Today I want to talk about toxic monogamy. Oh, so you can’t even be monogamous anymore without being called toxic. Wow. Let me set the record straight right away. No, I am not saying all monogamy is toxic. I am saying that there are certain toxic behaviors that are very common in monogamous culture. And yes, some of these behaviors can happen outside of monogamy, but it’s far less common. Instead of spending a bunch of time trying to hammer down a definition of toxic monogamy, I think it’s more useful to list specific traits. So let’s get into it.
Taking pride in jealously and insecurity
Toxic monogamy trait number one: taking pride in jealousy and insecurity. Have you ever heard someone say something like, if anyone even looks at my partner, we’re going to have a problem? As if that’s an admirable thing? Yeah, it’s framed as if the speaker is being noble and protective of their partner, but in reality, it’s very controlling and reveals a lot about how they feel about their relationship. Why such an aggressive reaction? What do they expect to happen? Do they expect the slightest bit of human interaction to cause their partner to leave them for the love of a stranger? Or maybe they think the most mundane of actions will cause their partner to cheat on them. Either way, it gives the strong impression that the person does not view their relationship is very secure. Working through feelings of insecurity is hard. Unfortunately, a lot of people choose the much easier path of glorifying that insecurity. Regardless of your relationship structure, it is perfectly okay for your partner to interact with other people. To be frank, this should go without saying, but a shocking number of people apparently haven’t gotten the memo.
Controlling your partner’s friends
Toxic monogamy trait number two: controlling your partner’s friends. I understand that certain people in a partner’s past can cause a lot of discomfort. It’s very reasonable to want your partner to distance themselves from people who have previously been abusive, manipulative, or otherwise shady. But it is painfully common for people to give up all of their opposite sex or gender friends as a rule for their relationship. Let’s get the obvious out of the way and acknowledge the blatant homophobia here. Opposite sex or gender friends are always the one to go because they are the ones viewed as the threats to the relationship. My girlfriend would never leave me for a woman. That’s not how bisexuality works, Todd. It’s also super transphobic, because gender queer folks are often viewed as the threatening sex or gender, regardless of how they identify. Homophobia and transphobia aside, if a person thinks that their partner having friends that they could potentially be attracted to is going to cause them to cheat, that person deeply distrusts their partner. Friends are so important, and nobody should be expected to sacrifice their friends for an intimate relationship.
Ownership of partners
Toxic monogamy trait number Three: ownership of partners. Say it with me, everyone. We do not own our partners. I have grown to detest the word let when it comes to relationships. I won’t let my partner wear this. I won’t let my partner do that. Look, I get that there are reasonable relationship boundaries that might prevent you from doing certain things. It’s not like you can do literally anything you want and just tell your partner to suck it up if they don’t like it. However, rules and boundaries in a relationship should always be agreed to under everyone’s free will. If there’s some kind of relationship boundary that prevents us from doing something, it should be because we agreed to that boundary, not because something was imposed upon us without our consent. If you find yourself frequently saying things like, my partner won’t let me do this or that, you may want to think about the level of control your partner has over you and whether you’re comfortable with it.
Making your partner your everything
Toxic monogamy trait number four: making Your Partner Your Everything. It’s you and I against the world, baby. We don’t need anybody else. I know things like this are usually said with the intent of being romantic, but what a ridiculous thing to say. Firstly, the entire world is not out to get you. You’re not against everyone but your partner. Second, we all need other people. We need family and friends. We need community. We need people to interact with other than our partner. All too often, we expect our partners to be an entire support system a lover, a caretaker, a therapist, and so much more. That kind of codependency can put too many responsibilities on our partners, and they may just not be qualified to be all the things we expect them to be. Yes, your partner should bring a lot of joy to your life, but they shouldn’t be your entire life. You are your own person.
Denial of attraction
Toxic monogamy trait number five: denial of Attraction to others. There is one specific social media post that I have seen countless times that irritates me to no end. A psychology professor said, if you’re in love with someone, you won’t be interested in someone else. If you are, then you aren’t in love. I think people need to hear this. Gee, thanks a psychology professor, but that is not how attraction works. I will admit that this used to be me. I would proudly say that when I’m in a relationship, my attraction to others just goes away. And I truly believe that despite clearly feeling physical attraction to others all the time, it’s wild how you can convince yourself to deny obvious reality. It is okay to feel attraction to people other than your partner. We are human beings, and we can’t just flip a switch and turn off our attraction. Being attracted to someone isn’t cheating acting on that attraction in a way that violates your relationship boundaries is cheating your monogamous partner being physically attracted to others isn’t that important. What’s important is the action they take. The action of making the intentional choice to stay in the relationship and respect its boundaries.