Once or twice a year I let my mind wander and imagine what it would be like to have another romantic relationship in addition to the amazing one I’m already in. This process used to make me immediately nauseous. I’d try to imagine it and my stomach would turn and I’d quickly shut those thoughts down and replace them with comforting thoughts of the love that’s already in my life.
Last year I went as far as reactivating a years-old dating profile for a few days to see what/who was “out there.” As soon as I started wading through some seriously disappointing messages from the pool of available candidates, I quickly deactivated again.
I haven’t gone so far as to reactive my dating profile this time around, but I will admit that it’s gotten a little easier to visualize what it might be like to make a good connection. I even got to the point where I could see myself as happy in more than one relationship. At least, it did for an hour or two before my nose crinkled up an my stomach turned upside down again.
So, why do I do it? Why do I go through these exercises if they make me feel nauseous or expose me to everything out there that I don’t want in my life?
There are a few reasons, and I’m gonna lay them out in order from the ones that are easiest to share to the ones that are hardest for me to admit.
1) I want to keep an open mind.
As a monocorn, I consciously and actively choose to remain monoamorous. This is not something that my partner prefers – in fact, last I checked, he’d be really happy for me if I could connect with someone else. I just haven’t wanted to.
Part of recovering from the unhealthy relationship dynamics of my past include keeping an open mind about what is now vs what is possible. I try not to get trapped by a label. I am monoamorous now, by choice, but that doesn’t mean I will always choose the same. I like to explore the possibilities every so often to check in with myself and ensure that my choice is based on desire over habit.
2) I like to lean into the things that give me discomfort, because that is where I discover deeper truths about myself that aren’t always obvious on the surface.
This is part of the self-work that is always talked about when people talk about the “work” that goes into being in an ethically non-monogamous relationship. The truth is that this work is good for anybody in ANY type of relationship, including no relationship at all – but it’s a lot easier to get by without doing the extra work in a cis-hetero-monogamous relationship.
To a degree, I’ve sort of done this my whole life ….the digging in when something is uncomfortable; but I’ve done it a lot more consciously ever since I first saw this video two years ago in the aftermath of the 2016 election.
I don’t want to paraphrase the video. I think people should watch it. It changed my life and the way I approach any topic or conversation that challenges me or takes me out of my comfort zone.
3) My partner is a great poly role model and makes me feel safe to explore these thoughts.
The nausea usually hits right around the time I imagine actually loving a second person. Even though I know intellectually that it’s possible to feel romantic love for more than one person, I still find it uncomfortable. But, my partner does it so well – he is consistently loving to all of his partners. He represents ethical nomonogamy well and is both supportive and encouraging without ever making me feel pressured to try if I don’t want to.
When I don’t feel pressured into something, I’m more willing to investigate it.
4) I’m horny more than twice a week.
That’s the thing about dating someone who’s got a pretty full schedule – it has to be on a schedule. Now, I don’t actually mind that part. I’m a creature of habit and I love a routine. For the most part, I really appreciate the free time that is built into loving and dating someone who can’t spend every single night with me.
But that doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally feel lonely or wanty or horny on a night that he’s not scheduled to be with me.
This shouldn’t be difficult to admit, but the part that is difficult for me is the implication that my partner isn’t “enough” for me. He is. He’s wonderfully enough. I also don’t like the implication that one of the reasons I would consider another partner is to fulfill a desire for more frequent sex. I’m not a fan of the idea of people as “need fulfillment machines.” Yeah, I want more frequent sex….but I want more frequent sex like the sex I’m having. With the person I’m having it with.
Then again, I am now capable of imagining how it might be different in a good way with someone else and that is simultaneously intriguing and terrifying – but I am what I am, right? And right now, the person I am is someone who doesn’t like how sex without love feels.
So it’d have to be a relationship, not a fuck-buddy or friend with benefits, which does diminish a bit of that “need fulfillment” thing that turns me off.
5) I miss the feeling of being actively desired, flirted with, or courted by others.
ARGH. I hate typing this on the internet because this is where someone decides to stop reading and send me some flirtatious private message that makes me feel really gross and uncomfortable. Don’t do that!
Here’s the truth – I like the idea of being actively desired, flirted, or courted by someone I am also attracted to. And, I get that there’s no way to know if there’s the potential for attraction unless someone takes a chance – but that puts me in a position of having to reject people who take a chance prematurely.
I don’t actually enjoy rejecting people. This is why I prefer to develop feelings over time after someone has already been a friend for a while. It’s like that thing I said earlier, about being more willing to investigate something when I don’t feel pressured into it.
Something I did do a few months ago was re-activate my tinder account and made it clear in my profile that I have no intention of actually meeting or dating anybody. For me, it’s an interactive matching game on my phone, and I get a little dose of dopamine to my brain whenever I swipe on someone and they match.
But then I’m perfectly happy never actually hearing from them. I was pleasantly surprised a couple of months ago when someone did reach out to me, and we chatted for a week or so about a lot of things. It stayed nice and platonic and I had thought that I’d made a friend.
But eventually he stopped responding. Who knows if that could eventually have developed into something? All I can imagine is that he got tired of investing time in someone who wasn’t a “sure thing” and gave up. That’s usually how it feels whenever someone who says they’re okay with being “just friends” ghosts me when we haven’t escalated to anything physical after a month.
A larger part of what I want is to feel broadly desired. To want to know that there are others out there who appreciate the me that I am right now (both physically and philosophically) without any intentions or expectations. I guess I just wanna know that y’all would if you could but respect that it’s highly unlikely and are willing to be kind to me anyway.
And I know some of you are out there and have figured out how to let me know you are in this camp without making it feel weird. I appreciate that about you.
I’ve done a lot of work over the past half-decade on becoming less dependent on external validation, but I’m not gonna go so far as to pretend it doesn’t help sometimes when I’m feeling a little low.
Which brings me to….
5) A part of me that used to be front and center got buried in the routine.
When I was unpartnered, I spent a lot of time socializing. I was spending two, sometimes three nights at the dungeon. I attended every munch. I felt at home and welcomed by my local community and I had lots of friends and multiple play partners.
But once partnered, we did fall into our routine. I want to reiterate again that I love and appreciate routine – but the routine doesn’t tend to include many nights out. (The nights in, however, are tremendously fulfilling!)
Eventually the dungeon and the munches stopped feeling like home. I stopped feeling welcome and wanted there. And, the last time my partner and I made plans to go to one of the member’s only parties, I definitely chickened out and opted to stay home instead.
Where I was once an avowed exhibitionist, now I’m ….afraid. I don’t know if it’s tied to feeling like my partner isn’t overly enthusiastic about scening with me in public (I know that’s not true, but I won’t pretend the feeling isn’t there), or if it’s the feeling that when we do go, very few people seem interested in watching (appreciation for the two people who make a point of watching because they are good friends who know I like it). But I know I no longer feel the pull of exhibitionism that I once did.
This is the part of me that got buried. I don’t know if it’s temporary like my obsession with Star Trek that waxes and wanes over the years but is always there – or lost and archived like my slutty phase in college or those two years that I spent every weekend going to the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
There are times when I all but convince myself that I need to get “out there” in order to socialize and connect with the people and nurture some friendships. That I just need to lean into that discomfort of putting in the effort to GO OUT, even if I don’t play with anybody at all.
I might just connect with someone who down the line turns into something different…
But it’s around the time that I get to that part of the thought exercise that my stomach starts turning again and I decide I’m just not ready yet.