I live in a world where monogamy is to be expected. As society dictates.
But isn’t it more reasonable to live in a world free from confinement, if monogamy meant confinement? I could go into detail about maximizing both Narveson’s positive and negative liberty. But, to me, it just makes intuitive sense. If we were born to love, doesn’t love exist to be shared? Even now, I still have not formulated an answer that would allow me to navigate society through means that would satisfy both my moral and material apprehensions. I continue questioning without answers.
And, for me, I question how to navigate a monotonous relationship when I am interested in other people. Because monogamy exists as a default, I chose to live in accordance with societal expectations. I choose to conform when I have no strong opinions. I have no qualms in conforming. But now that I have a better understanding of what I value in life, how could I choose to limit myself when there exist countless others that I want to pursue?
I wonder if I am strange in thinking that I could live a lifestyle that is largely incompatible with most modern romances. I wonder if my thoughts are just another expression of male privilege. But, in terms of questioning the status quo, I do not see the moral qualms of living a life that would allow me to share more love. I do not see why I would ever be satisfied in living a life of confinement. I do not see why being in a relationship should be synonymous with sacrifice.
Because, to me, I view partnerships as a sort of liberation. Any sort of intimate connection should be mutually beneficial, not mutually confining. Yet, why do I feel so restricted? I wonder if my sentiments are part of the natural cycle of relationships. I wonder if I would ever be able to sustain a sort of passionate love for anybody before the indifference settles in. And now, I wait for the volatility to cause an explosive ending. Until I destroy something beautiful.
The comfort is discomforting. I dislike the routine. I dislike the affection. I dislike the mere thought of company. The thought of crafting a permanent connection with another person introduces pulsating shudders originating from my spine. Why would I willingly detain myself? The expectation that relationships are somehow supposed to last for the rest of our lives — who thought of that, and why did they think that was a reasonable thing to think?
Because, realistically, none of us are into one person, one hundred percent of the time. Or perhaps, I’m just assuming things. Perhaps most people are into one person, one hundred percent of the time. I wouldn’t know because I do not have access to other people’s experiences. But, if relationships can be constructed within the framework of friendship, why do we expect that romantic love would follow through different cycles than friendship?
Within friendships, passion comes through waves. We do not have a streaming sense of fervent passion to constantly spend time with one particular friend. Each interaction becomes subsequently less exciting. Then boring. And then irritating. And, from my experiences, relationships follow similarly. The first few weeks are filled with novelty. Then, after a short while, relationships, too, become filled with boredom and irritability. The same excitement that existed during its inception no longer exists. And now, I am left wondering if there is something profoundly wrong with me.
But, unlike friendships, relationships cannot bounce around. When we are bored in one friendship, we could always spend time with other friends. With other friends, we could continue to create novel experiences. And the more time we spend with other friends, the more we want to spend time with our one friend that we had grown to be bored and irritated by. And slowly, the vitality of a friendship could be restored through spending time apart from one another.
With monogamous relationships, however, such cycles do not exist. It’s binary: on or off. We are either in a relationship, or we are not. There does not exist an in between. And as a result, through artificially constructed expectations that lead us to pursue monogamy, we confine ourselves to a belief that we should constantly be experiencing a sense of passion that simply is not natural. Because, like friendships, the passion in relationships ebbs and flows. It comes and goes, but the relationship itself does not come and go.
While we can always reconnect with friends that have fallen out of our lives, it is tremendously more difficult to reconnect with old romantic partners. With friendships, we can ride the wave in just as easily as the wave leaves. The waves of opportunity exist regardless, as long as we will them to continue to exist. But ending a relationship is the equivalent of turning off those waves. Once a relationship ends, there does not exist the same opportunity to reconnect. It’s on or off.
And so, at this point in my life, I often feel as if I am pressured to continue to hold onto the “on” button even though my passion is slowly dissipating. Like with any sort of connection with a person, the novelty is wearing off, and I am ready to share more experiences with other individuals. But, because of the finality of the decision to enter or leave a relationship, I cannot will myself to let go. Because of social constructs, I cannot follow my own cycles of ebb and flow.
Sometimes, I would receive a message from someone I haven’t spoken to in a long time — someone I had been into in the past. They would start with pleasantries before transitioning into a not-so-subtle tone that they were into me the same way I had been into them in the past. To me, it’s a matter of time. She and I were into each other at different points in time. Given how I contextualize my life, I see few shifts in the identities I have between my past and present self. And so, what am I to do?
But I confined myself within a relationship. I confined myself only loving one person, not that I do not. And, given the context that existed at that point in my life, I turned down an opportunity to be with someone who had because I created a restriction for myself, a restriction that I had created in the name of conforming to society. Perhaps it is in the name of love. I tend to think of it as an action justified through an unformed idea resulting from a series of expectations I had not had the will to challenge.
I will never cheat on anybody. I will never allow myself to hurt someone I love so dearly with such a betrayal. But, in the context of the status quo, is it not realistic to have desires to be with more than one person? Is it not realistic to say that I don’t always have a constant state of affection for someone when I already have the belief that the true nature of love is violent? How could I truly say that I only love one person at one point in time when it seems that the nature of love discourages such an idea?
Fighting in relationships is normal. Fighting in relationships is self-defining. Fighting in relationships is necessary. And, to me, it seems that fighting in a relationship is the only source of realness within a relationship. Fights arise due to constant irritation. Constant irritation arises due to constant constant contact. Constant contact arises from constantly spending time with each other in a relationship. Fighting in relationships is ontologically existent.
Among friends, we rotate whenever we experience the irritation that builds up to a fight. We do not spend the majority of our free time with one friend. If we did, then the same fighting that arises in relationships will also arise in those types of friendships. But because we rotate friends, we would never need to confront the constant irritation that relationships inherently create. When we grow weary and peeved by one friend, we move onto another until the irritation subsides. Without a definitive break, there would be very little friction from one friend to the next.
Because, unlike the certainties that start and end relationships, many problems found in friendships could be addressed through time spent apart. Even without communicating foundational problems within friendships, its effects can be mitigated through time spent apart. But, unlike friendships, relationships operate on a binary basis; we are either in or out of a relationship — nothing in between. And because relationships exist within this absolute plane, we cannot address the problems within a relationship the same way we address problems found within a friendship.
I feel these irritations as many individuals do. I try to confront these problems through communication and steadfastness as many individuals do. Yet, the deeper I delve in my relationships, the more it seems that I am just making my life needlessly difficult. I am choosing to conform to what society expects me to do, and it seems that my absence of a choice leads me to cause suffering to me and my romantic partners. Perhaps I am exercising too much entitlement over my conception of my role in relationships. But how could I say that the current system is Pareto optimal when I haven’t attempted an alternative?