– So you want to play Hamlet?
– Yes, but not with the unstable personality, I don’t like that. Oh, and not Danish. And I disapprove of suicide so I won’t do it. And the lines, I’ll need new lines, these are odd and frankly, too long. And I have issues with Shakespeare so I prefer it to be someone else’s play.
– So why do you still want to play Hamlet?
– Because everyone wants to do it, and so do I. And I like the stage and I want to be seen. And I want to tell everyone that I did it.
This is exactly what I hear when you decide to tie the knot – but swear to do it differently.
I have heard more than my fair share of monogamous, Millennial couples telling me that they won’t follow the all-too-predictable relationship roles in their own lives.
“They make their own rules.”
But they are already adopting the names of the characters (girlfriend or husband) and act out most of the script as it comes in a package. You do the marriage thing, with lengthy legal and financial consequences attached – but you totally do it better. You will be playing house but with less furniture than your parents, no car, and you will totally have a cute (insert pet your parents didn’t have) because you refuse to be like them. Because you are different, I get it.
Why do you want to be different by doing the same things?
Let’s face it, there is no such thing as taking 96% of a package and leave out the rest. The items you embrace will call the missing ones into existence – because they support one another. It is designed that way. They are the vicious cycle of the relationship vortex. It is also supported by people around you – and your own inability to communicate honestly.
The punishing routines and demeaning life roles (we all fervently wish never to adopt) are all based on a heterosexual couples of two. Any other combination calls for some authentic thinking and has the potential to stop the all-too-known and much-hated relationship dynamics from taking root, uninspected and under the radar.
Once there are no prefabricated roles, it is really hard to fall back into them. You simply cannot follow your parents’ relationship patterns (I know you are dead set to avoid them) if there are extra people in the story. I am not saying to go out and try, but maybe we should imagine what we would really want and how we would really behave if we didn’t bring that baggage into the relationship – complete and unchecked.
Sitcoms have been training us to the expected relationship roles since the dawn of television – and the radio before that.
The couple where she is desperate for a ring and he is desperate for his independence – and sex. Friends, who must approve. Milestones that must be reached. The dumb father, who wants to be alone and the bitching mother, who apparently doesn’t, and makes a fuss about anniversaries. Demeaning, simplistic stereotypes everywhere and you have the confidence to say that they didn’t affect you?
And what if I tell you that the only thing that affects you more than what you’ve seen – is the thing that you’ve never seen? Have you ever seen a different life? How is that for manipulation?
In a pre-scripted, monogamous relationship you can go on autopilot and look for what you’re supposed to look for in a partner. You can expect what you’re allowed to expect, and react the way you’re supposed to react according to your role. Vague social conditioning dictates you what to look for in a relationship and what to offer.
The latter you wildly debate. You want to stretch your boundaries. You may ask for an open relationship, or secretly keep your options open. But from your partner you still expect the full package – minus a few minor things you generously allow, because you never really wanted them anyway. And you consider yourself very modern and progressive.
Some even argue that it’s easier not to rock the boat and letting it drift wherever your combined inaction takes it. You should rather try to enjoy the ride. Trying to enjoy it is difficult to do, so it must count as hard work, right? Wrong.
It is lazy. It is your entire life we are talking about. How can you take a backseat and not try to make it your own?
You will come to think that your partner is the reason you broke into the role. You will blame them for giving up yourself and suppressing even the thought that you want something different. And then you’ll be not only bored but actually start to hate each other. You end up in therapy and try to redefine that ambivalent feeling towards each other as love.
Non-conventional relationships don’t have such scripts, so it is impossible to follow. Everything has to be negotiated and regularly re-evaluated, and it’s a good thing. Worth the mental exercise even for those who don’t want to try poly.
Because in a poly relationship it is almost impossible to sink into old relationship games and role-based dysfunctions. There are no evidently desirable things that you are supposed to covet and there is no obvious offence to seek.
And you call them weird.