MONOGAMY is dead. Or at least that’s the view of Jade-Martina Lynch of this year’s Big Brother, saying ‘[her] soul is just so free [she] can’t be in a monogamous relationship’.
A relationship isn’t like a trip to Asda: you can’t get everything you need from one place. So should we shop around?
Is she greedy, or just exploring her options? I’d settle on ‘attention seeker’ or ‘purveyor of PR stunts’. Our attitudes to relationships compared to those of our parents are worlds apart; they’re all ‘until death do us part’, ‘divorce isn’t the done thing’, and ‘no babies outside of marriage’.
We (generation y and 'the millenials'), on the otherhand, are impatient.
We want what we want, and we want it now. We want intimacy, we want someone to cook us mushroom risotto, watch Mad Max with us at the AMC complete with Ice Blasts, and fetch us Lemsip and fruit juice when we’re stuck to the sofa with the flu, and our heavy eyes are glued to Sons of Anarchy. And when we’re on a dinner date at Gusto, we want to be able to check out the guy sat at 2 ó clock whilst sat opposite our significant other. We want permanency, but not too permanent: commitment, but like the diet, with cheat days.
So does the answer to true happiness lie in open relationships?
‘You have to pick one’ - I remember being told that when I wanted all the Barbies in Woolworths to be Ken’s playmates at the tender age of five. But why can you only have one partner? The Bible says so. The Seventh Commandment to be precise: thou shalt not commit adultery. Basically, pick one and stick with them. Don’t be a greedy bastard. We pick someone based on where we are at a specified point in time. Maybe you’ve been single for a while, and someone who was slightly obscure yet intriguing popped up on Facebook, and you were open to someone different from your usual ‘type’. In six months when your job is stable again, your family relationships and friendships have evolved or been rekindled, and you have greater emotional resilience, this temporary monogamy isn’t for you.
Weird was wonderful for a while, and now it’s time to leave Wonderland and return to the real world. It’s not about clinging on to someone for that ‘tick’ on the self-assessment: 26 and ‘in a relationship’. It has to be a relationship with the right person, when you’re in the right place to recognise them. Society is so focused on the individual and our own fulfilment that we’re seeking experiences with several people; ideally one after another. Like a conveyer-belt of serial relationships. We earn more, so we don’t need the stability of another income; we’re less afraid of losing a bimonthly dining opportunity at Gaucho, and more focused on ourselves and the pursuit of happiness. A relationship isn’t like a trip to Asda: you can’t get everything you need from one place. So should we shop around?
Some would say an open relationship is the antidote to the symptoms of modern day monogamy. To expect the person you marry to be the same person twenty years later is naïve. We change every day. We could always stick with our lifelong partner and have a bit on the side: the person who fulfils our sexual appetite when we need it, so we don’t rely on our partner alone to fill that void. In the emotional sense, we have that friend who knows all our deepest and darkest secrets that our partners won’t know, and hopefully will never find out. Having other people to fulfil our needs whilst maintaining that one ‘forever’ relationship reduces the pressure on our significant other to always come out on top of the ‘perfect partner’ podium.
The only difference between cheating and an open relationship is communication. You give your partner consent to go and have their needs met by someone who isn’t you. Or they could just do it on the sly, and you’d never know (we all know a victim and a perpetrator in a cheating saga). I don’t think anyone with a conscience really condones that approach either, unless they’re an arsehole.
One word stops open relationships being a reality for me: jealousy. I don’t want other people playing with my toys. They’re mine. You can look, but you can’t touch. And I rank my own value highly; call me prestige, but if you have me, I’m yours and nobody else’s.
Relationships, open or not, are personal. You might be nothing but honest, loyal, loving, affectionate, and completely committed to your partner: if there’s no reciprocity, it’s dead in the water. A reality of modern-day relationships is that they’re changeable just like the people in them. I don’t think the key to happiness lies in abandoning monogamy. There needs to be a revival of old-school values and a willingness to work on a relationship, rather than at the first sign of trouble to throw it on the scrap heap and look for the next new shiny thing. Rome wasn’t built in a day. And I’m sure we’ve all heard stories from our parents about when they lived in a dodgy two bed flat with a horse tied to a tree on the lawn out front (I have). We strive for perfection when it doesn’t exist. We think there’s always something better.
I’m not saying to settle is the solution. I think the key is to be realistic, and if we’re seeking out multiple need-pleasers outside of our relationships, chances are we shouldn’t be in them. Relationship status: it’s complicated.
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