Very frequently, we are asked in our seminars how we feel about the question of monogamy vs. multiple love partners.
Our response is that someone’s choice of whether to be sexually with one person or many depends on what they want and what they feel they need at any given time in their lives.
There are no rules when we choose to live in freedom. When we are living consciously, we can make our own rules but we realize the consequences and take responsibility for our actions.
However, in The Learning Love Work, we teach deep, committed, sexually exclusive intimacy for three basic reasons.
First of all, in our experience, the joy, meaning, nourishment, and contentment that we get from a secure committed sexual exclusive relationship provides a deep fulfillment that is beyond compare. Yet it comes only with the clarity that such a love takes time, perseverance, working through difficulties, and building and maintain safety and trust.
Secondly, this kind of intimacy is a profound spiritual and emotional journey of awakening. It allows us to witness and feel all our deepest fears, insecurities, passions, frustrations, and disappointments. It forces us to deal with the most challenging and thrilling aspects of life.
Thirdly, as we become more sensitive and vulnerable, it is easy to damage the delicate trust that deep intimacy requires. We are all, on a deep level; such profoundly fragile wounded beings. In our experience, it is difficult and perhaps impossible to remain open if one or both partners continue to damage the trust by having sex with other people.
Recently, in one of our trainings, a woman asked us how we feel about this question. When we asked her more about her situation, she shared that she has been with a man for several years who firmly believes that he wants to be with multiple partners. At first, she thought that she also could accept this arrangement but has discovered that now she can no longer feel safe or open to her man. It is too painful for her.
The attraction of multiple partners can be very seductive. It can give us variety, adventure, excitement, and aliveness. These qualities can go down in exclusive intimacy and become especially enticing if there is unresolved resentment or unacceptable disappointment and frustration. It is also attractive if we have entered into a monogamous relationship before we were ready for this experience.
Another participant shared in a group that he solidly believed that “polyamory” (having multiple sexual partners) was a more evolved way to be in relationship. (We wondered why he came to our workshop.) We responded that if it worked for him, then there was no problem. But we suggested the possibility that if he really was deeply in love with a woman, he might change his point of view. In fact, some time later, he did meet a woman that touched him in a way he had never experienced before and now he told us he would be mortified if he thought of her making love to another man. Also, he sincerely felt their love and connection was so deep that being with her was more than enough for him.
There are two kinds of monogamy – unconscious and conscious monogamy.
When we come together and commit to being sexually exclusive because it is how we were conditioned, or motivated by the desire for security and fears of aloneness, or by blind infatuation, that is unconscious monogamy. And in this kind of relationship, one or both partners might easily have a hunger for more adventure because their relating and sex can easily become boring and dead. To keep the security but have more aliveness, we might have affairs and keep it a secret. Or we might hide behind a philosophy of multiple partners.
Recently, we were doing an open event in Vienna and a man asked us for our opinion of “open relationships.”
We wondered, “Why exactly are you asking this questions?”
“Because my girlfriend is unhappy with my wanting other lovers.”
“Do you think it is strange that you picked someone who wants a different kind of relationship than you do?”
“Well, I would like her permission to explore but I want to know she will still there for me.”
“You can go for your freedom in this way but then you have to be willing to risk that you might lose her or that she might want to also make love to others.”
At that point, he became quite silent.
We ended the discussion by suggesting that it might be a good idea to have some counseling because perhaps there were other issues that they had to deal with.
Conscious monogamy is quite another story.
In this case, we have arrived at a point where we realize that we want the experience of deep intimacy. We realize that casual sexual encounters no longer give us what we are looking for. We long for something deeper and more enduring. But we also don’t go into it blindly. We know that it will take commitment, inner work, and a willingness to deal with our disappointments and fears. We will have to learn about our own insecurities and fears, and those of our partner and we will have to learn how they come out as we do deeper. We will need to learn how to sense and communicate our feelings and hurts. We will need to learn to feel and affirm our boundaries.
There is no right and wrong answer to this question of monogamy or multiple partners.
Also, in dealing with this question, we have to mention that sexuality can be a drug. As the sexuality changes in a committed monogamous relationship (as it invariably does), we might long for the excitement and sparkle that we had in the beginning. Love is the only the replacement for addiction to excitement. The way to replace the excitement of new sex is creating and sustaining a profound heart connection with our partner.
If we choose to be with more than one partner, we can do it consciously if we are aware of the consequences, are willing to be honest and open, and consider that we might be making this choice to hide sexual addiction or fears of intimacy.
If we choose to be monogamous, we can keep our sex life alive with one partner if we make intimacy and sexuality an ongoing exploration. It will work wonderfully if we are willing to put our total energy into learning the tools of committed intimacy. This means learning to choose a partner consciously, and then learn how to stay open, communicate, resolve conflicts, contain our frustrations and stand up for ourselves when necessary.
That’s our experience, anyway, after more than twenty years together.