Episode 32: Poly? Monogamy?

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On this episode we approach the topic of monogamy, in a very backward way. Hear the stories of four people engaged in open relationships and their reflections on monogamy. A woman finds a greater capacity for love after her boyfriend decides to be monogamous with someone else. Another woman concludes that, “Just because you get the animal in a cage doesn’t mean it will let you pet it.” A very cynical view of monogamy from a man who couldn’t express his desires to his wife. And a correspondence between two women who slept with the same man. 

Also, participate in our survey about monogamy by going to www.onetaste.us/monogamy. We want to hear whether you think monogamy is, or is not the most appropriate form of relationship.


Narrator: This program is intended for mature audiences only.


J: In general, most intimate relationships have a certain pre-scripted formula. You get together with someone and at least sexually, you are exclusive with them for as long as the relationship lasts. This of course is known as monogamy.

Depending on what agreements you have made or not made with your partner, you may flirt, kiss, go on dates, even have sex with other people. This can be exciting. It can also be extremely nerve racking. Nothing can be taken for granted.

With no rules to keep you safe from potentially dangerous emotions such as jealousy or possessiveness, you are forced to feel your way in the dark to the deeper truths about the relationship and yourself.

From One Taste Urban Retreat Center in San Fransisco, we bring you A Taste of Sex: Reality Audio, a pod cast featuring stories and perspectives from people engaged in the conscious exploration of connection, sensuality, and relationship.

I am J. Today we provide lessons from monogamy, though in a kind of backward way from four people who have all tried its black sheep cousin-non monogamy, know in some circles as polyamory. Oh, and a warning, the following should not be tried at home. I am kidding of course. Well, kind of.

We start with Lauren.

Lauren: I was in a relationship in this man who...we were so wrong for each other. We were not right for each other at all and yet the connection was so strong between us. I would just dissolve into his eyes.

It was an open relationship, which I think part of me had resistance to, but I wanted him to have everything he desired. Also, he wanted me to have my desires in case any doors should open.

And so we played that way for a while and then I actually asked him for monogamy knowing full well that he couldn't actually give it to me.

J: What did he say?

Lauren: He said he really appreciated hearing my desire and that he was going to continue following the thread of his own desire. Maybe a week later he approached me and told me that he was choosing to be monogamous with another woman. So all of a sudden it was like not only had he said no, he didn't want monogamy he wanted to continue open relationships, he said a blatant no to me.

Then he actually chose monogamy with another woman so I just felt completely rejected and just horrified and rolled around like a pig in all the sensations that came up for me in that of "I've been rejected. He doesn't love me. She is better that I am. What did I do wrong?"

J: Did you know her?

Lauren: I haven't even met her. "She must be more beautiful that me and better in bed." Just the whole story of comparison to a woman who I have never been. Yah, so I have literally rolled around like a pig in it.

J: For how long?

Lauren: A couple weeks. I bounced back quickly. I can't quite say how the shift came about. I think it might have been something one of my teachers said. I don't actually know. But what I realized most that I missed about having him in my life wasn't necessarily him, it was having had this beautiful being to love and adore and pour all of my attention on to. And all of a sudden it was like that was gone. It was like someone took away my dope stash and ran off with it and I was freaking out. I was like going through withdrawal.

I couldn't understand why I was distraught over a man who wasn't even my type. Who I definitely loved, but I couldn't understand why I was just so distraught. What I ended up getting out of this whole episode was a deep sense of gratitude towards him because it was through him I was able to see how capable I am of loving; how deeply, freely, and openly without needing anything in return. Once that realization came I realized I can actually give that out to more than one human being. It doesn't have to be for just one man. Maybe I can put love out to not just one person. Maybe I can love all beings that I come into contact with.

And so I do. It's my practice now. It's difficult somedays, but I walk down the streets of San Francisco pouring love out of my heart through my eyes. And not obnoxiously smiling at people. Not everyone really wants like a cheesy grin on the face, but just like a real intention behind "Wow, here is this human being in front of me. Whether or not I have see you again I love you for being alive." That is incredible. It's like being able to open to love through one person is incredible and I am grateful to him for having showed me that because I feel like I am able to provide more love in to the world in a world that needs more love for sure.

J: So it's like he became the vessel through which you could open to everyone?

Lauren: He became the vessel through which I could open to everyone. That's well said. Yah.

J: Thanks Lauren.

Lauren: Thanks.

