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Nice To Meet You, I’m A Slut: Monogamy, Is It Dead Yet?

Had you asked me this question three months ago I’d have answered vehemently with a definitive: “YES.” 

Because why would I – a young, beautiful 21 year old in her prime – limit myself to one partner?! The notion seemed ridiculous. As I’ve mentioned in previous pieces, at secondary school I was a serial monogamist. Always flitting from boyfriend to boyfriend, I was the poster girl for the ‘anxious attachment’ style. I was also very unhappy. So, finally heeding the words of my friends – “dump him!” – felt like the best decision I ever made. Releasing myself from the shackles of monogamy really was liberating. In the past (almost) two years I’ve evolved into what could be my ‘final form’: a free-spirited, ‘keeping-things-casual’, slut. I resonated with Ruby Rare’s ‘non-monogamous’ label and pursued casual relationships of varying kinds – even if that sometimes meant awkward ‘I’m not looking for anything serious’ conversations.

Non-monogamy has suited me largely because it meant I could evade the mortifying ordeal of catching feelings for someone whilst engaging in lots of fun sex with fun people. But I’ve come to realise that identifying as ‘non-monogamous’ or ‘joyfully single’ does not make you immune to developing feelings that go beyond the ‘I’m really just looking for something casual’ you’d promised your partner on the very first date. What happens when the commitment-phobic, now poster girl for ‘avoidant-attachment styles’, decides she’s looking for something more? (It’s me by the way – I’m the prototype bisexual girl with daddy issues they talk about on TikTok). I’ve recently been faced with a choice between remaining joyfully single and venturing into the world of romance, ‘serious'(?) dating, and – uh – the commitment and emotional responsibility that goes with those things.

This does not, however, necessarily entail the relinquishing of my beloved non-monogamous lifestyle. I’ve come to the realisation that the polyamory versus monogamy debate requires more scrutiny than me simply stating that ‘monogamy is dead’. It’s a lot more complicated than that.

For the majority of us, monogamy is all we know. Many of us were raised by parents in monogamous relationships and on Disney films that offered the promise of ‘one true loves’ and soulmates. We also live in a society that prizes the romantic relationship above all else. So, for those of us wanting to participate in non-monogamy, there’s a lot to unlearn. I think a good place to start is to throw away the expectation that your romantic partner should fulfil all your needs. I certainly fell prey to this ideology as a teen and did expect my boyfriends to be my lover, best friend and – at times – emotional crutch. It was pretty unhealthy. Now, I know that if I need a museum trip, or a laugh, or a cry. I have my friends. I don’t need a romantic partner to fulfil those needs and that puts me in a stronger position to consider non-monogamy. My independence is my prized possession and feeling as secure as I do as a single woman leaves less room for fear of abandonment, insecurity and the subsequent jealousy that’s frequently identified as a serious reason to avoid polyamorous set-ups. I know I’m just fine – better than fine – on my own, so a romantic partner can and will never be the be-all-and-end-all in my life.

By letting go of the expectation for our romantic partners to be everything to us, we open ourselves to the possibilities of more nuanced relationship dynamics. I appreciate that this expectation falls more under ‘toxic monogamy’ than it does healthy monogamy, but sadly it’s a prevalent one. There are benefits to the monogamous relationship: there’s security and stability. But that’s not to say the same isn’t true for polyams or people who dabble in other kinds of non-monogamy such as open relationships. Having – uh – ‘met someone’ (I know?!), I’ve started  considering the kinds of non-monogamy, beyond my previous method of abruptly cutting things off with people after the second date. I’ve been doing some reading on the subject, including an article defying the naturalness of monogamy on Psychology Today I saw cited in another piece I read called ‘Let’s Take Another Look at Monogamy‘. I’ve also followed Instagram accounts such as @shrimpteeth, @rubyrare (obviously), and @polyamfam to drown out the din of monogamy that otherwise occupies my social media feeds. Many of these sources provide realistic accounts of non-monogamous relationships; I promise they don’t simply defile monogamy whilst preaching the virtues of polyamory.

Of course the complexity of polyamory can come with its own challenges. As the product of a messy divorce, which involved some serious infidelity, I know already that I would struggle not to believe my partner would up and leave me for one of their other sexual and/or romantic partners. Jealousy would be an issue. This doesn’t mean I’d need to eradicate jealousy entirely from my scope of emotions (given that it’s a normal thing to feel), but it means I’d need to find ways to manage that emotion in healthy ways. This would involve unlearning all the things I learned from my toxic monogamous relationships to replace that knowledge with the useful stuff taught in the aforementioned sources. 

On one hand, I don’t think I’m ready to dip my toes in the world of non-monogamous relationships. On the other hand, I worry that a monogamous relationship would feel stifling – especially as a recently-out bisexual who isn’t ready to settle down with… a man (but that’s NOT to say bisexuals are incapable of being happy and fulfilled in monogamous relationships – don’t get any ideas). Then, on the other other hand, I think maybe I’m better off staying as I am. However, there is little personal growth to be found in staying as I am – sexy and cool though that present-state may be. It would be naive of me to believe that this is my ‘final form’.

I think many of us could learn a lot from the polyamorous community – not just about non-monogamy, but also on how to avoid toxic monogamy. And no, I don’t think monogamy is dead yet. But I do believe non-monogamy could become more of a norm – and I believe that society will be better for it. 

Anyway, think about it.

With illustration by Emily Perkins (@emp3_art)

Alice Garnett

Alice is our resident sex columnist whose interests include pints, pink, and all things love-related. When she's not evangelising Singledom she's busy hyping up her East Midlands home town, demystifying bisexuality, and writing for other publications such as Lithium Magazine and Adolescent Content.