I was once called a serial monogamist by my best friend. It was the first time I heard of it.
Urban Dictionary defines it (in the ways that fit me):
- one who spends as little time as possible being single, moving from the end of one relationship to the beginning of a new relationship as quickly as possible…serial monogamy is the desire and ability to enter new relationships very quickly, thus abbreviating any period of single life during which the serial monogamist may begin to ask questions of an existential nature
- A descriptor for a person who has commitment issues but does not engage in cheating or infidelity. A serial monogamist likes the emotional and physical intimacy of relationships and therefore seeks partners who want a longterm romantic relationship. A serial monogamist may or may not warn their partner about their fear of commitment. (Often the partners foolishly believe they will be able to change this about the serial monogamist.)The relationship may be short-lived or it may last a few months to years, however the serial monogamist is always holding back and if the other partner in the romance pushes at all, the serial monogamist will end the relationship swiftly and often without emotion.
I’m not entirely sure this comes across in any of my blogging. After all, I’m the happily married sister with kids.
What is not often seen is how crazy I would drive my once-upon-a-time very old-fashioned husband. I would attempt to break up with him all the time when we were dating, and my friend would talk me down from that (sometimes without him knowing about it before I even began damaging the relationship). She was used to me, had figured out my patterns, and was determined that I deserved the happiness he seemed to promise. (Though, looking back, I am not convinced I was fighting against happiness.)
Because she had termed me before I met him, I was incredibly open and honest with him how I truly did fit a serial monogamist in many ways. I warned him I would create chaos when it seemed we were most happy, how I would second guess, how I would be perfectly fine with monogamy for years – convincing both him and myself that I am capable of being with just one man – until suddenly I wouldn’t be okay with it. I warned him so he would stay away, or stay at his own risk, because one thing was clear to me by that point in my life – I couldn’t do monogamy for life (and perhaps it was due to a happiness issue).
We had been friends for years beforehand. He had only been in one relationship before, had only ever even kissed one woman before me. I slept with him within three days of breaking off a seven year committed relationship – he was safe and comfortable, a spring board to what I what I wanted (of sleeping around and having many relationships, living my life under my own terms – something I did not end up doing, but that was the plan).
I should’ve known that those terms – while out in the open – were not his intentions though he agreed to them. Should have known because he was known to me – a friend. Within a couple of months, he pushed for a commitment – gently at first, requested sexual monogamy, then dating. I pushed him to sleep with others – convinced if he settled down with me that he would regret not “sowing his wild oats”, that he would hit midlife crisis point and cheat (I dislike dishonesty), that he would always wonder what was out there, that he had no clue how good we were together and therefore screw it up thinking the grass was always greener. My friend and he both convinced me that he just wasn’t like that, that I couldn’t project things on another, some people didn’t have the same urges.
Next thing I knew, we were engaged (it took years, but it felt like it was moving along quickly to me). Then marriage, for years.
Every six months or so during this whole process, I would feebly attempt to extract myself away from him. He understood my flirtatious (I’ve been told this, I don’t see it most of the time) nature, he encouraged me to go out and lap hop, flirt, make friends with whomever I wanted, snuggle with others. We compromised on “no-no zones” of where people could not touch me, discussed that I have no issues with being touched (consensual, of course) and did not view it the same way he did. With these clearly defined but very generous boundaries, I felt like I could be content in monogamy (remember, I can convince myself I can do it). It wasn’t a happiness issue, nor even a commitment issue – I want to be with him for life…
I wasn’t content in monogamy anymore.
He actually requested a foursome that we did engaged in; and then later, we engaged in a threesome. He reluctantly agreed to polyamory – and then decided he couldn’t do it with the stress that he was professionally experiencing at the time.
We are ridiculously happy; we have a sex life that is consistently fantastic; we communicate and truly enjoy spending time with each other. To an outsider, they may not understand why I want to engage with someone new; he doesn’t and I barely understand it enough to explain it due to a mire of conformity. I’ve read books, tried to get him to read, paraphrased what I have read when it is appropriate to me.
I see-saw like crazy on this matter. The minute he lets me know I am hurting him with my desires, I pull back, shove my foot in my mouth and make a muck out of expressing the whys. I take it all back, tuck my tail between my legs and try to stay quiet with my wants both internally and to him.
And then it rears its ugly head and we begin the dance all over again.
A weakness in me that I hate is when I find someone I connect with on a level that I then want to sleep with (the temptation – I’m not doing it); I wish I could just be content and happy. But monogamy, to me, is a cultural belief system that doesn’t fit me. I am really in love with my husband, but I have not lost interest in others. I agreed to try on monogamy, despite my misgivings, because I felt I had no choice if I wanted to remain with him – and I still unquestioningly want to remain with him. An outside involvement would in no way take away from the love or intimacy that I share with him – at least from my side. The Ethical Slut calls this starvation economy – a fear that if you love one, you must love another less (I’ve used their great analogy of having more than one child – you don’t have a limit on how much love you can give another so the more children you have, the less love they get).
There are many people who can practice ethical non-monogamy, I would like to be one of them; I don’t know if we as a couple can, though we’ve survived our few trips into it. I have been nothing but honest in who I am, and though I’ve tried to self-impose cultural values and judged myself harshly for failing, I am tired of the internalized oppression. And I don’t even necessarily want to fall in love with another – though I’m not opposed to the idea. I want sexual friendships – a place between polyamory and one-night stands since I think that would be meeting in the middle for us. For the most part, I really am quite content with just him and I.
And while my husband seems to really understand and love me, I don’t know that he will accept me in this. I certainly don’t want him to compromise who he is either – he should not agree to something unless he’s accepting/understanding/comfortable doing something. But just as I don’t want him to live a lie, I no longer wish to. I understand that though I’ve expressed these things, I still agreed to marriage with all its old-fashioned concepts of only he and I; I understand I am trying to change the dynamics of that singular symbolic decision; I understand that it’s not fair to him.
These thoughts are certainly not original, nor is my stand – we’ve had this conversation countless times; and to be perfectly honest, odds are I’ll backtrack and put myself in a corner and wait it out until I need to voice it again. But my ultimate fear is I’ll become dishonest with him in my quest to not hurt him with my desires. He also knows this fear.