3 alternatives to a standard monogamous love relationship that might actually work
Have you ever wonder why polyamory is not the norm in the relationship?
While the answer might be obvious to you, do you also know an adulterer/adulteress or heard stories about them? Or less innocuous, people who think that it is an unspoken norm that older husband will cheat on their wives?
If marriage is the stage that we should strive for, why do some end up in divorce, or remain stuck in less than satisfying marriages?
Previously, I have written about marriage and love. Today I’m going to dissect the alternatives of relationships. To me, being wedlock seems like a one-size-fits-all legal model in an attempt to unify the complexity of human psychology and relationship. However, I do think marriage is great for both parties to uphold their portion of the socio-legal contract, in their commitment towards fulfiling the obligations in their partnership and the family unit.
Principles of a healthy relationship
Before we begin the exploration of the alternatives of relationships, we have to define the principles of relationship that are generally agreeable with the general public.
There are many forms of relationships that might work for a certain group of people, like a sugar-daddy/mummy arrangement, serial daters and hookups. Because of the potential high risk involved in having multiple sexual partners, we will not be considering the above forms of relationships.
The principles of a good relationship that we are putting forth are:
Parties hereby meant the people that might be involved in the relationship. This includes but not limited to the 2 main individuals in the relationship, their offspring(s), their lover(s) outside of the primary relationship.
- Parties involved will feel safe and secure.
- Parties are able to converse truthfully to the best of their capabilities. Depending on the context, there is some value in not being completely honest with a partner.
- The needs of each party can be fulfilled. This includes but is not limited to spiritual, physical, sexual, emotional and financial.
- Party will not become indulgent on the obsession of the other party.
- While in any relationships, there will be the potential of damage and hurt, steps could be taken actively to reducing signs of toxic relationships.
- The relationship will contribute to the well-being and growth of the parties.
- The relationship has the potential to sustain long-term.
This article is largely influenced and inspired by the video above and will have many overlapping concepts.
1. Union with a common goal
A long time back, many marriages are political, financial and social in nature. In fact, I think the concept of love marriage is a relatively new concept.
Union with a common goal is commonly seen in marriage for building stability and family. If we love some social drama, this will also include members of the LGBT community who is married to a person of the opposite sex due to social pressure, oppression or access to state welfare.
If we look beyond the romantic notion of marriage and into the legal rights of marriage, we will see that ultimately, marriage is a social binding with multiple rules enforce onto the couple.
Arranged marriages commonly fall into this category. Both parties, who barely or might not even know each commit to a marriage for a prospect of a better standard of living or for building a family. Other might just get together because of the fact that they are comfortable with each other and enjoy each other companionship. On the other hand, we could also see almost two a-romantic people coming together to explore sexual alternatives.
Why this might work?
Rather than basing on the potentially ephemeral and ever-fleeting feelings, relationship based on a common goal might be easier to validate. Think about the acronym SMART used in goal setting. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. With each goal attainment, we are releasing that sweet sweet dopamine which sends us into the positive feedback loop of seeking more dopamine.
2. Relationship on contractual terms
This can be considered as a permutation of number one. There might or might not be a life milestone that both parties hope to achieve within the relationship. However, this form of relationship differs from the top in the sense that a shorter finite timeline is being placed on contractual terms and will be constantly revised upon “expiration date” of the relationship.
If we are true to ourselves, we always notice a change in ourselves and our partners. Both of us will grow at a different pace and direction. With that in mind, we can choose to go into a contractual term relationship, admitting and acknowledging the fallibility of our human soul and heart. At the same time, we talk openly about what we hope to derive out of the relationship. This form of relationship could also just be physical in nature.
Imagine this, you have a high school sweetheart who you have been dating for 10 years. On the fifth year of dating, both of you agree that in 2 years time, it will be good to start planning for a family life together. However, in the seventh year (the famous seven year itch), you are promoted and started to see the potential in your career. You become more and more ambitious and want to delay forming your own family unit.
Deep down, you know that this will derail what you have planned with your partner. Because you guys tend to default to the initial agreement made on your fifth-year mark, you are now stuck. Things seem to be almost set in stone. What will you do?
Why this might work?
It encourages a continuous evaluation of the relationship with the foreknowledge that it might end one day. Rather than taking our partner for granted, we could utilise this contractual time to make the best out of this relationship within this finite period of time. Think of it like an AGM or a high-level business strategy planning. We don’t expect business to always be doing well, so what gives us the right to think that we can cruise through our relationship in auto-pilot mode?
3. Open relationship
An open relationship is perhaps for a very limited group of people. Most of us cannot escape the grasp of jealousy. And from the jealousy, it might spiral into hatred, disgust and perhaps self-doubt.
However, this could be an alternative to explore if there are certain needs of the party unmet. For example, unmatching sex drive or lack of mental stimulation. A couple could look at their relationship realistically, acknowledge the differences in their needs and formulate possible variations.
Perhaps, we could draw inspirations from the open relationships of philosophers Jean-Paul Sarte and Simone de Beauvoir. Both have affairs of their own but remain in long term partnership.
This can be seem as a combination with one, in which the party might have a common goal, usually forming a family. Because of the financial stability and the family, parties might explore this kind of relationship.
Why this might work?
Theoretically, this sounds like a happy path. But realistically speaking, this alternative will be fraught with challenges. The possibilities of it working might increase when both parties could honestly recognise their needs for maintaining monogamish rather than adhering to true monogamy.
When we are together with someone for a prolonged period of time, we start to see all kind of flaws in our partner. Introducing distance and variety might just allow the relationship to pan out better if both parties are truly committed to making their relationship works.
Each relationship poses a unique set of challenges.
Can monogamy works? I’m sure it can, as evident from relationship of many people.
Are there people who prefer solitude over companionship? Sure, I’m one of them, who once in a while will engage in mindless swiping, only to abandon it as fast as I pick it up.
Is monogamy broken? Perhaps for some people, it might not be the optimal choice. But does this grant them the right of affairs? At the end of the day, only his/her partner could determine the answer.
7 Feb 2018. Peter Tachell. Marriage? No thanks. Here’s a better idea, The Guardian
31 July 2019. Rachel Tay. The highest number of divorces in Singapore last year came from couples who stayed married for 5 to 9 years. Business Insider
Alternatives to Divorce, Personal Tao.