Relationships Are Messy: Let’s Start Simple


Relationships Are Messy: Let’s Start SimpleIt has always been my view that when you decide to pursue a new relationship, you should be in as stable, and clean a position as possible. This applies to both monogamy and non-monogamy. With the former, if you’re still shattered and depressed from a break-up, chances are you’re not bringing your best self to the table. With the latter, if your other relationships are in a bit of a state, it might not be the best idea to bring someone new into it. Of course, there are exceptions, and sometimes we make connections we feel we need to pursue, even if the timing is bad, and sometimes meeting someone new is the way we get over the heartbreak of a past relationship. But as a general rule of thumb, I think it’s best to be in as good a place as possible before diving into a new relationship.

There are several reasons this is true, but at present the one foremost in my mind is this: relationships always, at some point, get messy; that doesn’t mean it can’t be resolved, but all relationships have their ups and downs, and it is unlikely to get simpler in the long run. At the beginning, when it’s just flirtation and dating, that’s about as simple as you can truly expect it to be. So starting off in a place of relative ease and simplicity just seems like a good idea. It doesn’t always work, but – like I say – I think it’s a good rule of thumb. As my friend said to me over lunch the other day, “You don’t get in the car blindfolded, with a dog on your lap; at some point the dog may jump onto your lap, but you’re not going to start with it there making life difficult.” It made me laugh, but I also think he’s hit the nail on the head with that analogy.

So what happens when you meet someone you click with, but they are in a complicated situation? Do you just say no, or do you dive in based on the connection? As with almost everything, I think it needs to be taken on a case by case basis, and in the end, it is probably always going to be a deeply personal decision.

I feel that at present I am somewhat on the fence. My desire for a strong, primary relationship could push me to dive into things; however, I am held back – and pretty firmly – by my past experiences. I loathe drama, and will go to great pains to avoid it, simply because it has bitten me so many times, and so fiercely, in the past. I have reached a point where I know what I’m willing to put up with and what I’m not.

But there is, of course, another layer to it now. Since I started identifying as non-monogamous, all my relationships have been secondary. I have wonderful lovers, and am often a third, and I adore those experiences. But, I don’t have a committed, central relationship, which is what I really want. However, because I’ve never experienced non-monogamy whilst being in a committed, central relationship, I am naturally more hesitant about taking on unnecessary drama.

In an ideal world, I would meet someone who is single, but has some simple, wonderful, fun secondary relationships – perhaps similar to mine, – and build a primary relationship with him, where we – together – decide what our relationship looks like and how non-monogamy works for us. On the one hand this seems like quite a low bar to clear, but the truth is that in the real world, it is proving hard to find. Of course I’m willing to make compromises, but it’s hard not to be wary of formerly created drama when it’s burnt me so many times.

I really don’t have many answers this week; all I know is that non-monogamy for me is still very new, and in all honesty, I don’t think my desire to tread carefully is misguided. There’s an awful lot of boundaries and emotions to navigate, and I’m just not ready to compromise on my emotional safety net at the moment. I just have to hope I don’t lose anything worthwhile in the process. But let’s face it: at some point it’s probably going to happen. But, that’s life. All I can really do is try my best.


Harper Eliot is a writer and podcaster whose work mainly centers around eroticism and social observation. You can find an archive of work, and links to all her other projects, on her website Harper Eliot. Harper lives in London, but rarely sees her own house, spending most of her time on public transport, listening to podcasts and tweeting too much. Her vices include cigarettes, lubricant, Earl Grey tea, opera, nail polish, and pinwheels.

1 Comment

  1. This is a very thought provoking post. Whenever I’ve been “looking” for a particular type of relationship or experience, I seem to settle and make concessions that leave me feeling dissatisfied. The best connections always come at unexpected times, and my philosophy is to embrace them as they come. Whether short lived or something longer, I go all-in and let the cards fall where they may. Certain encounters seem to be fleeting opportunities and I would feel so sad to miss out on them because I’m following a set of self-imposed “rules”.

    Thank you for sharing and making us all think.

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