Allow me to be frank at the commencement: I feel a little like a fraud. Why? Because when I take on a new project, I like to have experience under my belt. I like to have done my research and be able to offer an informed voice. But when it comes to non-monogamy, I feel like a novice; I’ve been calling myself non-monogamous for all of a month. What right do I have to sit under the hallowed halls of Life on the Swingset, and tell anyone about swinging?
Except it’s not quite that simple. I have actually been non-monogamous for over a year. I didn’t call myself a swinger, or polyamarous, or open, because I considered myself to be, well, single. I thought I was looking for not ‘the’ one, but definitely one. As the year progressed I formed more ‘casual’ bonds, felt deeply about several people and found, quite happily, that I wasn’t really prepared to give any of them up for this one, mythical man. So I’ve changed my descriptor from ‘single’ to ‘non-monogamous’.
However, this is still a departure. As much as I might not have been monogamous in 2012, I wasn’t exactly practicing ethical non-monogamy either. I was playing the field, as it were. It’s good practice but what it meant was that for a year I was able to pretend that monogamy just wasn’t an issue; that I was just dipping my toes into the idea of relationships with various people without ever committing myself. Whilst this is, by its very definition, a form of non-monogamy, it requires a different frame of mind. So my challenge now is not so much to learn how to be open, but to change how I think about being open.
The biggest shift I’ve noticed has been incredibly positive! Where before I have always been quite singular and solitary, I now want to work with everyone. As romantic an idea as it is to be the writer in the dark room, burning through pack after pack of cigarettes, getting up only to refill the gin, it’s not exactly a happy picture. I don’t just feel more sexually and romantically open, I feel more socially open as well. It’s really been a surprise to wake up and want to message everyone in my address book with warm greetings and invitations. When I say “how are you?” I actually mean it, which is, quite frankly, shocking. Perhaps it won’t last; but I really hope it does. Being able to smile with open arms and ask people’s advice – and really want that advice – is utterly invaluable to me.
While I am ill-equipped to comment on whether this is a common side effect of opening up, for me the two are definitely linked. I can feel, in myself, that letting go of the idea of commitment in that possessive or singular way, has already enabled me to let my guard down in other aspects of my life. Making sure that I can stand, over here, on my own, with my strong, opposing views, just seems a lot less important. I would rather stand with other people.
Nevertheless, I’m sure it isn’t hard to see why I might be feeling a wee bit fraudulent. The thing is, this feeling is balanced out by something else: when people change something in their lives, or begin a new journey, they often duck out of writing about it because, as I mentioned before, they don’t feel qualified yet. I often think that this is unfortunate because, as a reader, it means I only ever get to hear about the beginning in hindsight. I don’t get to read about all the little trip-ups and failures. I don’t get to see mistakes being fixed in real-time. So I’ve decided to do it myself. Right from the beginning of this shift, I would like to make it public. I will open myself up to humiliation and embarrassment in the name of telling the truth in the moment. And if what I write isn’t informative, maybe it will at least be amusing.