, then we will forget the importance of diversity and lose our ability to learn from those who are not like us.
Moreover, we may be able to scarf down different cuisines but there are just some foods that we do not like, some foods we love and some foods that make us sick even though we love them. All attempts to escape this fact are ultimately going to lead to the downfall of all sexual relationships.
But it is even more insidious because this is how we treat ourselves. When there is something going on within us that we do not like, do we embrace it? Do we look at why we feel the way we feel or why we’re thinking the things we’re thinking?
Or do we hate it and try to escape it?
Is it any wonder we cannot accept the idiosyncrasies of other people? Is it any wonder so many of us subscribe to hookup culture in such a mindless way?
When I said that by trying to get with someone who cannot upset you, you’re missing the point of relationships entirely, I was highlighting that instead of looking at difference and discomfort as a problem, look at it as something to learn.
As anyone who has ever ran away from their issues and then finally faced their demons will tell you, that is where the magic happens. You evolve into a better you. Society as that same opportunity when it comes to relationships if only we would embrace true intimacy and not just sex which is really just simulated intimacy these days.
Non-monogamy isn’t wrong in and of itself. I can’t knock anyone who takes that route because, in a way, it is more difficult that monogamy.
Think about it. Human beings aren’t particularly gracious to one another. The divorce rate is still high. Wars are still being waged. People are still being killed for liking the wrong sex and for changing their sex. People can barely handle one sexual relationship.
With all that said, what makes us think that we can handle more than one relationship? You could be in a committed relationship but for a lot of people, that is mere lip service. They are not really committed because there are so many things that are omitted.
People pay therapists to tell them their secrets and then for their therapist to tell them that they should share how they feel with their partner. But they can’t. They’re too afraid of the judgment and of triggering their ancient wound of abandonment.
But non-monogamy and diluting our attention between multiple people won’t save us because our core wounds are still present.
Our fears of judgment and abandonment prevent us from connecting. It gives rise to emotions such as fear and jealousy. We then secretly demand our partners become mind-readers and that they follow some script we’ve written for them in our minds.
The great irony is that the judgment and abandonment we feared is what we then dole out to those who dare to date us. People get too close? We have to bail. People don’t do what we want? We cheat. Someone else comes into the picture who can do a better job? We ghost our partner.
Our partners become mere tools for us to feel good. Not only is that deeply self-serving and selfish, it is likely that your partner is also using you. You both have an unconscious agreement to use one another to simulate acceptance.
You definitely don’t have genuine acceptance if you can’t even talk about how you feel or what you want. So are you going to try to be vulnerable with one person or are you going to sit in mediocrity with three?
This is why polyamory or non-monogamy isn’t going to make our love lives better. Eventually, vulnerability is going to come up. It is why those of us who try this have to swap out partners and leave a trail of broken hearts. Vulnerability is unavoidable.
We may have an issue with our parent for hurting us in the past. We may feel like our friend is not paying us any attention ever since they got a new girlfriend. We may feel like our performance at work demands a pay raise.
These are all times when we need to express who we are and how we feel. Sexual relationships are no different.
So while I agree that polygamy may very well be the norm in the years to come, it will only be accomplished by those of us who have mastered monogamy.
And as far as I’m concerned, people who mindlessly engage in hookup culture are just running from themselves.
Those of us who truly love our partners and have no issue with vulnerability will lead the charge for healthy relationships, whether monogamous or polygamous, because they have a good relationship with themselves first and then with the rest of the world.