γνῶθι σεαυτόν (know thyself)
“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”
Goals are fine, but allow your destination to evolve in relation to the type of walking you like to do. And don’t forget to experiment with many types of walking!
Most of us have goals for ourselves, which is good. They give us direction, purpose, and something to use as a metric to measure success along the way. But sometimes having a specific goal can be problematic, in that if it is too static and well-defined, what we learn along the way my fail to educate us towards re-defining our purpose based upon new information.
Monogamy is, for many people, a goal. That is, while they may have any number of relationships of varying degrees of intimacy, they are seeking a partner with whom they can share a unique, meaningful, and long-term partnership. The question is how to reach such a goal given how complicated people, and thus relationships, are. In order to reach such a goal, many things need to be learned and practiced.
Having relationships throughout our lives gives us perspective on how we might improve ourselves in order to be ready to succeed in maintaining a healthy relationship when we meet the right person. Or, at least, until we meet someone who we think might be the right person. Most people go through a few trials before they find the right person.
But, by focusing on the goal–that of being in a meaningful, committed, exclusive relationship with a person with whom you are well matched–it is easy to be distracted from the skills one will need to reach the goal and be ready to maintain it well. And if those skills are not taken in, then having a successful relationship of any kind is very unlikely.
The lessons that we could learn, if we are paying attention during those many trials, might seriously alter the shape of the goal we have in mind. It might, in fact, change the very nature of that goal because those lessons may change us.
Starting with yourself
The foundation of being successful at relationships with other people is getting a good hold on your relationship with the many conflicting needs, desires, and emotional landscapes that lie within us. We are a conglomeration of many unconscious drives, emotions, and thoughts which emerge into an illusory sense of singular identity. Becoming comfortable with that complexity within ourselves in challenging, but essential, in communicating what we want and need.
We need to know what we want, and how important those desires are, before we can hope to effectively communicate those desires to anyone else.
Getting to know ourselves, finding out what we really want, and finding ways to satisfy these desires in healthy ways is an essential first step in
relationships life. We have to be completely and bluntly honest with ourselves, especially where our desires are in conflict with what is considered normal, expected, or even demanded by potential partners.
Why is this so important? Because they don’t go away. Our needs and desires will stick with us, whether we repress them, seek to fulfill them in clandestine ways, or openly deal with them with people close to us. It seems rational, therefore, to explore them openly with those close to us for the sake of our own contentment and because part of intimacy is sharing such desires with those we are close with.
Once you have a grip on yourself, ideally we should hope to find other people who have done the same thing.
The complexity of relationships: others
People are complicated. When we meet someone who is complicated in ways that we like, we often want to learn more about them. We probably want to find out what they learned in their own pursuit of self-understanding. And if we think that who they are is compatible, to any sufficient degree, with what we need and want then we may pursue some sort of relationship with them.
I am forced to be vague here because the range of possibilities is vast. I don’t know what you, or anyone else, will find in their own personal journey of self-understanding, and so I don’t know what compatibility with other people will entail. If you find that you have a deep need and desire to be humiliated and beaten (with a safe word, obviously), then the kind of partner you will be attracted to will probably differ from another person’s need and desire to share quiet nights reading love poetry and having slow, sensual, nights of passion. Of course, the same person might like both.
Like I said, people are complicated.
One of the complications that arises out of having feelings for someone, for most people anyway, is the feeling of possessiveness. Intimacy makes the person with whom you are intimate feel like they are in some way part of you and your life. The connections of shared needs, desires, and the satisfying of those things often binds you with them in wonderful ways.
For many people, this binding is conflated with exclusivity, especially in the presence of insecurity and jealousy. Ideally, issues with jealousy and insecurity will have been dealt with in one’s pursuit of personal growth, but very often it is not. The prevalence of opinion that jealousy is a sign of true love and intimacy is evidence for that.
The bonds we find with others through intimacy are unique, and may also be deeply important, meaningful, and irreplaceable. But there is nothing about that intimacy which makes the possibility of intimacy with others impossible, nor does the presence of intimacy with other people make that intimacy less unique or meaningful, necessarily.
It is quite possible to have any kind of intimacy with more than one person, including sexual and romantic intimacy. Your partner having another lover, partner, or even deeply close friend is no more threatening to your relationship with them than your insecurity and jealousy make it. The only thing that can prevent true intimacy would be some emotional inability to be truly intimate (through fear of commitment, trust, etc), or your inability to share that intimacy (through those same insecurities and lack of trust).
Adjusting your goals
So, if your goal is monogamy, while going through the work to make yourself a better partner, you may miss the possibility that another goal might also fit your set of needs and desires. The key is questioning your own biases, challenging your fears, and allowing yourself to trust yourself and your partners sufficiently to allow everyone, especially yourself, be honest, open, and pursuant of what they really want.
Love all the people you love, as you actually love them without artificially limiting or extending that love Do not let the goals get in the way of what you really want. You may find a plethora of people in your life with who you can have various kinds of intimacy, and a static goal—whether it be asexuality, swinging singleness, monogamy, or polyamory—may blind you to what it is that you really want.
Focus on what you want, what your partners want, and let destinations attend to themselves. You may find yourself in a very different place than you would have reached for, had you allowed your true desires to not be defined by social expectation, fears, and lack of trust.