Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer

The Freedom of Monogamy

Filed By Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer | January 21, 2011 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: advice column, boyfriend, monogamous, monogamy, New York, relationships, sex, sexy

I've been reluctant to write much about this new relationship I think partly out of some taxis-new-york.jpgvague, superstitious fear of jinxing it, but, I think, too, because I want to hold it close, keep it to myself, protect it. It feels fragile - though less so every day - and sacred. So forgive me for ratcheting back the level of disclosure of my intimate life, those of you who are used to that from me and enjoy it. (Don't worry, there has been no lessening of the pleasure I find in talking about myself.)

Another reason that occurs to me, for not writing much about C. and me, is that I don't feel at all up to the task of describing just how good it is: I could never get it right or convey how happy I am or how wonderful this man is. Even going back and reading that last sentence disappoints me, how thin it sounds compared to what these days are like.

I will share this, though. I - the original love skeptic, the anti-marriage crusader, the free love tutor, Mr. Monogamy-Shmonogamy - have, for the first time in my life, made a vow to be sexually exclusive.

The notion that this would be something I might want, or want to try, didn't strictly arise out of my feelings for C. I made a lame stab at it with M. in Austin. But that promise was more like, "Let's be monogamous until we don't want to anymore and at that point let's be honest as we renegotiate." The fact that M. betrayed that promise (not the promise to be exclusive, which of course we hadn't made in any meaningful sense, but the promise to be honest) is what makes me both scared to try again but also eager to give it another shot because it wasn't me who fucked up.

So I was ready. But I wasn't sure how to implement such an arrangement. The problem I have with this type of vow is that it places expectations on another person. It seems to place conditions on affection. This is about me. I want to try this. I want to make this promise. But the promise loses it power if it is not mutual, so how do you start? I decided that I would just keep these thoughts to myself for a while, that I would make this vow for myself but not ask it of C. yet. It seemed like unnecessary pressure so early in the relationship. C. and I had only known each other for a month or so.

But then he said to me one evening, "I rejected someone for you today." He had taken a taxi home from the airport after Christmas. A man in the taxi queue behind him heard him tell the driver he was going to Inwood and said, "I'm going to Inwood, too. Do you want to share the cab?" Since Inwood is an expensive ride, C. said sure, and they rode up together. Some time in the course of the ride, the man asked C. if he could call him and C. gave him his number. The man called as soon as C. got home, but C., I guess having given it more thought in the meantime, said, "This isn't a good time. I'm seeing someone."

That night in bed, I said, "I'm glad you rejected that guy for me." It seemed unnecessary to keep my recent thoughts to myself after C.'s story indicating that he felt similarly, so I told C. that I wanted to be exclusive but was hesitant to make demands of him. He said, "Let's do it," and I said, "Okay."

My argument against monogamy, a big part of it anyway, always had to do with what I felt was an unnecessary loss of freedom. Why put restrictions on a natural, healthy desire? It's repressive.

But with that sacrifice, which at least so far does not feel at all like a deprivation, I'm experiencing a kind of freedom I never expected, never considered. As soon as we had that conversation, as soon as we made that promise to each other, I felt unburdened. I felt energized and open and free. I wasn't sure what this feeling was about, but after mulling it over for a few days, this is what I think:

One, I feel free to be myself, to share the aspects of myself that I worry may be unattractive. I don't feel constant pressure to be impressive, worrying that if I show C. a side of me that repels him he'll leave me. The promise is not provisional. It can bridge those moments when we don't connect. I am free to be unattractive because the option to look for someone else to fill those moments is removed. Yeah, yeah, nothing is certain, nothing is permanent, I know, whatever. But it's certain enough. It's permanent enough.

And, two - and this may be more the cause of this feeling of relief, this feeling that I am breathing deeper and easier than I have since I was about 12-years-old - I am free of the relentless, grinding search for sex. I'm not going to have sex with the cute guy in line at the grocery store or sitting across from me on the subway. It isn't going to happen, so I don't have to yearn for that encounter to be any more than it is: just noticing someone attractive. I can't describe how much lighter I feel having released myself from that.

