What happened to monogamy? Is it gone for good? And are we better off for it?
“I still have to actively remind myself that the relationship template we were raised with is not always realistic.” A friend and I were discussing monogamy and how our expectations for it have fallen away, to the great joy of some of our friends and to the deep heartache of others. “Find a partner, marry for life, have kids — this is not what we should necessarily expect from our own relationships (lest we stress out our whole lives and potentially miss out on other opportunities).”
There are many ways to define a romantic relationship today. So many, in fact, that some can’t fit into a single label. There are free-roaming “whateverships.” You have the political definitions: partnerships, marriages, etc. There’s monogamy, polygamy, and a term that was coined by Dan Savage, “monogamish,” which carries the same exclusivity of a monogamous relationship in every regard except the sexual. Within these, you have subcategories, like polyamory. It can be a daunting task to try and understand each of these relationship models, and harder still for some to respect them.
For gay men, though, society has already labeled us as “different,” and often expects our relationships to be open to some degree. Our relationships (as well as our lives) are generally seen as more promiscuous. “Interestingly, as gay men we’re somewhat freed from the expectation of monogamy because we already broke the norm.
“But on the flip side, I think this contributes to the inability of our community to settle down, or of gays who want to settle down to find someone similar minded.” It’s true that finding a partner who is interested in monogamy in the gay community has gotten significantly more difficult due to the relationship revolution. Does this mean we have to reevaluate our expectations, though?
In my journey towards accepting monogamy as just one of many relationship ideals, I’ve had to balance keeping my wants and needs at the forefront while allowing some expectations to fall away. It’s left me with a closer idea of what might be in store for my future romances. “Talk of actual polygamy is interesting. Is it more accepted in gay communities because we’re already more ‘errant’? And what about the ubiquitous ‘open relationship?'” These are intimidating thoughts to the idealist romantic, for sure. But the exploration of them can help break down unrealistic relationship goals.
Some people today go as far as to demonize monogamous relationships, or put down those who partake in them. That solves nothing. Monogamy can and does work for some couples. It’s a blessing, though, to live in a time when there are options.
Being open-minded doesn’t mean you have to be open to multiple partners, nor does it mean you should stick with just one. It means listening to yourself and to your partner(s) without judgment. It just takes trust.