Since when did monogamy become the new norm?
I recently got back into the ‘dating’ game.
I quotation that word because as I build my awareness, I’ve become more and more sensitive to the complexity of words, and the baggage they carry with them.
For a long time, I perceived ‘dating’ as a process of meeting women with the overall intent of developing a romantic, monogamous relationship.
However, after a period of extreme solitude these past few years, as well as a battle with anxiety and depression, I’ve become more cautious of blindly abiding to default definitions in my life which may not longer be relevant, and were likely conditioned unconsciously during my upbringing or have simply been labelled as cultural norms that must be accepted.
Over time, these default perspectives become patterns that execute instinctively, without thought, as soon as they’re triggered. While this is a good tool for survival, it’s a terrible habit for personal and spiritual growth. Our patterns lock us into an egoic personality, and until we are able to see them from what they are (i.e. limited definitions of ourselves) they run us like a robot.
I intentionally entitled this blog “Braking Patterns” (omitting the ‘e’) because the only way to truly break a pattern is to stop it altogether! And the only way to stop it altogether is to become aware of it, explore it, and either replace it or let it move through your consciousness without entertaining it.
In the case of ‘dating’, I first began by reflecting on how I really felt about the intent I unconsciously associated with the term.
The first characteristic (romantic) I easily resonated with. As someone who has ‘touch’ as one of their love languages, intimacy is a highly valued priority for me. I like to get close with people through deep communication in general, and so being able to add the element of physical touch with women takes it to a whole new level of fulfillment.
The second characteristic (monogamous) was a different story however. As I explored where that assumption came from, I was left in awe. From my knowledge, the idea of romantic relationships needing to be monogamous was completely arbitrary. It was something people just ‘did’ without any need for justification.
Monogamy is a form of dyadic relationship in which an individual has only one partner during their lifetime — alternately, only one partner at any one time — as compared to non-monogamy. (Src: Wikipedia)
My parents did it, my sister did it, pretty much all my friends are doing it, and so it was just something you just did. But that wasn’t a good enough reason for me to follow suit. I wanted a clear reason as to how this type of relationship was relevant to me and my needs/desires.
The more I discovered for myself, the less I resonated with the idea.
As I dove deeper into asking “why?” I noticed a few things about our cultural beliefs around romantic/intimate relationships…
- We consider jealousy a bad thing that is to be avoided at all costs.
And I’m not exaggerating. We literally sign legal papers and hold a big ceremony in front of friends of family, all of which hold us emotionally hostage… I mean, accountable… to promises of maintaining certain feelings, despite knowing that our feelings are always shifting over time.
What’s even more interesting is this undertone of avoiding one emotion that seems to generally (and randomly) be accepted as impossible to overcome — jealousy.
I remember the first time I dabbled in open-relationships a few years ago where I was overcome with jealous feelings, the advice I usually got was that it’s ‘normal’ and I should just end that relationship and move on. Not once was it suggested I work through it. On the other hand, with barely any effort I can find advice that coach me on how to work through my anger, sadness or nervous emotions.
Sure confronting and braking the pattern of jealousy is hard, but that shouldn’t imply we don’t try. In fact, the absurdness of it only motivates me more to take on the challenge!
- We’re addicted to external validation. When I began to really meditate on why I only wanted to be with one person, I noticed a big part of it was gaining validation that I was loved by someone no matter what. While this seemed natural, I came to realize it wasn’t. It was simply just an emotional crutch, where I use someone to feel good about myself. Not only does this place undue pressure on the other person, but it also prevents me from further filling in the gaps they fill, through myself. If I’m constantly dependent on someone to ‘love me for the way I am’ it gives me every reason to be stagnant in my personal growth.
This isn’t a shocking mentality considering we live in a society that is addicted to external validation in all regards, which allows the economics of capitalism to run rampant in controlling us.
As I continue my journey within, I realize that there is no amount of external validation that will bring me true peace. Even when I get something I want, there will only be more wants. And inevitably if I rely on one person to fulfill those wants romantically all the time, I’m only asking for disappointment.
- We fear being alone with ourselves. While going through extreme solitude, especially during depression, was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, it was also the most rewarding. The more I spent time with myself, the more I built a relationship with that same person. And while the beginning was a lot of troubling thoughts, as I moved through and opened up space for new awareness, I began to see that a lot of those thoughts were conditioned by everyone around me. They weren’t really me, but rather reflections of the world that surrounded me.
The more I became aware of this, the easier it was to let go of these thoughts and start to ask myself who I really was and wanted to be. And the more I discover who that was, the more I enjoyed the company, without wanting any external interference.
However, I noticed this isn’t the norm in our culture. We’ve become so lost in other people’s opinions that we spend so much time maintaining a persona that will keep them in our lives, because we’re scared we’re nothing without them. But the truth is — it’s through becoming nothing without them that you can actually figure out who you truly are in this lifetime.
As I’ve gotten closer with a woman lately, I am noticing how important my solitude has been and continues to be. It’s because of it that I can be self-sufficient without her, but at the same time inter-dependent with her. And in that dynamic, I see no reason why I can’t sustain multiple romantic partnerships without sacrificing any of my feelings for her or myself.
Now of course, my thoughts above aren’t at all meant to blanket statement all monogamous relationships. Clearly, as with any topic, one can debate the opposite of my points in favour of monogamous relationships. However, I can only speak of what resonates most for me in this moment, and right now that’s not monogamy.
What do you think?
What are your reasons for choosing monogamous or non-monogamous relationships?