Our culture and popular media has saturated us with a larger-than-life dream of one true love, of the happily-ever-after. We dream of finding ‘the one’, getting married, raising kids and dying in each other’s arms. This is also the dream that has been sold to us by our family, media, and culture, but what happens in reality? In my life, I found a huge disconnect between this indoctrination and my actions.
In 2010, I was in a highly committed loyal relationship with a man. Both our families were aware about our relationship and we were going to get engaged. Like any other regular couple, we too had our differences but the long-distance relationship kept our sexual attraction and emotional wants intact. I was highly dedicated to the relationship and did not have male friends other than my partner.
But I adored my flatmate, Hetal’s, elder brother, who was almost 10 years older than us. He stayed nearby and worked in a consulting firm. He thought of us as kids who did not know the evil ways of the world and mentored us in our personal and professional lives. I was enamored by his knowledge, his wit, and his charm. On one of those days I was delayed at work because of a business meeting. It was 10:00 pm and I couldn’t see a single auto on the road.
I could have asked someone to drop me home and they would have. But I hadn’t and, now, I was stuck. Suddenly, I got a call from Hetal’s brother. He had called to check on Hetal but I was clueless about her whereabouts. When he heard that I was not home either, he arrived in his car to pick me up.
Someone who I have always admired from a distance was so close to me. We kissed in that moment and I wanted to remain in his embrace but my conditioning and sexual shame made me stop.
That was a defining moment for me and broke all notions of monogamy and sexual exclusivity. If I, a woman so steadfast and resolute in her commitment, could mellow in a moment of heated passion, it was certainly a natural emotion. I looked at myself: A woman who loved wearing saris, who did not eat meat, who is a teetotaller, who is kind and empathetic. I was not perverse according to any of those social parameters, so how could I be that in this? This gave me the realisation that passion for the other is a natural drive, a feeling to connect, and anything which comes naturally cannot be immoral.
I read up about monogamy and the following definition appealed to me the most: Monogamy is the last resort of the insecure and downtrodden. In most countries, monogamy was introduced at the same time as political democracy, because one of the basic things people wanted was the right to have a family, which a large number of people did not have throughout human history.
This brings us to the subject of what’s natural and what isn’t. And if monogamy is not natural (lasting a lifetime), than what it is? A closer look at failing marriages, sexless marriages and infidelity rates in the context of marriage is a tell-tale sign of increasing intimate and sexual dissatisfaction with one’s beloved.
An article published in the Times of India states the divorce rate to be as high as 40% in Delhi and Mumbai. In half a decade, I have met umpteen men who cheat on their spouses in their marriage primarily because the sex has become boring. They desire novelty in their otherwise stressful, routine, and responsibility-laden life. Plus technology has made it much easier for us to look up and hook up. But this secret adventure has a major pitfall. It breaks homes, families, risks future of children, and leads to acute self-doubt, self-pity, and self-hatred. Why is no one questioning the reason behind this?
In our mono-normative society, monogamy is a given for us; it’s chosen for us as our relationship model. We put our expectations on one person to satisfy 100 percent of our emotional and physical wants and needs. Doesn’t it seem like putting too much pressure on one person?
What could be then a harmonious way to live in peace with our natural inclinations and yet not risk the stability, safety, and security of a family? Like sequential monogamy that was developed as an extension of classical monogamy, can we design an improved form of sequential monogamy, one that is based on transparency and truth, and a natural acceptance of us being the way we are?
There is a small percentage of couples who are trying out this new design, an alternative to monogamy in their relationships. These are professionals and well-educated, well-earning people who form their relationships on choice, independence, and yet mutuality. Let’s understand this model.
Polyamory or consensual non-monogamy refers to romantic relationships in which all partners agree to engage in sexual, romantic and/or emotional relationships with others. Matsick et al. 2013.
Now if you think this is cheating, it is not. It is in fact the opposite of cheating. Cheating involves deceit, betrayal, lying, and hiding and when we talk about consensual non-monogamy it means the partners are consenting adults.
I was a fiercely loyal and committed person in my relationship and yet could not understand why am I getting attracted to another. It led to a lot of internal conflict and suppression but eventually I decided that it’s a mistake to suppress my natural feelings of love. Now love for me does not mean permanence. I would not (and no one can) measure the quantity of love. The idea is if we can allocate our time and resources judiciously, consensual non-monogamy can actually work, because love is infinite.
So I heard the calling of my soul, and to deal with the confusion, I heavily researched on this model. What I found was even though I’m happy with a man I choose to cohabit with, I still feel the need to look beyond him for evolving emotional and physical intimacy in various measures. Which means, I can still be with my primary partner, someone who I decide to live with, spend more time with, and have other partner(s) to fulfil the gaps in intellectual, emotional, and physical connect. Because transparency and open communication with one’s partner in this construct is important. I tried outdoing this and believe me, it was easier said than done.
Today, I have an honest and open communication with my partner where I tell him that I feel attracted to other men. The attraction doesn’t mean that I want to move on, because most of the times, the ancillary relationship is needed to keep one’s self fulfilled in all aspects. It’s hard but I’m fortunate to have someone who has a rational, empathetic understanding rather than a constraining opinion.