There is someone at home who wants me. Someone who knows me, and wants me. (Even porn is boring. My boyfriend is sexier. My sex life is hotter.) I never imagined that it would feel so good to have fewer options. To know. I never imagined that it would feel so good.

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Mazel tov! Good luck and good lovin' in the new relationship, Steven!

I loved this article Steven but then I love reading about love so no surprise there. I think that monogomy and polyamoury are equally valid ways to approach love and relationships. Some people prefer one, some the other and sometimes people go from one to the other and that is okay too. What matters is that both people in the relationship are on the same page.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | January 21, 2011 9:53 AM

One of the most eloquent things I have ever read on this or any blog concerning the subject.

I am sure you will have your detractors....some of them perhaps decrying your alleged "surrender" to the pressures of societal conformity. I totally agree with Wendy's comment concerning people being on the same page. But I do tend to wonder sometimes when they are on the same page concerning polyamoury they've missed something important that you say concerning having "fewer options."

Thanks for sharing this.

And while I see the spirit of the OP, I can see this quickly disintegrating into some narrow arguments positioning monogamy as better/worse than x, y, and z so here are some initial thoughts:

Being monogamous doesn't actually have to mean NOT being any of what you allude to: "love skeptic, the anti-marriage crusader, the free love tutor, Mr. Monogamy-Shmonogamy." Indeed, being monogamous doesn't actually have to mean that you're necessarily espousing monogamy above all else (and I don't see you doing that here). You can, for instance, be monogamous, and still be deeply critical of how the state and capitalism are deeply invested in both monogamy and marriage and priorities them over other relationships as efficient conduits for capitalism. Being monogmaous doesn't mean that you're not mindful of the ways in which the rhetoric around "love" makes all kinds of violence invisible or that it helps us forget that "love" as we construct is is not always the answer. And so on.

And, frankly, being polyamorous doesn't actually mean you're not monogamous. One of the things that has struck me about people who intentionally declare themselves polyamorous and then go about showing exactly how they define themselves as such is that their relationships are very carefully defined and calibrated. Everything is thought through and very intentional, but the structure they come up with is intended to make sure there are no outside intrusions - if there are three people in a relationship, it's those three only and there seems little openness to the possibility that one of them might, for instance, just go ahead and have sex with a random person they meet in the supermarket.

Which is to say: polyamory can probably be the most monogamous form of relationship. As slutty as I am, I've always avoided anyone in a formally "polyamorous" relationships because the formalities of being involved with someone in one of those seem more daunting than the kind required to get into an exclusive Manhattan condominium. I'm sure many here will disagree, and they should should chip in.

But perhaps the bigger issue here is that it's not just human sexuality that's fluid and ever-shifting but that every person is, at least potentially, fluid and ever-shifting (a fact that the Gay Orthodoxy is dead set against). The fact that you, Steve, now find yourself taking pleasure being in a monogamous relationship doesn't invalidate the other kinds of relationships you've been in. And it doesn't mean that you won't find yourself in a different and non-monogamous situation down the line - even in the same relationship (again, not what you've said, just an observation on my part). I mean, who knows - and the Gay Orthodoxy will hate this - you might end up with a woman down the line. And you'd still be gay.

As for the things you mention that you like: "One, I feel free to be myself, to share the aspects of myself that I worry may be unattractive. I don't feel constant pressure to be impressive, worrying that if I show C. a side etc." - those are actually good things to aim for in *any* relationship. Perhaps it's worthwhile to consider that all our relationships, however we define them - friendships, lovers, whatever - ought to grant us such freedoms. It's entirely possible to live the non-monogamous life and not feel such pressures.