J: Non monogamy is certainly not for everyone. Allegra had been in an open relationship for five months when she decided that she was tired of being jealous and always having to prepare herself for the worst. On her birthday, she asked her boyfriend for 24 days of monogamy. He agreed. Allegra wrote the following about what she learned, which was first posted on the One Taste Chatboard found at www.onetaste.us. Here is Allegra:

Allegra: What I learned in Monogamy.

1. Polyamory was not my biggest problem.

2. Just because you get the animal in a cage doesn't mean you will let you pet it.

3. It is just better to always stay connected.

4. It isn't quite as hot if he is doing it because you are his only option, but it's still pretty hot.

5. Making it look more conventional exacerbating his fears and complexes around relationships, leading to even less connection.

6. Being off limits makes you even more desirable and unfortunately, that applies to your partner too.

7. Being responsible for someone is a lot of work.

8 Knowing you will have to let go, knowing it's time to let go, and letting go, are all very different.

9. There really is no how. It just happens. And like awakening, it can happen in an instant; the snap of a finger.

10. Knowing it and feeling it in your body are two different things.

11. Gripping is not the most gratifying expenditure of energy.

12. Keeping him miserable is a convoluted way of keeping myself safe from being confronted by having the things that I want.

13. There is a choice between having the connection you want and having it look the way you want. You can't have both because life is not a movie or a novel, as nice as that would be.

14. I want a deeper connection than I know how to have.

15. Being stuck in the model of having things look a certain way in order to create the situation that looks like the relationship I want keeps me from having it.

16. In natural horsemanship, they say without the bit, the bridal, the saddle, the spurs, the whips, and the fences, without pain, domination, breaking spirits, and force, what is left between you and the horse is the truth. So in a relationship without contracts, agreements, expectations, romance, labels, and patterns, I asked myself what is there? What is there to keep us together? To interact over, to continue the relationship. And the answer is simply: the unique connection that exists between me and that person. What's left is the truth.

J: Before we go any further, I wan't to make something clear. I do not have anything against monogamy. Personally, I tend to be a rather monogamous person myself. And the sense that if I am with someone, I tend to want to hunker down. That attitude, by the way, is fairly typical for women as far as I can tell. There are women who are naturally polyamorous, but in my experience, women are much less likely to play around than men. I don't think that we are any less curious, but something, whether it is biological or cultural, holds us back. Oddly enough, I am usually attracted to men who are total players. Maybe it's because if left to my own devices, I might not do anything other than stay home and read. In truth, I actually see a lot of value in open relationship. Rather than playing by pre-scripted rules, you get to ask "What shape does the relationship really want to take?" And you come to realize that if you are truly connected to someone, nothing, and I mean nothing can threaten that relationship.

You have been listening to A Taste of Sex. We will be back shortly, but first we would like to ask this question. "Do you or don't you think that monogamy is the most appropriate form or relationship?" We want to hear from you. Go to onetaste.us/monagamy to answer that question. We'll report back on the results. Again that's onetaste.us/monagomy to answer the question "Is monogamy the most appropriate form or relationship."


J: Welcome back to A Taste of Sex. I am J. Next we hear from Robert, who after seven years of marriage became somewhat cynical about whether exclusion is truly what's called for in a committed relationship.

J: So you were married once?

Robert: Yes.

J: For how long?

Robert: I was married for almost seven years.
J: And was it a monogamous relationship?

Robert: It was for the first four years of our relationship.

J: And how was that?

Robert: It was ok. I mean we worked and she went to school and we had sex about once a month. I thought that was pretty common and pretty normal. All in all, from everything I knew it seemed right and good. There was more I wanted. I wanted to have a really exciting sex life so I used to read a lot of porn and I used to masturbate and I used to dream. I would look at swinger ads. I just had this whole other fantasy life that I kept to myself.

I never knew that there was even a possibility of even discussing it let alone having it. So what I did is I had to keep all these things away from her even though I called her my best friend and my wife. If I told her the truth about who I was then she probably would feel like she wasn't enough.

J: And then did you feel like if you actually expressed these things that you would be breaking some kind of contract with her? Some kind of contract that monogamy represents?

Robert: It was beyond a contract. It was a law. I didn't even look at it as a contract. I just thought there was no possible way I could tell her this side of me. There was no opening in any relationship to be really honest about m y sexual desires. So it was beyond a contract. It was just the way things are.

J: What happened when you opened your relationship up with your wife?

Robert: It was mayhem for a long time. We were together for three years while making out with other people. We eventually got divorced but not really because of polyamory or making out with other people.

