Exploring alternatives to traditional monogamy and the consciousness and philosophy behind choices
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the basic philosophical difference between people who think in terms of “either/or” and those who think in terms of “both/and”. The latter is the (albeit in its most simplistic form) basis of Tantric philosophy. In a non-dual world view such as Tantra, either/or doesn’t usually make sense. Either/or supports a belief that one must choose between two things; as if the world were not infinitely abundant with enough room for “both”. Tantra, with its non-dual perception, sees everything as part of a greater whole. From that frame of mind, it’s difficult to choose one thing as better than another.
The “either/or” philosophy makes sense when one choice is appealing and the other is unappealing. But what happens when both choices are attractive? For example: what if you want to be socially monogamous with your partner but enjoy sexual relations with other people? In many cases, you choose both, but do so in ways that don’t support open, honest and loving relationships. In other words, you cheat. Cheating eventually supports the “either/or” mindset; by not being honest, you deny yourself the ability to have both options. Cheating destroys the foundation of long term relationships by eroding both trust and honesty. Without trust and honesty, you’re left holding the shell of a relationship.
Most people don’t believe their partner would be open to alternatives to straight monogamy, so they don’t bother to broach the subject. But there is a whole lot of space between straight monogamy and full-on polyamory. The other day I was talking with a friend about the space between these two extremes. My personal point of view is that straight monogamy was fine when relationships lasted an average of ten years. These days relationships could theoretically last fifty years or longer. They usually don’t, and the most common reason they end is because one or both partner cheated.
Another reason people don’t broach the subject of exploring alternatives to monogamy is that they’re confused. The relationship has gotten stale, and they think that means they’re not supposed to be with their partner anymore. It doesn’t have to be that way.
What if more people explored other options to monogamy in an open, honest way? What if we expanded our perceptions of romantic relationships in ways that honored both partners but allowed for some space between the two? Could we honor our partners for what they bring to uplift the relationship, and without judgment look to others to fill in the gaps?
It is unreasonable to expect one person to fill all of your relationship needs, even if that person is the man or woman of your dreams. In the “either/or” philosophy, you would have to shut down your desire to have whatever it is your partner can’t give you. In the Tantric point of view, you would both get what you can from your partner and get the other things you need from other people. I’m not just talking about sex, although that is an important component to a long term relationship.
In my case, my partner isn’t a deep thinker. He’s not interested in philosophy, but that’s something I’m passionate about. So I go elsewhere to get that need met. I don’t make him bad or wrong for not being able to have deep, philosophical conversations with me, and I don’t sneak around behind his back meeting my friends that fulfill my needs. Together, we have created the space between us to support each of our different desires. We both honor our differences and create time for our togetherness.
Sexually speaking, there’s a whole gamut of experiences that may fulfil your desires. Usually, if you’ve been with your partner for more than a few years, you may want someone else to help fulfill your sexual needs. You may just want to go out and flirt with other people, just to remind yourself that others still find you attractive. Couples who practice consensual non-monogamy do so in many different ways. Some are swingers, practicing sex (with or without intercourse) in settings where they don’t develop relationships with the tertiary partners. Others foray into polyamory, forging relationships that are deeper than sex... and again, with or without intercourse. When one partner has less of a sex drive, rather than punish the partner with the greater drive, they could let someone else fulfill that need for them.
Everyone’s definition of sex varies (think Bill Clinton, for example). Everyone’s line of demarcation will be different. A juicy hug to one person may feel like fornication to another. This being true, we’re left with our own moral compass. Within the constructs of an honest, open relationship, what feels right to you?
The best way to have your moral compass point true is to talk about it with your partner in advance. This topic will take more than one conversation before you’re both clear about your comfort levels. Your comfort levels are likely to vary over time, so it’s important to continue having these conversations. What may feel comfortable in theory may not be so when faced with the reality. And vice versa; one partner may not think they’ll be comfortable with a certain expression, then find that they’re turned on by it.
The bottom line is this: in this day and age, we may need an expanded vision for happily managing a long term relationship. Using the philosphy of “both/and” expands your options and helps you think outside the box. It takes open, honest communication and a genuine affection for each other to manage the relationship beyond the limits of traditional monogamy, but the rewards are great.