love out loud: when not to tell your partner that you’re a polygamist
Having celebrated (read: lamented) my birthday over the past week, I have likewise found myself considering (read: lamenting) the birthdays of years gone past.
One thing that has been consistent about the anniversary of my birth, almost without exception, is that it’s a bad day. Whether it was Bob Dylan forgetting to pick me up for a date on my 18th (which may not have been a big deal, except that it was the only time he failed to come get me on time over the course of our two year relationship), or Gene telling me that he hoped I wasn’t falling in love with him on my 17th (probably because he was waiting until just after my birthday to break up with me), I don’t have good birthdays.
But if I had to choose a favourite, it would have to be my 20th. Or as I like to refer to it, the day that Bono chose to tell me he was a polygamist.
I suspect I didn’t really have any concrete views on monogamy/polyamory/whatever prior to this conversation. I had never considered that someone I would be in a relationship with might be more flexible in their ideas of what it means to be in a relationship than I was and perhaps unsurprisingly, this was one of the more pervasive issues between us. Though his reluctance to simply conform to societal standards and call me his girlfriend routinely tested my patience, I did eventually wonder whether I identified myself as a monogamist simply because that was the default.
Trying to be okay with something that I was not at all okay with, I did my research. I read books on polyamory and watched the first two seasons of Big Love, but my horizons failed to expand beyond mildly sympathising with a middle aged guy who has to keep up with the sexual appetites of his three wives. I didn’t know if it was my upbringing or my biology or merely social conditioning, but try as I might to coax myself into the idea of free love, my views stayed rigid on the side of being a one-man-girl.
Nonetheless, we cannot all be wired the same way. If there is a spectrum for kindness and hair colour, surely there is likewise one for our preference toward multiple partners (and I don’t mean using this as an excuse to sleep around without being held accountable for your behaviour). And although I have no idea how I’ll feel in x number of years, I’m now a lot more comfortable in my knowledge that I like relationships where only two people are involved after having thought critically about non-monogamy and decided it wasn’t for me.
The most important thing I learnt from my now-defunct relationship however, is that whether your partner is the only one, or one of many, care and respect for them should always be exercised.
And I should always stay single on my birthday.