#Adulting Love & Sex Edition: Exploring Non-monogamy
January 1, 2019
#Adulting is a column hosted by our contributor Kimieabreak that explores what it means to be a 30-something woman trying to get by in today’s society. It features her personal musings, interviews, and research into navigating various aspects of this stage of life during this unique time in history.
How I decided to be in an ethically non monogamous relationship
I was always a late bloomer when it came to sex. I might have been the last literal virgin in my senior class—always curious but simultaneously terrified. Feeling so slow and left behind by my confident and promiscuous peers, I always felt like I just missed the boat. So I just waited for a barge and then I barnacled on it.
That’s what I seem to do. Any dick I do land on, I seem to trap for a least a decade. I’m 31 now, so the obvious math shows you how much of a sex kitten I really am.
My first love was a great love. We were high school sweethearts and spent eight years together as each other’s firsts—the last two being long distance. I came from a small town where most of my classmates were already married and having kids. So, marriage and happily ever after were definitely on my radar.
The Notebook came out my senior year, and I wanted that Noah and Ally Alzheimer love. That brings me back to you, sweet dedication love. Every time I watched that movie over those eight years I would take something new from it. I could relate to the nervous first-time sex scene, and I longed for that passionate “it still isn’t over” scene.
But, movies are visual fairy tales: influential but not realistic.
When I’m in love I’m as “wifed-up” as I’ll ever be. Save the rock and the paperwork, I’m there. Hopelessly devoted, the good girl, the one you can’t wait to take home to mom.
During the last few months of a two-year no-end-in-sight long distance relationship, I slipped for some good ‘ol male attention. I didn’t want a relationship with this person, I made that very clear, but I desperately missed human touch. After my could-be Noah found out that I had some heavy petting sessions (cue the good girl guilt), it irreversibly deteriorated eight years of companionship.
I knew moving forward that this one-for-one was no longer keen on this one-and-only blockbuster ending anymore.
In comes sexy tanker #2. Right from the start, during our first few dates, we were both on the same page about not needing to be sexually exclusive for life. Life happens. Relationships are long people—hormones flair. And fuck it, life’s an adventure, why destroy a good thing just because your partner had a safe, natural, experience?
So we agreed moving forward that we would be in an open relationship. (Though as the years went by we found a more appropriate “titles” to be revealed at the bottom)
We, as a society, put so much weight on sex and its position in relationships.
Now let me be clear, I do not condone cheating. Deception is the opposite of what Tanker and I agreed to.
Being in an open relationship, for us, means 100% communication all the time. From details about dates, or someone peaking our interests—we discuss rules and emotions. Even role-playing out some scenarios to see how much information we do or don’t want to know in that moment. It’s constantly evolving. If something feels bad or uncomfortable we talk it through until we can find out why things are triggering an insecure emotion.
Jealousy— to me— is just insecurity. You have to help each other feel secure when you decide to open your relationship. Monogamy feels safe. It’s a promise that your partner will be with you and only you and won’t leave you. Statistically speaking most people will, in their lifetime, find someone that they are not with attractive, and out of that those people, up to 60% will act on it.
The difference in my relationship is that we talk about it. We don’t place shame or betrayal on a natural reaction. We are each other’s number ones. Barnacle and tanker, drifting on different currents through different weather, but together in our ethically non-monogamous relationSHIP.
Ok, so with all that said here are 3 things you thought you knew about a non-monogamous relationship:
1. Just because you’re in an open relationship does not mean that everyone is fair game, or that you’re fucking everything that moves. For the first two years or so of my relationship, when people would ask about my relationship status I, for some reason, felt the need to be transparent and reveal that ‘yes we’ve been together for this many years and were in an open relationship’.
Believe me when I say, if the person asking me was a guy, he for some reason would think that was an invitation to then hit on me as if I were single, which has never been my intention. If it were a girl, the inevitable next question would be, “OMG does that mean he can fuck whoever he wants? I could never do that…and you’re ok with that?” (1. Yes, that means he can fuck whoever he wants but doesn’t mean he is. And 2. Yes, I’m ok with this. I wasn’t abducted into this lifestyle)
2. The hardest thing about being in a non-monogamous relationship is explaining it to other people. I have never had an issue with my decision to be in this type of relationship, but explaining this lifestyle to even my closest friends has been more work than I ever anticipated. Helping other people feel ok with your personal life decision is strange work.
It is similar to when I was a vegetarian. I’d tend to be met with defensive reasons why they could never do that, and that they “support” me but don’t understand. I’m now at a point where I don’t freely offer up what my genitals and I have arranged for ourselves, but if the conversation leads to people’s curiosity about my sex life, I am all open to tell as much detail as they can stand and want to know.
3. Titles seem to help other people feel more comfortable with your life decisions. I have a dear friend-couple who explained to us that the only way he understood and agreed to get married was that it helped solidify his commitment in his relationship to the outside world. Wife/husband comes with an insta-rulebook to the outside world that most people will agree on. Its gonna be only you and me together forever. Hard stop.
So when you want to commit yourself to someone else, and you do believe in loyalty and truth but you have some differences on how that applies to your relationship, it gets muddy. For a couple that didn’t want a social title construct, it seems we still needed to find one anyway.
At first, my guy had a hard time with the “title” aspect of our relationship. Even boyfriend/girlfriend comes with a monogamous ring to it. If either of us were “caught” by someone being out with ‘not each other,’ there would be this deceivious conviction. Still now, I don’t have one that I’m 100% inline with. He introduces me as his life partner, which in all sense of the word is accurate.
But—all my respect to the LGBTQ community—that feels like a whole new start to another conversation that I don’t want to have to navigate each time my relationship status comes up. So, I sidestep it with, “This is my man or my love.”