Commitment

The rumors are true: I’m getting married. After the most romantic proposal ever (a text message from me to Shaun saying “Hey, can I call you my fiancé?”) and careful analysis of best possible timing (“Spring is nice, wanna get married next spring?”) we’ve announced wedding plans to friends and family, and changed our facebook status to “engaged.” (That’s how you know it’s for real.)

Naturally, a lot of people have wanted to know if we’re still going to be polyamorous. Yes we are; this relationship has never been about “we’ll be non-monogamous until I decide if I really want to commit to you.” What really weirds me out, though, is the people who ask what the point of marriage is if it’s not going to be exclusive.

I’m not being flip here, I really am mystified. One person close to me said “What is a marriage without sexual faithfulness*?”– and then denied me the opportunity to respond, so I’m going to respond here. In marrying Shaun I am making him a partner in all my life decisions. I am committing to upholding the health of our relationship, and prioritizing it over everything except my own growth and wellbeing. I am declaring my intention to be with him through all the changes of adult life. I am trusting him to be the primary decision-maker on my behalf if I am ever incapacitated, and accepting the responsibility of doing the same for him. These things are the bedrock of my commitment to him, and though I’ve had very different ideas about the meaning of marriage throughout my life, these are always the things I have thought of as being the essence of marriage. Once upon a time I considered sexual exclusivity part of it as well, but only because I couldn’t imagine a kind of non-exclusivity other than cheating. Exclusivity was part of the marriage contract not in itself, but as a sub-category of the “upholding the health of our relationship” clause.

When I talk to someone who seems to have trouble imagining what a non-monogamous marriage could possibly mean, I begin to have rather unflattering thoughts about them. Such as (if they’re married) “has sexual exclusivity been such a monumental struggle or sacrifice for you that it’s come to define your marriage?” Or “is marriage, for you, more about ‘nobody else can have you’ than about the positive commitment you’re making to each other?” Apart from something like this, I really can’t conceive where such a question comes from.

But enough of that. My marriage is about the commitments and intentions I named above; I believe that Shaun and I both are better, stronger, and happier together than we would be apart, and in marrying him I am making public that belief and my intention to continue working to make it a reality.

*Faithfulness is the wrong word here; as I’ve said many times before, Shaun and I are faithful to each other. We each communicate our needs, emotional and physical, and faithfulness is a matter of us each considering the other’s needs before our own gratification. Exclusivity is only part of faithfulness if you make it so.

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5 thoughts on “Commitment

  1. I’m a little saddened that you couldn’t answer the question without insulting those who are monogamous.

    More questions: are you open to plural marriage? do you want children one day? are you going to write your own vows?

    Congrats and best wishes!

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    • I wasn’t insulting, or criticizing, those who are monogamous… my comments were directed at those who find themselves unable to conceive what a marriage could mean without sexual exclusivity.

      I would consider plural marriage if it were legal, and would be happy to end up in a long-term committed relationship with multiple people. And yes, I do want at least one child.

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      • I’d like to explore this some more, if you;re interested – I think it’s a unique approach to defining faithfulness and commitment.

        I’m really not trying to be argumentative (you seem to try to be honest about yourself, your perspective, and trying to understand) but I tend to agree with Natalie, that it *seems* as if you’re critical of those who are “unable to conceive” what a non-monogamous marriage looks like/means:

        “When I talk to someone who seems to have trouble imagining what a non-monogamous marriage could possibly mean, I begin to have rather unflattering thoughts about them.”

        I realize this is internal dialog, and not what you say to them. It just gives the impression that you’re critical of them…perhaps not (and I would be easily convinced you treat with respect those who don’t understand )

        It also seems as if you have as much difficulty understanding them as they you:
        “Apart from something like this, I really can’t conceive where such a question comes from.”

        It’s kind of ironic, actually – you struggle to understand people with more “traditional” (for lack of a better word)ideas about fidelity, while they struggle to understand your concept of fidelity. (Being more “traditional”, I can’t say I know/understand how you perceive fidelity, but would certainly like to hear more – it would be enlightening and contribute to my self-understanding.)

        Any new ideas since you first wrote this post? I’d be intrigued to hear anything you’ve learned/discovered.

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    • (Replying from my phone, can’t read your comment and write my reply at the same time.) Yes, whatever ceremony we have will be pretty much our own invention… we’re still discussing how we’d like to do it and what we want to say.

      Thanks!

      Like

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