Traditional monogamy doesn’t work for me, but neither does polyamory.
I already knew that traditional monogamy wouldn’t work for me. I saw how it presented a perfect illusion that often failed to deliver. “Happily ever after” felt like a myth. We don’t ever own or possess anyone, even when we are married and have a piece of paper and a promise from them. Expecting our partner to be the beginning, the end, and everything in between seemed a recipe for self-delusion at best, disaster at worst.
So I was keen to find better alternatives. When I ended up on a first date with a guy who matter-of-factly said he was exploring polyamory, I took it as an invitation to stretch out of my comfort zone. Polyamory looked to me like the next frontier. After all, I’m living in a sex-positive, progressive community where open relationships are not only common but encouraged. Wanting your partner but not needing them, loving them unconditionally, and taking responsibility for your own emotions instead of blaming your partner’s behaviors—these are all the hallmark of a “conscious” relationship, right?
Things were smooth sailing at first. I didn’t mind that he was kissing another woman the evening before, or that his Tinder profile was still open and active. But after we’d been intimate about two weeks, something changed. I could no longer hold on to my equanimity when he vocalized his desire to explore other women.
“It’s freedom of expression for me,” he said. “I don’t want any limits.”
Yes, I understood. That was valid. Who am I to stop my partner from expressing his sexual self? But it just didn’t feel good to me.
One time, he was out of town, and in our usual evening phone call, he enthusiastically told me about a threesome he’d had the night before. While I appreciated his openness and transparency, I also felt sad, squirmy, and restless.
However, I wrote my feelings off as “disempowering.” I wanted to reach that “enlightened,” “evolved” state where I could be okay with sharing my partner, letting him do what made him happy. I wanted his happiness to be my contentment, too. I worked hard to be more open, more loving, more understanding because on the face of it, polyamory did make sense to me. Logically speaking, that is.
But the relationship became more and more strained, and I became more and more volatile, until it hit me one day: I’d been attempting to overwrite my own erotic intelligence.
Not my intellectual intelligence, the kind that helps me do mental calculations or speak new languages. Rather, my erotic intelligence is a wisdom coded deeply in my body to help navigate intimate relationships in a way that is personalized for me. It tells me whether I’m on track or off track in a relationship, whether what’s happening is for my highest good and purpose.
This intelligence kicked in not when my partner told me he wanted a non-exclusive sexual relationship, but when I deluded myself into thinking I could be okay with it. It went off like an alarm in the background, signaling to me that I was off my purpose. It’s not about what he chooses to do, it’s about what I choose for myself.
The whole thing about loving your partner unconditionally and taking responsibility for your own emotions remains true. I can still love him unconditionally and accept what makes him happy. At the same time, I can set clear boundaries about what is okay and not okay with me. I can choose the type of relationship and dynamics I want to engage in. I can be unattached to whether we will continue to be in a relationship or not, regardless of my love for him. I can take responsibility for my own well-being, by choosing what works for me and saying no to what doesn’t.
It’s got nothing to do with morality or level of consciousness. After waking up to my own erotic intelligence, I saw how those “evolved” and “enlightened” labels I used for polyamory were merely a made-up product of my ego.
Neither polyamory nor monogamy is more superior, evolved, or enlightened than the other. There is no right or wrong, good or bad. I do not need to strive for one over the other: I need to find out my personal preference right now—and that may change with time—my purpose right now, and then choose to stay aligned with them. Alignment is a matter of integrity. If a relationship does not make me feel more alive and aligned with my life purpose, then it’s not for me.
Being in a committed relationship is a big part of my purpose at this time. I don’t know how or why, I just know it in my guts and bones. I know that the greatest contribution I give to the world will spring from my being in a committed relationship. So, not honoring that calling feels like living out of integrity with myself. My erotic intelligence was trying to tell me about the misalignment. What if I could surrender to my own genius instead of doubting it, second-guessing it, or trying to bypass it?
When I did that I realized: I didn’t need polyamory. I just needed a way of relating other than conventional monogamy. A way of relating that honors my erotic intelligence, aligns with my purpose, and inspires me to be a connoisseur of life.
Starting with me, regardless of my partner’s preferences, I designed my own version of relating that would make my heart sing: A relationship where my partner and I actively choose to be sexually exclusive with each other, while staying open to non-sexual loving touch and emotional intimacy with other people. A relationship built on the foundation of complete trust. It means we’re free to hang out and have dinner with friends of the opposite sex. We can even cuddle, eye-gaze, breathe synchronously, or do any non-sexual Tantric practices with anyone we choose. We’re available for compassionate, playful, loving exchange with more than one person. However, when it comes to physical sexual engagement, we remain exclusive to each other.
When he and I finally compared notes, it was obvious that we were heading down two different paths. Our relationship transitioned from a sexual one to a deeply supportive, caring, and trusting friendship. To this day, I’m grateful for the opportunity to explore an alternative to a well-worn tradition, and then, to carve out my own path that’s also different from the usual alternative.
Emily Nature helps smart, successful career women have fun in the game of love and relationships.