One Relationship to Rule Them All — Early, Long-term Monogamy’s Unworthy Reign
It’s time to reverse your programming on which relationships have higher value and love your own journey… and everyone else’s.
We’ve all heard the story of grandparents that met as teenagers, married each other as virgins, had a family, and stuck together until the end, holding hands as they passed away peacefully in their sleep (or some similar version). Many folks think this is a relationship to look up to, model after, or wish they had something like it in their lives.
I call BS.
The idolatry of couples that have only been with each other for their whole lives is undeniable. I love them and their journey, don’t get me wrong. It’s the relationship on a pedestal thing that needs to stop.
This early, lifelong, monogamous relationship has value, not purity, and that value is not defined by the years they loved each other or stayed committed.
What I’m arguing here is that relationship value is only as powerful as what it holds for the people in it, and no one else. If we take religious and societal influence out of the relationship equation, we’re left with what’s loving, what’s healthy, and what’s right for the people involved. And hopefully, the for-all-time virgin monogamy relationship has incredible value for the two people that this describes. Because if not… then what the heck are we celebrating?
I think it’s important to remember that many stories of lifelong relationships are not necessarily happy, or at least contain special suffering. In centuries past, and today, there are all sorts of dark reasons (religious being the biggest one) why couples marry early as virgins and cannot, or feel they cannot, get out of it. These reasons cannot be ignored and those examples must stand together with the marriages that are blissful and steadfast. I had a great time writing about how the very concept of marriage itself and why we do it has evolved, and that cannot be ignored either. Still, somehow, we revere the til-death-do-us-part history.
Now, here’s what I like about the lifelong monogamy thing when I think of it in terms of value — there are so many parts of that long-term relationship that nobody else will ever understand unless they have lived it. It is a journey that cannot be combined with any other — it’s the absolute extreme. They only get one ride, one window, one person…forever. They don’t get to experience partnership with anyone else their whole lives. These days, that story is considered rare in many parts, and if what two people have is truly rare, I can see how that would feel valuable to them. Rare does not equal healthy, but I digress.
There are all sorts of lovely or terrible things about a relationship like that — why it happens in the first place, where it suffers, where it is sacred, where they both grow either separately or together, where romance thrives or doesn’t, why the family thrives or doesn’t, how awful the heartbreak and loneliness is if one dies before the other — and who am I to judge any of that? I don’t want to. I respect that journey. I just don’t want any part of that for myself and I’m sick of celebrating it like it’s better than anyone else’s journey.
I’m late thirties, unmarried, and have zero regrets about my relationship past. I love my relationship journey. It’s only mine, and it holds incredible value for me.
This is not because I think monogamy or long-term partnership is bad. I never said I wasn’t monogamous or didn’t have a long-term partner. I’m happy to be unmarried at my age because I’m proud of my dating history and what it’s done for my life. I revel in that I’ve had sex with more than a few partners and think of my past fondly as a growth experience. I would not want to live a life where that wasn’t the case. I’m not ashamed of relationships of the past as if they are failures and not interesting, loving experiences. What nonsense. I also never considered the institution of marriage any sort of relationship goal or proof of love, but more of a legal necessity if the time ever came. Loving a wonderfully compatible partner? Oh, hell yeah, I’m into that.
And what about heartbreaks? Aren’t those some of the most transformative experiences one can have? Talk about learning. Whatever end you fall on in the experience of a heartbreak, it’s an undeniable teacher for empathy, self-reflection, loss, and resiliency.
Maybe you can relate — dating over the years and having different relationships has given me so much adventure, fun, pain and growth. They’re my collection of stories that create my narrative and inform my wisdom. I’m living the love life I wanted, truly. And to boot, it makes me a much better coach and matchmaker.
I know I am not alone in this feeling, but I want to see more singles, divorcees, married folks that have triumphed through monogamy issues, and unmarried folks taking enormous pride in their relationship history and what it’s done for them, just like what a lifelong thing did for others. Feeling satisfaction with your love life journey can be your superpower.
We should no longer adhere to the idea that people are the same in their hearts and minds throughout their whole lives and accept that compatibility can change. We can, in fact, have more than one very loving, successful relationship in a life.
We are not less than, childish, or immature. It didn’t take us a while to “figure it out”. (In fact, I would argue everyone has to “figure it out”, maybe especially those that married young.) We are also to be admired, looked up to, and clapped for. Respect all the love journeys for their path and know that the grass always might seem to greener on the other side, but it’s just a fallacy.
I know I’m biased, but I think people who have or choose to experience more relationships in life, even if that’s before finding a long-term partner, may be better off for it. And people that choose to never commit is fine too! Why not?! I see a single, happy woman thriving in her 50s and I can’t help but feel like society has accomplished something special. What a time to be alive.
Our new truth is this — one version of partnership is not more valuable than another just because of the length of time, the experiences before it, or the chastity it holds.
Trust, health and happiness are the true markers of value. Let’s go with those.
Love. Your. Journey. You are powerful because of it. Own it. Treasure it. Continue the story.
Liking the vibe? Interested in more dating tips? Looking for a dating coach? Check out You Can Date Better’s site for more resources and consider signing up to become a Medium member. It’s $5 a month, giving you unlimited access to stories on Medium. And hey, if you sign up using my link, I’ll earn a small commission. Sweet!