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Moreover, they see themselves as part of a growing trend of folks who do not view monogamy as any type of ideal.
“There’s this huge group of younger people that are involved in these things,” says Ryan – an observation that seemed borne out of a monthly event called “Poly Cocktails,” held at an upstairs bar on the Lower East Side a few weeks later, in which one would have been hard-pressed to realize that this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill mixer (a guy who’d wandered in accidentally must have eventually figured it out; he was later seen by the bar grinning widely as he chatted up two women).
I was very unsure of all that.” Leah, however, forged ahead. Her one concession to upstate New York’s brutal winter is a Syracuse sweatshirt that she can quickly jettison as soon as she enters any party.
“I want to be meaningfully connected and involved with a lot of people, whether or not that means in a sexual way,” she says before taking her leave. And she plans to enter plenty, beginning with a dorm gathering – where she pre-games with a water bottle full of vodka tonic – before moving on to the rugby house, where the sporty all-American type of guy that Kristina favors should be in abundance.
“I remember the first night, I was telling him about my difficulty with monogamy,” she says.
“I don’t know why I felt the need, but it must have been on my mind a lot.” In almost every relationship she’d had, she’d found herself cheating, though she didn’t know if this was a character flaw or a problem with the conventional system. “I was just trying to get into your panties,” he says to her, laughing.
Because they started off dating long-distance (Ryan was living in Colorado at the time), it was understood that they would not be exclusive: They initiated a policy Leah describes as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” But when Ryan moved to New York and began living with Leah a year and a half later, he assumed they would transition immediately into monogamy.
“I thought, ‘All right, the long-distance shenanigans are over now, we’re moving in together, and it’s time to have a real go at this,’” he says, taking a sip of his beer.
Termed “The New Monogamy” in the journal it’s a type of polyamory in which the goal is to have one long-standing relationship and a willingness to openly acknowledge that the long-standing relationship might not meet each partner’s emotional and sexual needs for all time.
Tonight is one of those nights, and soon Leah will head to Jim’s penthouse apartment, where the rest of the evening, she says, will probably entail “hanging out, watching something, having sex.” “She’ll usually spend the night,” Ryan adds nonchalantly, which gives him a chance to enjoy some time alone or even invite another woman over.
He doesn’t have a long-standing secondary relationship like Leah (“I’ve actually veered away from doing that”), but he certainly enjoys the company of other women, even sometimes when Leah is home.
He was therefore surprised when the first thing Leah gave him after the move was a book called Certainly, open heterosexual relationships are nothing new.
Even the term “open relationship” seems like a throwback, uncomfortably reminiscent of free-love hippies, greasy swingers and a general loucheness so overt as to seem almost kitsch.
I have couples that have closed relationships or open relationships depending on how they feel about the relative health of their relationship.