Coming to Terms with what Monogamy Isn’t

I’ve been saying for the more than 2 years since my divorce, and maybe more like 2 decades, “I’m not very good at monogamy.” I was married for 18 years. I cheated physically during a chunk of my mid 20s and I cheated emotionally continuously. Or at least that is what I was told. If I had feelings for anyone other than my husband, it was cheating. I don’t feel that way now. Reality is, everyone is going to have interests in other people at some points in their lives. It’s just human nature. How we handle those interests is something that needs to be negotiated at the beginning of a relationship or at whatever time you become aware that you haven’t put a plan in place. You need a plan.  (Read Mating in Captivity for more on that subject.)

My marriage was basically the only long term relationship I had ever been in until more recently. Ok, not “basically”… it WAS. He was my highschool sweetheart starting mid way through my junior year. During the course of the next 21 years we survived in an emotionally abusive relationship. I say “we” because we are both damaged from it and we both did the best we knew how. I don’t want to lay blame all one direction. I know neither of us had amazing role models. We were doing our best together, with no direction of what was healthy, what was “right”. So when manipulative (ie emotionally abusive) behavior occurred, I couldn’t see it as clearly as I do now. In retrospect, a few years out and in multiple loving long term relationships (of various kinds), I can list time after time of really shitty things that were said and done. The problem: how much was I responsible for? It’s like a catch 22. I don’t know if what I did caused his behavior of if what he did caused mine. I can say that I left that marriage thinking monogamy meant that my partner would control my every move, never support the real me, make me feel like I was never enough, not emotionally support me, treat me as a sex toy – void of my own agency, not encourage any sort of personal or professional growth, discourage friendships, and that I never felt safe to tell the truth – to be open and honest… I could probably go on and on. It was a negative view, obviously.

As I’m starting to unpack some of the memories, confronting words that still linger in the back of my mind, I’m feeling kind of stupid for blaming monogamy for all these things. That was just a shitty relationship. It would have been shitty no matter what style of relationship we had.

Which leaves me asking: could I practice traditional monogamy? Let’s get real, I don’t do anything traditionally. I think I will forever be creating very unique relationship styles moving forward. Each person’s needs are very unique. Why would I pigeonhole myself into rules that don’t work for both of us?

What I do know: a good relationship is a good relationship. I have lots of them. I do have one “big love, big feelings” relationship that is moving deeper and deeper. I like it. I’m not monogamous enough and I’m not poly enough. But I am in love enough. That makes me happy. 🙂

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