Just wanted to say thoughtful, and thought provoking article, but WOW, it was amazing how you managed to work a misplaced dig on capitalism. So let me ask you this; what in the heck does the voluntary exchange of goods or services at a mutually beneficial and agreed upon price have to do with someone’s insecurities, anxieties, and/or need for fulfilling relationships, or more specifically relationships being about “…trophies and rewards for being the -best- at anything.”????
The concept of being ‘King of the Hill’ or the champion that brings home the trophies has nothing to do with capitalism, and I would argue that as capitalism (true capitalism) is a win-win deal where both parties get what they want, or neither do. This seems more akin to what both you and the person who wrote the question to you, are seeking (and I would include myself in there as well).
That said, I am in a monogamous relationship purely by default. My partner and I both recognize that monogamy has worked for neither of us in the past, and we both have been considering “non-traditional” relationships, but I believe that the very anxiety of which you speak is what has been making it so hard for both of us to move forward. I believe that we both have the trust, honesty has been rule #1 for us both, both having come from relationships where our significant others lied and broke that trust. It is just that this is all new to us and we are afraid of taking those steps which might do more harm than good as we move forward with our relationship.
I agree with your points that a partner leaving (or cheating) is not in our control, and it has taken some time for me to come to accept this. By the same token, our actions speak louder than our words, and it is normal, and I would argue healthy, to exercise caution so that our actions do not give the wrong signal to our partners to let them believe that we care for them less than we do. It is normal for a person who’s ego has been hurt to lash out and do something painful to the other partner. Note that I said “normal” not “healthy”. It is for this reason that I think that both my partner and I are both very cautious to dip the toe too deeply into the proverbial pool.
I’m not sure that there is a question here, other than “any advice for a new couple exploring ‘alternative relationships’?”, but I wanted to thank you for the column because it helps me at least to identify the roots of some of my feelings.
First, let me say that my dig against capitalism was very well placed. Every aspect of our society is affected by the economic system we live in, as it is affected by every aspect of how we live. These things don’t exist in vacuums. We don’t live in “true capitalism”, we live in the capitalism we live in. And it’s my opinion that the profit motive and the way that we live has a massive, overwhelmingly negative influence on people’s self perception.
And when this comes to relationships, people often see relationships as extensions of their personhood and status — which is due to capitalism’s influence on us. I believe in a society which focused more on community, humanity and building a better life for everyone rather than profit, we would not be driven to see relationships as signs and symbols of our “success” as people.
But, to answer your question.
The bad news is this there isn’t really an easy way to get into non-monogamy. There is no safe way which will guarantee that you and your partner will remain the same as you are now. Once you try non-monogamy, that’s it. To quote one of my favourite films, “That ain’t no Etch a Sketch. This is one doodle that can’t be undid, home skillet.”
The good news is… that’s pretty much true about any decision you and your partner will make in the future. There is no safe way to move to a new neighbourhood. There is no safe way to try a new job. There is no safe way to have a child. A lot of the decisions you make together could have the potential impact to completely change your relationship. The only difference between the decision to be non-monogamous and any other decision, is that you have a lot of cultural scripts telling you either that something is a good decision and what you should do, or you have a realistic understanding that the decision, such as to have a child for example, will have both positive and negative effects on your life. The problem with people trying non-monogamy is that they either don’t have these cultural scripts to fall back on, so they experience more anxiety, or they don’t have realistic goals for what transitioning to non-monogamy should be like.
What will help you is to make your goal posts clear. If you expect to try non-monogamy and experience all the good things and never the bad, then any attempt you have will be a failure. You need to take a realistic approach to it and realise that this will change your relationship. Try to figure out what your needs are for your current relationship. What don’t you want to change? What do you need from your current partner? What does your ideal setup look like? I always advise people to think of this in terms of tangibles. Where and how will you spend your time?
It might make you feel less anxious if you understand what you want out of non-monogamy, what your partner wants and how you can go about finding it. It’ll also be clearer for people who you’re looking to date which might make it easier as well to find what you want. You can also consider starting to see a non-monogamy friendly couples therapist and talk about your concerns there. Even if you’re not technically non-monogamous *yet*, it still might be a good way to field out your concerns and have a safe place to talk about them.
Most of all, give yourself a break if you “mess up”. Not everything is meant to be perfect and we’re certainly not perfect. Anxiety is not something you can control or master in and of itself. We all have good days and bad days and sometimes the bad ones can get the best of us.
I hope this helps and good luck!