I think the unacknowledged part here is that the gay male community in particular exerts those kinds of pressures on people; it's shocking to me, for instance, that so many gay men feel old at 25. So the issues you relate are less to do with monogamy than the pressures involved with being a single, gay man particularly when you're living in a city where there's such a high premium on a particular kind of gay male aesthetic (not that it doesn't exist elsewhere).

All of which is to say - it's worth considering all these complications when we discuss the topic of monogamy.

You're right on all counts, Yasmin, and I won't be any less vehement in my critique of the institution of marriage and the gay marriage campaign. And I'll continue to be very leery of an unexamined monogamy or an assumption of the virtue of monogamy over other types of relationships. The thing that compelled me to share this was my surprise to find value in a commitment of exclusivity, value that I had not seen before.

Oh, hell, yeah, never thought you'd changed on any of those counts :-) I was just putting it out there as a series of thoughts spurred on by your post.
I see and understand your surprise, and I'm delighted at your delight. Surprise, I always think, is a crucial part of any kind of relationship, and may it (in all its forms) never end for you.

Out of genuine curiosity, why would you even think he would "end up with a woman"? What a very odd thing to say. Why would a homosexual man who is happy loving and fucking men and happy with his sexuality want to "end up with a woman"? This statement is very bigoted and actually very right wing. That's what the ex-gay fundamentalist have been saying to gay men forever. Or perhaps it's as simple as a a little wishful thinking. Hot crush on Steven perhaps, Yasmin. Maybe he'll "change sides" for you. You are such a stereotyped fag hag! Either that or you're a bigoted Christian.

OR the topic of the post - and the conversation following - could be about sexual fluidity and determining our own relationships and sexuality. That would make it completely on topic - and, in fact, a regular topic of conversation around here. After all, you can have sex with a woman and still be gay...

You know, Steven, we're going to have to kick you out of the Socialist League of Uber-Radical Subversives (all our acronyms are slurs, that's how radical we are) now that you've gone square. Not that it matters since you probably wouldn't want to come to the weekly government-sponsored, drug-induced orgies/abortions anyway.

Because, you see, that's what the left is all about: forcing people to have sex when they don't want to.

And in line with that: just remember, Steve, as much as we care about you: if you and C. get two cats, Against Equality stormtroopers will be raiding your place and rescuing them to prevent any kitteh weddings (we have grave concerns about Manhattan, given the recent stories we've read; see below). We're that firmly against ANY marriage, yup.

You can't spell "freedom" without "sluttiness." Oh, wait, you can.

Seriously, Steven, glad to hear you're happy. I just wanted to head off all those people who think that being critical of the way we are told to understand relationships means that one has to hate monogamy.

Don't worry, no cat weddings for me. I'm a cat lover for sure, but I try to keep the anthropomorphizing to a minimum. :-)

planesdrifter | January 22, 2011 11:19 AM

I've always felt that one of the rewards of being gay was the ability to define our own relationships outside the norms of society's heterosexual confines. Coming out in the late 60s during the sexual revolution, experiencing the freedoms of counterculture movement helped me to explore not only my own boundaries but opened up a world of expanded possibilities for personal relationships, making this a desirable and acceptable alternative for a young gay man. Out of this period and over subsequent decades my relationships have evolved and grown, changed in partners and in depth. Having now been with my last partner for 30 years I realize that I've experienced a long revelatory journey back into myself only to discover for me the true meanings of love and partnership, said best by the poet, Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi: "Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it."

And hopefully with the fluidity of your openness you will end up one day with a woman as Yasmin Nair has stated is the ultimate goal of all homosexual men who are not repressing or in denial. She knows more about gay men that we know about ourselves so it must be true. Young gay males out there, listen to Yasmin Nair and some day you will grow up and be able to be with women -- women like Yasmin Nair.

Recently heard this amusing quotation from Oscar Wilde:

Bigamy is having one too many wives. Monogamy is the same.

Your mileage may vary -- in fact, I hope it does.

Ooh nothing's better than laying in bed next to a warm body... be it human or feline.