I don’t think I’m massively out of touch with the world, nor do I think I’m particularly romantic, but recently a few things have caused me to call my views on monogamy and love.
I’ve never dated in the traditional sense of the word – met someone online, through a friend, at work – and seen that blossom gradually into a relationship, so I don’t know at what point most couples discuss the subject of exclusivity. I’d imagine, and hope, that it happens once they start to like each enough that they’d rather spend time with one another than anyone else who might be on the dating horizon. That they agree to be monogamous because, y’know, they care about each other. And even then, it confuses me a bit that it requires a full conversation, or even a discussion – surely you just need to establish that you’re both similarly into each other, and that’s that?
I can see that, when it comes to discussing monogamy with someone you’ve been sleeping with on and off for several years, the situation becomes a little more complex. The fact that the existing arrangement has carried on for so long suggests that both parties find it largely satisfactory. Except, of course, if you’re having to have a conversation about a potentially different set up, it suggests one of you maybe isn’t quite as happy with the arrangement as they used to be.
When it comes to my own life, if I’m having that conversation, it means I’m really not happy with the old arrangement. I’ll avoid difficult conversations at all costs – in fact I’ve fucked someone in the Gents at his place of work in order to stall the conversation for as long as possible. The reason for this is simple: even when we’re just fucking on and off, I’m already being faithful – I have neither the desire nor the emotional capacity to handle sleeping with more than one guy at a time.
So that’s where I behave badly – if you know a conversation needs to be had, shying away from it is counterproductive and unfair on the other person, who may also have had to psych themselves up for this chat. However, I’m shying away because I don’t understand what there is to discuss. If I’ve been sleeping with you for a while, and the subject of monogamy comes up, I think only the following three paths are possible:
1) Ideally, it won’t have been me who brought the subject up in the first place. I already have feelings for you, but I haven’t said anything because I’m a complete scaredey-cat and have been doing my utmost to hide the way I feel (no, this story isn’t very ‘girlpower’). One day you realise that you have feelings for me and that these feelings are important enough to warrant us being in an exclusive relationship. It may not work out, but the mutual affection is great enough for it to be definitely worth a try.
2) I somehow find the guts/something pushes me (far more likely) into admitting that I have feelings for you and that I’m no longer happy to sleep with you if you’re also sleeping with other women. I tell you this, and you care about me enough to want to try being in an exclusive relationship with me. It may not work out, but the mutual affection is great enough for it to be definitely worth a try.
3) I somehow find the guts/something pushes me (far more likely) into admitting that I have feelings for you and that I’m no longer happy to sleep with you if you’re also sleeping with other women. I tell you this, and you say that you’re sorry, but while you like me and enjoy the sex, you’re not interested in an actual relationship with me. Sure, I’m sad and a little bit hurt, but with time I’ll get over it and find a guy who does like me enough to want the same things I do.
Do you see why I don’t think there’s a full-on discussion in any of these scenarios? To me, monogamy is black and white – you either like me enough to give it a go, or you don’t. Yes, there’ll need to be conversations about the ins and outs of a monogamous relationship: how often we see each other, if/when we get to meet each other’s friends etc. etc., but the actual monogamy bit is much more clear cut.
Because sadly, I think that if, like me, you avoid conversations you’d rather not have, from time to time people will exploit that. I might have told a guy that I’d rather he no longer slept with other women, but if I keep putting off actually talking about it, the word can keep cropping up and yet nothing ever changes: I’m still sad and jealous as hell that he’s still fucking other people, and he too gets to carry on exactly the same way he did before.
The above situation has happened to me, and it’s made me more cynical about men than I used to be, something which in the past I wouldn’t have thought possible. Now I think they’ll all play on my unwillingness to talk about commitment, and I’ll keep fucking them nonetheless – trapped between fear of the conversation on one side and the fear of them no longer being in my life on the other.
And I do think there’s a romance side to it, too. No one wants exclusivity to become a business deal to be wrangled out with both parties trying to concede as little as they possibly can. I don’t want you to be faithful to me because you feel you have to be, I want you to be faithful because you want to be – because your feelings have developed to the point where you’re happy to give up other girls, not resentful about it.
So what do you think? Do I need to man up and tackle the issue of monogamy head on or am I right that the desire for monogamy comes from the heart, not the head, and that it doesn’t therefore need a discussion at all?