As I sat on a plush blue couch in a humid apartment in Midtown on a Tuesday night, I purposely put a partner of mine on the defensive.
“I just think it’s rude,” I said, “that say you’re going to stop seeing me altogether once you’ve found someone new even before you know if she wants to be monogamous. Like you’d drop me just for the idea of someone else.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve discussed this. I’ve been seeing BTSK for almost nine months; he’s the longest current relationship I have, and has nicely bridged the gap between my former polyamourous ways and my new not-poly-just-single life. We met on Tinder and officially count our first meetup as the Frank Turner show where I texted to ask “Wait, are you the guy three rows behind me who looks like Michael Weatherly?” We count our first date as the night I brought him to karaoke and he blew me away with his rendition of “Wrecking Ball.” We have a standing date every Tuesday and I’ve always tried to treat those evenings as socially sacred – if we only get one day a week, we should make the most of it.
It usually plays out pretty much the same way every week – we always end up watching Parks & Recreation reruns (sometimes with popcorn) and talking him through whatever latest life choice he has to make before retiring to his room for some solid (albeit vanilla-as-heck) sex. Most recently, he’s thinking of moving back in with his parents in the suburbs. He told me he does not expect me to ever come visit him.
For a majority of the time we’ve been seeing each other, I had a primary partner in Harold. For that reason, BTSK and I have never considered each other as someone with whom we’d spend the rest of our lives. We’ve met each other’s friends (though not until Harold and I broke up) but not each other’s family. We never use terms like “boyfriend” but have acknowledged that when this ends, we’ll probably refer to each other as exes. I like to think he’d help me move if I needed him, but beyond that we are what we are.
I felt bad for a while that BTSK couldn’t do girlfriend things with me, and I know he’s been seeking, for at least the last few months, someone who could fill that role better than I can. He’s still on Tinder and on OKCupid, and I’ve never been jealous about the messages he gets. I’m not a jealous person to begin with, anyway, but especially not with BTSK.
Return to the blue couch on a Tuesday; he is talking to me about a few dates he has lined up. “This one girl? We’ve been out a few times. Get this – She’s a self-described west-end snob.”
I don’t care what else she has to offer. He can do better.
“Does she know you’re casually seeing someone?”
“It’s just that she wouldn’t want to see me again if she knew.”
Monogamy has been so engrained in him that he hasn’t kissed her (or anyone aside from me) yet. That makes me nervous and a little guilty, because I made out with seven people at my birthday party alone. He’s from a small city east of here, and everything is very traditional there.
Monogamy right off the bat is an expectation in his world. I don’t deny that eventual monogamy is the end game of an overwhelming majority, and I know that having been in a long-term nonmonogamous relationship (even though it will be held up as an example of all the things that can go wrong) has made me a deviant from this.
That said, I think the presumption of monogamy is silly in the early stages of a relationship, particularly if the two of you (like dear BTSK and the West-End Snob) met on an online dating app.
Think about it: Two people meet on OKCupid or Tinder or POF or Grindr or, heck, HotOrNot IDEK. Though both of them have several cool matches worth getting to know, this one seems special. The conversation is amazing and both are attracted to each other based on the pictures. The first date goes swimmingly, and ends with a kiss. The second date is less great. Someone shows up late or reveals a weird opinion on Israel or makes a joke in bad taste about a cause important to the other. Is that enough of a faux pas to undo the fun of the first date? The third date goes better. One even deletes the app off of their phone. But it doesn’t work out. Everyone has those one-month flings that just fizzle out. Should they have to restart from the beginning? Reactivate OKC or Tinder and explain to other matches that they were less compelling than another match?
No. Eff that.
Date everyone once. Meet everyone knowing that everyone you’re meeting is also meeting other people. It gets rid of the Grass Is Always Greener mentality that is so prevalent in the early stages of monogamy. You have the chance to really get to know many people before committing to one. There shouldn’t be jealousy; there’s no expectation of commitment right away. Think of it as the sexiest process of elimination of all time!
“But T,” I hear you cry, “How ever will we know when someone WANTS to be monogamous?” Effing communication! Oversharing will ALWAYS be better than keeping things in. Say “Hey, this is great. Would you be interested in exclusivity?”
As far as I’m concerned, I can do whatever I want with other consenting adults until we have the exclusivity conversation, and I of course have an expectation of my partner(s) that they are doing the same.
After my breakup with my primary partner, everyone (including Harold) expected BTSK to start transitioning our relationship into something monogamous. I remember a few weeks after the breakup, I was lying in bed with BTSK and I said “You’ll want to know when I start sleeping with other people again, right? For safety reasons?”
He paused, and didn’t look me in the eye. “Yes, of course.”
A few weeks after that, we were hanging out again and I said, “Just so you know, I’ve started sleeping with someone else.”
“Oh. Guy or girl?”
“Guy. 007, actually.” (He’d heard of 007)
“Does this mean we have to stop seeing each other?”
“What? No! Of course not.”
And that was that.
Let’s return to the blue couch. I tell him that I know we’ll be ending things sooner or later, but what we have is pretty cool right now. I resent feeling like he thinks I’m disposable, and he can date anyone he wants but I won’t let him dump me unceremoniously after nine months because he feels weird about kissing two separate women in the same week. It’s rude AND nonsense.
Heteromonogamy, you guys. I don’t really get it.