This is the first conversation I can remember having about my aversion to marriage: I'm in high school - either eleventh or twelfth grade, I can't remember which - and I'm in the laundry room in the basement of my house, talking with my mother.
She's folding something. Brown bath towels, I think. Anyway, the two of us are chatting amicably, as we often do while she's making her daily housekeeping rounds, and somehow we end up on the topic of marriage. "I am absolutely never going to get married," I tell her. "I can't even imagine why I would want to."
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I'm not sure if my mom looks me square in the eyes at this point in the story, or if she focuses on the laundry and gives the brown towel a good shake. But I do remember what she says. She says, "You'll change your mind." She says, "At some point, you'll start to think about it differently."
If you really want to understand this story, however, it's critical to also understand the tone of voice my mother uses while delivering that prediction. She doesn't say it with the condescending tone parents often use while discussing grown-up topics with teenagers. She simply... says it.
It's almost as if she's empathizing with me - maybe because she knows exactly how I feel. Maybe she's felt the same way herself at some point in the past? Or maybe it's simpler than that - maybe she can hear the sincerity in my voice. Maybe the only reason she says what she does is because from her point of view, it's the responsible thing to say – the parental thing. I don't know.
What I do know is that for as long as I can remember, I've had a philosophical aversion to the concept of traditional marriage. It has always seemed so wrongheaded to me.
But when I think about the way my mind worked 15 years ago, back when I was still in high school and not yet on anti-anxiety meds, I realize that it probably wasn't so much the actual concept of marriage itself that rubbed me the wrong way. Rather, it was the style in which so many American couples practice their marriages: with constant arguments, with disdain and loathing, and with cheating and lies.
And do you know what? I'm now smack-dab in my mid-thirties, and I still feel exactly the same way.
I've been involved in an open relationship with my girlfriend for about two years now. But hang on - before you whip yourself into a wild frenzy of anger and finger-pointing, let me first say that our arrangement is not even close to the type of hedonistic, over-the-top open relationship that most people probably fantasize about.
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One fact I will happily concede to, however, is that when compared to a commonplace, monogamous dating situation, ours is certainly is non-traditional. To wit: My girlfriend and I both occasionally see other women.
Back when we first started dating, in fact, my girlfriend was living with another man. This was a man she had been dating for six years, and with whom she also had an open relationship.