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Monogamish: Am I Giving Up On Polyamory?

BY ELSA MCGRATH

I haven’t dated many people.

In my 22 years of living, and 8 or so years of being interested in other people romantically, I’ve had 2 relationships I would consider serious.

The first was my high school boyfriend, Andy. We started dating at 15, and it was one of those ‘first love’ dealios whereby they could potentially get away with a fucktonne of wrongdoings because we were sooooo tooootally going to get married and have babies that I had to forgive him if shit hit the fan in order for the relationship to work.

The final straw was finding out he had cheated on me. Again. With twelve girls. And six guys.

We stuck it out for over two and a half years before it crumbled. And when I say crumbled, I mean, exploded violently into a billion tiny shards, and then in turn, those shards exploded yet even more violently into a billion tiny more shards never to be salvaged.

The final straw was finding out he had cheated on me.

Again.

With twelve girls.

And six guys.

No emotions to prod at your brain in the night, to make you think things you don’t want to think, to twist your stomach like a stinky wet dish cloth that’s been soaking in the sink with all the mushy stray bits of food because your fucking housemate couldn’t be bothered to take it out after it accidentally fell in while they were sneakily putting their hoarded plates next to the sink the night before.

In my heartbroken stupor I vowed never again to dedicate myself completely to someone lest I be fucked over.

It was around this point that I learnt the term ‘polyamory’.

It’s a term that describes the acceptance of intimate relationships that are open, rather than exclusive, yet are still built on the trust, and consent of everyone involved. 
That sounded pretty cool to me. 
 
What followed in the years after that not-so-great welcome to the world of relationships was a string of pairings that had me feeling claustrophobic, and scared to be ‘tied down’. 

I don’t know if it was the crushing loneliness, but I wanted to feel that romantic closeness without the, well, closeness. And with more than one person.

In my head, it just felt better that way.

It was less scary to know exactly what you were getting into, and where you stood.

Just a casual thing.

No strings attached.

No emotions to prod at your brain in the night, to make you think things you don’t want to think, to twist your stomach like a stinky wet dish cloth that’s been soaking in the sink with all the mushy stray bits of food because your fucking housemate couldn’t be bothered to take it out after it accidentally fell in while they were sneakily putting their hoarded plates next to the sink the night before.

Polyamory just seemed – better.

I pin-balled between humans, never letting myself become too attached or invested.

The times I did let my guard down I got hurt, or ended up hurting others. Not through malice, but instead through decisions that didn’t take into account other people’s feelings. I wanted to be selfish.
 It was an uncomfortable, and very scary, feeling having someone else’s emotions, and happiness plopped into the palms of your hands for you to squish around and poke and try your darndest to look after.

Especially if looking after this squishy, pinkish blob wasn’t very high on your list of priorities. I want to look after my own squishy, pinkish blob before I take on someone else’s.

I was having my cake, and eating it too.

I realised ‘hey – I really, really like this guy. I might even love this guy. Fuck you little stomach goblins, I’m not going anywhere’.

Then, out of the blue, I found myself in the whirlwind beginnings of a shiny new relationship. 
It may have been the cocktail of adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin of new love coursing through me – but all of a sudden; the idea of monogamy didn’t seem so scary. 
I didn’t feel cut off by ‘lack of choice’, I didn’t feel claustrophobic, and I certainly didn’t feel ‘tied down’.

Coming to this conclusion certainly wasn’t without its struggles, and second guessings. 
In the beginning, my mind raced as I tried to figure out how to do this whole ‘monogamy’ thing. That may seem like an odd statement to some, but having been on my own and being able to do whatever, and whoever, I pleased, jumping into a committed relationship was slightly daunting to say the least.

Including humans, scientists have calculated that only 3 to 5 percent of mammals form lifelong, monogamous bonds. Those odds seemed pretty drastic. 
But I liked this guy. A lot. 
And I wanted to give it a good try.

Pepper Schwartz, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington says, “Monogamy is invented for order and investment –not necessarily because it’s ‘natural.’” 

Usually in a new pairing, a week or so in I start to get these nagging feelings in my gut. I’m not sure what they are, but they certainly don’t feel good. And deep down, for whatever reason, I know they mean that I need to get out. 
This relationship was no different.

Like clockwork, those feelings reared their ugly little, horned heads – poking at my organs with sharp sticks until it wasn’t possible to ignore them any longer. 

But this time, I chose not to listen. 

I’m not sure when exactly they stopped poking, but they did.

And not long afterwards, I realised ‘hey – I really, really like this guy. I might even love this guy. Fuck you little stomach goblins, I’m not going anywhere’.

Right now, monogamy is offering me something that polyamory couldn’t – its giving me a sense of safeness, and security that I hadn’t felt before. 

Will I spend the rest of my life with this person? I don’t know.

My theory is that humans go through phases of monogamy, polyamory, and every facet in between, for our entire lives. It’s a unique journey for every individual and though we may not act on our carnal feelings, that primal instinct will still bubble away inside. I’m enjoying the season of monogamy I’m currently in, but who knows, maybe this will lead to a strong foundation of trust being built that could allow for the opening of the relationship in the future.

Being a realist, I doubt this initial chemical flush of intense love is going to last forever, but does that mean I’m going to switch back to the lifestyle I lived before? Or am I becoming a mauve-cardigan wearing housewife in baggy jeans and sandals? I don’t think so. Regardless of whether this lasts, I’m not ready to trade in my gimp suit just yet.

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