Ask Marzipan: Testing the Boundaries of Monogamy

May 04, 2009

Dear Marzipan,

My mother has always said that one needs to be proactive in preventing circumstances in which your monogamous loyalty to your partner can be disabled by formed feelings, developed desires for another.  In terms of preexisting friendships (some with non-platonic histories thrown into the mix), what should I do?  Do I…allow for this loyalty to be tested, knowing that a thing gone unchallenged is weaker than something that has? Or should I take my mother’s advice and eliminate behavior patterns that can tempt a tumultuous fate between my partner and me? -GirlDebord

Dear GirlDebord,

Thank you so much for your question! And this is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately personally, because it is always a question when you are entering into a relationship or trying to strengthen an existing relationship.  It has always been my personal opinion that challenges naturally exist whenever you are intimately connected with someone, and that a relationship that is able to stand both the test of time and the problems that arise from the everyday is stronger than one you try to keep in a bubble for fear of alienating or causing insecurities in your partner. That said, I don’t believe in going wildly out of your way to throw any and all obstacles into your relationship just to see how it fares.

I think that in terms of pre-existing friendships or friendships with your ex or newly formed friendships with the hottie who works at the grocery store, keeping boundaries is really important. If you have decided to dedicate yourself to one person, I think that it is necessary that your other friendships be transparent and fully disclosed. This is not to say you can’t have secrets, because obviously pieces of information are better kept in the past (only if they are TRULY in the past), and there is no need to inundate your relationship with stories about your previous lovers, “friends”, conquests etc. etc. Pay attention to your partner.  Notice how well they receive this type of information about your past. You may think you are wanting to be honest and open, but it is possible to be too honest and open.

In regard to your mother’s advice, we are living in a much different generation than most of our parents. More and more publicly people are engaging in relationships of various types and abilities, and deciding to open up their partnerships to include other people and other ways of being. With this too, I think that the MOST important thing is just to be honest with your partner about your own personal ability and vulnerability. And don’t feel like you have to get on board with things asked of you for fear of losing you loved one. Instead, think long and hard about the type of relationship that best suits you and your needs, because if you deny your gut feelings in favor of pleasing another somewhere or other along the line you are going to need more.

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