There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to our relationships. Sarah Louisignau offers a personal reflection on her own love story and talks about the many ways we are redefining monogamy.
“No group-living nonhuman primate is monogamous, and adultery has been documented in every human culture studied- including those in which fornicators are routinely stoned to death. In light of all of this bloody retribution, it’s hard to see how monogamy comes “naturally” to our species. Why would so many risk their reputations, families, careers- even presidential legacies – for something that runs against human nature? Were monogamy an ancient, evolved trait characteristic of our species, as the standard narrative insists, these ubiquitous transgressions would be infrequent and such horrible enforcement unnecessary. No creature needs to be threatened with death to act in accord with its own nature.” ― Christopher Ryan
If you haven’t read Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan yet, stop reading this article right now and go read it. Seriously, without in-depth context and the true historical understanding of human sexuality, this might just trigger you.
When I was younger (in my 20s) I dated a lot. I was wild and free, and I felt like dating was a necessary experience in humanness. Sometimes I fell in love, but I really enjoyed the high of those first raw months with a new person; discovering their personality, exploring a new mind and body, its movements, thoughts, perspectives and watching myself evolve a little bit for having known them.
Sometimes I would even love two people at once. At the time, I was pretty confused about this scenario, and eventually annoyed at having to choose. I never questioned the ability to love more than one person at once, I loved soo many people all the time, so why was this different?
Eventually the lust would fade and the true resiliency of the relationship would surface. Then I would come to my senses, the hormones would balance and I was usually the one to leave. Maybe I was using defense mechanisms, leaving at what some people would consider the real part, or love—but that’s another conversation. Maybe the lust just faded.
The point is these encounters were so enlivening for me that it was hard to stay in a relationship for long. New relationships were like looking into a different mirror, and seeing yourself brand new in their eyes. This helped me gain self-awareness, self-control and incredible confidence in myself.
Being promiscuous gave me perspective that I needed to finally know what I wanted.
Those first few months of lust help us overcome the damages of life in modern civilization—the feelings of being judged upon and not good enough, which begin early in childhood at school, and continue on into adulthood. In a new relationship, the judgments can be set aside and we glow with possibility.
Fast forward 10 years, with lots of wonderful relationship experiences to reflect upon, I felt like my heart was ready for some deeper consistency. I started to want a family. I was still not sure about the feeling of brightness fading in a relationship, or what to do about it if it happened, and how could I ever commit to one person for the rest of my life…
I was never told by anyone that there was a middle way, until I met my fiancé. He was not only very, very close to my ideal mate, but he also understood that lust phase, and welcomed the idea of keeping what we had, and also keeping the doors open to possibility. As our relationship grew into love, it grew with this premise from the beginning, and we considered ourselves “primary partners.” This differentiation left room for new encounters with minor partners, and actually strengthened our pair bond.
This love outshone all other experiences of love I had ever had before, it was rooted in a deeper understanding of our natures as humans. It had no dark side.
When you remove the elephant in the room called Infidelity, or perhaps you shine a spotlight on him and see him for what he really is—ancient human sexual programming—the fear dissolves. What you are left with is open communication about deep needs and desires, and an unprecedented level of trust.
Yeah, there is still jealousy and fear that comes up, but guess what, this is where mindfulness comes in. When you become mindful about your reactions and programming: voila! You are no longer controlled by unconscious reactions, and you decide how to drive your energy. Big things can shift literally overnight. I like to say, this is where I do my Yoga.
As the details are worked out between us, which are totally unique for each couple—and my fiancé and I have our ‘outside relationships’—we get that blast of lust, and it’s amazing.
It’s unrealistic to fulfill every need and desire for one another; in fact, it’s completely stifling to have those expectations laid heavily upon us. So, we have given ourselves permission to have our needs met, like the desire for the holy lust, without compromising the strong foundation, the love, we’ve built together as a primary couple. And here’s the best part: that lust comes home with us! It brings newness and fresh energy to our primary relationship—and a deep contented happiness. To return to our loving partner with acceptance waiting at home—there is nothing better.
How do you date in a non-monogamous relationship? Whether you have a primary partner, or several candidates, or none at all, the same rules apply. Here are my ideas about what makes this a truly sustainable model for relationships that actually last.
1. Get your shit together.
I mean this in the most loving way. If you try to enter into non-monogamy without first digging deep and feeling through your triggers, you will earn yourself some heartbreak. This isn’t for the weak at heart, and your recklessness will come back to haunt you later.
Do some brainstorming, make a brain map of the things that scare you the most, stream-of-consciousness write about it. Go to some meet-ups to find out what your community is doing. Read some books. Aside from Sex at Dawn, some other interesting books out there, if your interest gets piqued: The Ethical Slut and Why is My Penis Shaped Like That?
2. Understand the difference between slingshot dating and non-monogamy.
If you have a bunch of partners in a row and are flinging yourself around in unkempt fashion and then decide to start ‘doing polyamory,’ you will be missing the point. There is a difference between being a regular ol’ slut and being an ethical slut. The difference is mindfulness. I can attest to this.
Just like our non-monogamous first cousins, the Bonobos, discernment and choosiness still applies. Bonobos use sex for social cohesion, resolving arguments, creating community, procreation and pleasure. Analyze your goals and triggers, and if you are being promiscuous because you have unresolved issues, you should see #1 above. I love you.
Start off the conversation early in the relationship, like in the first few dates. Things can move fast; so, if you do have goals of being non-monogamous, this should be made clear so that the other party has ample time to feel it out. If you wait too long, it will feel sneaky and that validates the fear and confusion surrounding non-monogamy.
Act as an ambassador. My fiancé brought it up on our first date, and I was way-more open to hearing it then. It was just part of his life goals. Communicating early on is beautiful—like how much time you have, where you are with yourself and where you’re going with your career. Don’t worry; there is nothing sexier than someone with his or her life goals figured out.
4. Eject the Guilt.
Especially in the first few years of this lifestyle, there are lots of mistakes made, boundaries crossed, miscommunications and triggers. It’s a process, and remembering that will eliminate one major pitfall, the kryptonite of non-monogamy: guilt.
We are already programmed to feel guilty about sex, with all of our cultural and individual histories of sex shaming. It is a major obstacle that, once you’re over, will open your life up in so many ways. Not just with how you feel about being ethically slutty, but with how you feel about honoring your boundaries, taking steps into creating your own happiness, receiving love and support, and so much more.
The part where we redefine what is ‘normal’ or ‘moral’ or ‘good’ is the juicy stuff. The part where we throw away the rules of our institutions, and feel from our hearts; that’s where the mindful yoga is. Where mindful dating happens. When we understand and reclaim the true patterns of human sexuality, a model like ours will be considered the new monogamy; and it will be a much more resilient one because we have no elephants hiding in corners.
The windows are open, sunlight is pouring in.
Our relationship looks nothing like the norm, and it shouldn’t. Two people decide what makes a relationship work, because they are the ones living it. We opted for partnered non-monogamy to fulfill our desires and needs. You might find another arrangement, or not. At least now you are aware of alternatives. Really, it’s the most normal thing you could do in a relationship. We are pretty vanilla as far as kinkiness goes.
Here’s where the redefining happens: in our own households, with our own liveliness at stake.
[image: via HBO.com]