I recently ended a long term romantic relationship. We’re still on friendly terms, it’s one of the many things I’ve been talking about with a therapist. I’m okay, and I think the breakup has given me time to think about myself and what I want from relationships.
I think what I want is not polyamory. And I’m starting to wonder if polyamory was ever something I wanted.
This isn’t me crusading against polyamory. It’s the right choice for some people, and a good choice for others, and just because it didn’t work for me and might not be the right choice for me in general doesn’t mean it’s a bad or wrong choice. Just as people talking about how monogamy hurt them doesn’t mean they think all monogamy is wrong, me talking about how non-monogamy hurt me doesn’t mean I think all non-monogamy is wrong.
Because non-monogamy did hurt me. Non monogamy made it easy for me to ignore the fact that my relationships were emotionally unfulfilling. For example, sex is a big part of how I express affection and love. I didn’t have sex with my last long term partner for half our relationship, and a lot of the other long term romantic relationships I’ve had have been sexless. And this didn’t mean any of these people were wrong to not want to have sex. It was their choice and they had the right to make that choice. But having this framed as not a simple incompatibility that we could choose to work through or decide not to work through, it felt like a personal failing. My personal failing. And non-monogamy allowed me a way to ‘patch’ my relationships rather than addressing the fundamental issues with those relationships.
Instead of talking to my partners about a difference in the kinds of intimacy we wanted, I just had casual sex with other people. Because that was a way to ‘deal’ with what was missing without bothering them, without feeling like I pressured them into anything. And this was a way I dealt with other issues as well.
My ex-partner once remarked that telling her about my feelings was making her perform emotional labour. And instead of leaving the relationship- which I should have, because a partner who makes you feel like your feelings are inherently morally wrong is toxic- I stayed. I stayed because the fact I was non monogamous meant I could deal with not feeling wanted or desired by my partner by having casual sex, and that was easier than actually acknowledging my relationship was toxic.
So where do we go from here?
While I believe that non-monogamy can work for some people, it did not work for me. Maybe I will choose to go back to non-monogamy one day. Maybe it will work for me one day. But now is not one day. Not only that, but non-monogamy hurt me. Maybe I am still fundamentally polyamorous, in that I have some kind of capacity to love multiple people. But that ultimately doesn’t matter, because I don’t want to have that kind of relationships. I am choosing not to have that kind of relationship. And it’s a choice that I think is good for me.
So am I monogamous now? Yes? Maybe? Does it matter?