Is monogamy a Selfish Institution?

During an interview in June 2015, Jada Pinkett Smith once again attempted to clarify her and Will Smith’s ‘open marriage.’ Do they have an ‘open marriage?’ Her response:

“Here’s what I trust: The man that Will is, a man of integrity […] He’s got all the freedom in the world… as long as Will can look in the mirror and be okay, I’m good.” (SiriusXM Satellite Radio Show Interview, June 2015)

The media and blogosphere exploded with all kinds of conjecture on what she meant by that and whether Will was free to run around and have sex with whatever women he wanted. And all of them missed the point of what she’s trying to say. An open relationship or marriage is defined as one in which one or both partners are committed to one another but are also free to have multiple sexual partners throughout the course of the relationship. And it’s this very definition that Jada’s ideas are viewed through. But I’m here to tell you that’s- what’s the term? Basic.

Prior to my current partner and I becoming the great thing we are, we spent many nights in dinner and conversation. During one dinner in particular, he told me about how he would only be in an open relationship and that anything else was a deal breaker. I took a deep breath and held it. Could it be? Had I found someone who understood what I, too, wanted for myself? The answer to my next question was going to determine if I continued my pursuit or if he moved permanently into the friend zone. And so I slowly exhaled and asked “Why?”

“Because I’m a grown ass man, I’m not a possession. I’m not your child and you’re not my mother. I don’t want to be in a relationship with anyone who feels they need to dictate to me what I can and cannot do.” Well, hallelujah, he and I were on the exact same page. As a new divorcee, it was a sentiment I understood all too well. Forced monogamy was not for me, I would only involve myself in open relationships from here on out. But if you think it’s because I want to sleep around, you’re being too narrow-minded.

Truth be told, I don’t want to sleep around. I want to be in a monogamous relationship with one man until I keel over and go toes up. And if a man says to me “I want to be in an open relationship because I’m a man and it’s just our nature to sleep around”, well then I know that he has no idea who he truly is and is only trying to have his cake and eat it too. This man is not self-aware, he’s just self-centered.

When either I or my partner say we will only be in relationships that are open, what we are saying is that we want to be self-sovereign.  What does self-sovereign mean? It means I put myself first. It means that I get to do what I want, when I want, how I want it with whoever I want and no one gets to dictate to me otherwise. I’m a single mother, I run a household, I have a career, I pay all my own bills, and so at what point in time does it make sense that I should turn around and let someone else tell me what I can wear, where I can go and what I can do when I get there?

And I want a man that is self-sovereign. I want him to be a man of integrity who is fully capable of making his own decisions about what he wants for himself without need for my input. I don’t want to be his mother and tell him what to do. I want him to be a man that already knows what to do. This man is self-aware. He is not looking to sleep with any woman he can but to always be able to put himself first. And it might surprise you but in doing so, this gives you as a couple more of yourselves to share and it is that sharing that deepens your relationship. It’s the great paradox. In giving your partner freedom, you have a much more profound connection to one another.

I adore my partner. He makes monogamy so easy. He leaves no gaps, you see. Every moment and interaction that we share with one another fills me with such deep and profound love that there is no room for anyone else. I am free to do any and all things I want to do with myself and my time, and he is free to do any and all things he wants to do with himself and his time and because of that, we appreciate the time we give and take from one another as a couple. We respect one another so much more.

But that was not the case in my marriage. In my marriage, there were many gaps: sexual, emotional, mental, spiritual. I was consistently left wanting and dissatisfied. And yet we were ‘monogamous,’ based on a feeling we both had seven years earlier on a specific day when we were really into one another- a feeling we no longer held seven years later. Yet we were forcing ourselves to honor commitments based on a feeling that no longer existed. We were not allowing ourselves the fluidity to be the people we had grown into all this time later.

Now, two people who refused to be involved with anyone that didn’t believe in open relationships are in a very happy and monogamous relationship of their choosing. We do not try to own or possess one another. We do not play Mommy or Daddy and try and dictate the behavior and choices of the other. We allow one another to be as authentic as possible and then show gratitude for the sharing of that. And when you are feeling gracious, there’s little room for someone to come in and steal your bliss.

Written By Myesha Clayton

From Kwapi Vengesayi‘s book, Men Cheat More, Women Cheat Better: Stories and Conversations About Love, Life and Everything in Between (2017) Available on Amazon

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