J: Are you sure of that?

Robert: Yes because we had talked pretty extensively afterwards. It was more a lifestyle change that she wanted. But the thing that I am so glad we did is we actually started telling the truth to each other. And talking about our sex life gave us more freedom to talk about other things. In the end I actually know her better than if we hadn't started the process at all.

J: So you ended up getting divorced....

Robert: Yes.

J: ....and then having a very different lifestyle, primarily polyamorous relationships, yes?

Robert: Yes. I am not very fond of the word polyamorous. I prefer non-monogamous. Polyamorous infers a lot of couples making decisions. Non-monogamous just means that I have chosen relationships where I am not tied to any specific contracts or at least there is open room to discussion to express my desires.

J: And how is that?

Robert: It's very very challenging. It takes a lot of communication and a lot of honesty. And ultimately I have had the richest and most fulfilling relationships of my live in this paradigm.

J: What are your views on monogamy now?

Robert: I think monogamy is great for some people as long as they research it and look at it and are honest about it. I don't think monogamy is right for most people though.

J: Most people?

Robert: Most people.

J: Why most people?

Robert: I think most people by their nature want more than one partner in their life. And what they do is compromise on their desires in order to maintain a monogamous relationship. And by doing so the two people don't really know who they are. And if people are willing to just express their desires to their partner, I think their partners would know who they are and they can have a richer life.

J: But do you think some people would say that there is a sacrifice involved? Because, yah, your partner may know who you are but then you may not have a relationship after that. So its like one thing or the other.

Robert: I would much rather live in reality with a partner, really knowing who I am sleeping with, rather than an illusion of who they really are. And it's true. It's a very challenging place to be truthful. But the neat thing is that you can just talk about your desires. You don't have to actually do them. But people are not willing to talk about their desires out of fear of upsetting their partner. I was. But by just being straight you can actually be just who you are.

I think people think they want monogamy just because it's safe and they were taught that it's the only way to have a relationship. And by just following this blindly I don't think people see other possibilities. I'd much rather say "Hey we were monogamous and then we tried non-monogamy and the decided to go back to monogamy." I think that's the true success but if people aren't willing to talk about it or try it then I think they don't know.

J: Last, but certainly not least, we have Harmony. She starts by describing one of the more intense times in the open relationship she has with her boyfriend who she lives with at One Taste Residential Immersion program.

Harmony: I was just going through a really rough period with my partner. And he was with another woman but I felt like "But I am the special one." I couldn't understand why he'd want to be with someone else.

J: You say be with someone else. How was he with her? In what way?

Harmony: He was having sex with another woman and I watched him have sex with this other woman. In the back of my head I had always thought "But sex with us is better somehow. It's special." I watched him have sex with her and saw that "That looks great also." In effect, the whole scene had this beautiful cinematic quality to it. It's like the lighting was perfect, she looked gorgeous, and I felt myself really attracted to it and at the same time just kind of like full of energy where it just felt really really intense. It was almost too beautiful. It really destroyed that idea that sex with us was somehow better and special and different in some discernible way. That was really upsetting. That really just destroyed my confidence there; this feeling that I was just somehow better.

J: Better than....

Harmony: Better than everybody, you know what I mean? That we had a connection that was just better than anything else he could have with any other woman. Or at least at this time. Like, if he was in love with me, then how could he have this super hot passionate sex with her.

J: So then there was a correspondence that went on between you and another woman.

Harmony: Yes, like right around this time I got an email from another woman whos boyfriend I had been with. I knew that he had a relationship I just didn't necessarily know the details of it.

J: So you didn't know her, you didn't know anything about her, you didn't know what their commitments were to each other?

Harmony: Not at all. In fact he never even really said "I'm in a relationship." I just knew that he had a relationship. You know how sometimes you can just tell. He was someone I went to college with and reconnected with at a ten year reunion. So a lot of time had passed and we were just kind of re-exploring each other. It was really great at first. It felt wonderful. We had an amazing time together just for a couple nights. But we started to correspond with each other back and forth and there was a certain amount of passion and feeling in our correspondence.

She found one of my letters that I had written to him. And then she went through his computer and found all my emails; found all his emails and found all my replies and the whole back and forth. How I interpreted it was that it was ok for him to have sex with other women, but it had to be meaningless. And then when she saw that it wasn't meaningless, she found that really threatening.

J: How was it for you to get this letter from her?

