Loving and free part 2

polyamory polyamory

Why are lesbians, broadly speaking, so monogamous?

Loving and free

When I posed this question recently on Facebook, suggested theories ranged from “superiority complex – lesbians try to construct a perfect relationship even if it’s constrictive” to sheer apathy and the comfort of home versus having to go out on the scene.

When I asked my ex, now good friend, if she would ever have an open relationship she said, “No, I don’t think I could do that.” Then, after a pause and a smile, she added: “But what about love affair friendships?”

It occurred to me that perhaps we are all more polyamorous than we admit. Polyamory has been around since the free love movement of the 60s yet the word came into usage in 1990. I was fairly new to the concept and assumed it was similar to an open relationship. Yet instead I discovered a world of multiple consensual deep loving connections, not always sexual ones. So when we stay “friends” with an ex, maybe we need to admit that the relationship merely changed rather than ended. All that shared history renders it vastly different to a platonic friendship that has always been so.

The compromise most of my peer group tend towards is serial monogamy (with the occasional affair thrown in). I’ve always alternated between a “nice” partner who treats me well and a “naughty” partner who feels more exciting because she doesn’t – each one compensating for lingering frustrations from the previous relationship and fulfilling different chemical needs in my brain. Experiments have shown much higher dopamine peaks resulting from an unexpected reward. Constant presents and treats become too predictable. If you’re amazingly generous more sparingly, your partner will appreciate it more than if it becomes stiflingly routine. But too infrequently, and she’ll be insecure.

Perhaps a more realistic way to approach marriage would be to have a contract that expires every two years with the opportunity to positively choose your partner again if you want to. We tend to stay faithful to our mobile phone providers but would probably be horrified if they suggested a lifetime contract it’d be really traumatic and expensive to get out of. Pagan “handfasting” customs work a bit like this, with a trial marriage of a year and a day that you’re free to walk away from after that time if you want to.

If we are more honest with ourselves about the neuroscience of romantic love – passion dies, and there’s not much we can do about it – then maybe we can work out how to incorporate the heady fizzy thrill of new lovers while we have longer, happier relationships with our primary partner that we’ve built a home, a social group and a life with, instead of having to leave and lose all of this.

We are relatively lucky in this country that we have achieved many important milestones in heading towards full LGBT and gay equality. But there’s no point in then enforcing our own rules and judgements (or even adopting hetero normative ones) that make us miserable.

Let’s celebrate these new equal legal rights throughout our all myriad relationship styles – monogamous, open, polyamorous, single and, in some cases, happily celibate.