This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.
I attended a workshop presented by Dossie Easton, co-author of The Ethical Slut. To the uninitiated, TES is the bible for individuals participating in the Polyamorous lifestyle — i.e., the idea that you can have multiple romantic, committed relationships simultaneously (not to be confused with swinging, where a committed couple engages in casual sex without emotional involvement, cheating, or good old-fashioned random fucking around). Polyamory is wildly popular in the queer and kink communities, to the point that people who prefer monogamy get sometimes funny looks.
I dabbled in polyamory in my youth (when I actually had the time and energy for multiple relationships) and while I respect it as a valid lifestyle for others, it’s not a relationship model that works for me at this point. It’s easy enough to have a little black book full of numbers, but having to actually remember birthdays and anniversaries for these numbers? That’s another story entirely.
So what do you do when you’re not really up for polyamory but are too unconventional for traditional committed monogamy? You come up with alternatives to alternative relationship models.
Unrequited Polyamory: Although I cannot handle IRL polyamory, I am a champion at unrequited polyamory. This is when you are secretly “in love with” (read: doomed crush) multiple unavailable people, such as coworkers, clients, roommates, people who flirt with you for an ego boost but aren’t really into you, people whose sexual orientation doesn’t include your gender, people already in monogamous relationships, people your friends are dating/have dated, that girl you see on the train every morning, exes you’re still not over, people you hooked up with on vacation who live on the other side of the world, and friends you made out with once when you were drunk and agreed it should never happen again, except you secretly hope it will happen again. The difference between unrequited polyamory vs. normal unrequited love is the sincere belief that all twelve of these people could be the love of your life, simultaneously, if they’d just give you a chance.
Casual Monogamy: One of the best parts of being in an ongoing relationship is (hopefully) you are having lots of fantastic sex with someone who gets to know your sexual ins and outs (teehee) well enough to get you off every time. But you know what the best part of monogamy really is? LOTS AND LOTS OF BAREBACKING (assuming you’re both STI-free). You can theoretically be in a polyamorous situation where you are fluid-bonded with one or more partners, but the risk of exposure to STIs is still way higher when all parties are fucking multiple people, even if you’re using barriers. Sometimes you can’t handle being in a real relationship, but you miss that unlimited sexual freedom to fuck without a condom/dental dam/whatever. And that’s where casual monogamy comes in.
When I first moved to Chicago, I spent six months in a non-committed relationship with a much older divorced man I nicknamed my “casual husband.” He cooked me pot roasts, we sat around in our underwear watching TV, and had lots and lots of consequence-free unprotected sex. It was seriously awesome, and legitimately emotionally uncomplicated (I went through an awkward “BUT WHAT IF I FALL IN LOVE WITH YOU?” phase but got over it fairly quickly.) Also, he gave me a deep fryer for my birthday. That is what casual monogamy is all about.
Platonic Boyfriend/Girlfriend/Genderqueerfriend: This is sort of the inverse of casual monogamy. You are clearly in an ongoing, emotional involved relationship with a person, and you do stuff like cook dinner and go to IKEA together, but sex is off the table. The difference between this and a normal friendship is one or both partners is “secretly in love” with the other, but sex is not a viable reality for one of the reasons described in “Unrequited Polyamory” above. Not to be confused with a “hetero life mate.”
Did I miss any important alternative alternative relationships styles? Leave a note in the comments if I did.