Harmony: I felt really guilty actually because I was hearing someone hurt in the same way that I was hurt. And so I felt a lot of sisterhood with her. And when I wrote back I really tried to express that; that I understood what she was feeling. And I also tried, at the time, I still am trying to embrace these feelings as part of myself and work with them, and I suggested that as well to her.

J: Well what do you mean by that? That you are trying to work....Like work with what feelings? And how do you do that?

Harmony: That feeling of insecurity, feelings of jealousy, feeling that I am not the special one.

J: The correspondence between you and this other woman, did it ever talk about the idea of monogamy?

Harmony: Well I had talked about how I was trying to explore an open relationship. And so were they. They were doing the same thing, but they were doing it more like because they felt like they had to. Their circumstances dictated it because they spent so much time apart. So I was talking about it, I live with my partner. I see him all the time but I am trying to let him express all of his desires and he has desire for other women. And I am also trying to tap into my own desire for other men, which is right now still kind of shrunken because I just can't let myself go there. It's like I can't get myself that permission.

So I talked to her about some of my experimentation there around what I was finding. I just like said that whatever she is feeling she should feel and there might be a lot of strength in that for her and that they might come out much stronger for it.

J: So you are saying that she could actually use the non-monogamy to her advantage?

Harmony: Yes. I think that you can learn a really great truth in that all relationships are special. Really, when it comes down to it, my relationship with my partner is special and that doesn't necessarily mean that he can only have good sex with me.


Harmony: But what we have is very unique and special and what he has with each person is unique and special. And I need to let him have that desire without feeling my relationship is threatened. Our specialness is here on its own in tact in itself and can't really be threatened by anything else.

Another thing that was interesting is that....so I had a couple emails with her and then a few emails letter she had wrote to me and said she had gotten into a situation where she became the other woman. And again, it was just like she had flirted and kissed with somebody in also someone who had somewhat of an open relationship who has the same kind of job she does and she was always traveling. And she thought it was ok and ok with his partner. And then his partner got really pissed at her and attacked her and had a lot of jealousy so she had to deal with this woman's feelings of jealousy.

J: It's really what goes around comes around.

Harmony: Exactly.

J: So how was it to see that another woman was essentially going through the exact same emotions that you were going through but with someone else?

Harmony: In some ways it felt really good because I did feel that sisterhood there with her. And then when i was able to write back to her I thought that maybe this would help her and that part felt good as well. It's like whatever I am going through I am not alone in it. And she got really vulnerable in her emails too. And I felt like she really let me see in there and I appreciated that.

J: How do you see all of this relating to monogamy? Because in a monogamous relationship you are special. You are the only one. Yah?

Harmony: Yah, I think that what monogamy tries to do is force that specialness. Like you are only allowed to have sex with me hence sex with me is the only sex that is good because that is the only one you are getting. Everything else is like a dream. So you create this kind of safety there but it is really a false safety. In fact, I think a much more dangerous one because your partner will have all these unexpressed desires that will fester in him. And that may come out in ways that you really don't want.

J: But you are special, right? So you get the "I'm special" and then when you open it up there is no longer that safety or that guarantee that you are the special one.

Harmony: That's right. He could decide that he likes someone else better and leave me. That could happen anyways. Really the monogamy doesn't do anything to protect me from that when it comes down to it. It is just my perception that I am safer when I am monogamous. But yah, when it comes down to it, that could always happen. No relationship is ever really perfectly safe.

J: What's your conclusion about monogamy? Do you think that it can do what people want it to do? Can it make you special? Can it actually do that?

Harmony: Yah, I don't think it does do that. It doesn't make you special. It doesn't make you safe. So if you are looking to it for those things you are going to be disappointed. There might be other reason that you want it and that is totally fine. I think that it is everyone's individual choice but don't expect from it something that it can't deliver.

J: Thanks Harmony.

Harmony: You're welcome

J: That's all for this week. We'd love to hear form you. You can participate in a monogamy survey and answer the question "Is monogamy the most appropriate form of relationship?" by going to onetaste.us/monagamy. Or you can email me at [email protected] For transcripts of this show, go to personallifemedia.com. Thanks for listening.

Allegra: What I learned in Monogamy.

1. Polyamory was not my biggest problem.

2. Just because you get the animal in a cage doesn't mean you will let you pet it.

4. It isn't quite as hot if he is doing it because you are his only option, but it's still pretty hot.

Narrator: Find more great shows like this on personallifemedia.com.