Historically, I’ve had a very rocky relationship with the idea of marriage, but I’m no different than any other girl who grew up dreaming about what their wedding would be like.
I so very much loved the pageantry of it. The flowers, the party, the very public and symbolic showing of my love for another person, and their love for me. I used to close my eyes and dream about coming around the corner and seeing the person I was about to marry, and seeing them see me for the first time. I knew what song I wanted to dance with my father to. It is something that I wanted very, very deeply.
Somewhere along the way, though, I gave up on it. It isn’t that I thought it would never happen. Quite the opposite, actually. As I became more cynical it just started to seem less… special. And, as I grew and engaged in the serial monogamy that would define my formative years as a young adult, it felt more and more like something you just did. The logical progression of a monogamous relationship. You meet, you date, you fuck, you date exclusively, you fuck exclusively, you move in together, you get married. Boom. That’s it.
I never bought into the idea of soul mates. There are too many people on this earth, and chances are I’ve had feelings for all of them. In all likelihood, there is always someone out there in the world who is better suited for you than the person you’re with. I accepted as truth that if I got married, it would end in divorce. Someone even once told me I was going to make a great ex-wife one day. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that people weren’t settling down with the person that would be able to make them as happy as humanly possible, they were settling down with the first person who made them happy enough. Instead of, “I do,” what I was really hearing people say is, “You’ll do.”
Over time, the more relationships I was in, the more I started to recognize my ‘monogamy block’. I could love the person I was with whole-heartedly, but that didn’t change the fact that I still went out and cheated on almost all of them. I just needed… more. I needed to feel wanted by someone who didn’t have an obligation to want me. I needed the excitement and fun of flirting with someone new. I needed things I would never be able to get from someone I was in a long-term relationship with. I justified it at the time (each time) by highlighting the fact that my cheating had nothing to do with the way I felt about my partner. I would come home to them and feel just as in love as I had before. Sex and feelings were not the same thing. I could sleep at night.
Every once in a while, though, sex and feelings were the same thing. On a few occasions, I found myself falling for the person I was cheating with. All of a sudden I wasn’t just cheating, I was having full-blown affairs. It was scary as all hell. An affair meant my relationship was over. If I loved this person, then clearly that meant that I loved that other person less, right? Right??
But then something amazing happened. Nothing. Nothing happened. Loving someone else didn’t make me feel any less love for my partner at all. I had room for both of them emotionally, with one not affecting or meaning a thing to the other. If anything, the invigorating qualities of new love (which is by far my favorite kind) made me feel more loving towards my long-term partner. There’s a way you see the world when you’re falling in love with someone. There’s a way you carry yourself, a glow that comes from within you, that has a profound affect on the way you interact with others. You start to see the things in your partner that you did when you were first falling in love with them. It is, quite frankly, beautiful.
There’s a very important point here that I really don’t want to get lost, though, which is: I was going about this in the worst possible way imaginable. While I rationalized everything I did so I wouldn’t have to face the reality of it, my actions were still a huge breach of the relationship(s) I was in. I never told any of my monogamous partners what was really going on. I knew that I could handle both, and that my feelings for them were unchanged, but I knew they wouldn’t see it that way. At the time, I didn’t know what ethical non-monogamy was. It never dawned on me that there might be a way for me to be getting everything I needed (even if that meant getting it from different people) without betraying the people I love.
So, now I know. I know that I’m not crazy, or broken, or selfish. I know that I’m not the only one. I don’t know what all of this will look like just yet, and that’s ok. I don’t need to. Not right now. Because for the first time in my life, it’s starting to look like one person might actually be enough for me, and that might just be me.