Often times people suffocate the growth of a relationship by defining a destination for a date.
I, as many people in the Western world of my generation, grew up with the idea that one day I would meet someone with whom I would want to spend the rest of my life, have babies, and grow old. It was a simple equation. It happened to everyone. It would happen to me too.
But somewhere along the way, I started to question everything (much to my mother’s dismay, I’m sure). After asking many questions, and doing a lot of “experimental research” (which is what I would like to refer to dating as from now until forever), I have found myself in a place where I feel stable, comfortable, and excited again: dating as a relationship anarchist. Using a guiding principle of ethical non-monogamy. Dating, seemingly, without a destination.
In this new phase of dating, I am constantly unlearning ways of being in relationships. This takes work and energy – it is definitely not for everyone. It comes with a lot of emotional hangovers and wtf moments.
This is particularly interesting for me as feelings develop, shift, and change in these alternative kinds of relationships – the ones where the ultimate goal of life-long partnership and family are not on the table. In fact, there is no table at all.
What happens to the feelings? What happens to the linear timeline? What happens to the babies!?
I often check-in with myself, asking things like “woah, that feels weird, what was that about?” or “am I really comfortable with that?” or “do I really need that, or is it something that I was told that I need?’.
I also check-in regularly with the people I’m dating, making sure I am not doing unnecessary emotional labour, but also supporting them and ensuring as much emotional safety as possible. I’m continually learning how to be honest, to ask for what I need, and to offer only what I am able to give.
This might sound like a lot of work. And it can be. But, so are monogamous relationships. So are any relationships, really. Human beings are social and complex, and we all require different things. It all depends on what outcome you want as to how you navigate the work.
This is the work I choose to do right now. And for me, the benefits outweigh the heavy lifting. I am definitely getting the growth, and care, and support that I need.
At this time in my life, I know that I cannot receive all of the things that I need from one person (one might say I need a lot of care).
This will likely never change. The people in my life that I currently hold close understand that, and will probably be in it forever. I am mindful about who I bring in to my life, as I know that sometimes I am a lot of work – but I offer a lot of care in return. So even if I do end up in a “monogam-ish” relationship one day, these people will be around. In a very real way.
For me, that is relationship anarchy. It is re-writing the relationship story that I’ve been taught. It is creating authentic connections. It is reflecting, and processing emotions, and having hard conversations, and asking that others do the same.
It is creating spaces of safety, and ultimately, spaces of beauty and growth.
This is what makes the work worth it – emotional hangovers and wtf moments and all. It is creating my community.
And maybe that’s the answer. When we don’t date for the traditional outcome, we date for fun and validation and social connection, for sexual exploration, and identity experimentation, and we also date for community. For real, authentic, lifelong connections, in various and complex ways that exist outside of boxes.
Dating without an outcome is also beautiful in it’s own right, in that it can allow us to be more present, and mindful, and exist more fully in our relationships; without expectations, or judgements, or preconceived notions.
So, monogamous or poly or anything in between – question everything. Do the work and trust yourself. Check-in with yourself, and with your partners. And surround yourself with all of the people who create your village.
And remember – love is not finite. It only increases, so give it and receive it as much as you want.
Let’s unlearn the harms together.
Written by Celeste Seiferling
Originally appeared in Thoughts and Ideas
Celeste is a counsellor, relationship coach, and sexual health educator who lives and works in a small prairie city in Canada. She creates activity books for nurturing healthy relationships, and facilitates dance therapy groups for healing sexual trauma. She can usually be found dancing around the kitchen, or cuddling with her rescue pitbull. You can sign up for her newsletter and find more of her work on her website www.celesteseiferling.com, or follow her on instagram https://www.
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